Monday, March 15, 2010


A lot of comparisons can be made between TREK '09 and THE PHANTOM MENACE, except that I was entertained by ST09 and was bored by TPM.

Random thoughts...

* The last movie made "for us" was probably #6. So be it.

* I saw it on opening night, and was initially more disoriented than anything. I think Stephen Wright had a joke about coming home to find that someone had broken into his apartment and moved every object two inches to the left. That's how I felt. Later, upon explaining it to a Shatner-or-nothing purist, I found that I actually enjoyed the experience of the film. We went and I saw it again, and I had a much better time having gotten used to it all. In the late Fall, when the DVD came out, I watched it with a number of classes, and they went nuts over it... in a good way. It was nice to see kids excited about anything called STAR TREK, even if it's not "the original." The fact that it made a bunch of money means that the potential exists for a sequel, and a sequel could always be better. Despite winning a Razzie for Transformers 2, the writers generally say pretty agreeable stuff in interviews. They have also done another project I liked a lot.

* I agree with all of the logic flaws you point out. These flaws happen in a number of films, and I see about 50-100 new movies a year. They even exist in classic films. A prime example is in STAR WARS. (The real STAR WARS.) No saving events in the rest of the movie would have happened without the Imperial officers on watch deciding not to shoot that escape pod with C3P0 and his gay lover aboard. There'd be no movie if there had been one more guy on deck who might have said, "You know, we'd better shoot it down, just to be safe," or, "Send a shuttle after it. We're ONLY looking for stolen plans for OUR ULTIMATE WEAPON, and a great place to hide them would be an escape pod with a homing beacon. The rebels would know just where to look. Hell, looking at its current trajectory, it's about a hundred miles from Mos Eisley, and the rebels could be hidden down there, waiting for it."

But that flaw doesn't derail the movie for me because I enjoy watching the characters do what the characters do.

The same goes for STAR TREK. The more I watch it, the more I like these iterations of the characters. I just... enjoy watching them do the stuff they do. It's almost like commedia del arte acted by talented clowns. The plot's not essential. The fact that they don't play Pantalone and Capitano the way the last troupe did isn't essential to me. I enjoy these characters and this ensemble. That IS the movie for me.

* Is it "Star Trek"? Excellent question. You know, a lot of the Star Trek series are mostly bad. Sturgeon's Law and all that. If I were to pick out truly flawless episodes of TOS, I'd probably have about 20 out of 79. Maybe 20 with TNG... if that many. Let's not even discuss VGR and ENT. DS9 is the one exception. I enjoyed a lot of DS9. After the midpoint of season 3, only about one in five episodes is a stinker. (And even that is a mild aroma... more dusty/musty than fetid.) So, the more I go away from Star Trek, the more I see it as a great concept with interesting characters and wonderful moments, but not a flawless set of series. And it rarely matched the description of it given by its creator, even when he was at the wheel. We tend to think that "Star Trek" is a really coherent, consistent entity, and it's not. It's wildly inconsistent in vision, continuity, and even philosophy. Doesn't keep me from loving it... in general/kinda/for the most part. But I can't wax about Star Trek the way I can wax about, say, ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT. Like it or not, ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT maintains its vision and tone very consistently, only deepening it rather than diluting it as it goes on. Of course, it doesn't hurt that it only ran 2.5 seasons. Still, I feel that its 2.5 seasons are more artistically consistent than TOS' first 2.5 seasons.

I think Nick Meyer spoiled us. I really do. He was to Star Trek-writing what Jeremy Brett was to Sherlock Holmes-acting. It was effortlessly magnificent... or so it looked.

Anyway, as I watched the film a number of times, the better and better I felt about the treatment of the characters. For me, my favorite ST movie is #3, largely because of the characters. (WOK is a better film, but SFS is one that I personally enjoy more.) Not only are the characters well-depicted, the film's ultimate message for me is that, after everything, these relationships are more important than the missions that joined them. As I re-watch STAR TREK '09, I see the seeds of those relationships. I like that. The goobertastic SF elements were just McGuffins. I pretty much ignore them. Yes, a truly great movie should have both great characters and a great plot, but I can handle a movie with great characters doing cool stuff in a goofy plot. (Frankly, the plot to KING LEAR is incredibly goofy... and no, I'm not comparing the two in any other aspect.) There are many TV series with sometimes-mediocre episodes that are still watchable because of the characters and performances; THE DICK VAN DYKE SHOW comes to mind. Even a so-so plot is forgivable because of the charm of the actor/characters.

* I would have done the film very differently. Let me just get that out of the way. That's another discussion.

* The coincidences DO pile up. And I realize that the movie wasn't written for me. Looking at it through the eyes of audiences for whom, for better or worse, THIS will be "Star Trek," things like the conspicuous convenience of Scotty's posting are meaningless. I don't think it's ultimately meant to be a moment of, "Aha! So THAT'S how Scotty and Kirk met." For the audiences for whom the film was written, they'll look back on this film several sequels from now and say, "Yeah, that engineer's the guy he picked up on the ice planet."


I don't think the story's meant to be too original. For me, it was a workmanlike variation on the durable structure of the monomyth. I become increasingly fond of that story as I age. In a way, a good monomything is like seeing a familiar Shakespeare play with a new cast, director, and design. It's not the only game in town, but I generally enjoy it. I certainly did in this case.

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