Tag Archives: Pride

Into Darkness

Kirk and Spock

Heigh-ho, DiNozzo!

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!

Later,

Mithril

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The Hobbit Film Trilogy: Pride and ‘Hobbit Sense’

Thorin

Hey, DiNozzo!

My Klondike bar – thanks.  How’s business?

That bad, huh?  I heard it was going a bit harder than usual.  How are Ziva and McGee doing?

When are you going to quit calling him McGeek?  Yes, it’s cute, to me.  I’m not so sure he likes it. 

As for Ziva, I think you two are giving each other the look.

Don’t give me that flustered innocence, I’ve seen you two for the past couple of years!  The more I watch, the more I’m sure you guys are headed toward –

All right, all right!  Don’t get so ruffled, I was just giving you my opinion!

Okay, okay, fine.  I’ll cut to the meat of the matter.  Gee, they’re making these Klondike bars smaller all the time.  That one didn’t last a light-second.

Now, where did I want to start this?  Oh, yeah.  So the focus of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is, naturally, Bilbo Baggins.  Throughout the film we see his growing affection for the dwarves in the company, and their growing respect and friendship with him.

But there’s one dwarf who just doesn’t seem to soften toward Bilbo in the least, although Bilbo’s admiration for him continues to grow.  Thorin Oakenshield, the dispossessed dwarf king, is stiff with all the company (save perhaps with Balin), but he is especially gruff with Bilbo.  Proud and battle-tried, Thorin is determined to regain his near-crazed grandfather’s kingdom under the mountain, which is guarded by a firedrake (dragon).  But the entire might of Erebor in its greatness couldn’t stop Smaug the terrible.  He’s going to need help.

And for this mission, the only help Thorin’s got are twelve other dwarves.  Oh, sure, Gandalf travels with them fairly often.  But he’s a wizard; he has a lot of other matters on his plate.  He can’t travel with the dwarves all the time, and even if he could, an entire army couldn’t drag Smaug out from Under the Mountain.  What’s Gandalf the Grey (even with all his power) going to be able to do – other than give Smaug a stomach ache? 

These odds are beyond dismal to start with.  There’s worse in that, since Gandalf isn’t a reliable traveling companion, it leaves Thorin with a company of thirteen. 

You know the old saying about thirteen being an unlucky number.  Who wants that worry hanging over his head on an already badly outmatched mission like this?

So Thorin asked Gandalf to find them a fourteenth traveler for the company.  And what does he get?  A well-fed, well-housed hobbit who “looks more like a grocer than a burglar.”

 Bilbo has, of course, never used a sword, axe, or any other weapon.  It’s doubtful that he ever even used a sling shot as has Ori.  In fact, I think it was mentioned in the book that the only thing he knew how to do was throw rocks.  Not an especially helpful talent when you’re facing a huge dragon, huh?

As for burglary – only Gandalf’s quick interruption kept Bilbo from letting slip that he’d never stolen anything more than fruit or vegetables in his whole comfortable life.  How is he supposed to steal anything from a dragon?  It’s shown later that he has trouble stealing from mountain trolls.  Doesn’t inspire confidence about his ability to get past a dragon, does it?

And herein lies part of the rub.  Thorin has led an uncomfortable life for many, many years.  He’s fought orcs, wargs, and lost his home to a dragon.  He has had to work for the clothes on his back and the weapons he carries.  His father has gone mad and vanished; his battier grandfather was slain in a horrible manner right in front of him, and he has led and lost thousands of dwarves in war against the orcs of the Misty Mountains. All of this happened in one day.  He has had years to brood on it and get bitter over it.

And when he finally gets the chance to do something about it, he finds he doesn’t have enough dwarves.  Although as he himself points out, the dwarves he does have are willing to fight.  That can be the tipping point in any battle. 

But when he asks Gandalf to get him a burglar, Gandalf instead finds him an untried hobbit who has never seen battle.  Heck, he hasn’t even lifted a sword at any point in his life!!

For Bilbo’s part, as a young hobbit he probably would have jumped at the chance to go with the dwarves.  But at the hobbit’s middle age of fifty, he has had time to get comfortable with the quiet life of the Shire.  He is “respectable” and doesn’t do anything considered odd by the residents of Hobbiton. 

Suddenly, his quiet, comfortable life is turned upside down in one night.  A passel of dwarves invades his home, sets it into absolute disorder, the lead dwarf insults him, and he is “volunteered” to go on a quest.  The “respectable” part of Bilbo does what any “respectable” resident of Hobbiton would do; he turns it down.

The next morning he finds his house – the one thing he takes real pride in – restored to its former order and cleanliness.  And on the table in the parlor, he finds the contract to join the company. 

Wonder who left it there?  I doubt it was Thorin.  Balin?  Perhaps.

The more likely answer, I think, would be Gandalf.

Now, this is the second half of Thorin’s problem with Bilbo and, frankly, with a great many other people.  Thorin is the dwarf king and has earned glory in his battles.  He has helped his people survive since the fall of Erebor. 

And, in typical dwarf fashion, this has all gone straight to his head.

Dwarves in Middle-earth are known for their bull-headed pride.  Only Gimli ever seemed to have any sense in that regard, keeping his pride under better control than many other dwarves.  Thorin doesn’t seem to even want to keep his pride in check.

Thorin’s pride brings the company to many of the dangers they encounter.  He chooses to camp at the wrecked farm, near a troll den; he bickers with Gandalf regarding most of the wizard’s advice; and at first refuses any help Elrond can give him because Thranduil, king of the Mirkwood Elves, wouldn’t attack Smaug when the dragon was safely inside the Lonely Mountain. 

Yeah, Thranduil may have been a stuck-up snob, but what’s the sense in getting his army killed in a suicide attempt?  Somehow, Thorin never seems to figure out this part of the equation.  At least he doesn’t in this movie.  Only Gandalf’s frustrated tirade gets Thorin to finally – grudgingly – accept Elrond’s help in reading the map his father Thrain left him.

Bilbo’s pride is of another type.  Bilbo takes pride in being “respectable,” in how well his hole is taken care of and, essentially, in being a hobbit.  This pride is really nothing when compared to Thorin’s, and because he can take no pride in these ‘small’ accomplishments on the trail, Bilbo sets it aside (until later).

This is what gives him an edge that Thorin at first doesn’t see and later ignores: Bilbo learns as he goes along on the quest.  He learns to use his wits, his sharpest and best weapon; shown when he successfully distracts the trolls, and engages Gollum in a game of riddles.  He learns how to use a sword and how to fight.  And, most importantly, he learns when to use a sword and when not to use a sword when he spares Gollum (as Gandalf advised was the true sign of bravery).  He learns how to be a good friend to all the dwarves, even Thorin; although the dwarf king refuses to even consider him a friend for most of the film.

Why does Thorin do that?  Because, Tony, Bilbo may be high on the hobbit totem pole, but socially he’s inferior to half the other races in Middle-earth.  Bilbo’s no warrior; he’s not a smith, not an archer, he’s not even a scholar.  He has no credentials outside of the society of the Shire.  He shouldn’t even be loyal to the exiled dwarf king; he’s a hobbit and Thorin’s a dwarf.  Why should either of them care what happens to the other?  Why should Bilbo care about what Thorin and the other dwarves want?  It may be safe to say that Thorin doesn’t care terribly much about what Bilbo wants.

And yet, when Thorin nearly ends up joining his grandfather, it is Bilbo Baggins who rushes to his rescue.  A small hobbit with nearly no skill with a sword puts himself between an injured dwarf king and a huge, murderous orc on a large warg.  Why?  Through his journey with the company and his friendship with the other dwarves Bilbo has become loyal to Thorin.  Like Balin, he has come to see Thorin “as one I would be proud to call King.”

He has come to see that Thorin and the others lack what he has – a home, a home that they can be proud of, as he is proud of his hobbit hole.  In the Shire, everyone has a home that they can be proud of; I don’t believe there’s any such thing as a homeless hobbit in the entire Middle-earth world.  So it stands to reason that he would want to help the dwarves regain that pride.  And finally, Thorin wakes up to the fact that Bilbo really does want to help.

Oh, yes, Bilbo misses the Shire and wants to go back.  He doesn’t enjoy the rigors of the trail, no.  He doesn’t like fighting for his life against orcs and wargs.  But if that’s what it takes to help his friends, then he’ll do it.  He’ll put up with the discomfort and see the journey through to its end.

Come on, Tony, who wants the end of the journey to be the final end?  But the thing is that the future isn’t written in stone.  Bilbo is willing to risk his life, maybe more than he realizes, to help his friends get their home back. 

And that is why he gives Gandalf courage. 

Well, I have to split.  See you around, Tony!

Later,

Mithril

Bilbo