Movie Commentary: Star Trek- The future begins


Star Trek: The Future Begins

Star Trek: The Future Begins

Recently the film Star Trek: the future begins has opened to much critical acclaim and popular support. The movie itself is well-done and well written and a testament to the skills of director J.J. Abrams and screenwriters Roberto Orci & Alex Kurtzman.  The movie is well-paced, with good comedic moments, riveting action sequences, stunning special effects, and excellent character development. The movie is a well-crafted display of story telling. Now, with that being said, it is worth examining the elements of what makes up this new Star Trek film.  If you have not seen the movie you may want to stop reading at this point because the rest of this article will be discussing assorted plot points and elements of the film.  Before getting started on the plot elements it is worthwhile to know a little bit about the overall orientation of Star Trek as whole.

    

Star Trek Background      

          

The movie does a good job with staying true the Gene Roddenbury’s views and beliefs. Gene Roddenbury was a self-professed humanist and atheist. There is a good article examining a Christian view of his viewpoint located here: http://www.iclnet.org/pub/resources/text/cri/cri-jrnl/web/crj0147a.html

and from a non-Christian view point:

http://www.pantheism.net/paul/startrek.htm.

In general I would argue that the Star Trek universe is one that fight in line with the proponent of “Global Oneness” view humanity as being “divine within” and really promotes moral relativism and inclusivity.  Star Trek as a whole contains both direct and subtle ways of promoting the humanist and new age agendas.

           

           There are certainly images and elements briefly shown in this film that fit within the current “New Age agenda.”  Some things I noticed during the film.  Early in the movie you have a brief flash of an alien who loves rather like the oft promoted “grays.”  There is as in most Star Trek films heavy reliance on technologies including heavy use of holograms.  The earth has become a “Global one” and even moved beyond that to a “Cosmic one” via the “Federation.”   There is the interest in taking the “human” out of law enforcement with the appearance of an apparent robotic police officer who chased young James Kirk.  There is a strong use of computers in charge of objects (internet of things) and there is also heavy use of biometrics.  None of these elements are really central to the storyline but are elements that push subtlety these core elements. Outside of the subtle images and elements that are not central to the story line there are three distinct themes that carry on through the films plot.  The elements of destiny, duality, and dedication to peace are central elements of the major plotline.

 

 

Destiny Plot Elements

        Given that this film is a reboot of the Star Trek franchise, the element of destiny plays a key role.  The characters portray in this film are well known and in a sense we already “know” their destinies.  This film portrays how they get together and shows elements of character not previously developed.  The essential characters are all shown to have extremely special “aptitudes” of one nature or another.  Uhuru is special in her understanding of languages.  Sulu is special in piloting skills and fencing.  Chekov is shown to be a math genius.  Scotty is shown to be a genius in engineering responsible for future discoveries that advance technology, he is also not afraid of stretching the bounds of ethics for the benefit of science.  Dr. McCoy is shown to be a man of quick problem solving skills and excellent medical understanding. And of course, Spock and Kirk are shown to be characters of unique superiority.  In essence, the essential make up of the crew of the Starship Enterprise are shown to be elite individuals tasked with promoting the peace of the Federation and engaging in humanitarian aide. 

The film does a lot more of explore the role of destiny with the characters of Spock and Kirk who among the elite are considered extra-special and inter-twined.  Originally the movie was shot with continual Spock and Kirk parallels starting at birth but many of those scenes got cut or cut short.  The movie does both strongly portray both as unique characters on their paths to their destiny on the Starship Enterprise.

The story of Spock’s destiny is central to the story.  Spock is the reported to be the main reason for the villain Captain Nero’s anger and destructive path. He was angry because Spock failed to save Romulus. He was sent back in time and was the cause of the death of James Kirk’s father, George Kirk.  Spock was born of a Vulcan and Human relation that caused him to be the victim of prejudice on Vulcan.  The whole element of Spock’s development rested on his having to make a choice between the Vulcan culture or something beyond the Vulcan culture, which he chose.  Ultimately the character of Spock faces the destiny of witnessing the death of his planet and the death of his mother at once, challenging his growing ability to repress his emotions.

The story of Kirk’s destiny is always pointed to both as a Captain of a Starship as well as a defender of the Peace of the Federation.   He is a child whose father sacrificed self for the greater good.  James had a difficult life, reportedly with a drunken, abusive uncle (scenes cut from movie) who lives the life of a rebel until he encounters Starfleet and meets Captain Pike who offers him a place in Starfleet along with a challenge that Starfleet need more people like James Kirk who would not just act in accordance with the letter of regulation, to “leap before thinking.” It is worth noting the “elder Spock” tells Jim that regardless of events, he would still be in Starfleet and that his destiny is to helm Enterprise.

            Spock and Kirk characters given their special destinies also display a tendency to quickly surpass their teacher and mentors. They both end up going through the rituals prescribed to shape their destinies and develop their talents but both quickly excel. They also have both destinies shaped by elder Spock who gets them to ultimately take on the path they would have followed without the “change in history” the destruction of Vulcan entails.

            Of course in terms of destiny the film gives a interesting twist to the famous Star Trek “Red Shirt” in part of the film.  A non-descript character who is looking for a fight and engages in pushing the limits ends up dead, portraying that those that end up dead do so because of flaws in their character that results in risky choices that results in their own destruction.  Ultimately the story of destiny and the Enterprise seems to be that there needs to be a group of elite and special people looking out for the well being of others. 

 

 

 

Duality Plot Elements

            As we have seen the characters of Kirk and Spock are shown to have special destinies and seen to be special. There characters also play out another major plot element and that of duality.  Spock and Kirk are portrayed as intertwined and exact opposites.  Spock is the reason based, carefully deliberate, logic based character whereas Kirk is the opposite. He is emotion, intuition, and impulse based character. They are portrayed as opposites who initially clash but ultimately are brought together by the “older Spock” albeit by manipulation.  It really is portraying the emotion versus reason dichotomy.  The film suggests that really there needs to be a sound balance between the two and that working together they cannot be stopped but they need a “wise” other to bring them together.  Older Spock also shows them that it is possible to reach a point of balance between the internal dualism. This dualism also is examined within the character of Spock as well as the differences between Vulcans and Humans as well as Vulcans and Romulans. 

         Dualism in the film is really more extensive then the Emotion versus Reason, Spock and Kirk comparatives.  The film points out that there is always paths to choose that are competing.  Spock was put in position of embracing his old Vulcan culture versus moving on to something beyond the traditional. Thus the dichotomy of upholding and building traditional roots versus working toward being a part of progressive transformation is central to the plot.  The film does show value in maintaining cultural roots but also suggests that working to the greater whole is of higher value. This part of the plot is really examined in the Character of Spock who is directed to having to paths to choose the traditional or the progressive.  Ultimately, the character of Spock is able to serve both by older Spock going to help his people maintain and rebuild culture and young Spock serves progressive transformation.

            Overall, the film plot seems to point toward these ongoing dichotomies that are ongoing and that need to be managed and balanced.  Some old emotion and logic need to work together usually brought together by some wise “other.”  The traditional with the progressive need to be balanced, and at some level even the past with the future, really any apparent opposing forces need to be brought into some sort of balance.  The search and development of that balance is really part and parcel to the last plot element to be examined, the Dedication to peace. 

 

Dedication to Peace Plot Elements

            The film certainly displays a commitment to a mindset regarding what peace would look like. The film certainly shows Gene Roddenberry’s ideals as well as the agenda of the United Nations.  In the film, Starfleet’s purpose was described as engaging in humanitarian aide and peacekeeping. The essential core values of diplomacy and peacekeeping displayed are consistent with the principles of multi-track diplomacy.  The twelve principles of multi-track diplomacy are:

  1. Relationship—Building strong interpersonal and intergroup relations throughout the fabric of society.
  1. Long-term commitment—Making an ongoing commitment to people and to processes that may take years to come to fruition.
  1. Cultural synergy—Respecting the cultural wisdom of all the parties and welcoming the creative interaction of different cultural ways.
  1. Partnership—Modeling collaborative process by partnering with local parties and with other institutions and coalitions.
  1. Multiple technologies—Utilizing a variety of technologies, as appropriate, and creating new methods, as needed, to meet the unique needs of each situation.
  1. Facilitation—Assisting parties in taking responsibility for their own dreams and destiny.
  1. Empowerment—Helping people become empowered agents of change and transformation within their societies.
  1. Action research—Learning from all that we do and sharing that learning with others.
  1. Invitation—Entering the system where there is an invitation and an open door.
  1. Trust—Building relationships of mutual trust and caring within the system.
  1. Engagement—Acknowledging that once we enter a system we become a unique part of it — an engaged, caring, and accountable partner.
  1. Transformation—Catalyzing changes at the deepest level of beliefs, assumptions, and values, as well as behaviors and structures. (Institute for Multi-Track Diplomacy, 2004)

Now the intent of this commentary is not to examine the concepts of multi-track diplomacy but upon viewing the film, the essential principles of this mindset are clearly on display.  This really is no surprise, because these elements of multi-track diplomacy are really foundational to most post-modern veins of thought.

 

At a more simplistic level the film really emphasizes two types of peace, that of peace through strength and peace through tolerance.  The peace of the federation is really no different than Pax Romana, peace being maintained by the government ruling over many people.  In Rome the peace came through being forced to enter the Roman Empire by being conquered, whereas the Federation simply wants people to join the Federation peacefully.  Starfleet serves to intervene in the instances where others choose to fight against the Federation and serve to “keep the peace.”  The peace really is dependent upon the submission to a powerful governmental collective.

 

The other type of peace displayed is that of peace through tolerance.  This comes down to accepting people for whatever they believe or do as long as it does not interfere with society as a whole.  Any member of the Cosmos should be free to follow whatever their culture dictates but when they are more intellectually aware they will gravitate beyond their culture into the greater good.  The Star Trek universe portrays such a push toward the apparent cohesiveness of tolerance. 

There is more to the plot elements of the film other then the general types of peace the film portrays.  The essential plot elements center on a significant barrier to peace and how the character react in responding to that threat.  Captain Nemo from Romulus is the main villain and he is seeking vengeance for Romulus being destroyed and Spock not being able to save it, and in Captain Nemo’s mind simply sitting idly by.  Captain Nemo is obsessed with rage and anger.  He not only wants to destroy Spock’s home planet as revenge but elevates it to the home worlds of any who participated in the lack of saving Romulus.  Captain Nemo is ruled by anger and vengeance.

The film does incorporate pretty clear imagery over the destructiveness of anger.  The material for the weapon that destroys planets when inserted to the core of the planet is called “red material” and is responsible for creating black holes that destroy worlds.  The “red material” seems symbolic of anger and rage which when acted on and followed tends to seek to destroy.  Rage can be a black hole of destruction in people’s lives. In the film, the villain was so filled with rage, that in the end he let the rage destroy him. He refused to accept the offer of assistance and let anger destroy him.  

The film shows that the enemy driven by anger can be defeats through the use of ultimately of balanced duality, the working together of an elite team, the effectiveness of technology, and the willingness to self-sacrifice. Letting anger rule the film shows will ultimately lead to self-destruction with unwillingness to accept offered aide. 

In essence, the story of the film really is about how to maintain peace and triumph over those driven by anger. The film really promotes an idea and agenda on how to cope with the current age where terrorism and folks driven by anger and hate is the subject of the day.  The film really portrays the ongoing agenda of how to win a war on terror with the emphasis that the terrorist’s anger and irrationality will ultimately in the end destroy them.

 

 

The film’s message contrasted with Christianity

            The view of the world and Cosmos in the universe of Star Trek and the film really serves a stark contrast to Christianity. The world of Star Trek is that of the elevation of the individual who fulfills a destiny serving the greater good with their talents. It is a world where the elite rise to the level of their strengths, which are needed for the good of society.  The Star Trek view of peace is one of surrendering to a governmental authority that seeks to serve the greater good of society and emphasizes working together for the greater good and tolerating all differences.  In fact, as technology and society advance all religious thought is but a function of the culture which can be both embraced but also transcended.  Peace comes first by diplomacy and working through differences and failure to accept the whole will be met with strength and failure to submit will ultimately result in destruction.  The function of humanity and society is to continually grow and expand and there are no obstacles which when working together humanity cannot overcome.

            Christianity on the other hand, is about surrender to the creator of the universe.  In Christianity there is start awareness of the inherent selfishness of humanity and the tendency to serve self.   In true Christianity, peace comes through surrender to the Creator with a recognition that we cannot save ourselves.  The more we grow in knowledge and technology and even tolerance, the more selfishness becomes evident.  In Christianity, peace is not about absence of conflict but rather living in right relationship first with our Creator and secondly with those around us.  Living in peace with those around us is not about accepting whatever they do or believe, it is about loving others in spite of their choices with the ever willingness to speak truth.  Christianity is never about forcing change or looking down on those who fail to accept the truth. A Christian should take an attitude of loving concern and a willingness to reach out to others regardless of what they say or do. 

 The mindset portrayed in the Star Trek film is ever increasing and the agenda portrayed in the film will be front and center.  A time is coming when the contrast the Christian view presents to the world view as advocated in the film will result in Christians being seen as villainous as Captain Nemo with the mindset that we are ultimately the cause of our own destruction because we wouldn’t submit to the opposing view. 

Each person has a choice of what they want to accepted or believe. The ever expanding evolution of humanity into greater expansion and goodness or the submission of self to a Creator who loves beyond all measure.  A choice between trying to find and fullfill a special destiny that serves humanity or  to humbly serve the God of love with whatever gifts and talents God gives.  The world of Star Trek can seem enticing and is but an imagination. In truth, the path of self-expansion will lead to destruction whereas the world of self-submission to the Creator will ultimately lead to true peace and wholeness in spite of what goes on in the world.

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