Alternating Realities


Warning: I will be spoiling the new Star Trek movie for you. If you haven't seen it and give a tootin' holler, go read this instead.

So, apparently, everything we've ever been taught by the cinema about extra-normal time travel is wrong. Go figure. I can't say how we can be wrong about something that at this time exists purely in our imaginations, but if such a blunder is possible, I'm sure Hollywood can find seventeen ways to achieve it in but one script session. It would seem that paradoxes, changing the past and alternate time lines, as such, aren't. I'm certainly crushed. There goes one of Hollywood's greatest plot crutches. I'm sure we'll never, ever have another story that ever uses time travel to the screenwriters' advantage ever again ever.

Unless, of course, someone goes back in time and changes that.

In the new Star Trek, the world of the 60s television show is effectively re-imagined, with lots of lens glare and "hand-held" close-ups. I am told the kids are calling this a "reboot" and, indeed, I noticed they put new boots on the Federation uniforms. This reboot is explained, justified, and otherwise meant to be made more palatable by way of time-travel incidences and alternate realities. (Alternate time lines = bogus. Parallel universes = apparently not ruled out just yet.) My biggest complaint about the movie -- which I enjoyed, by the way -- was how adamantly they established and reinforced this argument for making fresh new choices about Star Trek backstory. Just under the scene-after-scene of repetitive expository dialogue I could detect the seismic effects of so many screenwriters giving themselves pats on their backs. Thank you. Yes. I get it. The future is now, conveniently, mostly, unwritten.

It did, however, get me thinking about alternate realities. It's not inconceivable to much smarter people than me that there are multiple universes in which an incredible variation of common elements occur. We tend to be pretty narrow in our conception of such alternate dimensions, imagining them largely as revolving around us and our personal choices in life. But who knows? If the alternate realities are as infinite as we believe space and time to be, anything we can conceive of might occupy one or several. A moss universe. A universe in which the motions of the planets are determined by the game mechanics of backgammon. If nothing else, the notion of alternate realities is a very decent metaphor for, or illustration of, the human imagination.

Viewed through the filter of my comicbook-ridden mind, the new film makes Kirk our Batman, Spock our Superman. Kirk is the vigilante anti-hero, Spock the alien who wants more than anything to do right (and be accepted), and now both are motivated by parental demise. There even seemed to be an aggressive (in more ways than one) sub-theme of Kirk getting his ass handed to him in fights. These interpretations are not too far from the originals, so I took them in stride and tried not to snigger derisively. (Aw man, they blew up Krypt- . . . I mean, Vulcan . . ..) Uhura is way more bad-ass-er, which they tried really hard to make less-than-obligatory, and then they made her Spock's love interest, thereby reinforcing what Hollywood considers its biggest obligation to its audience: a love story. McCoy's a divorcee drunk, thank you Spielberg, Chekov is adorable, Sulu is exactly who you'd want in a bar fight, and Scottie -- well, Simon Pegg I love you and you can do nothing wrong not even Run, Fatboy, Run.

It's the characters that struck me and stuck with me, you understand. I suppose they were the reason I was there, to see a different troupe tackle archetypes, strap on the classic masks and have a whirl. This can be a recipe for disaster, and this wasn't a disaster, not by a long shot. It's just that the actors came across as more imaginative than the writers, which, keeping with a commedia dell'arte metaphor, is fairly apt. But it would have been nice to have both; maybe next time, or in an alternate parallel universe, somewhere/when/which. Which brings me back around to how we think of these alternate lives we could have had, or are having, in some-dimension else.

It's popular to opine that if we had it all to do over again, we wouldn't change a thing. Even when we think about changing something, many of us realize that we sort of like who we are -- the only "who" we know -- and we wouldn't be said "who" without the "what" we were given, when it was given. Or perhaps taken, depending upon your philosophy and/or theology. At any rate, the experience of our age just allows the slightest logical space to daydream about the past, and what-if scenarios. "What-if," I'm not the first to say, is an essential element in all aspects of acting. It's that logical crack that lets a little imaginative fresh air and warm light into the room. As Friend Melissa quotes Leonard Cohen, "There is a crack, a crack, in everything - that's how the light gets in...." There are people we have been, as we've grown, who in retrospect seem as foreign to us as strangers. Personally, I'm usually embarrassed by my former incarnations; but there are a few of me that I still love, that I'll always love, and will never quite be again.

Fortunately, there are no paradoxes, so I can visit with those guys any time I want, and the universe(s) is safe from implosion.
 
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