Thursday, April 18, 2013

Trailers: Star Trek Into Darkness #3, The Great Gatsby, Man Of Steel, The Lone Ranger, Oblivion

Space: the final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. Its five-year mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before.
The voice-over by William Shatner, which began the Star Trek TV series throughout the mid-1960s, isn't just a voice-over: it was the battle cry of a nation, of the American people, as laid out in the 1958 study by the White House on the American endeavor to explore outer space: The first of these factors is the compelling urge of man to explore and to discover, the thrust of curiosity that leads men to try to go where no one has gone before. Most of the surface of the earth has now been explored and men now turn on the exploration of outer space as their next objective.
And we did. 
This isn't the Garden Of Eden he's running through. Whatever happens in this scene must be significant because fractions of it have been included in all the trailers and it's featured on one of the major posters. The mark on the right side of Kirk's face--which appears in numerous clips, as well as other facial injuries--indicates that Kirk has been "defaced," he has lost face with his command and crew (of course, we see this in the trailer below). The circumstances leading to those symbolic injuries will prove imperative to digging into Kirk's character in this film because an injury physically revealed is actually an injury spiritually hidden, in other words, if Kirk has been defaced to his crew and command, the moral/psychological/spiritual/intimate damage to Kirk interiorly is far more extensive, but the injury points to or leads us in the direction we need to go in understanding what that damage is. Why should we care? Some might say, "It's just a movie, this is just a big budget film to make money, it doesn't matter and Star Trek isn't important."  I've never really watched TV, and I think I've only seen one full version of the original Star Trek and one full version of the Next Generation with Picard, so I'm not a "trekkie" and don't have that kind of loyalty-bias. What Kirk goes through, and we can say the same of any hero, acts as a metaphor for what the country goes through.  These films being released are the critical platform of political debate which isn't happening anywhere else in society, only in our art. And this is appropriate, this is one of the primary roles of art, to show us what is really going on, but it will show us, not tell us, and it's our job to seek out the message being offered so we have the perspective and can make our own decisions about where we want the country to go, or not go.
America, as Men In Black III reminded us, won the Space Race. Star Trek wasn't just a "national agenda" weekly of capitalist propaganda, it was the standard for each American to live up to, the "new life" that each viewer could have for themselves, the "new civilization" Americans could shape and create that had never existed before, and enter a political realm of individual freedom and liberty for all people in all countries throughout the world. It was like the re-settling of the American frontier all over again, and there was an unlimited potential for freedom that had to be used wisely. What inspired one generation has now been resurrected to inspire a new generation, and as we see in the trailer below because the USS Enterprise, i.e., the "ship of state," is badly damaged.
This... is... going... to be... awesome.
"I believe in you, Jim," echo words we heard in Oz the Great and Powerful, where believing was imperative to overcoming the evil consuming the land; what exactly, though, is "believing" in the person of Captain James Kirk? He's arrogant, he doesn't think he can make a mistake, he's reckless, takes unnecessary chances and doesn't follow the rules, so why on earth should we believe in him, wouldn't Spock be the safer bet? The nice, slow, easy, steady, predictable, boring bet? What Star Trek Into Darkness delivers in the character of James T. Kirk, isn't going to be a fabulous plot for an enormous-budget film, because, in all honesty, if that's all it was doing it would be hollow and total failure. Americans are smarter than that, we have to have a hero we can believe in because that hero mirrors us, ourselves, our highest ideal of what it means to be an American.
Why does a ship symbolize the "ship of state?" Like a ship at sea, or outer space, there has to be a captain and a crew, just like a government; at sea or in space, there is both smooth-sailing and stormy weather, just like what faces a nation (the Bible utizlizes the theme with the "Bark of Peter" and Peter being the head of the Church the way he was the head of his fishing ship on the Sea of Galilee; such a theme will undoubtedly appear in the next three Pirates Of the Caribbean films, for example). A ship can also symbolize more than this, like the soul, but these are "organic symbols" that flex and grow within the narrative they are situated. We cannot doubt, however, that the USS Enterprise represents the American government and the American spirit, and what happens to it comments upon our own fate in the real political arena of the world.
What is it Pike believes in when he tells Jim, "I believe in you?" Jim's heart, that he will make mistakes, but what he does, he does for a greater good, he does for a moral end, for an American ideal of justice and liberty. The virtues, and the vices of Captain James T. Kirk are the virtues and vices of America, what we hold dear, what we value in ourselves and others, what we believe leadership to be, why it's important and why it works. Star Trek Into Darkness will be the re-affirmation of all that is American.
On the other hand, The Great Gatsby will probably be a re-affirmation of what some hate about America:
"You can't relive the past," is the theme of the book, and in the book, "Reliving the past" was a new age of American millionaires trying to relive the Roaring 1920s, but after the lessons of the Great Depression; likewise, The Great Gatsby today says, "You can't relive the past," but this is talking about you can't rebuild the American economy after the 2008 economic crash. Why is there so much obviously "artificial" areas in the clips we are seeing? Because it wants to instill that capitalism is artificial and so are the people who "make it." The Great Gatsby will undermine both the inherited wealthy class (Joel Edgerton's character) and the self-made men, Jay Gatsby's character (Leonardo Di Caprio; again, if you have the time, you really should read the book, it's quite well written and a fairly quick read).
Daisy, played by Carey Mulligan, symbolizes the motherland; her husband, played by Joel Edgarton, symbolizes the old wealth, or inherited wealth in America while Jay Gatsby (DiCaprio) is the self-made man, new wealth and the American Dream; just as Daisy is in-between the two men in the poster, so she is in-between them in the story line and symbolically; stuck in a loveless marriage to the upper-class, and a dangerous, shallow romance with her lover from the past, there is no where for her to turn, and that's the anti-capitalist jist we are going to be delivered.
"A little party never hurt nobody," but that's obviously a sarcastic comment, because we see in the trailer someone getting killed, and we know from the book that her death triggers catastrophic consequences. The theme of the "party" is one we have experienced increasingly in films, but mostly as a metaphor for the way Democrats and socialists are running the country without regard for the consequences to be paid: Project X, Spring Breakers, The Collector, The Bing Ring and Identity Thief (when Diane's buying everyone's drinks at the bar); we could say, with The Great Gatsby, the table has been turned, that the rich in the country have been living "high on the hog," (a term used in Side Effects) like the wealthy at the onset of the French Revolution and they are going to die in their sins. For the party who doesn't believe in God, they are fond of pointing out the sins of others.
Okay, ready for something cool?
Uh, there's a lot going on in this one, almost the exact opposite of The Great Gatsby. Like Thorin Oakenshield in The Hobbit, a prince who does the menial work he must to survive, we see the great Superman working a number of physically intense jobs, including something that looks like an oil rig (oh, the socialists wouldn't like that, would they?). But we're also seeing the re-writing of the myth, that the "S" stands for Superman, and the film provides us with something far greater instead, a symbol of Hope, not only for Clark himself, his own destiny and purpose and what he must do, but all of us, and that's what socialists don't want to hear. Speaking of hearing, did you catch the "noise" when Lois (Amy Adams) said, "What about Super(noise)" and they look at the one-way glass; we are the ones on the other side of that glass, because we think we know what's going to be said, and we are "intruding," so to speak, on the film trying to convey it's message.
Continuing with old hero resurrections,...
Even if it is Johnny Depp, we need to ask, "Is it really a good idea to have a white man portraying a Native American (especially when the original Tonto character was portrayed by a Mohawk Indian from Canada), and re-enforcing 'stereotypes' with broken English and dream states?" This reveals two things: one, the regular dose of hypocrisy we get from liberals, because if the film were being directed by a more conservative director than Gore Verbinski (Pirates Of the Caribbean) the liberal media would be all over this crying out about "white power" and ethnocentricity; I disagree with "white power" but I actually do agree that a Native American should have portrayed this important role because of the natural diversity of this country. The second aspect of the film making process this reveals is that one form of racial prejudice is being covered up with another form of racial prejudice: Johnny Depp isn't in "red face" for this role, he's literally in "white face." Further, there are numerous elements of Depp's Jack Sparrow pirate incorporated into the very fabric of Tonto's character: is that the same head scarf from the Pirates films? His hairstyle is certainly similar. What's my point? The liberal agenda of supporting minorities and their civil rights is arbitrary at best. If I were Native American, I would be upset about this portrayal, there is nothing dignified about this. Even if this proves to be the most pro-capitalist film of the year--and I highly doubt that--this is a tragedy of cultural proportions. Just on a side note, Red 2 (Bruce Willis, John Malkovich, Helen Mirren Catherine Zeta-Jones) has a moment when John Malkovich's character calls Bruce Willis' character, "kemosabe," after the famous name Tonto has for the Lone Ranger. I have no idea what they want to reference by this, but it is undoubtedly a reference and something we will need to track.
"You sure have a hard time staying dead," one outlaw tells the Lone Ranger in the trailer below, and we hear a similar concept conveyed in Wesley Snipes' GallowWalkers, "Being dead ain't what it used to be" which also echoes the general theme of being a zombie. In the new Disney The Lone Ranger, John Reid (the Lone Ranger, Armie Hammer), a law student, returns home only to discover outlaws have taken over; when his brother is murdered, he gets the help of Tonto (Johnny Depp) and the two form a partnership:
To begin with, we are presented with the "origin" of the masked cowboy; like Man Of Steel, going back to a hero's origin is also going back to our own origin, and helping us find our identity through finding our history, but there's a funny thing about history, everyone seems to have a different memory of what happened. In The Lone Ranger, we are being given the tale of how John Reid became the masked cowboy through Tonto retelling the tale of their adventure. This is a minor detail, but I think an imperative one, because just as Depp is dressed up to be Native American, though he isn't, and he doesn't look Native American, the film makers are insisting that he is; does he look like a Native American you have ever seen, or does he look like a freak (the expanded crow head dress particularly leads us in this direction)? If they have taken such gross liberties with Tonto's character, why should we trust their narrative at all? Are they, in the parlance of literary criticism, a reliable narrator?
My biggest complaint about the new Lone Ranger? Facial hair. Yes, I am going to complain about that 5 O'Clock shadow. No offense, guys, this is just in the realm of art, so please take this as a hypothetical discussion, not a fashion statement. The mouth/jaw symbolizes or point to, the appetites. Don't get offended guys, but facial hair is the mark of the "uncivilized man" because men who are civilized shave, so to have a growth of hair on the face pertains to that primal appetite, not the civilized and disciplined, and if you are going to have a hero, he has to be free of the appetites because only someone who has first executed justice upon their self is worthy and able to execute justice upon others (you can't teach someone a lesson you haven't learned yourself first, and justice and righteousness is a lesson one must learn). Two arguments against my position: Iron Man's Tony Stark has a beard (Thor has a beard, James Bond has some facial growth in Skyfall), does that make him a bad guy? No, of course not, because we know that Tony is a man of appetites, as a billionaire and a symbol of America's own appetites, the Iron Man films chronicle Tony's bad boy image through his journey of disciplining himself and what happens when Tony doesn't discipline himself (The Avengers shows Tony at his very best). Am I being a hypocrite in supporting Tony over the Lone Ranger? No, because another detail from the trailer clues us in on how and why The Lone Ranger is going to "ban" absolute values and morals to make morality relative: his hat. Two bits in the trailer above shows us the film acknowledges the traditional symbol but intends to undermine it. There is a joke about him getting the biggest white hat he could find, and it's brilliantly white, exactly how it should be for a hero. The hat, because it's worn on the head, symbolizes our thoughts or what governs us because the head is the governing function over the rest of the body. It's artistically correct for him to have a big, white hat, because that demonstrates his big, pure concept of justice (his being a law student re-enforces this, as well as getting his father's Rangers bad, his father symbolizes the "founding fathers" of justice in the land). What happens to the hat? Tonto puts a crease in it down the middle. Where else have we seen a "crease down the middle?" In Guy Pearce's character's hair in Lawless. In Lawless, he plays a corrupt sheriff with a dramatic part right down the middle of his hair, symbolizing how he differentiates the two sides of the law, his and theirs. The same will probably happen in The Lone Ranger, morality is relative and make-up-as-you-go-along rather than absolute and definite. In other words, the Lone Ranger will be better than the corruption we see in the film, but he won't be a symbol of absolute Good, Purity, Justice, because liberals don't like things like that (that is characteristic of religious people and right wing extremists), they aren't going to present us with a hero like that, which leads us to our next point: the prayer card we see at 0:10 and then outside the train he's on, he wears a black coat and white collar, almost making him look like a priest. This is intentional, just like in Jack and the Giant Slayer, a feeble attempt is being made to unite Christians to the cause of socialism, that those who "hunger for justice" and "thirst for righteousness" will be fed and given drink through the agenda of slaughtering the upper-class.
In the voice over, we hear Tonto telling John Reid (at 0:43) that he was told in a vision that a warrior, who had been to the great beyond and returned would help him on his quest. What does that mean? Well, the one who had died and then come back, of course, but what does that mean? Like Gangster Squad, The Hunger Games, Cloud Atlas and Jack and the Giant Slayer (which wanted to but didn't bother finishing their statement because even they realized it was ridiculous), these films have formulated the thesis that they need people who have "made it big," to support making it impossible for others to "make it big," those who are rich have to step up and support taking wealth away from the wealthy, and John Reid is supposed to symbolize that because being in a state of "death" will symbolize working with those who want to uphold the status quo, i.e., capitalism. When he comes back to life, supposedly, he will be enlightened and see that socialism, or at least the abolition of wealth will mean the abolition of corruption which will mean justice. So they want us to believe.
Helena Bonham Carter as the prostitute Red. Regardless of any degree, or lack thereof, of political correctness, it's traditional in describing Native Americans as "red skins." In making Tonto "white faced," and undermining what could have been a culturally re-affirming and educating role of Native Americans in history for the audience, instead, they make it a mockery and they appear to be doing the same with women in Red. A woman appears to have power only if she's a slut or whore and gets paid for her body; is that respectful? Does that empower women? Does that empower men and show them in their best light? Here is a case in point: Helena Bonham Carter, a big-name actress, plays the prostitute, while Ruth Wilson (who plays John Reid's sister Rebecca) is hardly known by American audiences; if Ruth is the honest, strong, hard-working pioneer sister of the great hero, why isn't a better known actress lending her face to this character instead of the prostitute's? With Charlize Theron playing the Wicked Queen in Snow White and the Huntsman, Julia Roberts playing the Wicked Queen in Mirror, Mirror, Cate Blanchett playing the Evil Step-Mother in the upcoming Cinderella and Angelina Jolie playing an evil sorceress in Maleficent, the trend of elevating the bad woman isn't a trend, but an epidemic. A woman of virtue isn't what is being portrayed to audiences as the "desirable woman," women in America should want to emulate and style themselves after, rather, the evil woman, and that is exactly what America is going to get if they keep putting out these roles as role models.
Oblivion opens this weekend: I have been hesitant to say anything about which way the film will go--because it's obviously political, you can't destroy the earth and it not be political--but since it opened oversees first, the complete plot has been revealed (you can read it here) leading me to be 80% positive that it will be anti-socialist. There are some details in the trailer which support this: Jack Harper (Tom Cruise) wears a New York Yankees baseball cap, plays with a basketball and we see him in a football stadium talking about the last Super Bowl. This is Jack's natural tendency towards competition, a dominant feature of capitalism and free markets, which films like The Hunger Games abhor as blood-thirsty murder (literally). Regardless of which way the film goes, I think it will be well-done and worth watching, and present a number of important themes (the destruction of New York and radiation, drones and what they should be used to destroy, self-sacrifice and who the real aliens are causing the destruction of the United States of America) we will see repeated throughout the films in the next several years. I will be seeing it Friday afternoon and Tweeting my initial response about it!
As we have seen numerous times in films of the last year, both the socialists and the capitalists will use the same symbol or concept to communicate their own ideas; case in point, clones. Both Resident Evil Retribution and Cloud Atlas present the argument that the other economic model turns humans into clones. Socialism makes people into clones or capitalism makes people into clones, both sides have used this argument. Oblivion's plot includes clones and will play an important role in how the earth was destroyed and why.  Clones are only part of the confusing identity issues we'll see in the film, and who appears to be what will be instrumental in following the film's message.
Officially, both Snow White and the Huntsman as well as Pitch Perfect and Fast and Furious 6, all have sequels in the making; Disney has officially announced release dates for new Star Wars films to be released in starting in 2015; The Croods and 21 Jump Street (Jonah Hill, Channing Tatum) are also gearing up for sequels. Why is this kind of thing important to keep track of? These films have all made statements, and those statements are going to continue to be made, those positions are going to continue to be held, the message is going to be re-sated and re-enforced with new examples and those audiences who went to see the film the first time are going to be targeted again (and there are many more films being re-made, like the next Oz the Great and Powerful, as well as another installment of Madagascar focusing on the Penguins, these listed herein are just the most recent updates). We could say that Hollywood is digging its trenches and staying for a long fight.
Eat Your Art Out,
The Fine Art Diner
More storm troopers are on the way,...