Thursday, August 08, 2013

Star Trek: Into the Darkness (movie review)

I'd call this a "meta Star Trek" in that it truly starts over with a new cast, yet gets back to its roots in the collective psyche, where it has its roots in the first place.  The space of comic books, of fantasy, day dreams, children at play.

The Federation has always flirted with military aesthetics, what with the usual male-dominated hierarchy of obsessed-about-rank, rule-governed bureaucrats.  We flirt with this big time, alluding to all that's fashionable in uniforms, a familiar theme in the films.  There's the Darth Vader admiral, wanting to pilot a Death Star in wartime.  His daughter is disgusted.  Savagery just doesn't cut it with the newer generation.

This finding of too much war abhorrent is set early in Star Trek history.  The crew is young and looming war with the Klingons, Cold War foes, would give way to a truce in future chapters, a token Klingon on board.  Universe gets more and more into Civil Rights.  The 1960s fade in the rear view mirror.  But first we need to live through it a little, encountering the Battle Crazed Galactica -- the warrior archetype, frozen in time, eternally a possibility.  The dark father thaws one, a symbolic opening of Pandora's war games again.  We go back to 911, more nutty times.  The audience is not necessarily happy about all this.  So much death and destruction, with so little comic relief.

The comedy is in adhering to the formulas, with a guest appearance from Leonard Nimoy.

There's irony in working hard to sound the themes, even when they're so well known.  Kirk is all too human, a bundle of bravery and intuition, whereas Spock is more geeky but not without dignity.  These characters know how they go together.  More comic relief with the twist though, of Spock in a lover's quarrel.  The original Star Trek was always testing his character in that way somehow.  Jim is bravado and hubris.  Spock is rule-bound.  As aspects of the Personhood (what corporations wish they had), we recognize familiar faces.

The credits salute post-911 vets, a nodding acknowledgement of the dive into militarism the culture experienced, with darth vadery types coming out of the wood work.  There's a claustrophobia in this eternal return.  For all this rushing into the future, it's still so Art Deco, so much our own projection.  Our collective imagination hems us in, knitting us a fabric of spacetime.

The physics is familiar:  the airlessness of space, a suction, its debris, the shedding of heat shielding upon re-entry.  The frenetic parade of planets at the end suggests those comic book origins, the "outer space" of our inner imaginations.  The theme music is boldly operatic.  Universe:  a place to feel at home, but not free from danger.