May 18, 2013
I've always loved Science Fiction's abitlity to covertly (or too often overtly) comment on current issues through the lens of aliens, science, and the future. At worst, a good SciFi film is entertaining. At best, it's able to show us what's holding us back from our own utopia. (Films as silly and fun as Wall-E or the Matrix can entertain us as well as comment on a future where we've neglected the physical world for the virtual...)
Josh, as a midwest youth director, traveling speaker and storyteller, and a hardcore film addict, I've grown to truly enjoy your work at Filmspotting, as well as your written reviews, and now even more so as I start to discover you at Think Christian. Whether we agree or disagree on films, you always make me think.
Again, thanks for the work and know that people are following and enjoying!
Thanks for the kind words, Bogart Fan. Totally with you on the richness of sci fi (and the preference for less overt commentary in such films).
I grew up on "DS9" and "Voyager" rather than the original series, so I think my expectations of what the Star Trek universe must look like to feel authentically Star Trek-ish. Religion and even God (or the Prophets, if you will) are very real parts of reality and must be accounted for and grappled with, and principles often seem a little bit of an indulgence in the Trek I grew up with. (I always found Janeway a little hokey, and thought Chakotay's balance of principle and pragmatics was more reasonable.)
Because of that, I've never been bothered by the anti-utopian streak of the recent movies. There's more violence and more of a willingness to go against ideals even from Spock than I expect from the Star Trek TV shows, but then this is supposed to be a blockbuster movie. Big explosions are almost a necessity of the medium. I have noticed, though, that there's a sense that reality does not play by our ideals; it is not perfectly just or even predictable, and if there is a purpose, it's a purpose bigger and wilder than any of us can contain. And that resonates with my experience, as part of the generation that grew up with Sisko rather than Spock.
Thinking about it, that seems fitting somehow. It's 2013, and religion is very much still a part of our landscape, for good or ill. I know from my professors (I study philosophy, and I'm talking about people who started at the height of logical positivism) that the expectations of a religion-free and totally reason-driven world just haven't come through. So maybe it makes sense that today's Star Trek reveals more of the limits of reason than our hopes for a strictly rational world?
Interesting, Marta. I'm not familiar with DS9 or Voyager at all. I wonder if this speaks to the fact that because of the franchise's longevity, different creative voices have influenced its tone at different times. Which makes me wonder if Abrams - whose Lost was awash in spiritual, if not Christian, implications - may not be the best match for Star Trek's original tone after all.
International relations theorists, of whom a disproportionately high number are Trekkies, have long noted that the various incarnations of Star Trek mirror their specific geo-political setting, more than innovate: from the Cold War bipolar world of the Federation vs. the Klingons, to the post-Soviet multipolar Picard, even to the growth of the religious and metaphysical in DS9 in the global resurgence of religion. What was unique is that Trek always played with the utopian western imaginary, which was profoundly subverted in the first reboot where the power of logic and modernity is - literally - swallowed in a black hole, with strong dystopian tones. It still mirrors our universe, IMHO, and if what we see is violence, indecision, and confusion, that may well be apt. It's a fairly explicit commentary, I think, when the paternal Vulcans, long human kinds protectors and guides, as they come of age as a warp civilization, are destroyed.
I see your point here. Perhaps we can understand more by considering J. J. Abrams' intended audience? He certainly had an audience in mind when he considered the details that he did. I loved reading this article and it was very insightful; but the Star Trek movies have been a couple of my favorites lately! Thanks for writing this (and writing it so well)!
Abrams' influence, which some have derided, has largely been to up the action ante in the Star Trek films (which I'm fine with). His other work - especially his involvement with television's Lost - has heavily (if vaguely) spiritual overtones, so it will be interesting how much of that he brings to the Trek franchise if he continues on as director.
The federation is a fascist regime. It controls every aspect of its citizens lives.Space travel, the federation seems to have a monopoly on the use of dilithium crystals, which are necessary to create the warping of space which allows for flight at Super-luminary speeds without relativistic repercussions. There don't seem to be telephones in the 23rd century, which means the federation controls communication as well. I have to wonder if even ma bell would have a chance against the federation.
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