In the midst of the turmoil and commotion caused by the new Trek trailer, I keep coming back to one sour thought: Why don’t you go cry about it. I understand the strife and the angst, I really do. You’ve got JJ echoing Ang Lee’s bizarre “I’m awesome because I’m ignorant of my material’s history” litany; you’ve got a revved up repackaged version of what you love being dished out to the masses- more people will see this movie its opening week than have seen Star Trek, in any incarnation, in its entire run, ever; and goddamnit, the whole production’s overrun with young people who doesn’t even know the damn show.
Well, go on, then. Cry about it. Cry about it and then watch the X-Men movies and expect me to bow to the greatness of your pain. Go ahead. Or suck it up and deal with the fact that this is what happens when what you love becomes marketable to the mainstream media. You can focus on how much it sucks and how much your favorite detail has been omitted or butchered and how at least three precedence’s in canon make at least twelve aspects of this new installment totally moot and outlandish, or you can focus on the fact that, hey, I can dress up in a Star Trek costume for Halloween this year and not only will everyone know what it is, but they will PROBABLY THINK IT’S COOL.
Yeah. See? You gotta think ahead.
Ask any X-Men fan. The first movie comes out and we’re like, well, okay. You kinda… took some liberties with characters, there, but at least the character was there and hey, there’ll be a sequel! Was Halle Berry inexcusably bad casting? Oh, you bet. While Angela Basset lives, Storm should be played by no one but her. This is a given. Was Rogue a cringing, whinging shell of a character compared to the strong, charming, raucous, sexy woman we love in the comics? Indubitably so. Was Wolverine too goddamn tall? Again I say thee yay, but it did well, people liked it, and then, and then, we got a sequel. X2: X-Men United was, while cumbersomely titled, a completely badass flick. It felt like reading an X-Men comic, which is also why the first Spidey was so good, organic web shooters aside. Storm was still a horrifying blight on the cinematic landscape, but all in all, you were delivered those things you craved as a fan: A story from the books, characters acting like themselves (more or less, more or less), kicking special affects and a story about morals, about ethics, about the struggle of the good guys to do what is right for a world that treats them wrongly versus a righteous if not justified group of enemies who would take things too far the other way. It was a real X-Men movie. And then there was the third, but let’s just never ever speak of that again, shall we?
Spiderman had a similar syndrome. Fun out the gate, strong in the second, and the third was an abomination caught forever on celluloid, though this was due to a director’s ego and possibly a sense of boredom spinning out of control.
This was the first wave. It showed comic books movies, not grit-fests like the Dark Knight, but Comic Book Movies could be fun, dramatic, and extremely lucrative. And what has the second wave been? Iron Man. Hulk. One excellent, one good, both heralds of the new dawn, though. On the other end of the spectrum you have the new Batman franchise, floating about it all you have 300 and the impending, glorious arrival of Watchmen, and somewhere in the intersect you have A History of Violence, Wanted, Hell Boy II (since no one saw Hell Boy except me, apparently) coming out. These movies, these ‘based on the graphic novel by’ and ‘adapted from the comic book’ movies, are popular, revenue-generating and, sometimes, even faithful. The comic movies are on their way.
The space operas have possibly a rockier road ahead. It is not going to help Star Trek that the giant robot craze is about to hit, nor that there has been a notable lack of grand-scale epic space adventures that didn’t tank or suck in recent years, cough Star Wars cough. Star Trek is, for being one of the Great Geek Institutions, not a familiar thing for most of movie-going America. The nostalgia and affection felt by its fans for certain pastiches are not guaranteed hooks for the new audience, which is a shame, but a reality. But Star Trek is a television show. Beyond that, it’s an extremely dated television show. It looks and feels old fashioned, which is charming, and even marketable, but they’re generating a film franchise. They don’t want it to be campy or charming, they want it to be dazzling and huge, and they want it to be ‘real’, which… You know, go for it. This Trek film is going to have to establish a lot of things, it’s going to have to do all the troublesome groundwork, and while doing so, is going to have to excite an audience that grew up with a different view of space than Star Trek’s original viewers, not to mention force-fed and under-used imaginations.
As a tv show, however, its nature is malleable. It’s a serial product. It already has a prequel that people have been arguing about. This film is an entirely new conundrum for that existing franchise: It’s within continuity, because it’s part of the original timeline, but it’s outside of it because it’s changing the established history of the show. It also has Leonard Nimoy in it. That’s neat and all, but unless someone’s a damn robot (ala AvP's clever use of Lance Henriksen), or a glimpse into the future, it messes up that idea of placement even further. I just think that given the nature of film adaptations and the fact that Star Trek will be the first serious attempt at a character-driven action adventure franchise in space, things are actually looking up. We've got a ways to go until conclusions can be drawn one way or the other. And hey. It could be worse.
It could be The Final Frontier.
Yeah, there's an addendum. I like Star Trek, what I've seen of it. And I have deep and abiding loves for things that are dated and older but still struggle to explore universal themes with ingenuity and reverence, too. Scout's honor. We're in this together. Even if I do not get the Vulcan obsession with bowl cuts.