Star Trek Into Darkness, Alice Eve, and expensive underwear

Was Alice Eve's Star Trek Into Darkness underwear scene justified, or merely a distraction? The latter, Simon writes...

Slight spoiler: the name of Alice Eve’s character is mentioned in this article, in case you weren’t already aware of it.

The first three films of summer blockbuster season 2013 had a common thread to them. In Oblivion, it’s not long before leading actress Andrea Riseborough had shed clothes, and gone for a swim. In Iron Man 3 meanwhile, off comes Gwyneth Paltrow’s top, and she’s left standing in her bra. Both of these do, at a push, have some link to the story, whether you agree with them or not. Woman shedding clothes does seem to be a theme, though.

However, those two have nothing on Star Trek Into Darkness. It’s been two weeks now since I saw the film, and truthfully, I’m still struggling to wrap my head around Alice Eve’s sudden disrobing, to the point where she’s left standing in some reasonably posh-looking undercrackers.

What’s odd about the scene is how it sits in the film. It doesn’t lead anywhere. There’s no obvious build up or impact to it. It’s just an attractive woman standing around in lingerie, in the middle of a big science fiction blockbuster, which promptly then moves on.

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That Alice Eve was going to disrobe wasn’t a surprise. She appeared in this state in one of the trailers for the film, and I remember thinking then that the moment stuck out a little bit then. The internet thought the same thing, as a few seconds with Google can testify. It was as if wasn’t really a natural fit. Dara O Briain has a skit about “something for the dads” in his most recent stand-up tour (Craic Dealer), and this has it stamped all over it. 

When watching the film, it still came as a surprise. What was even more of a surprise was that the film cut away immediately afterwards. There was no sexual tension per se, and there was certainly no sex either. So, er, what actually was the reason it happened?

There’s an argument of double standards here, of course. Would we be reacting the same way if it was a man in his pants? Quite possibly not. But here’s my big, big problem with Carol Marcus’ undressing in particular (even appreciated where her and Kirk’s relationship sits in the history of Trek): it took me out of the film. It was such a jarring inclusion, that you’re out of the story for a minute, while the letters WTF go across your mind.

To be clear: if Alice Eve wants to stand around in her underwear, then fair enough. The world is far more interested in seeing her in her pants than it is me in mine, and that’s a status quo I have no desire to challenge. If it fits the film, as it did in the quietly impressive Starter For Ten, then it’s not really much of a grumble. That’s what, ultimately, differentiates Star Trek Into Darkness from Iron Man 3 and Oblivion here. In the latter two films, you don’t go out of the story, no matter if you feel the flesh there was gratuitous or not. In Star Trek Into Darkness, you do. I’m pretty certain, by the debate that’s raging online, that I’m not the only one to feel this way. 

Of course, in the last Star Trek movie, it was Zoe Saldana’s turn to undress, in her case to her bra, but again, there was a sense it was at least something to do with something. With Carol Marcus, can you say the same thing?

I was interested to read, then, an interview that Alice Eve gave to, where she was asked about whether her character’s impromptu underwear moment was gratuitous. And she does touch on the issue of double standards.

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“There is sexuality throughout the movie”, she said. “Chris (Pine) comes in in a very skin-tight suit and you… can see him. He has his top off at the beginning. Benedict (Cumberbatch) did a shower scene that wasn’t in the movie. I think that to ignore an element of sexuality is to ignore an element of humanity”, she argued.

This is a bit unfair on Alice Eve, as there’s a sporting chance that her comments aren’t quite in the right context for this piece. But no matter how many times I read them, it doesn’t really sound like much of a defence. Appreciating I didn’t really notice Chris Pine’s penis at any point in the film (crikey, that phrase alone will do the search traffic into the site no harm), it was hardly Gene Roddenberry’s thing to send his crew off to the Marks And Sparks lingerie department (although, to be fair, skimpy outfits were not in short supply). In the new films, I’m not sure I walked away from either thinking sexuality was a major theme. Appreciating Eve’s argument that sexuality is a part of humanity, it still doesn’t seem like an answer to the particular question here.

And the question is this: did the (male) creative team of Star Trek Into Darkness strip Alice Eve down for the good of the story, or the good of the promotion of the movie? I’d like to say the former, as each of them has real pedigree in shepherding quality female roles. Unfortunately, whatever their intentions, it simply feels – and I accept lots of people disagree with this – more like the latter.

That said, if that Benedict Cumberbatch shower scene ends up a deleted scene on the DVD, expect Alice Eve’s smalls to find themselves relegated down the Google rankings a little…

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