Wednesday, May 13, 2009

A Star Trek kinda post

Well, I didn't hate the movie as much as SK did--I wouldn't say that I "hated" it at all, quite—but neither can I really argue with anything he says about it. I enjoyed it, kind of, generally, but it really really rankles me that, for reasons that seem to stem mostly from laziness, it’s not the masterpiece that I feel like it could have been. It’s nowhere near as bad as Watchmen, but it’s actually more disappointing, I would say: there was effectively no chance that anyone was going to make a Watchmen movie that didn’t suck (though it sure would have been interesting to watch Terry Gilliam try); the fact that Zack Snyder (grrr—that fucking hack! Just thinking of him causes me to experience RAGE) was involved sure didn’t help things, but even if a director less bedeviled with unfathomable psychological issues could have done better—I still have a hard time imagining they would actually have done well. Star Trek, on the other hand—it coulda and shoulda.

The guy who plays McCoy is good; so is Uhura; Simon Pegg is perfect as Scotty; Sulu doesn’t really get enough attention to register (he gets to have a sword fight, but as SK notes, it’s too jump-cutty to really amount to anything); Chekhov is a ridiculous cartoon whose sole purpose is to remind people of “nuclear wessels;” Nurse Chapel and Yeoman Rand were not seen fit to receive feminist reinterpretations. Admittedly, adding more characters would have made the thing run awfully long.

But Kirk and Spock—yeah, man. I dunno. I just dunno. It really cannot be overstated that Spock deciding that Kirk needs to be launched onto some random planet for insubordination is completely fucking insane--but arguably no more completely fucking insane than Kirk deciding that making Spock snap by mocking his dead relatives and countrymen to wrest control of the Enterprise (yes, he was told to do it--it’s still fucking insane) was a good idea. How could a guy who does something like that possibly be considered captain material? Why could Spock ultimately be okay with it? And WHAT SENSE does it make that, because Spock had one understandable meltdown, a guy who, for fairly obvious reasons, is more prone to emotional outbursts should therefore take command? It’s just stupid.

Okay, so the writers had to find some way to get Kirk promoted over Spock, who had been in Starfleet longer. There were any number of ways they could have done that. They chose the first way that came to mind, for some reason not caring that it makes both their leads look psychotic. LAZY LAZY LAZY WRITING. If you have a massive budget and you’ve been charged with remaking a franchise with so storied a history...why would you skimp in this extremely vital area? I guess it’s true: people have this weird blind spot that prevents them from understanding why good writing is important. You know, I wanted to be rooting for Kirk and Spock once they work out their differences and Learn To Work As A Team™, but the knowledge of what had gone before kept nagging at me. Rather distressing.

Another note: the events of the movie basically invalidate the entire established history of Star Trek. Now okay, so the idea was to make a movie that everyone, not just established, rabid fans, can enjoy, so if there were some compelling narrative reason to do this, I wouldn’t object. But there really isn’t. What it looks like to me is nothing more than an excuse to extend a wholly gratuitous fuck you to series fans. I am hardly the Star Trek fan I was at one point, so I mostly shrug this off, but just the same, I find it extremely uncool. Or no! Maybe I’m wrong! It seems very likely that the only reason they messed around with time travel was because they had gotten Leonard Nimoy on board and they needed some way to work him into the story! But why would they bother with that except to draw in old-school fans? And why would they be pandering to fans if they were only going to kick them in the throat? What were they thinking? It surpasses understanding. I suppose the most likely answer is that they weren’t really “thinking” at all. Isn’t that always the way?

In spite of its flaws, the movie is okay as a summer popcorn thingie; because of its flaws, that’s all it is. Still, it does kinda make me want to go back and watch some Original Series episodes, which I haven’t done in forever. So I guess that’s a plus.

UPDATE: Also, teenage Spock being bullied by other teenage Vulcans? Come on. WAY too teen angst, and it just looks silly, like some sort of Star Trek parody.

UPDATE II: 96% positive review on Rotten Tomatoes. Come on. But as one of the few negative reviews noted, and this is pretty funny: enormous, gaping canyons in the middle of Iowa. Okay.

UPDATE III: Yeah, and the idealistic, humanistic, sixties underpinnings of the original series? Gone. Not even present in the most token of ways. Now more than ever, I think that's a great shame.

UPDATE IV: Yeah, writing update III makes me think: Chekhov was originally meant to show that we could live in harmony with the people who were our mortal enemies at the time. Whereas now Great Babylon has fallen, leaving him to serve no point. I mean, I understand why you wouldn't want to leave him out--that no doubt would piss people off something fierce--but the original intention is lost. As long as we're fucking with "canon," whatever that is, why not be really ballsy and replace him with a Palestinian character? If you cared about working within the spirit of the original show, that would certainly be more appropriate than what we DO get.


Anonymous Anonymous pontificated to the effect that...

Regarding UPDATE III, I actually noted this in the end of my review. The only time anyone ever explains what the Federation is occurs when Pike says, "The Federation is a humanitarian and peacekeeping armada." Not even "Starfleet," but the Federation itself. Now Star Trek always had a militarist streak, but TOS and TNG downplayed it with a heavy emphasis on exploring the galaxy -- sure, the ship was loaded with armaments, but they also had many restrictions on when they could use them, and most of the time they were exploring uncharted space instead of, uh, "peacekeeping." Even Star Trek VI, which is one of the more militarist films, starts out with the Federation's most powerful battleship peacefully exploring gaseous anomalies; the message is always that military missions are relatively rare.

But not here. And I don't think this was a deliberate move on the writers' part. I think that it simply never crossed their minds, not even for a moment, that Starfleet could conceivably have any purpose other than "big space NATO." It is simply ontologically unimaginable to them. And that, I think, really says a lot about our time, more than any other thing I can say about the film.


7:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous pontificated to the effect that...

Hm, one more note:

"You know, I wanted to be rooting for Kirk and Spock once they work out their differences and Learn To Work As A Team™, but the knowledge of what had gone before kept nagging at me. Rather distressing."

Unfortunately, this sort of bad writing occurs very often. It really bothered me when I tried to watch Ronald D. Moore's Battlestar Galactica. Whenever the hack writers need to show tension and conflict, they always make everybody point guns at each other. So in one episode, characters A and B scream and point guns at C, and in the next episode, C and B point guns at A, and so on. It becomes kind of disturbing, really, when you see this happen in every single episode, and yet the characters are still supposed to 'be on the same team' somehow, even though any normal person would react to such a situation by never trusting the other people ever again. Eventually I stopped watching the damn thing. Ugh.

The word verification thing just came up with "warsings". How poetic.


10:16 PM  

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