I promise that this is as spoiler-free as possible. Given that you can find the spoilers nearly anywhere you look, I do not feel the necessity to avoid this; however, my focus is not so much on the storyline, but some of the aural aspects of the movie.
By now, you will know the movie involves a character from Space Seed. In that episode, the crew of the Enterprise discover a derelict from the late 20th century. In this capsule is a war criminal who was genetically engineered to be a superman. Note the terminology. In the late 1960’s, this term, especially when speaking about modifying humans (selective breeding) would have been associated easily enough with the Nazis. I wanted the episode last night, but was caught unaware by a discussion Kirk, Spock, and Scotty were having involving the good things about Khan. Oh, we can admire his qualities without liking him, Kirk tells Spock.
Much to the chagrin of those who would see Space Seed as anti-Empire, the episode rather should be taken as a condemnation of science without ethics, of the glorification of war criminals, and perhaps in some way of the actions taken by the United States after World War II, when the U.S. brought German and Japanese scientists to our shores to work for us in advancing our programs against the Soviet Union — because savagery was needed rather than pure intellect. Of course, this could just be projection from my view, although we know the original Trek involved contentious issues of the day.
J.J. Abrams is quoted has saying he would rather have the philosophical aspects of Star Trek removed, making room for fans of the series to mix it up with new fans unfamiliar with canonical lore. The 2009 movie seemed to do just that. There is the basic philosophy of Kirk, the rule breaking hero, of course. But this is a character trait I guess, and not the usual philosophy we expect from Star Trek. As much as purists decried Deep Space Nine with its war and other apparent anti-Roddenberry aspects, this too had a subtle but sustained philosophy mixed with some heavy theology.
Star Trek Into Darkness does not live up to Abrams’ goal of removing philosophy from the canon. Indeed, this movie is a giant, well-played, directed, and beautifully shot philosophical treatise on Empire — specifically, the American Empire of early 21st century Earth. We encounter familiar characters — Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld — as well as drone strikes, invasions into sovereign territories to retrieve terrorists, and the win-at-all-costs plaguing American war efforts since Lincoln. Remember, Lincoln promised to a General that he’d gladly sacrifice the Republic to save the Union. We have sacrificed our civil liberties to same us from a threat we have had a hand in creating. These very real, very earthly matters, make up the plot lines of this enterprise.
There are the usual Trek features — the dashing Captain (waking up with two feline-race women), a nearly naked woman, death, peril, and humor. But, there is this tangible storyline reminiscent of the 1960’s show. We have lost our way and become the Empire we fight against. There is a line, buried in there somewhere — weren’t we meant to be explorers? And there is this promise of a five year mission, to explore deep space. But somehow, Starfleet has forgotten this. These visions of the mission of Starfleet have been put on hold. Perhaps this is Abrams’ guilt shining through, but it is clear that Starfleet has become nothing but deceit, sabotage, and intrigue. There is no loyalty. No vision. No hope. Only the need to arm ourselves against what else may be out there. This movie tackles these current trends in our domestic and foreign policy rather well, and all within Aristotle’s mimetic theatre.
Over all, I was impressed. I was moved. I clapped and I believe, much to the chagrin of my son, may have shouted yippee a time or two. I may have even clouded up when something got in my eyes. It was cathartic. This movie is classic Trek, I believe, and modern Trek. Unfortunately, Trek doesn’t work well as a series of movies. We need a series like the 1960’s, where our society and culture are challenged. Where our beliefs are mocked and then rescued. When our crimes today are exposed safely three centuries from now. I hope we will see another series, but I doubt it. Until then, we will take what we can get and hope that each successive movie is directed against us in some way, to challenge us.
If you miss the chance to see the movie, you will regret it.
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