Sunday, May 10, 2009

About The New Star Trek Film

Paramount has shown me more than once already that they have no feeling for story continuity throughout ST. The new film merely carries on that unfeeling attitude.

Make no mistake: I thought it was a marvelous piece of cinema. The modelmakers should all be fired and that ugly excuse for NCC-1701 should be retired as soon as possible, but the film was very well done.


The problem with each iteration of ST is that it is irredeemably a product of its time and the aspirations thereof. TOS was a truly 1960s creation: civil rights, the rights of women and minorities, and the questionable merits of war were all primary plot themes and drivers for the characters. The original 2 films drew on this as well with more than a little success. TNG was a product of the 1980s; plagues, epidemics, economics, rearrangements in the political sphere, unexpected upheavals and exploration of diverse cultural relationships and alien sexualities were the general replacements for the original emphases. It was, for example, much more interesting to have a ship's counselor (and a woman at that), and much less interesting to have a woman chief medical officer, in 1987 than it would have been in 1966. A Klingon security officer, though innovative, was perhaps predictable given Klingon militarism. ST6:TUC was an exploration of a post-cold-war galaxy only possible after the dissolution of the Soviet Union. The list goes on.

With this new film, though, any chance of maintaining the continuity of the other series iterations and the prior films is now shot straight to hell.

To make matters worse, the technologies portrayed are equally disappointing. Not in their use on screen, which is actually very powerful, but in their application to a world not far removed from ST:FC and ENT when TNG onward did not exhibit such things. I will freely admit that neither real-world tech nor cinematography had progressed far enough to display any of that when the earlier versions were made, but that's not really the point. The Enterprise of TOS wasn't as technologically advanced - or designed to be as technologically advanced - as the Enterprise of the new film. The new film strikes me as The Matrix overlayed with ST symbols than a true original work standing on its own merits and on the shoulders of its ST predecessors.

The chief criticisms I have read of the film also conveniently forget one thing: TOS was a sixties creation at its core. The endearing womanizer Kirk, the irascible country-doc McCoy, and all the others were only truly possible in the time when the series was written: the seat-of-the-pants solutions that crew created are simply not possible in the more politically and culturally aware noughties: were this a completely new creature following ST ethics the characters would have been at least substantially different. By revisiting the sixties icons, without deeper analysis or more depth to the characters, what results is something of a might-have-been for characters who, for all their merits, are showing their age when viewed out of their context just as surely as Shakespeare's leading ladies so often do when viewed by a modern audience without an understanding of Elizabethan England. Paramount's pathetic attempt to cure these ills with snazzy special effects and a (dismally) redesigned ship only shows how lacking these characters are when transplanted from their native time to today.

I cannot fault the actors: the interpretations are remarkably true to the original characters, and give us a glimpse of what their younger years might have looked like without compromising the personas created forty years ago. But the studio should be ashamed for this poorly thought out tale. I cannot expect that they feel anything of the sort, since repeatedly they have shown as much feeling for a consistent storyline for ST as a vegan does for steak tartare. The less said about the Dominion War, the Cardassian War, the Suleiban and the Xindi, the better, in my opinion, and turning a genius on the inexplicably-human Alpha Centauri world into a drunken Terran in ST:FC was shockingly wrong no matter how well played. The new film carries on the studio's tradition of mythos-specific Alzheimer's when it comes to the franchise. And while I'm sure it will fill the seats, for those of us who watched ST looking for a better future, this surprisingly dark tale as the latest installation of the ST franchise is a severe disappointment.

1 comment:

  1. It's really interesting to see how two people both with theatre backgrounds saw this film. I wasn't so much impressed with the plot or the technical aspect as I was with the character development, especially of Spock. But that comes from studying playwriting and getting a Ph.D. in dramatic criticism.