Monday, September 20, 2010

Who Cast Eric Bana as a Villain?

So last weekend when I was having a pretty damn bad day, I thought: "What I need is something bright. And sparkly. That goes boom on a pretty frequent basis."

Therefore: Star Trek. The new Star Trek movie, that is.

Disclaimer: I was never a huge Trek geek. I was into Next Generation briefly in high school 'cause it was on every night and...well, if 'Inner Light' doesn't get you, 'Best of Both Worlds' probably will. If neither of them do -- probably care less for Trek than I do.

I did watch the first couple of seasons of Deep Space Nine until I got tired of the nothing happening. I understand that an awful lot of sex happened almost immediately after I stopped watching which is at least something but I've just never gone back. I understand the attraction of Trek, don't get me wrong -- I think all fans understand the basic draw of a fandom even if it isn't one that draws them particularly -- but it doesn't happen to attract me very strongly.

I've tried going back and watching both the original series and Next Gen relatively recently: TOS is good ol' fashioned campy fun (I love the rubber rocks) and Next Gen still has Patrick Stewart in it, so we're all good there. But...I don't know -- I feel like I'm being lectured about something. And, frankly, Starfleet pisses me right the hell off. They're just an irritating group of people -- like new-school UNIT or the bit of Torchwood that doesn't feature Jack Harkness: they talk a good game, but their real world approach features a lot of guns.

Still despite all that -- the new movie is a lot of fun. It's very silly, even I realised it wasn't particularly close to canon -- which I seem to remember being part of the selling point -- and JJ Abrams is definitely stuck on the idea of stranding people in extreme climatic conditions with inadequate equipment. I can't say I paid a lot of attention the plot -- I'm sure there were holes you could have flung a giant genetically mutated cat through. There was a lot of time travel that seemed to reinvent its rules every time it came up; in the end, I was fairly sure that Spock in the future had done something that some people, also in the future at the time, were seriously narked off about and they had, for reasons that passed understanding, come back to the past to --- dump his books? I'm really not quite sure but it doesn't really matter very much: the focus of the story here is on showing us the roots of the relationships between the chief crew members: primarily Spock, Kirk, and Bones.

There are a fair whack of plot problems with this movie; mostly, it's unimportant because the point is the flash and the bang and Chris Pine's charm which carries a lot before it.

What is important is how much of the movie is about three white guys showing the rest of the universe how it's done.

Yeah, this is basically what Star Trek is a lot of the time but this seemed to me to be particularly egregious. Sulu and Chekov are humiliated by Captain Pike in front of the entire bridge crew for no good reason. Uhura starts out kind of kick-ass and chilly competent -- and quickly degenerates into being a raving Spock fangirl (which has it's own whole level of odd but we won't go there.)

In the original series, which is what this movie is playing with, the whole point of the "multi-cultural" cast was, as I understand it, Gene Roddenberry positing a future where race was, if not unimportant, significantly less important than it was in the early '60s when the show was airing. Skin color or nationality would be less important than skill at a job or ability to perform under pressure.

In the case of the 2009 film, it seemed like the non-Caucasian, non-American characters had to be humiliated by the Caucasian Americans in order to prove who was in charge. Not exactly the most enlightened piece of thinking -- or the most enjoyable to watch, particularly for someone who always liked both Sulu and Chekov and expected better both for and from them!

Overall, it's a good movie but I hope the sequel has more thought put into it. Still, if what you want is a (slightly shiner) trip down memory lane, Star Trek does push all the right buttons. Mostly.


Quasidigm said...

I liked (other than the explosions) that they didn't go into "fix it" mode. It was an irritating plot trope that started in 'Deeps Space 9' and came up *way* too often in 'Enterprise': Someone comes from the future and says that other time travelers are messing the with the timeline. Then it's a race to repair the damage and ensure that things stay exactly the way they are.
Toward the end I kept expecting someone to say something like, "And now to go back in time to save Vulcan and fix everything." I was happily surprised that the idea wasn't even considered. There's just something unsatisfying about fighting to maintain the status quo.

KarraCrow said...

@Quasidigm: Yes, I kept waiting for that, too, and I agree: it was nice that it didn't happen. I kept waiting for the timeline to unfold itself or the "space-warp around the sun" thing to come up -- and if that had happened, I think that movie and I would have been seriously done with each other! It will be interesting to see what they do with it when the (I'm assuming inevitable at this point) sequel comes out.

Minerva said...

I agree with you wholeheartedly about the irritation of recouped Uhura. Don't get me wrong, I *love* Z. Quinto as Spock. I also have wanted to see Spock make out for a long time, but why did it have to be in that way in that situation?

Similarly to what Quasidigm said, I was really happy that they didn't even try to explain what red matter was. They didn't even name it something plausible. Red matter, there's no such thing. Great! You won't bombard me with horribly inaccurate science about black holes like "Event Horizon."

KarraCrow said...

@Minerva: I liked the red matter, too. It was interestingly gloopy and it was far better that they just went with it rather than make stuff up which would have taken even more screen time -- in an already pretty damn long movie! -- and probably would have sounded dreadful. Have you ever seen any of the old Rocky Jones "movies"? They're these great old serials that were hooked together into films, made in the mid-50s and one of them features this fantastic bit of nonsense science called "cold light": hot light makes for mirages so cold light makes stuff invisible. Fantastic!

I would have been perfectly happy to see Uhura and Spock hook up if it didn't apparently require the entire removal of her brain and backbone! Uhura was always pretty kickass and the way new-school Uhura dealt with Kirk in the beginning of the film led me to believe that she would be equally tough and up-to-the-mark. Apparently not when faced with the Amazing Vulcan Eyebrow Seduction!