Friday, March 22, 2013

Star Trek Into Darkness: Symbols & Meaning

Let's be perfectly honest,... of all the things that could have used an updating, the uniforms of the crew certainly could have, at least Kirk's ugly shirt, so why didn't they change the color? Not quite pea-green, not quite mustard-yellow, maybe a sickly-brown, just doesn't even describe what the base of the color is; why? It might be described as "gold not yet purified," because on Kirk's wrists are bands of gold. We have time later to discuss Kirk's daredevil attitude and what that means on a grander scale--and we certainly will--but his undershirt, also shared by Spock, of black symbolically communicates how "death to the self" or that death experienced in the interior life is necessary to the fulfillment of our complete potential. Spock's blue, with which we are well familiar by now, symbolizes both depression and wisdom, because the road of wisdom is often beset by life's sadness, and while we don't experience Spock's emotions often, his blue shirt should be a constant reminder to us of the sadness and emotions he does experience.  
Released just yesterday, this new international trailer for Star Trek Into Darkness (release date May 17) reveals quite a bit more details about the film; see if you can identify where you have seen some of this before:
First of all, Khan (Benedict Cumberbatch) is one of the top agents in Star Fleet, just as Silva (Javier Bardem) was a top agent for MI6 in Skyfall, the treasonous betrayal by Bill Haydon (Colin Firth) in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, and the duplicitous nature of the president in GI Joe Retaliation. From other Star Trek trailers (and an image is just below), we see Khan in a prison cell much like Silva's is in in Skyfall (which invoked Loki's cell in The Avengers, which invoked Hannibal Lector's cell in Silence Of the Lambs; we could even add, from at least Thor's perspective, that Loki, too, was at the top as his brother and betrayed him and Earth).
So why would this be a theme?
Why this "see through" prison which has become so popular? The practical argument is, seeing what the prisoner is doing at all times makes it more difficult for them to escape or hurt themselves. However, psychologically--and I think this is the real point--even though we see the villain, we don't see what he is doing. There is a false sense of security created and communicated by the transparent prison because we the audience know there is a well-crafted plan all ready in effect, and the villain getting caught is probably part of that plan. Now, the question is, what is it that is supposed to be transparent, but hasn't been transparent at all? Did someone promise us they would be transparent, but instead, has been secretive and conspiring?
All these films posit the same cultural questions: who is "at the top" who was trusted but is now betraying that trust? Who is trying to destroy us from the inside? What safety that we had is now jeopardized? By now, you well know my personal answers to all these questions, but, by now, you also have your own answers, or the film is going to try and help you find what your answer is. And, from the perspective of Captain Kirk, we must ask, "What is the 'old score' that needs to be settled?" Since we know the villain is Khan, therein lies the answer: 1982.
What is so sinister about this shot? Perhaps it's the "normal looking" villain with such deathly intentions, and we have seen this before in Sherlock Holmes: A Game Of Shadows. Just as Holmes was using urban camouflage, so was Moriarty, in blending in with everyone else in spite of his diabolical plans, and it's possible to see the same--at lest in this clip--in Khan. 
A number of films from the early 1980s have been re-made recently, including Red Dawn and Evil Dead (Star Trek Into Darkness reaches back to Star Trek II: Wrath Of Khan to resurrect this villain for the new film); while even I wouldn't argue that all movies being made in the early 80s were against communist Russia, we have to admit that communists were often the blatant villains of films, and sometimes the not-so-obvious villains.  This is just something for us to consider and to keep in mind, but there are two other factors shared in common with other films for us to ponder as well,...
Whatever scene this is, it's going to be important, because both men wear gray, but it's probably for different reasons. For example, we know Kirk will probably get into trouble for some rash call he makes, and his gray might signify his penance for mistakes and arrogance (because gray is the color of ash worn by those confessing their sins and doing penance, it can mean penance) but Pike also wears gray, perhaps to enhance the gray in his hair and hence his advancing age, that a new, younger leader must take over because this father-figure isn't going to be around much longer.
What is the opening of this trailer?
The attack of London.
Where else have we seen London being attacked?
In GI Joe Retaliation, in the demonstration of a weapon to destroy countries, the "President" detonates London and from the ground up, we see--not London Bridge falling--but all of London falling. Now, let's be open-minded and just explore a possible meaning for the recurring images of London's destruction. What big changes have taken place in London? Well, this is the first time in 450 years that a royal has married a commoner. Could the "foundation breaking" and "destruction" of London we see in films today be a reference to the marriage of Prince William and Kate Middleton? It's possible, but not probable. Where are public demonstrations against the marriage? The exact opposite, indeed, seems to be true with the Kate Middleton effect, so where have we seen public demonstrations in London?
Austerity measures. 
Alice Eve: is this innocent, or is she seducing Kirk? We know Kirk has a weakness for the women, and this might be a perfect chance for the film to remind us how our personal, private sins effect others. There has been a movement in films as of late to offer a counter-masculinity to the promiscuous male image as sexual conqueror, and it will be interesting to see which way Star Trek goes.
There was the 2010 London protests of students for tuition caps so (they thought) students from poorer backgrounds could better attend college, Occupy London, and the 2011 protests against planned public spending cuts. The films involving London might very well be warnings to the English government that it had better pay for the people or else; on the other hand, they might be warnings to the people that their expectations have bankrupted society and there's not even money left to pay for what is really important. We'll have to wait and see, but there is at least one more important point to be made,...
The Pacific Ocean.
Spock in the fire. In Wrath Of Khan, Spock dies; will he die in Into Darkness?
The Star Fleet headquarters is in San Francisco, right on the Pacific shore; like Battleship and Pacific Rim (coming out) action which might take place in this location could be a reference to World War II and America's role in that and afterwards. Let's remember, when Star Trek 2009 takes place, Kirk was in Iowa where he was growing up; why not return there? There are reasons this location shift has taken place and only the events of the film will alert us as to the message.   
Eat Your Art Out,
The Fine Art Diner