Ever since tomorrow’s Star Trek: Into Darkness dropped its (typically obtuse of JJ Abrams) teaser trailer, everyone has wanted to know what’s going on. Was that super-humanoid with Tekken moves Khan? Is this a prequel to the “Space Seed” episode of the original Star Trek? Will every new J.J. Abrams Star Trek movie feature a whole planet being destroyed?
While these are all good questions that any Trekkie would be proud to ask and maybe even get a hypothetical answer for, the one question that first entered my mind when I saw this the teaser trailer was this: Will all future villains growl while they give us monologues about power and destruction after Bane from The Dark Knight Rises turned such chatter into a pop culture reference?
At first it seemed that Christian Bale would be the only actor constantly growling. He began using it in his portrayal of Batman, continued it in Terminator: Salvation, and had to be given an Oscar for his supporting role in The Fighter to make him stop. There was speculation that a movie based on Metal Gear Solid could star Christian Bale in order to bring back his growl along with the return of overly-repeated movie trailer song “Lux Aeterna” by Clint Mansell.
Instead, the growl spread and became more notorious from Bane than Bale in The Dark Knight Rises…almost as if it were meant to distract us.
Now that low growl and philosophy of war has entered the Star Trek universe with the upcoming film Into Darkness, fitted into the persona of John Harrison. Rumors abound that John Harrison is an alias for the ancient warlord we’ve all grown to love, Khan, as he seems intent on taking over Earth with his otherworldly powers. Or maybe he just has a really good pair of rocket-boots. We believe the latter.
Super-Strength, or Lack Thereof
The general melee strength of both Khan and Bane are without question, in all their forms. In “Space Seed,” Khan forces open an electronic door of The Enterprise, a feat that had never been done before, and proceeds to beat the hell out of the whole crew. Those are the perks of being a genetically engineered superhuman. It takes Captain Kirk and the scorn of a young woman to bring him down.
The Bane of Batman comics may not have been genetically engineered, but he had a constant supply of the performance-enhancing drug Venom, which turns him into a hulking beast but is still not potent enough to stay competitive in Major League Baseball. Infusions of Venom led to Bane growing to three times his normal size, beating up hordes of criminals, and constantly breaking Batman’s back.
The Bane from The Dark Knight Rises had no need of PEDs. Instead, he had merely the training of The League of Shadows to help him cave in Batman’s cowl and, of course, break his back.
Now, the John Harrison we believe to be Khan seems to have super-strength, the ability to fly, and every other ability reserved for super-villains in comics and their film depictions. He also seems to have an arm cannon/power-glove, which isn’t a far cry from Venom.
Mind Control Without Telepathy
Another power that spans the lives of all Khans and Banes is the ability to manipulate, showing that the power of the mind is just as dangerous as the power of the body.
In Star Trek’s “Space Seed”, Khan goes basic in mind control by merely flirting with Lt. Marla McGivers by flipping his hair and speaking in an exotic sexy voice. Yes, these were the days when Fabio was every woman’s dream.
In Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Khan becomes a bit lazy in his old age and begins using space-eels that entered a person’s brain through their ear canal and made millions of science fiction fans stuff cotton balls into their ears to make sure the same didn’t happen to them. (Note: while writing this I still reflexively touched my ear. Old habits die hard.)
Bane’s manipulation in the comics was a bit more underhanded. Instead of controlling Batman directly, he organized a jailbreak at Arkham Asylum, exhausting Batman’s mental and physical health before stepping forward and taking him out. It’s not really mind control, but it is a hard-hitting influence that gets the job done.
The Bane from The Dark Knight Rises manipulates in another way: talking very loudly and waving his arms like any good warlord. This works because here, he’s not manipulating one mere mortal. He’s manipulating a whole city to do his bidding by making them think that they want to destroy Gotham’s class system in anarchy while Bane sits back and watches.
With Star Trek Into Darkness, we can’t tell for certain what sort of manipulations John Harrison may dig up. It could be space-eels or could be a call to public reckoning, but one thing is certain: he can’t possibly take down Starfleet on his own…can he?
The Philosophy of Sun Tzu’s Art of War
What all depictions of Khan and Bane share is a sinister philosophy of war, taken straight from the pages of Sun Tzu’s Art of War. Both Khan and Bane are warriors–not just mindless barbarians pummeling their foes, but fierce strategists that probably spent a large amount of time playing the board game Risk.
Khan has aspirations of being supreme dictator of the universe, whether by taking over the U.S.S. Enterprise or making the Genesis Device into a WMD that he can use to control star systems. His quest for knowledge before striking is taken right out of Sun Tzu’s Art of War:
The general who wins the battle makes many calculations in his temple before the battle is fought. The general who loses makes but few calculations beforehand.
While comic book Bane may not seek dominion over Gotham but more-so Batman, his strategy is not without the philosophical aspirations of Sun Tzu, as is apparent by how he attacks Batman in the beginning by not attacking:
He who is prudent and lies in wait for an enemy who is not, will be victorious.
In other words, run your opponent ragged trying to put back the inmates of Arkham Asylum before taking him out.
The Bane from The Dark Knight Rises uses a different focus of philosophy than Khan entirely, as he strives to have Gotham tear itself apart through fear mixed with hope in order to control the city and then crush it. Once again, Sun Tzu rears his philosophical voice:
To fight and conquer in all our battles is not supreme excellence; supreme excellence consists in breaking the enemy’s resistance without fighting.
True, holding the power of a nuclear bomb helps, but breaking Gotham was aways more than just pushing the red button.
Now we have John Harrison’s voice-over in the Star Trek Into Darkness teaser trailer, which falls right in line with how Bane chooses to control with fear and despair. It looks like Bane wins, by forcing his opponent to become him in order to beat him.