The following is spoiler intense for both the new Star Trek movie and the season finale of LOST. Consider yourself warned.
A readers’ appreciation for literature has always been rooted in their relation for the characters involved. For some, this means a detachment from their personal lives. Middle-aged housewives might prefer a romance novel about twenty-somethings; a young boy’s favorite story could be about pirates. Others enjoy stories because they see themselves as the leading men and women.
The most prevalent complaint in Hollywood in recent years has been of the lack of originality in new content. Sequels and remakes litter television and movie theatres while viewers wonder slightly less rhetorically with each passing summer: has every story been told? Hope in the infinity of creativity has ekpt me from giving up, and after endless drivel has been presented for mine and everyone’s consumption, there may be a master storyteller ready to reflect life and mimic art in an amazingly innovative and entertaining way. JJ Abrams wants us to rethink the facet of life we understand the least to begin with: time.
Time has been at the center of countless, fantastic works, but never has it presented and turned so many themes on their heads as it has in Abrams’ LOST and Star Trek.
In LOST, the end of Season 5 asks us if the failure is always worth the lesson. Jack risks everything at the chance to erase the past three years (and five seasons). Erasing the misery would regress the growth. This is something Lock understands as he tells Sawyer earlier this season that opening the hatch was painful, but ultimately made him the strong, confident leader he became. The dichotomy of pleasure and pain is often debated, but Jack is given the ultimate choice in trading in his pain. What will he receive? The entire concept is reminiscent of Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World”, where a Utopian society is created through use of a drug that numbs all feeling and emotion making its citizens autonomous creatures. The LOST season ends in a cliffhanger for the ages, and we’ll have to wait until 2010 to discover what themes Abrams wishes to present. In the meanwhile, we’re lucky to be stuck in a limbo, to decide for ourselves what we’d like to see. I’m personally pulling for the plane to crash regardless, and the season to open with Jack and company approaching the foot of the statue.
Star Trek, a holy tenet of the science fiction zeitgeist, was built up to be another retread, another reboot a la “Casino Royale” and “Batman Begins”. Instead, JJ Abrams surprised everyone by using time travel to create a thinkpiece on missed chances, redemption, and, of course, destiny. LOST studies these themes to varying degrees of depth, with destiny as the starring theme, but while the characters of LOST question changing their present from the past, Star Trek takes a different angle. In the movie, Jimmy Kirk’s destiny is taken off-course when the past is changed and his father is killed in an act of heroism. Despite this detour in his life, enough events transpire to course-correct, another popular topic in the fifth season of LOST, and Kirk eventually takes the captain’s chair. Redemption is usually seen in action movies when the superhero considers taking off the mask and retiring, or the cop begins to question if he’s making a sincere difference. With time travel pushing the plot along, these rules have changed. In his experiences, Kirk has lost nothing, so how do you redeem yourself from actions that have never happened? Another hypothetical courtesy of time twisting.
Time travel as a motif and plot device has a strength greater than most. Even if this new trend will leak out of the Bad Robot camp, it’s hard to say whether the general public will accept it. If it’s able to make the jump from niche towards genre, there will be some great stories to tell.