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Confessions of a Cinematic Conservative

I just saw the new movie “Star Trek Into Darkness” and now I’ve got celluloid agita.  Please indulge me whilst I try to articulate my discomfort (oh yeah, requisite spoiler alert:  blah blah blah).

I’ve gotta admit, I went into the theater a little defensive; after all I remembered what happened to Vulcan in the first movie back in ’09.  I felt that they’d just better not……..

Well, there’s nothing after that.  There was just a vague feeling that they’d better not do something I didn’t approve of.  Just don’t change it too much, ok?  I entered the theater with just that mix of excitement and trepidation.

It was a weird feeling for me; I’m so liberal in most other arenas of thought.   For example,  I always have deep feelings of pride while informing any available listener what an open mind I have.  I guess I just feel very allowing most of the time: “Just legalize everything!” I say.  My credo is to just relax, it’ll all work out.  Just the kind of guy I am.

I guess with treasured movie franchises I feel a little differently.

When Chris Pine, as Captain Kirk, told Admiral Pike early in the movie that Spock “threw him under the bus,” I knew I was going to be in for a rough evening.  I took a couple of deep breaths (not to trouble you too much, but please refer to my post titled “Where’d the Art Go?” for an explanation as to why all this bothered me).

No wait; don’t go away, I’ll just tell you.  I don’t like herd mentality nouveau clichés like “under the bus” or “seriously?” – It smacks of laziness.  There, I saved you a trip, but you can go read it later if you want, OK?

Why did the characters change their costumes so many times?  There is so much in-between the scenes stuff that is left out of movies now, and I get that.  After all, you don’t want to see Uhura and Scotty having lunch if it doesn’t move the story forward.  But where do they get the time to change clothes so often, and why are these uniforms so apparently specialized?  Why were people at Starfleet Headquarters dressed like NJ State trooper extras from “Boardwalk Empire?”   Why was JJ Abrams trying so hard?

Maybe because he knows there are people like me who are innately reluctant but are also trying hard to like it; because we’re used to our Star Trek a certain way, we take it neat.  I love good CGI as well as the next guy but give me some good science too.

What was that thing sticking out of Qo’noS, the Klingon homeworld?  Was it a goiter?  Does that even occur in theoretical science?  And why am I so harsh with this movie, but apparently don’t have a problem with a guy in a giant lizard costume (with unblinking eyes) fighting Kirk in the TOS episode “Arena”?

Maybe I’m just a fuddy-duddy (Though I realize the use of phrases like ‘fuddy-duddy’ prove I am just that).

   Why did the bridge of the Enterprise look like an iStore? 

   Why did the engineering section of the ship look like the high school boiler room Freddy Krueger plied his trade in?

   Why was the lighting always so bright that the actors pupils were constricted?

 Why why why?

I was full of such questions as I exited the theater.  My sister-in-law Kathleen (creator of magicksandwich.org) was dying to know my immediate, visceral reaction.  I texted this:

  -They put scenes and dialog from wrath of khan in a blender and added some CGI and improbable physics and some annoying modern era catch phrases (like ‘thrown under a bus’ and ‘no no no no!’) plus some light flare and I-store sets and presented it to us without an appetizer or dessert (back story or sensible storytelling). But I still really liked it too. Damn me. Khaaaaaaaaan!-


    Oh yeah, don’t get me wrong, I totally recommend the movie!  It was really entertaining, but it also wasn’t really Star Trek.  I say it’s not Star Trek because the Federation in the movie is not one I really care about.  Growing up with the original series (TOS) and the Next Generation (TNG), I guess I just got to where I needed to have things a certain way.  I don’t need Shatner or Koenig or Nicholls in there, I get that they’re too old.  But let the characters stand for something noble and far reaching, as depicted in Roddenberry’s egalitarian Federation.

This Federation seemed glossy and shallow, like an Axe Body Spray ad.

They should bring some new blood in and introduce the Star Trek concept for yet another generation of sci-fi fans.  But what’s with the shiny bureaucracy of JJ Abrams’ San Francisco?  It seemed to me to be a boring and antiseptic place.  Wait, could it be he that was just making fun of it?  He says he’s not a fan in interviews; maybe he’s just giving me and you and everybody a big ‘Eff You.’  That’s what Kathleen suspected, and I have to agree.  I’m not so sure he’s one of us (Who is us anyway?  Why, sci-fi nerds and Trekkers, that’s who!).

Was he making fun of Star Trek when he decided to do a remake of “Wrath of Khan” and give the plot a big swirly?  Was he giggling to himself when he had Spock yell “Khaaaaan!”  Because it didn’t make it any better, it didn’t.  It just pissed me off.  And I think JJ knew it too.

But as I said earlier, I highly recommend the movie, it has a lot of action, and Zachary Quinto is a great Spock.  They tried to make a good movie, you know, just maybe not a good Star Trek movie.  I guess I may not have the Star Trek I wanted but I will go see the movie again and try to like the Star Trek I and we now have.  That’s all I can do.  I’ll even admit I can’t wait to see it again. In life you just gotta play the hand you’re dealt huh?

2 replies
  1. Joe Olson
    Joe Olson says:

    This is why the Internet series, Star Trek Phase II, is so very much better than JJA’s Batmanesque movies.

  2. Kathleen
    Kathleen says:

    Thanks for the shout out, bro! I remember texting you this in a blind rage:

    Just saw Star Trek. It’s a must see but I left the movie angry. After blowing up the Trek timeline and universe in the first movie, all Abrams does now is recycle old stories and dialogue, flip them and expect us to say, “Oh, how clever you are”? He told Jon Stewart that he made the movie for people like himself who aren’t Trek fans. Hello, fans have kept the franchise alive since the 1960s. Why does he need to appeal to non-fans? We are the people he should be appealing to! I will see it again. But I’m officially a passionately pissed off fan.

    “We take it neat.” That is perhaps the best description of a pure Trekkie -or Trekker, if you want to be p.c. about it. There’s a part of me that says lighten up; it’s just a movie; “get a life” and all that. But it’s okay to be passionate precisely because it’s just a movie. We aren’t clubbing baby seals here.

    The Star Trek universe is incredibly rich in detail. Abrams could have looked at a book of diagrams in a Barnes and Noble and constructed the ship without cavernous spaces juxtaposed with useless support beams. He destroyed the entire Trek canon, but it seems he didn’t put much thought into what he replaced it with. And he didn’t mind plundering plot, characters and dialogue when it suited him. Smug? Arrogant? Yes and yes. (I’m talking about myself.)

    Maybe he’ll pay more attention to Star Wars. No Ewoks, please. And no Axe Body Spray, either.


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