Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Boldly Backing Away

The new JJ Abrams movie is more like Star Wars than anything George Lucas ever produced, and less like Star Trek than is physically possible.

I can't get to without 'Internal Server Errors' at the moment, so since I can't blip music, you're gonna be subjected to my rant about how this latest Paramount film claiming to be Star Trek ..simply ain't.

Recently Onion News made a faux news piece in jest, but I laughed because it's so true. The gist of it is that because the latest Star Trek film is such a success, diehard fans of Star Trek are criticizing that because it's not as bad as previous Star Trek films, or the original series itself, this latest Star Trek film from the same movie studio is an offense and a disgrace. I laughed, but I understand completely that their joke is on people like me: Trekkies. Cuz at least some of us resemble that remark and are totally shamelessly accepting of the fact. If the Orion Slave Girls fit, drape them on your shoulders and enter the Dealer's Room. It's your bloody convention. Qapla'!

I was born the night TOS's Return To Tomorrow first broadcast. I've got Star Trek running through my veins. I was born with a space age spoon in my mouth. My older sister used to dress up as Spock every year and I would argue with her because she insisted upon caking on the green makeup and even though I concurred that Spock's blood was based on copper while ours was based on iron and therefore he had a slight green sheen to his skin, Vulcans simply were never as green as the Wicked Witch of the West. She was nonplussed. I was nine. I won the argument by the way, but I was dressed as C3P0 at the time, and let me tell you the alleged 'official Lucas sanctioned' store bought version of his costume was ripe with discrepancies and opportunities to nitpick. But I digress.

Today I come to bury Caesar. I mean Star Trek.

What J. J. Abrams is trying to pass off as Star Trek is an attempt by Paramount to resusitate a franchise that was never theirs, and turn it into something that people who made Jerry Springer famous would like. This is an offense to anyone who enjoyed Star Trek precisely because it was NOT what people who made Jerry Springer famous would like. True Star Trek is quirky. It's obtuse. It's peculiar. It's strange, weird, inexplicable, and yet has its own curious consistency and convoluted logic. Heisenberg compensators are called that for a reason, even though admittedly trying to explain the reason makes one sound like Sheldon from the tv series The Big Bang Theory, who by the way was no doubt a character designed in part after observing diehard Trekkies discussing the very concept of Heisenberg compensators over schematics at a physics lab commisary.

It has been documented that the Star Trek of my youth has inspired astronauts to venture into space. It has inspired astrophysicists and engineers into looking at the sciences and seeing just how many times can we look at what we know and go "well what if we try this instead?" In fact, Star Trek inspired the creators of that thing you carry around in your pocket or purse that you call a phone but it's clearly a #$%&ing Star Trek Original Series COMMUNICATOR! Take THAT you makers of TANG!

Yes this new Movie That Pretends To Be "Star Trek" Like is very pretty. It has all kinds of pretty actors standing around in well tailored pretty clothes doing pretty things. Pretty explosions occur every few pretty minutes, whether the pretty plot really requires it or not. Sometimes there's even pretty sex, which I have no pretty problem with of course. Kirk was always #$%&ing something, it's just that NBC didn't allow them to show it. Now we can, and it's pretty. The pretty music grabs you by the throat and takes you down into the murky deep with it. Ooh Ahh. If it walks like a duck, looks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, chances are, it's not really Star Trek.

There was a time with regards to the movies when the general understanding among Trekkies, Trekkers, and Star Trek Fans alike was that the odd numbered movies were bad while the even numbered movies were good. Time is not being kind to this traditional convention of infallible logic. Currently this only applies to the Original Series based films, and even then it is difficult to defend under scrutiny. After the Next Generation crew took over, all bets were off. Now with this entire reboot of the Star Trek Franchise, this kinda throws that whole "odd numbered bad even numbered good" theory completely outta whack doesn't it?
  1. The Motion Picture: 80% (that's being kind)
  2. Wrath of Khan: 90% (Win!)
  3. Search For Spock: 76% (that's being kind)
  4. Voyage Home: 84% (Show!)
  5. Final Frontier: 21% (that's being very kind)
  6. Undiscovered Country: 82% (Place!)
  7. Generations: 49% (that one's about right)
  8. First Contact: 91% (it was okay but it wasn't THAT good)
  9. Insurrection: 55% (Data as flotation device: fail)
  10. Nemesis: 38% (the fact this got green lit proves there's a Satan & he lives among us)
  11. JJ Abrams' Shitstorm With No Name: 94% @ 65 reviews as of this date.
Yes it's pretty. I'm not saying it's a bad film. Far from it. I'm saying it's not Star Trek. It's more like Star Wars. As a child who grew up in love with both, I can tell the difference. When I was a child, I fell in love with Star Trek not because it was perfect. I fell in love with it precisely because it was imperfect. It was fantasy. It was fantastical. It was fun. It was sometimes silly, and sometimes it took itself way too seriously, but it was always a joyride and a pleasure to behold. Most importantly, as I grew older and studied the plots and characterizations more intricately, I was amazed at how the themes and messages of the series held so true and steadfast despite the fact other parts of the series did not hold up under close scrutiny. The important thing was always the storytelling, not whether or not the producers had enough money to make that space alien look authentic. The story behind Trouble With Tribbles is silly fun and humorous and suspenseful and intriguing but most importantly the events that transpire leave one contemplating the ramifications of how something so small and seemingly harmless could effect an entire ecosystem, or even interplanetary economics. Today we call this being 'green' or eco-friendly. Roddenberry and Gerrold were talking about this in Trouble With Tribbles, decades before it became fashionable or trendy. It's a cautionary tale, if not downright satire on how despite all our government rules and regulations, sometimes you're just gonna have to bow to the absurd, and there's nothing to be done about it. I use that episode as an example because it's the one most familiar to people, but every episode from The Menagerie to Turnabout Intruder can be critiqued for story content and marvelous gems of thought provoking knowledge reveal themselves. No wonder this series still captivates and leaves people in awe and wonder even today.

What does this new movie say really? Comparatively, not much. Young thinner men from Abercrombie & Fitch ads look better in shirts and slacks than men forty years their senior. I coulda told you that for far less money. I am happy for people like Zachary Quinto and Simon Pegg that they're able to cash a pay check and cover their bills. More power to 'em. However, a rose by any other name would still be a blatant excuse to use the name Star Trek solely to sell merchandise and make Paramount rich. Roddenberry's vision is lost amid greed and pride. I thought that had been Berman's fault, as I noticed Roddenberry's star fade in the franchise after his death and before that horrid excuse for a fourth series. Though Scott Bakula did his best with what was given him, I understand broadcast of repeats of that series is banned in some countries for fear it might be the true cause of swine flu. I hesitate to even name the bastard stepchild series here for the same reason I prefer to call Macbeth "The Scottish Play" when within eyeshot of any conventional stage or theater.

As Hamlet would perhaps not say, "the play's the thing wherein we'll find the conscience of the studio executives." Guess what? They wouldn't know their phaser from their sabre if you tattooed their eyelids. I'll take Shatner's overacting over Abrams' overproducing any day of the week.

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