Monday, May 25, 2009

where no man has gone before

A couple years ago, I heard Paramount was selling all of their Star Trek memorabilia, props, equipment, everything. After disappointing reviews/profits for Nemesis, they were pulling the plug on the franchise. I wasn’t too bummed about that. I don’t know if I would call myself a trekkie; The Original Series was goofy, Deep Space Nine was elevator music, and Voyager was short-lived and smarmy. Enterprise, the prequel series with the leaper of Quantum Leap cast as Captain, was gritty and fun. I could sense they were, at least at first, trying to make the brand more mainstream. The series slowly died though, probably because they realized they had no audience. Star Trek fans were annoyed that the main plot wasn’t going forward anymore and perhaps resented the so-called acquiescence to mainstream. Either way, I didn’t care. Nothing touched The Next Generation, and I wasn’t really interested in further attempts to shake as much money from this brand as possible.

But apparently there was more money to shake. Paramount hadn’t completely scrapped Star Trek. They just hired an alleged non-fan of Star Trek, Lost director J.J. Abrams, to head the project. I was lukewarm about the prospect, and later became frigid when I heard 1) “Don’t worry guys, this one isn’t for the trekkies – it’s for normal people who just want to watch a space adventure,” 2) that it was going to be another prequel.

I generally dislike prequels. I’m annoyed by the word prequel. I mean, “pre” means "before," and “sequel” implies “after." When did this word first come into existence? I’d really like to know. Thank God for Google.

Answer: according to, the term first appeared in a 1958 article by Anthony Boucher in a Sci-Fi magazine, and the first prequel was probably The Godfather II. Mr. Boucher – you’re on my list. That’s all I’m gonna say.

I didn’t like the first Kirk series, why did Paramount think I’d be interested in a new iteration. My problem with the whole “we’re going to mainstream this for all you regular people” concept isn’t so much that I felt disenfranchised as a trekkie or that I was being classified as a geek because I didn’t hate the recent movies Paramount has put out (okay, okay…it hurt), but more so that I didn’t understand what the qualities exactly made the series mainstream. What elusive “coolness” was I being deprived because Paramount had misguidedly catered to my nerdy whims?
Apparently mainstream doesn’t mean what I thought it meant. I saw Star Trek last night, and it was a good movie. But there was no coolness factor that was missing in previous movies. What made this movie different from previous movies of this brand was that it wasn’t catering to audience that was familiar with a particular set of characters, storylines, and actors/actresses.

I’d love to draw comparisons between this movie and previous movies just to show how similar this movie was to previous inundations, but I might save that for later blog. I don’t want to give spoilers away. But I will make a couple notes (SPOILER ALERT):

1) The “red matter” seemed to be Abrams F.U. to conventional Sci.Fi. geekdom. No scientific explanation was provided for why this substance was so ueber. Maybe there’s some old Star Trek episode or a movie subplot I’m forgetting that mentioned this substance, but I doubt it. Either way, I don’t get it. Star Trek is infamous for science that is either unexplained or understood as absurd. What's different?
2) Star Wars image number 1: Sulu as a Jedi Knight. That whole scene was ridiculous.
3) Biggest lost opportunity: Earlier in this same section of the movie, Kirk, Sulu, and random crazy guy are skydiving to a platform in the planet’s atmosphere, and crazy guy goes crazy and decides not to pull his shoot until it’s too late. This scene felt weird to me – I feel like we’re supposed to know who this guy is from the real Star Trek series. Either way – this guy should have been a younger Khan, who was Kirk’s most famous nemesis. Imagine it - Kirk and Khan aren’t bitter enemies yet, and Khan falls to his death. Kirk sees it happening, and screams, “Khaaaaaaaaaaan!!!” That would have been hilarious. Of course, nobody reading this probably has any idea why this would be funny. Which kind of proves my earlier point. When Paramount says mainstream, they mean that there’s no inside jokes/storylines that the mainstream would find confusing and alienating. Which doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy the movie as a trekkie. I’m a geek, but I can still be cool.
4) Star Wars image number 2: Scotty is basically Han Solo, and he has an assistant who is this weird combination of Chewbacca and an Ewok. The alien helper looks like an Ewok, but is also Solo’s /Scotty’s punching bag.
5) “To go where no man has gone before” certainly seems to be an ironic mission, in this case.

The movie gets a B+, but the marketing and general smugness of Abrams and Paramount gets a C-. Please don’t be mad at me Abrams. Lost is still awesome. (Except for that season finale – have you lost your bloody mind!?)

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