9/11 Looms Large Over ‘Star Trek Into Darkness’

'Star Trek Into Darkness'
'Star Trek Into Darkness'

(Spoiler warning: Major plot points are discussed below.)

Any resemblance between "Star Trek Into Darkness" and our post-9/11 world and wars — well, that's not exactly coincidental.

"I think it's fairly obvious it's a commentary," says TrekMovie editor-in-chief Anthony Pascale.

In the tradition of science fiction and especially "Star Trek," "Into Darkness" hinges on a plausible-to-our-ears plot about a terror bombing, hatched by the villain whose identity director J.J. Abrams did not want spoiled (hint: Khan is back, and Benedict Cumberbatch is playing him), that a war-mongering, Dick Cheney-channeling Starfleet leader, Peter Weller's Admiral Marcus, uses to orchestrate an unrelated conflict with the Klingons.

"It’s no spoiler I think to say that there’s a huge backbone in this film that’s a comment on recent U.S. interventionist overseas policy from the Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld era," Cumberbatch told the BBC America.

And if the analogies weren't loud and clear enough, there's an end-credits card that states the film is dedicated to post-9/11 veterans. To put an even finer point on it, four Iraq-era vets were enlisted as extras in a scene that recalls the 2011 dedication of the 9/11 Memorial.

"I for one would prefer less exploitation of our memories of 9/11," Forrest Wickman wrote on Slate.com. "But, since they went there, they could have done a lot worse. The film’s message may not be new, or surprising, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a worthy one."

Ben Kingsley
Ben Kingsley

Already, movie summer 2013 has twice now worked 9/11 into its blockbusters. In "Iron Man 3," Robert Downey Jr.'s canned hero hunts down an Osama bin Laden-styled terrorist, played (and quite literally so) by Ben Kingsley.

While "Iron Man" has a history of being topical — when the comic was born in the 1960s, for instance, Tony Stark was right there in the thick of Vietnam — "Star Trek" seems to be on a mission to tie its plots to contemporary events.

"Star Trek," Pascale says, "tells a story about today. That's what makes 'Star Trek' different from 'Star Wars.' 'Star Trek' is about us."

Screenwriters Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci, also seem determined to peg "Trek" to today's news.

"'Star Trek' has always been great because it mirrored what was happening," Orci said in the Wall Street Journal. "...The world that we happen to currently live in involves issues of terrorism and of war and of sovereignty."

As happens, not everybody's a fan of how "Into Darkness" tackled its subjects.

Writing for Washington City Paper, Matt Cohen calls the film "too literal," and, in a way, accuses it of going too far.

"When the plot veers into conspiracy-theory territory...I can hear the 9/11 truthers tittering with glee," Cohen writes.

The "truther" charge — that "Into Darkness" somehow sides with those who reject the official story of the 9/11 terror attacks — has bubbled into the film's criticism. (Orci writes about conspiracies a lot on his Twitter feed and even openly wondered about the recent bombing in Boston.) But if "Trek" and allegories go way back, so do "Trek" and high-level conspiracies. (See: "Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country" for starters.)

Taking on the now, if not the news, is "something that 'Star Trek' has done before," Pascale says, "...and it's welcome that it sparks a debate. It makes you think."

Watch 'Star Trek Into Darkness' Theatrical Trailer: