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The inconsistency of Trek movies

April 23, 2013

 

People talk about the ‘odd numbered Trek movies = bad, even numbered ones = good’, but really what they mean is:


All Star Trek movies = bad


What about Wrath of Khan?


It’s dated, badly. It’s decent, the plot is mostly character-driven, but it’s not half as clever as it thinks it is.
‘He’s an intelligent man, Captain, but he thinks in 2D, not 3D.’
Cue shot of the Enterprise rising up behind Khan’s ship, showing him to be by far the dumbest guy in the nebula [and Chekhov is in the nebula too].


The Undiscovered Country?


Okay, that was pretty good.
Maybe I’m being too harsh. The original movies did try to keep the characters involved, instead of blowing things up. What I want to say is: Trek movies have lost their way.
Look:


Generations – Awful.


First Contact – Okay, but zero intelligence.


Insurrection – An attempt to return to an intelligent plot, but let down by a stunning lack of intelligence. The Baku weren’t indigenous to the planet, there were 600 of them, just move them along. It’s not even an issue. Any analogies with the forced removal of the Native Americans is false as they were being moved to a place they would be moved from again and then just slaughtered. This was obvious as the new settlers were constantly expanding and would keep doing so until they’d taken all the land. Would the Federation really do that to the Baku?


Also: Size of land occupied by Native Americans = quite big
Size of the United States = very big, but not as big as Space.


Eventually, the Native Americans were gonna run out of living space that they could use in their own way.
Space doesn’t have that problem. The Baku could be moved to a lovely planet elsewhere and never be bothered again.
All the Federation wanted was the metaphasic particles. They were in one place. Unless the Baku moved to another planet with metaphasic particles, it would never happen again.


Second point: Why couldn’t the Sona just take vacations on the planet? Or live there? These are the pathetic one line excuses given by the Federation beard in charge of the operation:


1] The Sona would need more than 10 years to reverse the effects of their ageing.


Bullshit. Geordi was blind since birth…then after a few days in orbit…IN ORBIT…of the Baku planet he could see. This is the widest possible range of recovery surely. From something ‘not working’ to ‘working’…
The Sona would need two weeks tops and they’d look fine again. It’s so fucking clear that one throwaway line from a hack actor can’t change the fact.


2] Who would want to live in the Briar Patch?


If it gives you immortality and it’s bright and tranquil and you can’t see all the red misty shit from the planet then…everyone. The only negative is the lack of communication with anything outside the briar patch, but a] they could take vacations on the Baku planet, or live there and take vacations on whichever planet they live on, or b] they could design a series of relay stations throughout the Briar patch until they got back into normal Space.


Actually, now I think about it, aren’t all Starfleet messages sent via subspace? That’s why they can reach Earth so fast, right?
Actually, isn’t subspace separate from normal Space and therefore the Briar Patch?
Actually, wouldn’t the red mist be meaningless if you’re sending a message via subspace?
Actually, isn’t the plot of Insurrection a complete fucking mess?
Lindeloff, was it you?
Orci?
Who wrote that thing?


I’m spending too much time on this one. The point is:


Nemesis – awful


JJ Abrams Trek – watchable, but not Trek. Nowhere near being Trek. The second one won’t be Trek either.
It’s made cash, but really, when you focus on getting new fans, you’re gonna lose a lot of good things.
Not that any of those good things were in the TNG movies.
No, the good stuff was in the TV series. Episodes like ‘The Drumhead’ from TNG and ‘Improbable Cause’ from DS9. This is what the movies should be trying to replicate.


Is it possible?
Both of those episodes start with the assumption that the audience already knows the characters and the show.


Can a movie assume the same thing?


Not if it wants to win over new fans, but it could make some compromises. The easiest way is a concept firmly rooted in Trek canon – First Contact.
If you want to introduce new viewers to a Trek movie without making it simplistic, just get a new alien culture to look around the ship and interact with the characters.
Or introduce a new ensign and they can do the tour.
It’s pretty simple. You can learn who the characters are, you can see the ship, you can understand what kind of world you’re in.
Then you can get on with the plot.


But should Trek even bother trying to win new fans?


I think no.
Two reasons:


1] The phrase ‘introduce new fans to the franchise’ is a Hollywood term for simplifying a niche, intelligent show so dumb fuckers who like to watch robots wrestle and explode can watch it and not be bored.


They don’t want the few thousand new fans that would come from making an intelligent ‘Drumhead’ style Trek film, they want the millions of new fans that would come to see cool shit explode in Space.
They’re businessmen, it makes sense.


Is this really the right approach for Trek?


No, clearly not. The studio might make more money, but the problem is longevity. The last Star Trek film could’ve been called anything. It doesn’t matter, people won’t remember it because there’s nothing intelligent in it to remember. They’ll enjoy it, just like I did, but they won’t come back to it unless it’s on TV and they’re bored.


What else can Trek do?


I don’t get the desire to expand, expand, expand the franchise. I don’t like the word franchise. Trek doesn’t have to be this way. It works best when it’s intelligent and optimistic, you don’t need to throw huge amounts of cash at it to make this happen.
All you have to do is reduce the budget and reduce the pointless CGI.
Write a script that focuses on character and an intelligent plot and develop it.
Don’t jump from explosion to explosion. Stick with characters, force them to make difficult choices, put some fucking tension into the thing.
Trek will always have fans because of the TV series, and it’ll always pick up new ones as long as it returns to its principles.


Problems with the low-key approach?


1] It’ll look like a TV episode, not a movie.


Not if you get a decent director. William Eubank made a film [‘Love’] about an astronaut adrift in Space that cost $7,000 [I think]. Moon had a small budget and looked great. David Twohy made Pitch Black [using darkness to save cash on CGI] on a small budget.
Trek doesn’t have to have huge Space battles to be a good movie. It’s never needed that. The battles in DS9 were okay, but the better ones had fewer ships – remember the episode ‘Starship Down’? Okay, it wasn’t a great episode, but the concept is sound. The Defiant vs 2 Jem Ha’dar ships, in the atmosphere of a gas giant…much more tension than the Battle of Cardassia.


2] Will every character have something to do?


Hopefully not. Just sideline some of them. The problem with the TNG movies was the way they tried to give everyone something to do, even if that something was superfluous e.g. Riker fighting that Reman in Nemesis [as covered by Plinkett in the Red Letter Media reviews].
Or find a way to make it work, like in the Avengers.


3] A lower budget will put people off seeing it.


Maybe, but the regular Trek fans will still go. Nemesis was shocking, but it still made some cash in the US. Not much, but some. If you bring the budget down to $20-30 million then the reduced numbers won’t matter, you’ll still make money worldwide. And you know what? You might find new fans that will think it’s brilliant, simply because it’s intelligent sci-fi.
Which is better?
Millions of new ‘fans’ who will forget it as soon as Star Wars or some other thing comes along.
Or…
Thousands of new hardcore fans who will search out the TV series and be hooked no matter what else comes along.


Long term, it’s simple. The studio needs to see a bigger picture, and if they can’t then someone needs to tie them to a fucking chair and draw it for them.
God, it’s frustrating.

Okay, final point.


The new Star Trek film will no doubt make lots of cash and be really fucking dumb. Realistically, a new Trek film with a lower budget and some intelligence is not going to happen any time soon.
They’re gonna continue with the glossy shit until it gets worn out.
The bigger hope for Trek fans is a TV series.
Chances are they’re gonna make another one soon, especially now that the ‘brand’ has wider awareness.
Problem: They’ll want to make a new series that follows on from the new movies, not Voyager or DS9 or the old series.
Problem: The movie cast are too big to do the TV show.


Would they recast and stay in the same setting? Would the new ‘fans’ bother to watch the show? It’s a risk. They’d have to have a high budget because the new ‘fans’ want spectacle, not intelligence. But a higher budget means they better get lots of people watching. And what about the loyal core of Trek fans? Maybe they’d watch any Trek show no matter what, maybe they wouldn’t. But lose them and the studio’s in the shit.


Solution:


Make another series that’s intelligent and adventurous…a mix of DS9 and TNG…draw the loyal Trek fans back in, and hope that some of the new Trek ‘fans’ stick around.
It’s hard to know which direction is wiser…either one could succeed, but really, the second option is unlikely to fail spectacularly.
DS9, Voyager, TOS, Enterprise…they never had great ratings, but they did just about make money. And then lots more money when they went to DVD.
Please, Paramount, do the right thing.
Let Abrams fuck off to Star Wars and bring someone intelligent in to do a new series [following DS9/Voyager].
Then bring someone like Duncan Jones in to do the next film.

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