Saturday, November 28, 2009

Movie Log: Star Trek

J.J. Abrams's new Star Trek movie functions as an unlikely primer in one contemporary movie-making technique: the lens flare. No, I have to admit that I wasn't hugely familiar with lens flare before I saw Star Trek -- I'd heard of it, and I'd also heard that Star Trek was absolutely infested with it, but I wasn't 100% sure that I'd know it when I saw it.

I shouldn't have been so tentative; Star Trek is a wonderfully designed tutorial in the uses and abuses of lens flare, suitable for bringing even the most dilettantish of Big Summer Movie watchers -- myself and The Wife, for example -- into a state of utter awareness of, and complete jadedness with, the Cosmic All of lens flare.

Every single surface in Star Trek is shiny, not excepting the ridiculously young and pretty lead actors themselves. And, since those surfaces are shiny, it only stands to reason that they must emit light at random times -- and so they do!

I pick on J.J. Abrams -- and he definitely does deserve it -- but this movie was planned as a way to bring a new audience to the Trek movies, and it has definitely done that. (I personally hadn't seen one of these films, despite working in the SF field, since 1986's The Voyage Home; watching Trek movies was something I gave up when I went away to college. I saw very little of the TV shows, either, and I'm a happier and better socialized man today because of it.) This Star Trek is definitely a reboot; it starts over from the beginning to make it new-viewer friendly.

At the same time, it reboots itself as part of the plot of the movie, which uses some of Trek's most skiffy (and least SFnal) time-travel tropes, and vast stretches of the dialogue and situations are more "Easter Eggs" for long-time fans than engines to move the plot forward. It's big and shiny and overwhelming, but it's also hollow, with the shiny bits not actually doing anything -- to be a massive Trekkie about it, this is a V'ger of a movie.

Also, the villain is a massive disappointment. If I followed the growling dialogue correctly, Eric Bana's Nero is the random Romulan commander of a mining vessel who was really pissed off when an attempt to save his home planet failed and then somehow blundered a hundred and some years into the past, where his non-military craft had overwhelming power. (And massive numbers of guided missiles, which would seemingly be of little use to a mining craft.) He's a whiny nobody with a huge snit against Spock just because Spock didn't manage to save his planet. (Nero, of course, didn't even try to save his own planet, and there's no sign any Romulan did -- or even tried to evacuate the place.) Abrams is clearly trying to make Nero into Spock's Khan, but it just doesn't work.

If I had been the development executive in charge of Star Trek -- and there's no conceivable universe in which that would be the case -- this script would be the one we'd all laugh at, say positive things like "you're really getting the characters down now," and then ask for something new and original with a real plot and slightly less genocide. (Filmed skiffy has been on a genocide bender for several decades now, but it's about time to put it on the wagon.) The movie we have is OK, and probably was quite impressive on the big screen, but it indulges itself in at least a dozen ways, to the detriment of its strengths as a movie.

1 comment:

Chris Lawson said...

Couldn't agree more in your assessment of the new ST. I loved the energy and the dynamism of it, but by gum the story is a crock, and the villain is more of a petulant moron than a worthy opponent. As you say, the writers seem to think that several decades of technological development can turn a mining ship into an unbeatable warship. I guess, therefore, that a modern continuous mining machine would trounce a squadron of WW2 tanks in pitched combat.

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