Human Emotion and Two Movies' Conclusion Concerning It
The Cast of Characters
Disclaimer: In attempt to preserve the plots of the two films from being spoiled, I have remained intentionally vague on some of the plot sequence of the films. Any part of the plot that is revealed is nothing more than could be found on the tagline of the movie or a movie description of what the film is about. If you have seen the films and wish to make a comment, please try to keep from spoiling the plot too much in discussing the films.
Personal conviction: the purpose of movies, literature, poems, art and other venues of that nature are to raise interesting questions and attempt to show a different way of thought than is being digested by collective consciousness. Concerning human emotion, the question, what value does emotion have to humanity, might not be the most original, yet as humanity is still trying to sort itself out, it doubtless will be thought of and addressed time and again. More recently, two films touch on the aspect of human emotion and in some aspects come to differing conclusions about it. The conclusions will be explored in some depth in the hopes of better understanding emotion and the role it plays in the actions of humanity.
Two Films, Two Stances
The recent film Star Trek jettisoned a new, major occurrence in the Star Trek universe, allowing for a new series following the first set of characters with more films to be expected. While Star Trek might have the connotation of being for a certain audience, this film delivers fast paced action, witty dialog and interesting plot. The film begins with the high energy conflict of an alien spaceship attacking the Enterprise. The outcome serves as a catalyst with large ramifications for the characters, specifically Kirk and Spock, and the plot that follows deals largely with Spock and Kirk’s reaction to the chain of events this unlocks (while featuring other aspects like the genesis of other beloved, well known characters like the Doctor McCoy and Chekov). Although the film has many perks that make it an instant seller with wide appeal, part of what makes the plot compelling is the way Spock and Kirk act as each others’ antithesis.
The film begins by showing the two characters’ personality traits. Through an action-pumping, death-death defying car chase, the audience immediately recognizes Kirk as the brash young protagonist who acts on emotion first and thinks later. Meeting Spock as a child, we see the different dilemma he faces as one who is half human, half Vulcan. The taunting of some children concerning Spock’s human mother prompts Spock to retaliate with violence. It is this incident that causes Spock to recognize the necessity of delegating his emotion beneath the safety of dispassionate logic. The film also describes the Vulcans turning toward logic not as an indicator of their absence of emotion, but as the logical response for a species that feels emotion deeper than humanity.
As adults, Spock’s actions and thought process are overwhelmingly grounded in logic while Kirk continues to court disaster after disaster by acting on emotion. Not desiring to give away too much of what happens in the film, suffice it to say that the film becomes even more interesting when Spock and Kirk change places. With Kirk having the benefit of logic and distance from emotion and Spock having his judgment sacrificed by his deep emotion that comes into play following certain events, the plot continues to the final conclusion in which dispassionate logic trumps unstable emotion. Even the last few lines of the movie could be read as the conclusion of emotion’s place beneath logic.
Another film that isn’t as recent yet also deals with the question of emotion is Equilibrium. Set in a dystopian society where humans take pills to keep them from the dangers of emotion, the plot provides an investigation of just what happens when emotion is eviscerated from society. Some of the results that the movie imagines include the disappearance of artwork, music and certain nostalgic memorabilia items. John Preston, the main protagonist of the film played by Christian Bale, is a higher up enforcer of the law. The film begins by showing him watching passionless as his wife is taken away to be killed for displaying illegal emotion. As you might expect, the conflict continues to increase when John Preston, unable to take his pill one day, begins to experience emotion. Thus begins his odyssey that will set him up to pull down the system – and this is no more a plot spoiler than the tagline on the movie.
Again, without revealing too many specifics, the movie comes to a different conclusion about emotion and its place in society. Much of John Preston’s actions come from his emotional response to his environment. The film even nods its head to the role dogs play in terms of human emotion – though this might just be the US population in particular. At the end, John Preston’s actions stem in large part from his emotional response to recent events depicted in the film. For that matter, it seems as though Preston’s last major action sequence could not have happened quite as well had there not been the emotional trigger that came before his actions. Unlike the Star Trek conclusion about emotions, Equilibrium’s conclusion depicts Preston’s actions as being grounded in his emotions. Take away the emotions and you take away the actions.
Which Brings Us to What, Exactly?
The conclusions that both films reach regarding emotion and its impact on judgment each have their merits. Star Trek follows the baseline thought that too much emotion can cloud judgment – not the most original conclusion, but one that can be readily accepted by the public. Law even recognizes the role emotion plays in crime by marking the difference between crimes of passion (crimes that occur immediately as an emotional response) and crimes that were premeditated. And in general, we’re trained to distrust films, speeches and material that pander strictly to sentimentality sans logic. In looking at emotion in terms of law, one can see emotion acting as a negative influence.
Yet this example also shows our skepticism of crimes without emotion, with crimes of passion carrying a more lenient sentence than premeditated crimes. Also, do we not as a society express our horror of emotionless actions? Just the common phrase “cold blooded killer” expresses our anxiety at those who kill and don’t feel, seemingly. Very rarely will you hear a colloquialism that negatively depicts a passionate, emotional killer. A person might be a “hothead,” but that’s about as far as we’ll take a negative stance on emotion and crime. In fact, very often a plot will focus on the enigma of someone who has killed multiple times and feels nothing. How can this be? Is this trait not troubling?
Although the two films reach different conclusions about emotion, they each provide a better glimpse at how we might as humans understand emotion. Star Trek capitalizes on our natural distrust of emotion. Emotion can at times be responsible for poor judgment and poor decisions. It is best, as Star Trek concludes, to confine pesky, ruinous emotion beneath logic. Yet to be without emotion is to fail to be human, as Equilibrium points out. Logic will never prompt a response that emotion would. It is not logical to sacrifice oneself for another, but it might be more emotional. Seeing an act of outrageous injustice, our first response might be the emotional one.
And for that matter, aren’t there realms of experience in which, as emotional beings, we become quite vexed at the dispassionate, logical stance taken by others who don’t feel as we do, or, for that matter, seem to feel at all? Are there not other realms of experience in which we remain untouched by emotion while wishing others would be in our state? What good really comes from shouting and name-calling in an attempt to convince others of the validity of a position? So what then do we do about emotion? For that matter, which judgment is preferred – one based on logic with emotion beneath the surface, or one grounded in emotion? Not having any conclusive, question free thought, I remain convinced that this question will again be addressed by other mediums and debate will continue. Yet it is a question that might take on more significance as cloning humans becomes a more tangible possibility.
Star Trek Trailers
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