Captain's Log: Star Trek Wars (and President Obama Groks Spock)
Among the many comments and commentaries on Star Trek JJA, the most intriguing to me involve the perceived resemblances between this movie and Star Wars. There's a short video from College Humor deep in this Trek Movie thread that depicts the main points succinctly. I'm linking to it rather than the original source because of one of the comments, # 12 from Magic Al, which adds this:
The Star Wars comparison could be extended to the young hero lost and running from monsters on a snow planet until an old friend rescues him and tells him was he has to do next. It’s relevant because JJ Abrams is known to be a bigger Star Wars fan than a Star Trek fan. The comparison film illustrates the common “hero’s journey” mythology of these two films.
It reminded me that seeing J.J. Abrams on a Star Wars documentary prompted me to suggest here on this site, almost two years ago, what Abrams might do with his Star Trek movie. Abrams, I wrote:
... speaks about the first step, the hero's "Call to Adventure" (as [Joseph] Campbell called it). "At the heart of the story is some kid who is being called to service, to deal with something so much bigger than him."So of course I immediately thought of the Star Trek movie, and wondered if it might begin the Kirk story farther back than many have speculated--even earlier than at Starfleet Academy. With a boy in Iowa perhaps. What is his call? What is the crisis that changes his life? What is the "threshhold-crossing" event, in which (as someone said) you realize you're not in Kansas anymore. Or Iowa. That takes Kirk into a bigger world?
Later I wrote: Abrams talked about the appearance of the mentor. "In moments of absolute disconnect and loss and confusion and fear...these characters arrive that give purpose and confidence" to the hero. Who will be Kirk's mentor, I wondered, and the film gives us Captain Pike, challenging him at that crossroads moment. I also wondered:
The classic hero has companions to help on the quest, the journey. We know who Kirk's companions will be by the time the five year mission begins. Are they with him from the beginning?
That's what this film does--the story of how the hero's journey begins-- though how well or how meaningful it does it is an open question. There are lots of other questions in commentaries and comments since then, some of which the movie's writers addressed, as summarized in the above noted Trek Movie thread, or more directly at Darth Mojo.
I don't know that the answers are entirely consistent or satisfactory. But the basic question--reflected in a number of comments here--is how true to Trek this movie really is, beyond the superficial. Since it's become so popular, some of the possibilities JJA says he's entertaining for future stories worry me as well--like bringing back Khan, etc. This takeover of the classic characters was always dangerously close to exploitation. I would hate to see it go clearly over the line.
In general I'm sticking to what I said, possibly too far down in my commentary last time, concerning the differences between this movie and Star Trek GR: "Ultimately what we’ve got are stories. They may now occur in two separate Star Trek story universes, but they rise or fall on what they are as stories." So far, Star Trek JJA has but one story--even if you include the comic book prequel. Naturally we're talking about this one now because it's the newest and the biggest in awhile. But soon, this site will be getting back to those many other Star Trek stories, and what they tell us about the soul of Star Trek and the soul of the future.
It was the meaning in those stories, after all, that influenced several generations, including the current President of the United States, who has just screened the new movie at the White House, and talked about Star Trek to Newsweek. "Everybody was saying I was Spock, so I figured I should check it out and—[the president makes the Vulcan salute with his hand]." "I used to love Star Trek," the President said, not for its special effects but for its "evocative" stories and meaning, even to him at ten years old.
Speaking of this site, Soul of Star Trek appears recently on some fascinating lists: Blogs.com Top Ten Star Trek Blogs, the select Star Trek blog roll at UK's the Guardian, and the select Trek blog link list at Ex Astra Scientia. To which I humbly say, cool, and thanks a lot!
Final note: since torture is so much in the news again, I keep being reminded of the posts I did on the topic (also two years ago) and especially the TNG "Chain of Command" episodes (famous to fans for Picard's cry of "There are four lights!") It was in the second of those episodes, made all those years ago, that Picard says what was known even then: torture doesn't work in eliciting accurate information, a lesson that's more public than ever now.
So here's a link to that "Star Trek vs. 24" posting. I've also given the label "torture" to those and other relevant posts, which you can find in the label list in the sidebar column to the right, and see all those posts.