Saturday, May 25, 2013

Star Trek: Dark Tidings

Just as a feared any attempts to discuss the depth of failure and suckatude of the new JJ Abrams Star Trek movie (to be fair, I have not given them money - I saw the first, and the reviews from people I trust are coming back very bad, and the synopses of the plot are worse than I dreamed, and after having suffered through the first one I feel comfortable in trusting that the reviews are accurate) is being met with the usual chorus of "it was a fun ride", "it wasn't that bad" and the worst "you're just too attached to the old series."

Personally I want my movies to engage me, surprise me or challenge me, but I'm not averse to fun rides. But if I wanted a fun ride I would go see Furious 6. But you you liked it as a fun ride, it was designed to be a fun ride, I'm glad it worked for you, please read no further. Your opinion is completely valid.

I just don't share it.



The first Trek reboot, and the other Abrams properties I've seen, just aren't very technically adept. His use of technical flash like deliberate lens flares is a signature crutch to distract from his shot composition. His stories barrel forward and don't give you a chance to get the know the characters as the characters don't get a chance to rest. JJ Abrams produced 'fun rides' in movies because he apparently doesn't trust himself to do anything else. Unfortunately his movie's plots collapse if you disengage from the flow and they have many places where they can knock viewers out  due to cliche or implausibility. He claims to have a bigger idea than he has, rather than adequately presenting the ideas he does have, which again snaps people out of of the flow. His first Star Trek movie really was that bad - a space shoot up up that collapses upon inspection.

Finally, it's true: I don't want any Star Trek story to be a 'fun ride.' There are hundreds of other properties - never mind an original idea - that could be a vehicle for a movie that is just a 'fun ride'. Trek is an optimistic exploration vehicle, not a space opera, not a republic movie serial. Those latter are often meant to be fun rides. In trek they're supposed to EXPLORE. Explore what space might be like, what it means to be alive vs. being human, explore and solve mysteries, explore the results of new technologies or cultural changes. Sometimes they miss the mark, sometimes they're preachy or absurd, but the exploration is core. If you don't want to tell that sort of story, why claim it's Star Trek? Why hand the series over to someone who admitted he didn't like the series - not that he never watched it, but that he actively didn't like it?

I have identical complaints about the Mission Impossible movies (and hey, look who's producing those?). Mission Impossible is espionage as a confidence game. That's the core of the concept. The movies turn it into yet another run shoot, blow stuff up around the world spy story but with rubber face masks. There are other ways to do that. Salt did a fine job with it without having to borrow chrome from another property. They could have easily done the same here and maybe started a whole new property to, er, explore.