Living for the Revel (catvalente) wrote,
Living for the Revel
catvalente

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Star Trek: By Request

Someone asked me to savage discuss the Star Trek film much as I did the Terminator film yesterday. Well, I am nothing if not pliable.

Personally, I hold you all responsible. For weeks before I saw it all I heard was the weeping and genuflecting of my friends' list, ecstatic with joy over this amazing movie that brought Star Trek back, made it awesome, and presented everyone personally with a puppy made of caramel and marshmallows and unconditional love upon leaving the theater.

So I went. So full of hope. I am, after all, a closet Trekkie who dressed up in the mini-skirts to the delight of high school boyfriends and has watched every episode of the old and new series--except Enterprise, because no, and Voyager, which I've only seen about 50% of, because again, the fail is strong with that one. I love me my Star Trek.

And guys, seriously? Because this movie is a mess. And I didn't get a puppy.

I'm not saying it wasn't a good time. It mostly was, except when it was boring (25%), trite (30%), or inexplicable (15%). But it didn't descend from upon high and touch me with its numinous singularity-fingers of shimmering titanium awesome. It was a pretty middle-of-the-road action flick, made by emotionally stunted men for the pleasure of 10 year olds. I'm not going to complain about the gender issues--I didn't expect better and with the very large number of penises at the helm of this project, it was never going to be what we wanted it to be. Uhura banging her superior officer is totally a step forward in feminism, you guys. I don't know why you can't see that. I'm not even going to complain about Scotty's new stupid midget sidekick or that Nimoy got way too much screen time Mr. Tedious Exposition Vulcan, sir. Or that Kirk is easily the lamest and least interesting character in the entire show, or that I'm really sick and tired of the swaggering rebel with his cock in one hand and his superior officer's throat in the other, and yes, it is really rather gay, isn't it? I mean, the whole getting up in another craggy man's face and sweating at him that you're not going to submit, no sir, is not the straightest thing Hollywood ever gave us, and yet it's in every SF movie ever. I so don't care about this archetype. But fine, it's Kirk, whatever. You do that, Abrams, you keep acting like that kind of man, a 10-year-old's fantasy of masculinity, is anything but a useless douchebag full of STDs and court martials that no one would want to hang with, ever.

I'm not even going to say anything about red matter. No stupider than most of the science in science fiction. Or that the mining ship looked a lot like a B5 shadow. Like, a lot a lot like one. I could probably even go without mentioning that the fucking car chase in the beginning almost made me refuse to see this movie from the minute I saw the trailer because it the 22nd century and 12 year old dig hover-halos and nano-heroin and there's no reason for him to steal that car just to drive it off a goddamn cliff and you fuckers only did it to tie Kirk to that awful, awful fifties James Dean masculine ideal of the rebel with his muscle car and his cigarettes rolled into his sleeve and oh god I hate you all. I could totally skip that part. Because my issue is narrative.

Allow me to put on my workshopping hat again.

If there is any plot I could fire from the future of SFF, it would be the following:

OMG MY WIFE/CHILD/BROTHER/PREGNANT WIFE WAS KILLED THROUGH A SERIES OF EVENTS I HAVE DECIDED TO BLAME YOU YES YOU FOR! (Whether or not, as in this case, the "you" in question had anything at all to do with killing the pregnant wife in question.)

The crazy then goes about a ridiculously ornate plan to DESTROY THE KNOWN UNIVERSE IN REVENGE BECAUSE THEN WE WILL BE EVEN MWA HA HA.

Umm...no. In fact, having destroyed the known universe, you would be rather in the red on the karmic books.

In science fiction and fantasy no one can ever grieve, get fat, become addicted to whiskey or worse, engage in destructive sexual behavior with a neighbor, run around naked and crying, go to sleep for a year, get on medication, and at some point, any point, move beyond the death of a loved one. They ALL have to destroy the world/galaxy to take what they consider appropriate revenge. There is no middle ground, there is no normal bereavement behavior.

And thus, the problem with Star Trek is that while the physical stakes are very high--destruction of galaxy is not a fun time for all--the emotional stakes are nil. We don't know the dead wife, we don't know anything about Nero besides his need for grief-management therapy, and we don't really care. Nero's motivations are lame and shallow--he is a very ineffective villain. What he wants doesn't even make sense--Spock couldn't save Romulus in time. That is not the same thing as having actively destroyed Romulus. Basic ethics, kid.

The best villains are tragic--meaning that we look at them and know that there but for the grace of Starfleet go we. Pity and fear, the old Aristotle rag. We care about them, because at some level we too have been wronged or have let something we thought was good and real go too far, or gotten obsessed over someone or something...they have human feelings, and we understand them. We don't agree, but we understand, and their inevitable defeat is emotionally fraught. This is the stuff of Macbeth, even Khan. Star Trek used to grok this.

And if you can't manage the frisson of tragedy, then you make the villian cool.

Nero is not cool. (And what a waste of a name--if you're going to name your villain Nero he better be something more than a disgruntled union worker.) He's an ignorant miner who has a vaguely cool ship--though with ever explanation we understand that the ship is not that cool. Apparently Romulans just make all their industry look evil for kicks. Part of the big screen Star Trek villains is that their powers seem so overwhelming in the first act that something unique must be created to fight them in the third. Here? Yeah, it's a 25 year advance on ship tech. They defeat it by blowing it up. It's run by a bunch of idiots and cutting its dongle in half kills it dead. Whatever.

Cool villains have occult ties, or mysterious histories with the main characters, or come from a dark and sinister, unknown part of space, or are so totally alien in their mindset that just understanding what they are is a fascinating puzzle. They really like whales, for example. They brush the dark numinous. That's what SF is for. But having given us neither, Star Trek still asks us to care as though all of that emotional work were being done, and it just doesn't work. Same deal with Mrs. Spock, who barely spoke before getting killed. Well, guess what? I don't care. You didn't care enough about her to write her more than three lines, I don't care that she's dead. Shorthand is not the same thing as a well-written script.

So the emotional stakes of this film are...will Spock and Kirk fuck be friends? I mean, that's pretty much it. And we know they will, if they weren't there would be no franchise. Yet even THAT emotionality is undercut by Nimoy the Exposition Android showing up and basically saying: "Sorry, Sylar, you gotta be friends with that guy, because that's how it is in my future and my future makes action figures. Sorry. I know he sucks. Tough break, kid." The friendship between them is not organic at all, it's enforced by Time Agents.

So I guess it's a good thing the galaxy wasn't destroyed for stupid reasons by stupid technology run by stupid people. Yay TeamHotBoyz? In the hands of better writers that might even be a theme. But it's not. It's a one-off episode villain in a feature film, and I call shenanigans.

I know most movies are terrible. But it breaks my heart when I see people so excited over Episode III a movie that is only just barely not shit. Just barely not shit is not the same thing as good. They've just kicked our expectations in the face so many times we don't know any better. Demand more.

Or I'll destroy the galaxy.



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