Yes, I am finally going back to Star Trek Into Darkness!
I found it a very enjoyable movie. It strikes me as more ‘Trekian’ than the previous J. J. Abrams’ Star Trek film. I think this is because of the details added to this movie, which I listed way back in my post ‘The Little Things.’ Then there are all the little character touches added to the “Enterprise Seven” – but we’ll get to those another time.
Have you ever seen that picture – you know, the one of a snake eating its own tail? Yeah, that one.
Do you know what it symbolizes? I believe it shows the folly of evil. Evil is like a snake eating its own tail; it is self-defeating. How long can the snake survive when it is consuming itself? Not very long, I would think.
During Into Darkness, Kirk and Spock are thrust into the depths of loss and extreme pain. Kirk sees the man he has come to respect as a father, Admiral Christopher Pike, murdered. We all know that Kirk is no stranger to death, but this is the first time (that the audience sees) when he has watched someone close to him die. And it tears him up.
Spock also gets thrown down this well. He mind melds with Pike as the old captain dies, experiencing again the emotions he felt as he watched his home world Vulcan annihilated (seen in the previous movie) – emotions he is desperately trying to avoid ever feeling again.
As he later learns when Kirk ‘dies,’ he may as well quit breathing. Emotions do not have an off switch; they only rule a person who does not make them subservient to reason.
In the case of Star Trek’s ‘dynamic duo,’ both Kirk and Spock come to the brink of the abyss of evil. At this threshold, they have a choice: fall or fly. What I mean by this is that they have a choice between good and evil. Will they give in (fall) to their “anger,” and their “fear,” (thank you, Master Yoda) and hatred? Or will they let these emotions go and rise (fly) above them?
The two come very close to falling. Kirk first single-mindedly hunts down Khan to get vengeance for Pike’s murder, only to learn that he has endangered his whole crew when Admiral Marcus arrives to “tie up loose ends.” Kirk’s desire for revenge then appears to transform into a death wish, which is finally overcome when he chooses to sacrifice himself to save the Enterprise – and San Francisco.
Speaking of which, they pick on Marvel for wrecking New York City every few months. J. J. Abrams has now attempted to destroy San Francisco twice, and I haven’t heard anyone complain.
It is after Kirk’s ‘death’ that Spock reaches his precipice. Since Vulcan’s destruction, Spock has decided that he wants to feel nothing before he dies. Vulcans, as every Star Trek writer enjoys reminding the audience, feel far more deeply, passionately, and keenly than humans do.
And boy does Spock live up to that aspect of the Star Trek legend in this film! If you thought you saw the penultimate Vulcan temper flare when Kirk baited Spock in the previous movie, that was nothing compared to the fury that Spock exhibits when Kirk ‘dies.’
Giving in to his rage, pain, and the fear of being without his best friend for the next fifty of his two hundred years (the average lifespan of a member of the Vulcan race), Spock pursues Khan through the streets and airways of San Francisco. Even Spock’s vaunted Vulcan strength does not give him the upper hand against the genetically engineered Khan. Only when Uhura arrives and begins firing on Khan is Spock able to pin him. At which point he begins beating the villain with a piece of the freighter the three are riding on.
I suppose Spock might have eventually killed Khan. But when Uhura manages to get it into Spock’s rage-benumbed mind that Khan can save Kirk, Spock pauses. The viewer can see by the expression on Spock’s face that he is very tempted to simply finish Khan on the spot. Even dead, his blood might have saved Kirk.
But Spock does not kill Khan. He rises above the brink of evil. He takes the handle from the freighter and knocks Khan out in one smooth blow. Very cute move; I hope he did it hard.
Subsequently, Kirk is revived to become a stronger, less cocky (maybe…), starship captain. He has seen evil again, not just outside of him but inside as well. And he has defeated that blackness every human has in their heart. He hasn’t permanently wiped it out, but Kirk has withstood this siege and won.
Spock similarly stands stronger than he did at the beginning of the film. Having come to understand that emotions are without an on/off switch, he accepts the position they hold in his being and moves on with his friends.
This triumph is in stark contrast to the movie’s two antagonists. I will begin with Admiral Marcus. When Marcus arrives to destroy the Enterprise (commanding a ship named – surprise, surprise – Vengeance), we learn that he has been preparing Starfleet for war underneath the public’s and the politicians’ noses.
Marcus has distorted Starfleet’s mission; instead of seeing the Fleet as a force for peaceful exploration, and defense if the explorers’ way of life is threatened, he sees it as a war machine. Very typical of the military/industrial complex Hollywood enjoys harping about.
That aspect aside, Marcus has ‘fallen’ Into Darkness. He is planning, the Enterprise crew and the audience learn, to start a war with the Klingons. His excuse for doing this? War is coming anyway. The Klingons are preparing for it; so should Starfleet.
To make certain the Federation has the upper hand in this coming, glorious battle, Marcus has awoken the twentieth century menace Khan Noonien Singh. And, much like the sorcerer who summons a demon to devour his enemies for him in old fairy tales, Marcus himself is destroyed when Khan turns on him.
For his part, Khan has also ‘fallen’ Into Darkness. But he has been sailing that black sea far longer than Marcus. A genetically enhanced human who wrought havoc on earth during the Eugenics’ Wars (in Star Trek history, this took place in the 1990’s); Khan and his remaining seventy-two crewmembers look down on all non-enhanced people as inferiors.
In a way, this was what always made Khan so pitiable. Khan was a brilliant man who could have done great things but instead let his pride run amok, as it does here. You know what they say about pride going before a fall. Through Into Darkness, Khan gives viewers a good idea of what it is like when someone bows down before the all-consuming fire of pride. And in the three hundred and some years since he fell to his knees before it, Khan has lost all of the humanity he ever had, demonstrated when he brutally breaks Carol Marcus’ leg and then kills her father – right before her eyes.
Now, I know I have sounded extremely (cough) dark here, so I will try to end this on a happier note. I think that the best way to do this is to make a small mention of the ending for the film.
At the end, Kirk gives the eulogy at a funeral; I believe it is Admiral Pike’s. His words do not mean very much (until he recites the familiar lines from ‘Space, the final frontier…’). What does mean a great deal, however, are the images that accompany his speech.
The day of the funeral is overcast, justly somber as the Federation mourns its dead and those who died to pride (Admiral Marcus). Meanwhile, other members of Starfleet are shown putting a re-iced Khan and his remaining crew in deep storage, away from even the misty grey of a sad day.
In a way, Khan and his people are also being buried. Oh, they are alive in their stasis pods, their bodies still function. They are not physically dead. But if the other seventy-two are anything at all like Khan, they are dead spiritually. So although they are technically imprisoned in dreamless sleep, in effect they are being entombed the same way that any actual dead men would be.
Meanwhile, Kirk and his crew still walk, talk, and feel; they are very alive despite the pain they have all experienced in this ordeal. And they get to go on living. They get to go on the famous, five year deep-space mission. They get to walk among the stars. That’s more than Khan will get to do for a long, long time. All because he gave in where others resisted.
Maybe that was not a particularly chipper ending to this note, but it is the best I’ve got at the moment. I will try to do better next time.
See you around, Tony!