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Greg Kirkman
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Posted: 20 July 2018 at 2:34am | IP Logged | 1 post reply

I suppose I was feeling a bit masochistic when I read yesterday that my cable provider would be offering a number of new free-on-demand movies for this week only. One of them being STAR TREK BEYOND.

I’d gone two years without ever seeing the film, but I figured I might as well give it a shot, if for no other reason than because it was free, and because I like to try to learn from failures as well as successes. Although I’ve taken a hardline stance on not even wasting my time with films I know will irritate me (I have no intent to ever watch BATMAN v SUPERMAN or JUSTICE LEAGUE), I made an exception with this one. Despite the film’s financial failure, it seemed fairly well-regarded by a lot of hardcore TOS fans, so I figured I’d see how justified those opinions are. And, hey, no Abrams this time!

Let’s set aside, for a moment, the likelihood that Abrams killed STAR TREK with only two films, and will likely soon do the same to the other big “STAR” franchise. That said, I’ll give the ‘ol hack some credit: TREK ‘09 is a dumb, entertaining popcorn movie with a lot of energy and wacky charm. That’s what Abrams brings to the table as a filmmaker: energy. He’s very good at bringing a sense of speed and excitement to his films, and he casts well. 

BEYOND actually could have used Abrams’ energy. This is a thoroughly average and downright boring film. With yet another “bad guy needs a MacGuffin to get revenge/start a war” plot. It looks pretty, and has some good moments, but it’s incredibly average. Sort of the INSURRECTION of the Abramsverse.

A lot of people said back in 2016 that this film, of the three Abramsverse movies, best captured the spirit of TOS. Um...no. There are plenty of blunt, subtle, and cutesy references to past episodes and films, but this is pretty much a generic sci-fi action film dressed up with with certain STAR TREK bits and tropes. The overarching theme of “unity is a strength” is not subtle, nor is it explored in a meaningful or interesting way. The pacing is very ADD-ish, there’s the usual barrage of rapid-fire jokes, and the characters are mostly very shallow.

Not to say that this is an awful film. Merely an average one. Passable entertainment, but certainly not good STAR TREK, although it clearly wants to be. Whereas Abrams’ two films felt like bad fanfic written by non-fans (despite Roberto Orci being a fan), this film feels like average fanfic written by below-average fans. Namely, Simon Pegg, who went out of his way to establish NuSulu as Gay over the objections of George Takei. It’s not a major plot point or anything, but the actual shot of NuSulu, his husband, and their child lingers long enough to seem like it has some sort of plot significance. I presume it’s to give a sense that NuKirk sees them, and is thinking about the sort of family life he could had, but for his life as a Captain. Or maybe it’s just a case of rewriting an existing character to serve the cause of virtue-signaling, which seems to be all the rage, these days.

I like Chris Pine and the rest of the cast, but ya just can’t recast these iconic characters and expect it to work. Pine played a better Kirk in WONDER WOMAN than he did in these films. The fact that NuKirk—three years into his mission—is bored and ready to quit represents a fundamental misunderstanding of the character. Yeah, yeah, “alternate timeline, new directions”, whatever. I know. Still ain’t any Jim Kirk I know. 

The great Idris Elba is largely wasted under lots of makeup and a shallow character, but he still turns in a good performance. I wish he’d had better material to work with.

The Abramsprise is destroyed a mere 20 minutes in, and it has zero emotional impact. Then, we get a new NCC-1701-A at the end of the film, which is just another rehashed idea. As with that other “STAR” franchise, as well as so many other rebooted/rehashed franchises which are long past their glory days, NuTREK just keeps falling back on references and winks to past continuity. It seems like a good percentage of beloved franchises have fallen into an endless cycle of obnoxious self-referentialism which ostensibly takes the place of actual creativity and innovation. These movies become more about fans hunting for Easter Egg references to old shows and movies rather than exploring new territory. If you’re more excited that NuKirk quoted Shatner-Kirk’s line from “The Corbomite Maneuver” about there being no such thing as the unknown than you are about Krall and his plan, then there’s something deeply wrong with the movie.

You could probably count on one hand the number of direct references to TOS episodes which were made over the span of the first six STAR TREK films. TMP may have been a rehash of “The Changeling”, and TWOK may have brought back Khan, but there weren’t constant quotes and wink-wink references to past episodes to get fans excited, y’know? It was the stories and the characters which were exciting, not the thrill of playing WHERE’S WALDO: STAR TREK EDITION.

Anyway, this movie tries to move things closer to the flavor of TOS, but it never quite gets there. The idiotic NuSpock/NUhura romance is quickly dispensed with (at least until the coda), and we get a lot of NuSpock/NuMcCoy scene’s to make up for their scarcity in the prior two films, but the jokes mostly have that snappy, snarky, Millennial feel that’s aimed at the general audience.

The photograph of the original crew (from STAR TREK V!!!) that’s included among the late Nimoy-Spock’s personal effects (conveniently located in a box labeled “Ambassador Spock’s Belongings”, because this is that kind of movie, where exposition is provided in clunky ways that don’t always make in-universe sense) is a nice touch. Of course, to balance it out, Spock’s death announcement lists him as “second officer” of the Enterprise. Uh...guys...he may have said that he was second officer in literally one scene of one episode of TOS’ first season, but I don’t thin’ it’s a stretch to say that it is widely accepted that Spock’s position was that of First Officer. Good job.


I’m still not sure why I bothered to watch this. The film failed, and has been largely forgotten. Its legacy is that it paved the way for STD to be a streaming show quarantined behind a paywall, and for TREK to again fade from the cinematic limelight. Watching it with all of that in mind didn’t exactly constitute a victory-lap for me, since I’m not a fan of what Abrams did to STAR TREK. No, not at all. My hoped-for victory-lap will come in December of 2019, when Abrams is crucified for failing to save that other “STAR” franchise. 

Fact of the matter is that the AbramsTREK gave the property a very brief shot in the arm, but quickly proved to not have legs. The first film was a massive success, but the second was a lousy TWOK retread. And BEYOND was a case of “too little, too late”.

But, hey, the crew kills the space-swarm with Beastie Boys music. For f***’s sake, standards really have dropped for STAR TREK (and intelligent genre storytelling in general), haven’t they? Yeesh.


I really have no overall feelings about this one, positive or negative. Just a big “meh”. I just don’t care enough to get upset at the usual mishandling of characters and concepts. A damp squib of an ending to the false euphoria that the first Abrams film kicked off for so many hopeful fans.
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John Byrne
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Posted: 20 July 2018 at 4:53am | IP Logged | 2 post reply

My impression of the Abrams movies is that they are just too gosh-darned pleased with themselves. We know (because he said so) that Jar Jarhad no interest in STAR TREK, and set about (as he said) to do everything he could to turn this into STAR WARS. We also know, based on the evidence, that he had little knowledge of TOS. (I've said the first movie reads as if someone who saw a few episodes in first run described to Abrams what he remembered, and that was the whole basis of the movie.)

STAR TREK in name only, leaving me disappointed that Nimoy involved himself.

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Marten van Wier
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Posted: 20 July 2018 at 7:04am | IP Logged | 3 post reply

I never really understood any of the praise JJ Abrams or Oric and Kurtzman got with the movies and television shows prior to Star Trek 2009 or even afterwards.

Perhaps I was either too frustrated or conservative in thinking but whenever I read a summary or review of their products all I could think "I am missing something others are seeing, what is so good about this? Story sounds dull, characters sound uninteresting, etc."
And I do occasionally like the generic overdone Hollywood popcorn production.

I never had the idea that Kurtzman was a fan, a superficial one at best who just wants to play with the old toys but remakes them how he thinks they should be (and kinda hoping that the audience forgets all the old incarnations or are not aware of them).

As for "Beyond", well I did not like the previous two movies so I was not going to see this one. But when I heard that a Beasty Boys song was used to destroy the drone spaceships I honestly had a facepalm moment. You can pull this off in a Manga/Anime but not in Star Trek.

BTW, Mr Byrne, in "Swarm" did you want to show how the plot device of disrupting communication between automated ships could be done better?

* * * * *

STAR TREK in name only, leaving me disappointed that Nimoy involved himself.

* * * * *

I don't want to be critical on the man but I never understood that. Didn't the character of Spock not already go gracefully out in "The Undiscovered Country" and the TNG episodes "Unification"?

I am not going to bring up subjects such as greed because I don't find it appropriate.
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Tim Cousar
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Posted: 20 July 2018 at 7:43am | IP Logged | 4 post reply

The destruction of the Enterprise in this movie was very similar to the destruction of the Odyssey in the "Jem'Hadar" episode of Deep Space Nine. Another rehash?
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John Byrne
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Posted: 20 July 2018 at 8:13am | IP Logged | 5 post reply

BTW, Mr Byrne, in "Swarm" did you want to show how the plot device of disrupting communication between automated ships could be done better?

••

When I did "Swarm" in STNV, for some reason no one at IDW bothered to tell me it had already been done in one of the movies.

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John Byrne
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Posted: 20 July 2018 at 8:21am | IP Logged | 6 post reply

The movies are basically what civilians think STAR TREK is -- superficial characterizations and "tits in space".
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Greg Kirkman
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Posted: 20 July 2018 at 10:03am | IP Logged | 7 post reply

STAR TREK in name only, leaving me disappointed that Nimoy involved himself.
++++++++

As the story goes, the script (featuring Spock as the crux of the story) was written before Nimoy was signed, and everything would have fallen apart if he’d declined to appear.

What I find interesting is that Nimoy had previously declined to appear in (or direct) GENERATIONS, because he was unhappy with the script, and because he felt that Spock’s intended cameo in the opening Enterprise-B sequence was not meaningful or interesting. So, did he come aboard NuTREK simply because Spock played a key role in the story? Or maybe because he knew that this was truly a “passing of the torch” moment, and just wanted to be a good sport about it? Especially considering that he was nearing the end of his life? This reboot was gonna happen with or without him, after all.

I think it would be a tough position to be in to publicly grumble about a character you’d played for decades being recast with a younger actor and/or totally rewritten. I believe that Takei was generally supportive of AbramasTREK until they decided to rewrite Sulu. And, even though he spoke out about that, he still remained supportive of the new cast and films. 

The private thoughts of the TOS cast and crew regarding AbramsTREK may very well have been very different than their public comments. I have a feeling that none of the original cast would want to be perceived as “get off my lawn” types who publicly grumbled about the All-New, All-Different TREK. There had been some of that back when TNG started up, but the show ended up becoming a massive success, after all.
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Michael Roberts
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Posted: 20 July 2018 at 10:12am | IP Logged | 8 post reply

I liked Jaylah, and there was significantly less eye-rolling and facepalming coming from me while watching BEYOND than there was when I watched STID. That’s all I have. 
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Greg Kirkman
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Posted: 20 July 2018 at 10:14am | IP Logged | 9 post reply

The movies are basically what civilians think STAR TREK is -- superficial characterizations and "tits in space".
++++++++

Yep. And the self-referentislism is an element which has a chokehold around so many of these lazy rehashes of old properties. I mean, INTO DARKNESS has a red-shirt joke! 

Over the years, I’ve become a big believer of the idea that a fictional work must be true to its own internal logic. Story and characters must come first, and they should be treated as their own immaculate reality. Self-referentislism and meta-jokes need to be used very, very sparingly, if at all. Far too many of these reboots and rehashes hinge upon the first-viewing novelty of including a bunch of meta jokes and references to prior continuity. It’s become all about “Memba that?” and “I understood that reference!”-type moments.

I mean, flawed it may be, but STAR TREK- THE MOTION PICTURE was totally committed to telling its story. No Easter Egg references to old episodes, no meta jokes, no self-parody. It was an honest attempt at making a real STAR TREK movie for the big screen. And, even in 1979, STAR TREK was certainly embedded enough (and parodied enough) in the culture for people to get those sorts of self-references. But, the film didn’t stop dead to make a joke about how the crew had ditched the red shirts for bland grays and beiges.
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Joe Boster
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Posted: 20 July 2018 at 12:38pm | IP Logged | 10 post reply

I find BEYOND to be the least painful to watch. I've watched a few times because Amazon Prime had it in 4K for free. Mind Numbing is apt. 

"I’ve become a big believer of the idea that a fictional work must be true to its own internal logic. Story and characters must come first, and they should be treated as their own immaculate reality."

Yeah I'm going to have to steal this for when I complain about something on Facebook  with it's only a movie/work of fiction/etc who cares.  
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Rob Ocelot
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Posted: 22 July 2018 at 3:55am | IP Logged | 11 post reply

It's the dirt bike that killed it.

Just like the dune buggy in NEMESIS.

Do not under any circumstances have a joy ride scene in an offroad vehicle for your third franchise film!

(oh and actually make it a good film too)
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Bill Collins
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Posted: 22 July 2018 at 11:31am | IP Logged | 12 post reply

I hated The Beastie Boys music use in the first film,
and hated it`s use even more in Beyond! It reeks of old
men trying for `cool` to be `Down wiv da kidz` and
having no idea what cool is.
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John Byrne
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Posted: 22 July 2018 at 7:39pm | IP Logged | 13 post reply

Tru dat!
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Michael Casselman
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Posted: 22 July 2018 at 7:54pm | IP Logged | 14 post reply

Trek has wisely avoided getting trapped in using contemporary pop music in most of the features. Of any of the movies that *might* have justifiably incorporated Rock/Pop music on it's soundtrack, even 'The Voyage Home', which came out in the height of 80s soundtrack pop hits, avoided filling it's soundtrack with pop songs ('I Hate You' not only wasn't on the soundtrack album, but was essentially a 'gag' in it's inclusion)
'Sabotage' has become such a 'cliche' in it's use in soundtracks that it takes me out of the scenes they use it in (and now in TWO of the last three movies, at that). OTOH, 'Ooby Dooby' (a bit more on the obscure side) in 'First Contact' didn't bother me as much.
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Greg Kirkman
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Posted: 22 July 2018 at 8:18pm | IP Logged | 15 post reply

('I Hate You' not only wasn't on the soundtrack album, but was essentially a 'gag' in it's inclusion)
+++++++++++

I'm delighted that it was included on the expanded soundtrack album which was released a few years back!
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Rob Ocelot
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Posted: 22 July 2018 at 9:29pm | IP Logged | 16 post reply

I have to say that Magic Carpet Ride yanked me right out of FIRST CONTACT.

Mind you, I'm not a big fan of sountracks that rely on shallow pop culture songs to convey a mood nor am I fan of obtrusive orchestral soundtracks that blatantly tell you how you should be feeling during a particular scene.

My one exception is PULP FICTION, because it took what were somewhat-obscure Surf, Country, early Rock tracks and wove them into the fabric of the film in an organic way.   Even the Neil Diamond cover didn't feel obtrusive. 
 
(well, I guess Miserlou and Comanche aren't *that* obscure, but they were certainly off the radar in the early 90s as far as pop culture was concerned.  Now, they are almost inseparable from PF -- hardly anyone knows Miserlou by name except as "the Pulp Fiction theme" and Comanche as "Bring out the Gimp".  Not sure that's entirely a bad thing if it keeps these songs on people's playlists and gives them radio play.  I'm sure Dick Dale doesn't mind the extra royalty cheques in his twilight years.  He and his son are still touring!) 


Edited by Rob Ocelot on 22 July 2018 at 9:30pm
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Steve De Young
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Posted: 23 July 2018 at 12:08am | IP Logged | 17 post reply

It was almost much much worse.  The producers on Enterprise had to fight like hell with the UPN/CW folks, who kept pressuring them to have contemporary pop acts perform in the mess hall in each episode.  Of course, these are the same executives responsible for the greatest Star Trek script note of all time:  "What's a hull?"
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Rob Ocelot
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Posted: 23 July 2018 at 5:02am | IP Logged | 18 post reply

Well, they are getting their stuff like F-bombs and fist bumps in DISCOVERY.   Because you, the fans asked for it (No, we didn't).   Because STAR TREK needed these things to stay hip and relevant (No, it doesn't).   Because that's how 'real people' talk and act (Maybe, but this is fiction).   

I'll take an obnoxious pop song (hell, I'd take the insipid ENTERPRISE theme tune, twice) over this added garbage.
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Brian Rhodes
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Posted: 23 July 2018 at 10:34am | IP Logged | 19 post reply

The fact that NuKirk—three years into his mission—is bored and ready to quit represents a fundamental misunderstanding of the character. 

Yes. I had a similar issue with Bruce Wayne in THE DARK KNIGHT/RISES. He spent over 7 years of his life training to become what would be Batman, then the vast majority of the rest of it either not being, or trying not to be, just that. 

As bad as BvS and ho-hum as JUSTICE LEAGUE were, at least their Bruce Wayne is still Batman 20 years in. On the other hand, he also kills dudes pretty casually...

I kinda feel about BEYOND as I do about JUSTICE LEAGUE. Still pretty bad examples what can be done with the respective characters, but a step in the right direction from what we got right before (ST:ID and BvS).



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Greg Kirkman
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Posted: 23 July 2018 at 11:47am | IP Logged | 20 post reply

This is a major symptom of the negative and “realistic” mindset that’s creeped into genre fiction, over the years.

While guilt and responsibility motivated him to become a hero, Peter Parker still enjoys being Spider-Man. It’s as much an escape from his normal life as it is a self-imposed responsibility. It’s not a “curse”. It may occasionally cause problems for him, but without the fun and escapism of it, why would he still do it? Why would he constantly punish himself? Spider-Man is an inherently fun character. If his personal life sucks, and his life as Spider-Man is constantly consumed by a grim sense of responsibility, then he’s no longer fun. 

Bruce Wayne became Batman to exorcise his demons, and to prevent what happened to him from ever happening to anyone else. His wanting to quit being Batman in nearly every movie is just a cheap way of generating “drama” and “depth”. Um, no. He made a solemn vow to wage war on crime for the rest of his life, and being Batman—doing the right thing for the right reason—is what keeps him sane. THE DARK KNIGHT RISES was just stupid. Wayne is Batman for a little while, quits for years after Rachel dies, then fakes his death so he can hang out overseas with a hot criminal. Ugh.

A great many problems with Batman films in general seem to revolve around the perceived need to give him romantic interests, and subsequent attempts to generate drama from them. “I’m in love, so I need to quit being Batman and live a normal life!”, or “The woman I love is dead, so I should quit being Batman!”. Oy.


And then there’s Kirk. Shatner played Kirk as always being thrilled by exploration and discovery (the act, not the show). Jim Kirk is a man who was born to lead. It’s lonely at the top, but being a starship commander is what gives his life purpose. Having Pine’s Kirk be bored after three years is just a cheap way of generating “depth”, and allowed for a fake-fanservice scene of NuKirk and NuMcCoy having drinks on the former’s birthday, a la TWOK. A callback reference designed to trick fans into thinking they’re watching real STAR TREK.

How about having an actual understanding of the characters instead of troweling on superficial details, and, oh, I dunno, writing something new and interesting with them? Is that so hard?
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Greg Kirkman
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Posted: 23 July 2018 at 11:50am | IP Logged | 21 post reply

I kinda feel about BEYOND as I do about JUSTICE LEAGUE. Still pretty bad examples what can be done with the respective characters, but a step in the right direction from what we got right before (ST:ID and BvS).
++++++++

In other words, too little, too late.


What we’re seeing now with a lot of with legacy genre properties are misguided attempts to rewrite/rethink the characters and the material, then negative backlash, then too-little-too-late attempts to get back on course.

Maybe, just maybe, if the first attempt was actually done with love, care, and respect...
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John Byrne
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Posted: 23 July 2018 at 1:07pm | IP Logged | 22 post reply

The ennui-engorged fanboys rule. Embarrassed by, even ashamed of, their hobby, they try to make it acceptable to their peers. "Look! I've got kid's characters fucking and saying 'shit' and not wearing costumes! Aren't I cool?"

Ke-rist, even Alan Moore kept them in costume! Granted, as fetishes...

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Greg Kirkman
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Posted: 23 July 2018 at 3:12pm | IP Logged | 23 post reply

I have a sneaking suspicion that some of these people actively hate the franchises they’ve taken charge of, and are trying to destroy them and what they stand for whilst making some money and “daring” reputations for themselves in the process

Either that, or they’re just stupid people who don’t know how to tell compelling stories about interesting characters. They can only drag larger-than-life heroes down to our level, and replace optimism with nihilism. When you have Luke (Jake) Skywalker spouting Twitter-esque, snarky dialogue, and NuKirk happily blowing away a mass-murdering, Romulan war-criminal instead of rescuing him to stand a fair trial, then you know something’s seriously wrong.


As a wise man once said, “It has always been easier to destroy than to create”. What better way to make a name for yourself than by coming in and shaking up a beloved property by tossing out the rules, butchering sacred cowes, and shoving in soon-to-be-dated, of-the-moment social issues/politics to get people talking?


For all of the talk about the original STAR TREK’s examination of social issues and use of allegory, I think that the fundamental reason it has endured for 52 years is because, first and foremost, it told entertaining science-fiction stories about strong and compelling characters. Escapism with ideas beneath the surface. But, the characters and the drama always came first. The basic rules of good storytelling and characterization.

The first Abrams film shifted TREK’s gears, and took the franchise into action-movie schlock territory. The second bluntly tried to examine modern issues of terrorism, but then devolved into more action schlock and fanwank-rehashing. The third had a rather shallow “let’s all work together” theme. STD has patted itself on the back for its demonizing of Trump supporters via the reimagined Klingons. Preaching instead of generating conversation. And, if you don’t like “strong”, Mary Sue-type characters like Michael Burnham, then you’re a racist, sexist manbaby.

It would be nice to see a return to well-plotted stories rather than high-concept ideas and present-day politics executed in an incredibly shallow and action-schlocky way. Beloved franchises are bleeding out left and right, and fandoms are being torn asunder rather than being brought together by mutual love of good stories and characters. Divisiveness and evil are everywhere, and it does seem grimly appropriate that pop culture is reflecting that, I suppose.


But we still need STAR TREK to point the way, to give us optimism. And it’s not there. At least there’s THE ORVILLE, which is doing the TREK format right.
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Brian Hague
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Posted: 23 July 2018 at 9:09pm | IP Logged | 24 post reply

I've been watching episodes recently of Gene Roddenberry's "The Lieutenant," and what I'm seeing greatly underscores what is wrong with modern incarnations of the various Trek franchises. None of them seem to acknowledge that Starfleet is not just a job, but rather a lifestyle and a calling that these characters have trained for and dedicated the next however-many years to. And they did so because they believe in what is being done by Starfleet. The notion that Kirk signed up on a dare from some old guy who challenged him about his dad makes the character lame. Lame enough that, yeah, three years in, he'd be looking for his next big thrill. Because space exploration... is somehow... what was it again? Dull..? Yeah, star mapping can take a long time. We've seen that on the show, but I didn't see anyone saying, "Man, I don't think star mapping is worthwhile. Let's stop doing this, and hey, go to Rigel! Who's with me, dudes?" 

Because that would be stupid. As the premise for BEYOND is stupid. Of course, that just makes it thematically in sync with the other two, which are both numbingly stupid. 

And Greg, Abrams has flat-out admitted that he thinks Star Trek is dumb and needed some good ol' fashioned Star Wars DNA spattered across its face to make it interesting. After all, GalaxyQuest, remember, was the only Trek film Abrams could stomach. Y'know what it was missing though? Cloverfield monsters and giant inflatable hands. THEN it would have been REALLY funny...

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John Byrne
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Posted: 23 July 2018 at 9:31pm | IP Logged | 25 post reply

I have a sneaking suspicion that some of these people actively hate the franchises they’ve taken charge of, and are trying to destroy them and what they stand for whilst making some money and “daring” reputations for themselves in the process

Either that, or they’re just stupid people who don’t know how to tell compelling stories about interesting characters. They can only drag larger-than-life heroes down to our level, and replace optimism with nihilism. When you have Luke (Jake) Skywalker spouting Twitter-esque, snarky dialogue, and NuKirk happily blowing away a mass-murdering, Romulan war-criminal instead of rescuing him to stand a fair trial, then you know something’s seriously wrong.

•••

Old saying: do not attribute to malice what can be explained as incompetence.

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