Sub-Text Into Darkness – Look! It Moves! by Adi Tantimedh

Star_Trek_Into_Darkness_32Adi Tantimedh writes;

YES, THERE ARE SPOILERS.

It’s generally a bad idea to go into darkness. You tend to bump into things and hurt yourself. You break things and people will get very cross.

And yes, there are fans very cross at STAR TREK: INTO DARKNESS. To them, this is STAR TREK dumbed down. It’s looking backwards and recycling old storylines in a banal way. It shits on Gene Roddenberry’s legacy. It’s hollow fanservice. The counterargument is this is STAR TREK for the kids, for people who have never seen Star Trek or liked it before.

I don’t hate STAR TREK: INTO DARKNESS. It’s a fast, slick and highly entertaining movie, straining desperately to throw in as many explosions and action as possible to keep the audience from getting bored. It also moves as quickly as possible to dazzles the audience with pretty pictures so as to keep us from actually thinking about the plot, since once we do, it makes almost no sense whatsoever.

The script is full of things that are only there so that plot can happen, and made me think of a bunch of questions:

Why does the senior command of Starfleet have an emergency meeting in a room high up in a building with big windows so that the baddie would know and be able to attack them?

CumberKhan has a portable teleporter, why does he bother flying a fighter ship to attack the senior command when he could have either teleported in and planted a bomb, or teleported in to kill them all up-close to make sure they’re dead, then teleport out again?

If CumberKhan can use his portable teleporter to anywhere he wanted, why the hell did he teleport to Klingon space to wait for Starfleet to come after him? There’s no way he could possible know whoever they send would decide not to kill him. Why doesn’t he just teleport to the secret weapons base that he helped design and steal the big fuck-off starship that he helped design and then attack Starfleet with it? How could he possibly anticipate the evil Starfleet admiral would come after him if the ones they sent decided not to kill him?

Gravity fails – why are people and things falling? There’s no gravity!

Why were there no other Starfleet ships rushing out to intervene when their flagship The Enterprise is being hammered by an massive unidentified fuck-off battle cruiser right over the Earth, where all of Starfleet’s defense systems are?

Yes, magic healing blood at the start of the movie. Wonder if it’s going to be a big plot point at the end…

I could go on.

I don’t really understand hiding the fact that Cumberbach was playing Khan in all the film’s marketing and publicity. Who else could the character possibly be that’s going to mean anything at all to Trek continuity? Every fan pretty much sussed it out long before production even began and non-fans don’t care one way or another.

Anyway, snark aside, I was struck by the overall message of the movie. Instead of the usual revenge action movie, it’s actually about advocating due process and avoiding a blind rush to war. CumberKhan becomes a bin Laden manqué, initially used by a hawkish Starfleet admiral create new weapons and then painted as a boogeyman in a ruse to lead Starfleet to war with the Klingons. Kirk becomes a representation of post-Bush America, shocked, outraged and initially vengeful, but comes to his senses and decides to uphold the law instead. It’s a post-Bush-era, post-War on Terror message the movie is overtly pushing. Even Harry Knowles at Ain’t It Cool has picked up on this and runs with it even more enthusiastically than I do.

I often think every version of STAR TREK is an idealised metaphor for America of its time. The original 60s series reflected Kennedy-era optimism and liberalism. THE NEXT GENERATION represented the late 80s and 1990s’ emphasis on therapy culture and earnest questioning. In the post-Cold War era, DEEP SPACE NINE was about the late 1990s’ sense of trying to maintain moral and ethical integrity while dealing with increasingly grey moral questions amid the complexities of factionalism, and sister show VOYAGER was about former enemies having to work together to survive (and also inadvertently about idiotic and terrible decisions). ENTERPRISE’s portrayal of Earth trying to present its best face forward as it ventures into the stars is an interesting reflection of the folksy side of the W. Bush era. The new movies’ callow, reckless, somewhat stupid but earnest Kirk and a darker, more violent and menacing galaxy is consistent with the current era (and the preoccupations of screenwriters, like daddy issues).

STAR TREK: INTO DARKNESS is not exactly subtle, but blockbuster action movies rarely are. Along with IRON MAN 3, which also has a post-War on Terror theme in its depiction of a fictional terrorist boogeyman created by corrupt big business to stir up public panic for propaganda purposes, this summer’s action movies might indicate an interesting, possibly schizophrenic, shift in how Hollywood sees the current state of War and Terror. There’s no way any movie would have dared push the themes of IRON MAN 3 or STAR TREK: INTO DARKNESS anytime between 2001 and 2010. It’ll be interesting to tally them up when the summer’s over. The other interesting thing is that when movies like THE DARK KNIGHT premiered, they were hotly debated by pundits on the Left and Right in an attempt to claim the movie as reflecting their viewpoints. I haven’t seen anywhere near the volume of debate over IRON MAN 3 or STAR TREK: INTO DARKNESS. But the summer season has barely started and we still have a bunch of other blockbusters with interesting subtexts, like MAN OF STEEL, on the way. This could be the most interesting summer blockbuster movie season for a long time.

(Thanks to my mate Rob Andrews for suggesting this week’s title)

Warp speed from disaster at lookitmoves@gmail.com

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Look! It Moves! © Adisakdi Tantimedh