Star Trek Into Darkness - Film Analysis
The crew of the Star Ship Enterprise, lead by Captain Kirk, go on a mission to find an unstoppable force manufactured within there own organization.
Into The Past?
As a film student I have been trained to see beyond what my eyes project from the screen and divulge deeper into the creative minds of the people behind the film. With that being said I will try to bring you less of a 'review' of films, and more of an analysis of what the theme is that film makers may be trying to get across.
In the film Star Trek Into Darkness we follow Captain Kirk and his crew as they go on an unscheduled mission to a dark and war torn planet to find a defunct member of their organization who has already killed someone close to Kirk. Let me start first by saying that J J Abrams has been a part of many films and TV shows that I have enjoyed such as "Fringe", Mission Impossible 3 and Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol. I also think he is a talented Director and Producer with a mind and eye for a great story. With that being said I shall proceed to my analysis.
Who's The Man
First off its very hard for me to figure out who the true protagonist is in this story. I mean we all know that Khan (I warned you) is the antagonist or do we? On most occasions a story will have one protagonist (good guy) and one antagonist (bad guy), but it looks like this story has two of each. Even if you look at the photo to the right you can see the foreshadowing that gives light to my theory. Notice how Spock is in the foreground and Kirk is in the back ground. This is telling us that the roles will reversed at some point in the film.
In the beginning we see Kirk, Kirk, and more Kirk, the quick thinking, risk taking young Captain who is responsible for the lives of many people. He is one of those guys who does dumb things, but they somehow always end up being the right dumb things to do at the time. Even his mentor Captain Pike tells him that one day his risky behavior would get him killed. He turned out being right, but we'll get to that later. Now this seems like the hero right? The protagonist, the good guy. He's good looking, gets all the girls (twins with tails, nice), and at the end of the day no matter how many mistakes he makes, he ends up being the man. But wait...
Then we have Spock. Spoke is a tight wad. He follows all the rules all the time. He is half Alien, half human and he has a difficult time expression his emotions, feelings. Part of this is due to his alien culture, and part of it is do to his very human defense mechanism he has created to shield himself from being hurt. We'll talk about that later. So Spock ain't a looker like Kirk (he has pointy ears and wacked out eyebrows) but he is very heroic. By the time the movies over he has already cheated death, beat the bad guy and saved Captain Kirk's life. This is where the analysis gets interesting.
Knowing a little about Wrath of Khan movie from back in the day, I remember that Spock dies and Kirk lives. This time the creators reversed it and Kirk dies/Spock lives. Now the only reason I'm mentioning this is because when I saw it I was like wow this is cool. These guys flipped it on us, then the next day I was like, "hey that was kind of cheesy, did they do that for the fan boys?" Maybe, maybe not. Maybe both. This is the way I see it;
The film makers wanted to put a new spin on things but also give long time fans something to be proud of. I think in the process they consciously or subconsciously stumbled upon a nice niche that they may want to use in the future to ensure more success.
The first Star Trek film from Abrams was like Rambo or Die Hard. You had one hero (Kirk) who beat the bad guys and saves the day. Al the other characters (even Spock) were pretty much in the background. In this film you get more of a Lethal Weapon, buddy cop kind of film. Both Spock and Kirk play of each other like RIggs and Murtough. This is the heart of the story. This is what's behind the special effects and big budget.
Before I get back to out dual protagonists let me point out our two antagonists Khan is the bad guess yes, but so is Kirk's superior, Marcus. Things get more confusing when we find ourselves feeling bad for Khan after we find out that Marcus knows about his species and plans to kill them all. Khan even works with Kirk for awhile so I guess we would have had three protagonists before Khan lost his temper. Either way, despite a brilliant performance by Benedict Cumberbatch (The eyes and voice are dazzlingly creepy), Khan is no more than filler here. The real story is Kirk and Spock.
There is a scene where Khan is aboard the enterprise behind glass and he is talking to Kirk. Khan tells Kirk that the only reason he surrendered to him is because he felt that Kirk had a conscience. Think. This is something that Spock does not have, or he does, but he chooses not to use it. If you recall in the first scene Spock is about to be killed in a volcano and the crew is supposed to leave him there. Kirk turns to bones and says, "if Spock was here, what would he do?" Bones replies by saying, "he would let you die." Why? Not because he doesn't care, but because it is against the rules. We later find out that Spock chooses to be so stoned cold as a defense mechanism due to his entire planet being murdered and him being the only survivor.
There is one line that I must repeat as it was so good. Spock's girl friend is rambling and Spock simply says "unclear". Spock only knows of logic, its hard for him to understand anything that is illogical. On the other hand Kirk cares about everyone and no matter what the rules are he wants to do the right thing. These guys learn from each other. I was looking for a one main lead in this production, but there are two.
No matter how much praise Kirk gets as the leader of this operation this is an ensemble cast here. You can look at the poster above and see that. Notice no big overbearing picture of Kirk like in the first movie's poster. Now things are more equal. I like the idea. But in the future we may have to go back to Kirk as he is the leader.
So what's the theme here, every movie should have one?
I think the film makers were suggesting that you not underestimate the power of friendship. In the first movie Kirk was kind of like Riggs from Lethal Weapon a hot head with nowhere else to go. In this film from the beginning he's like a mentor in ways to Spock, even though Spock is probably the smartest guy on the ship. In return Spock is there to clean up his mess when things go wrong, and be a voice of reason when one of his ideas isn't quite at the stage of making sense yet. They learn from and help each other out, as real friends should. Don't believe me, just look at the beginning and end of the film.
In the beginning Spock rats Kirk out to their superiors and Kirk is pissed because he broke the rules to save Spock's life. Spock doesn't understand the problem as he only knows of telling the truth no matter what. He also has said before he has a hard time showing any type emotion or feelings. Kirk asks Spock if he knows why he went back to save he life. As Spock stands there silent Kirk then tells him "the truth is I'm gonna miss you". Now at first you might think this is some gay thing between Spock and Kirk (like Seinfeld says, not that there's anything wrong with that), but I don't think so. Kirk looks at him trying to see if he's going to show some emotion, but he doesn't. You can tell by Kirk's reaction that his plan didn't work.
Towards the end of the movie in the 3rd Act when Kirk is dying behind the glass we finally see emotion from Spock. Spock tells Kirk that he now knows why he saved his life earlier, because he is his friend. Kirk dies and Spock finally shows some emotion; a hell of a lot of anger. He almost beats Khan to death a few minutes later, risking his life to avenge his friend.
Kirk teaches Spock how to not be afraid of his emotions and Spock just basically gives Kirk the courage to keep taking risks. After all if you rehire the guy who ratted you out after breaking rules to save his life on the hunch that he has a heart in turn saves your life when the tables are turned wouldn't you have the balls to count on that guy to have your back in the future? Bones may have been right before Spock learned a lesson from Kirk, but afterwards when the tables were turned he didn't let him die after all.
Whether you're a Trekker, Trekkie, or neither, Star Trek Into Darkness is a great look at the importance of friendship. Kirk may be the lead singer in this group, but I don't think either of these guys would be successful without the other.
Kirk (to Spock): I don't know what I'm supposed to do, I only know what I can do.