To Boldly Go Where We’ve All Gone Before…?
Yes, I like the Star Trek. Yes, it’s by far the most entertaining of the Trek movies.
But has it ushered in a new age of Star Trek mania? Is it the new face of science fiction? Are we seeing the birth of a new series of voyages or is this new Trek just a flash in the pan? This week, the Armchair asks…
Let’s look at the facts…
1) It’s got a unique take on telling a Trek story. SO unique, in fact, that it can’t be repeated. They went back in time and rewrote the origin of the series. Can’t do that again. By using this “have your space cake and eat it too” approach, they managed to pull off being able to tell a story that engages new viewers without pissing off the old and for that, much credit is due. BUT that kind of trickery doesn’t work on audiences twice – they’ll have to modulate phaser frequency to hit us like that again – and with such a delicate formula at stake, I don’t think their warp core can take it.
2) If nostalgia was a load, consider it BLOWN. They hit EVERY Trek joke in the book. EVERY ONE. The red shirt guy, the tribble, the “givin it all she’s got, cap’n”, the green girl gag, Sulu fencing, Bones being a doctor-not-a-brontosaur, even the stilted…Shatner…dialogue…cadence was briefly touched on. It was like a highlight reel of everything you like or even remember about Trek.
So now what?
This isn’t to say they didn’t do it well, but…come on. Let’s be real for a second, those bits aren’t that hard to pull off. We the audience are MORE than willing to meet them halfway, right? Hell, we’ve been making those jokes for 30 years. The fact that they managed to put them ALL in one movie is the real feat. But now that we’ve enjoyed our trip down alternate reality memory lane, what’s left? Oh, right…
3) The story. Look, I’m not tryin’ to be a jerk here, but if you rinse away all the nostalgia, sand away the fine performances and actually look under the special effects-laden hood…the story kinda…well…sucks. Forget Siegfried and Roy, forget Copperfield, forget Blaine. Kurtzman and Orci are the best illusionists working today. They way they use misdirection and showmanship to distract you from the fact that nothing in the show quite makes sense is nothing short of extraordinary.
“But wait, why was Nero upset with Spock? Wasn’t he the only guy trying to help?”
“Nevermind that, Bones is being curmudgeony!”
“So, wait, the Federation just sent the one guy in one ship to save the planet from extinction? Isn’t that like the United Nations dispatching Joe Biden in a Toyota to destroy nukes in North Korea?”
“Forget that! Oooh, look at the scary snow alien!”
Pulling at even one thread in that movie’s plot unravels the whole thing faster than the plot of the equally threadbare “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen” – written by…hey, wait a minute…!
Of course, pointing this out to any fans of the new Trek usually ends with that person saying “you’re being too picky, that movie was awesome.”
“Ta-Daa!!! And for our next trick…”
You know what? Let’s talk about that…
4) It’s a prequel. Sure, it’s gussied up as an alternate reality retelling of yadda yadda whatever. But at its heart, it’s an origin story. A prequel of sorts. And I submit to you that prequels are the easiest thing to pull off. You already know the punch line, you’re already invested in the characters which are usually the fruits of someone else’s labor. All you need is someone to logically connect the dots for you, give half a damn about keeping the mythos intact and baby, you got a stew goin’. For instance:
A dedicated architect spends his whole life perfecting his life’s work – a huge labyrinth of glass and steel which will stand as a monument to man’s achievements and the wonders of human ingenuity. He neglects both his wife who is pregnant with their unborn son and even his own health to finish this project, limiting his meals to bowls of cherries (his one indulgence as a child). But what no one knew was that in order to build on such a scale, he laid his foundation atop an ancient burial ground, disrupting the rest of the spirits that dwelled there. He spends his life haunted by poltergeists and vengeful spirits, persevering only long enough to see his life’s work finished. Seeing his determination, the spirits then go after his family…and that’s when he decides to fight back. Finally, on the day his project was to be completed, on what was supposed to be the happiest day of his life, he sacrifices himself to stop the angry spirits in what looks to everyone else like an accident. But thanks to his sacrifice, his son is born unharmed. And one day, he’ll grow up, re-enter that maze and avenge his father’s death.
The real test is going to come with this next movie. Because now the cat’s out of the bag. You can’t smoke-and-mirrors your way through the next installment. You’re gonna have to come up with new jokes, new characters and a new plot that can’t be garnished with a nostalgia-fueled retelling of a story we already love. Remember how much you loved Casino Royale? Remember how much you disregarded Quantum of Solace? The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (remake) vs. its sequel? Smallville season one vs. Smallville season nine? Optimus Prime and Bumblebee vs. Mudflap and Skids?
When the creative team is forced to come up with more of their own material to add to the mythos, it’s gonna be interesting to see if this franchise can indeed live long and prosper.
See what I did there? You already know that phrase so you forgive the fact that I didn’t really wrap up my story.