*No Spoiler Alert because I want you to read this! Movie review way at the bottom.*
The new Star Trek Into Darkness movie has come out and I couldn’t be anymore excited! With the reboot that came out in 2009, I saw the movie a total of 9 times in movie theaters, watching it each time with my best friends, family, etc. Logic dictated that the more people I got to see it and the more times I pay to go see it myself, the more revenue the movie makes as a whole, leading to the capitalistic success of the movie, thus a sequel — and hence 2013’s Star Trek Into Darkness! And you can imagine, I will be doing the same thing with this new one, so a third one will be made, even if my efforts are futile.
All this excitement for the movie has gotten me reflecting on why I’m so excited. Why am I so excited about this reboot of Trek? Why do I love Star Trek so much? What is it about this science fiction world that draws me in?
Let’s start at the beginning. I grew up on Star Trek. I remember being 12 years old, looking forward to weekly evenings, so I could rush to the TV and watch reruns of Star Trek: The Next Generation. Captain Jean-Luc Picard was my hero: he was the intellectual badass who could make phasering the shit out of some Borg look really awesome. Soon enough, my childish adoration for Star Trek grew, as I traversed from one Star Trek series to another. I humbly admitted I couldn’t be as good looking as Captain James T. Kirk, but I could certainly assimilate his confidence and suaveness.
We all know that what we are exposed to as youngsters morphs us into the adults that we become. The things in my childhood may not define me as the person that I am today, but it certainly affects the person that I become. For myself, it was Star Trek and WWE. Strange combination, I know. I still find myself lured to either when I come across a show on TV. But Star Trek was definitely the most influential on my young brain. And surely, I credit much to Star Trek for leading me on a path to a degree in Philosophy.
There has always been a certain depth to Star Trek that Star Wars has never had. I know, I know: Star Wars is deep too, with its talk about “good vs. evil” and the “Yin and the Yang” (Taoism) etc. But I suppose Star Trek had a more pragmatic depth to its world that Star Wars never really had, which attracted me to the former more so than the latter; that is, Star Trek is realistic and believable, allowing one to point to that and say, “that could be humanity’s future.” Personally, I’m a staunch realist. I’m pragmatic to the core. And whether Star Trek influenced my disposition, or my natural disposition was attracted to Star Trek because of its pragmatism — idk. What I do know is that I will always choose Star Trek over Star Wars, any day of the week, any moment in a year.
For those immersed in the Trek Universe, these terms will sound familiar: concepts like the “Prime Directive,” “Kobayashi Maru,” the pure logic of Vulcans and their suppression of the passions etc. are ideas with a surfeit of meaning applicable to our day-to-day life. The leadership lessons of Captain Kirk and Captain Picard — pure brilliance! I know as an officer in the Armed Forces, the leadership I observed growing up, from Captain Kirk to Captain Picard, is something that I’ve carried over into my adult life. These leadership lessons from Star Trek are better than what I actually received in training. One simple lesson, taught in detail throughout Star Trek, for which some leaders today fail to uphold as their vain ego grows beyond their grasp of sense: it’s always about your crew and those you lead that matters the most, in every respect. Leadership is a burden, not a privilege — but someone’s got to do it.
Then there is the Kobayashi Maru and the Prime Directive. Kobayashi Maru: what do you do and how do you react when you’re put in a no-win situation? The Prime Directive: there can be no interference with the internal development of alien civilizations (why? just watch the new Star Trek Into Darkness and you’ll see why!)
These are all just samples of the wealth that Star Trek is. Moreover, I think most importantly, what Star Trek provides to all of us as human beings is — hope. Sound cheesy, I know, but it’s true. Star Trek is the pure optimism of humankind’s transcendence into the future, of what we can be and who we can become as beings in the Universe. In the Star Trek Universe, there is a WWIII and we nearly obliterate ourselves because of it. But out of the ashes, the phoenix rises, and humankind enters into space to explore strange new worlds and new civilizations. World hunger is eradicated. Poverty is nonexistent. Socialism prevails because it becomes practical. The ideas of the good become reality. Humanity evolves. That is Star Trek.
And let me tell you, don’t we need that kind of optimism today! Haven’t you wondered why apocalypse genres are prevailing in the beginning of the 21st century, in every facet of pop culture and entertainment? The whole zombie craze is case and point. Today’s modern zeitgeist is pervasive with the destruction of civilization and mankind. Now, don’t get me wrong — I’m a HUGE fan of The Walking Dead (blog post on that is forthcoming). But do you think maybe we’ve gone too far over the “end-of-the-world” edge? Have we gone too far wherewith the Apostle John’s Revelations on the end of days is preferable to The Gospel of John’s beauty of the resurrected Christ?
The new Star Trek Into Darkness and the original Star Trek Wrath of Khan weigh in on the philosophy of Utilitarianism: “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.” Star Trek is brilliant! Subliminal teaching of philosophy — I love it. What is Utilitarianism? As put by the English Philosopher Jeremy Bentham in his work A Fragment on Government, “it is the greatest happiness of the greatest number that is the measure of right and wrong.” It’s a measure on morality.
But the story is not over yet; this is where Star Trek is made genius. Kirk and Spock are easily understood as diametrical opposites: one driven by fortuitous passion the other driven by unrelenting logic. But in the end, they need each other. The adage “opposites attract” cannot be more true than in the relationship between these BFFs, these two best friends, Captain James T. Kirk and Spock. In the original Star Trek Wrath of Khan, Spock forfeits his life to save his best friend and the entire crew of the starship Enterprise. The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the… one. But Captain Kirk is not jiving with that utilitarian philosophy; that’s bullshit, he says. And he says it in the third installment of the original Trek movies, Star Trek The Search for Spock:
Star Trek The Search for Spock is a cinematic retort to the former movie. Kirk tells Spock instead, “the needs of the one outweigh the needs of the many.” When your best friend in the entire universe is about to die, you’ll do anything to save them. Why? Because it’s human.
This duality of philosophies in Star Trek makes us think about ethical conundrums. If you could only choose between saving a significant other (e.g. your mom, dad, spouse, children) or a multitude of people — What would you do? If you had to sacrifice your daughter in order to save 100 people — Would you do it?
Star Trek responds with a resounding Idk. The beauty of thought! That’s the problem with Star Wars — it makes things too simple. You know what the “good” is (i.e. Luke Skywalker) and you know what the “bad” is (i.e. the Sith). Sure, sometimes it flips, like when Darth Vader kills the Emperor in Return of the Jedi, nevertheless, you are still driven by a predetermined outline of morality. In reality, life is never that simple, and never that easily delineated between “right” and “wrong.” Star Trek shows the reality of existence. And that is why Star Trek is better than Star Wars.
The splendor of the new Star Trek Into Darkness: the movie carries that same message of conflicting philosophies — Captain Kirk violates the Prime Directive to save Spock’s life, while also risking the lives of his entire crew.
Now for a quick movie review, because that’s what you were probably expecting in this post instead: Star Trek Into Darkness is awesome stuff. For the Star Trek purists out there, you’ll probably cringe a considerable degree. Nonetheless, credit J.J Abrams for sticking close to Trek orthodoxy, while also creating a product that appeals to a mass audience. To pompous Trekkies out there — get over yourself. If you want the Star Trek franchise to survive, and for further movies and TV shows to come out, we need J.J. Abrams to create Trek movies like this that appeal to a mass audience. Benedict Cumberbatch, the star on the hit-series Sherlock, is masterful in Star Trek Into Darkness. Words to elaborate on his role in the movie would do an injustice to his performance. Chris Pine needs work as Captain Kirk. The best actors that stuck close to the original characters: Zachary Quinto (Spock), Karl Urban (“Bones,” Dr. McCoy), and Simon Pegg (Scotty). Bruce Greenwood as Captain Pike is instrumental as the “father-figure” needed for Pine’s Captain Kirk. All-in-all: Star Trek was AWESOME.
Star Trek Into Darkness is a must see for EVERYONE. Not only do you get a dose of some cool philosophy, you also get some awesome action scenes and eye-popping usage of 3-D technology. Any other critique is minuscule compared to the overall product.
And also, watching Sherlock Holmes vs. Spock — one of the best scenes in the movie! Apart from this one…
Live Long and Prosper TO ALL!