To Boldly Go...
It seems that Abrams was able to do what Rick Berman was inept at, namely, in reinvigorating the Star Trek franchise. It was done through superior special effects, brilliant acting, witty dialogue, and a return to the fundamental philosophy behind Star Trek that Gene Roddenberry had created so many years ago.
The remarkable part was that Abrams did this without undermining the universe as it stood prior to the movie's release. After all, what would be better in a Star Trek movie than time travel, in a spectacular reenactment of the parallel universe theory from Back to the Future II, it allows Abrams to alter the reality of the universe without altering the original line of reality (the one in which Nemesis was created and box office receipts died). But, since this is only a temporary line of reality (at the point where Spock fails to fix the supernova sun that destroys Romulus, a fleet of people from the alternate time line can fix the problem, sending the time loop back in on itself, dissolving that reality with the real one), Abrams can create more movies, a TV series, or anything that he wants without making Star Trek purists mad.
And what we wanted to see, from the beginning of Kirk's life (actually his father's death) to the end of the movie was the emergence of an individual who challenged the societal role that was placed upon him, used his brilliance to basically save Earth, and become the hero that we expect him to be. Not the wishy-washy characters from Enterprise or the noble statesman Picard was.
This is what Star Trek should be. A continuation of the philosophies that Gene Roddenberry created at the start of the series. The show that was rejected by studios, financed by Lucy, and ultimately gained fans world-wide. It did this because of the individualism that each Captain showed in maneuvering his/her ship through the vast unknown. They became Ulysses, from Tennyson's poem, "to strive, to seek, to find, but not to yield," as he stands resolutely on the deck of his ship, or tied to the mast as the sirens beckon him forth. The philosophies that they held, from the first time they stepped onto the Enterprise (Voyager...etc.) through fights with the Borg, Dominion, Klingons...etc... was what kept the ships alive and fighting. It is also what made the fans of Star Trek love the show so much. In a world where right and wrong seem blurred, where corruption seems to ooze from our leaders as readily as words, the idea of individualism that comes from Starfleet Earth is as enticing as the Siren's call.
To be on Earth in the 23rd century, where technology and human inventions have done away with many problems, where individuals can become anything or anyone they want to be, that is the ideal world. I've already said that Starfleet Earth is the most livable place in all of the literary universe, and this is why. Because on that Earth, so far into the future, you can boldly go wherever you want.
It's the phrase, "to boldly go" that stuck in my mind for the past little bit, as I have read Ayn Rand's novels, and as I have seen the events unfold around us, in the news, in the world. I wonder, is there anyone that can "boldly go" today? Can anyone stand atop the mountain as the Traveler does in Caspar David Friedrich's painting does? Or Ulysses? Abrams so wonderfully symbolizes this in Jimmy Bennett's portrayal of the Young James Kirk at the beginning of the movie. His leap out of the car as it careens off the cliff is absolutely amazing, and is an act of clarity, of skill, of brilliance. Kirk, at that moment, and in subsequent moments throughout the story, becomes the Hero that Ulysses, that Howard Roarke, that the Traveler was. He becomes the Hero we all want to be. And in our daily lives, we must take the steps to "boldly go" as Kirk did. I fear, however, that the world in which we live is far more apt to find individual skill and success a negative trait, and one that is beaten down at every step.
In education, children are drug down by their fellow pupils, by teachers that have to teach the same thing to everyone, for "equality" purposes. In sports, like the NFL, the word "parity" comes up as the key word for keeping things even. And while this is okay to keep dynasties from happening, it also creates the Lions and the Bengals. Man cannot reach his full potential when being pulled back by society that feels that "Equality" is preferable over "Success." And while we cheer for Kirk as he beats the Kobayashi Maru test, and find Spock irritable for playing the "status quo" part of that area, we are quick to criticize people who have become too successful in their fields. Why is it that, in Survivor and other Reality TV shows, often the most successful of any of the contestants are often voted off first, while those who are supremely mediocre win the major cash prizes? It should be the weak and corrupt that are voted off the island first.
J.J. Abrams has produced two movies (this and Cloverfield) which have shown the heroic efforts of individuals despite the drowning masses of society around them. No one on the transport (except Pike, of course) thought that Kirk would have succeeded in becoming an officer in 4 years, much less become Captain of the Enterprise. Of course, these are the stories that good movies tell. Everyone is going to support Rudy in his quest to play for Norte Dame, just as everyone hopes Harry Potter will find the Sorcerer's Stone and defeat Voldemort. It's what movies are. And maybe, just maybe, we can take a little from those heroes, and become a little more of those individuals ourselves.