Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Yeah, it hurts, but so do tetanus shots [Rant]

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.


LoquaciousMuse said...

Well said, Eruditechick. I should feel this way about Y: The Last Man, but I don't want them to mess it up!! Still, I guess better any Y movie than no Y movie.

Agreed about the costumes. I giggle to think how next Halloween there are gonna 87,000 Rorshachs in storebought Rorshach costumes. WE'RE TAKING OVER.

I think Trek has in its favor the fact that it's so dated, because that alone will make the film stand out. The footage has a modern, but classic feel to it, that no other francise (that I can think of) has. I wouldn't be surprised if the movie brings mod back into style...unless mod is already back in style. I don't really pay attention to those things.

But bottom line, this is bringing attention to Star Trek, making it accessible for a whole new generation and at the end of the day, is that really such a terrible thing? I think not.

david said...

i never loved nobody fully, always one foot on the... wait, where was i? oh, thats right, fidelity. i love loquacious muse dearly and her blog delights me to no end, but i don't necessarily agree with some of the avenues of thought down which her passionate fandom sometimes directs her. and by "some" i mean one, and by "one" i mean the absurd and vaguely biblical regard that she and her geek brethren share for fidelity to source material when it comes to the adaptations of their favorite properties. historically, cleaving to source texts in light of altered circumstances is never a good idea (see: constitutional originalists, evangelical christians, etc..), and it smothers logic yet again in the arena of graphic novels on the cusp of cinematic stardom.

now, i'll make this short because i don't want miss muse to teleport a 5th-dimensional squid into my room or anything (though the image of her standing in the kitchen - face scrunched with futility - is adorable) and i unabashedly admire / share her love for this culture, but... i just fundamentally don't understand why fans clamor for a panel-by-panel recreation of their favorite graphic novels. actually, allow me to rephrase - in the event where a property wouldn't benefit from being tailored to the cinematic medium (i.e. watchmen), i can't fathom why a fan would WANT said property to undergo that process. cynicism alert - watchmen is being made for exactly one reason: MONEY. there's a perfect storm of financial potential afoot for the hallowed novel, and thus the project was fast-tracked from the limbo in which it has resided since the early 90s. now, as anyone who appreciates the novel will tell you, it makes, um, novel and dynamic use of the graphic novel medium like few works have before or since. it does so both actively (a structure unique to the format both in arcs and individual chapters) and REACTIVELY (how it relies on enduring tropes and mores of the genre to provide pathos for its characters and delight its readers... tip of the hat to ozymandias' big reveal). so with those two qualities being forcibly omitted in the conversion, and with a story so airtight that to tweak it in any further way would be devastating to the foundations of the narrative... all that's left is to do a frame-by-frame recreation and hope that bringing still images to life is enough. well, it's not. not by a long shot. 300 was approached with the same mentality, and the few invigorating moments in that otherwise putrid and superfluous film came as a result of pure kinetics - action beats and the forward momentum of so much testosterone brewing into something occasionally invigorating... the only moments it succeeded were the moments where it abandoned pretense and purely became a cinema of attraction. now... watchmen will be anything but. it's a vastly more cerebral work, and will likely gain absolutely nothing just by virtue of taking a new form (and to add insult to injury, the whole plastic, clean feeling of the footage thus far has stripped the novel of its filthy, grimy atmosphere that was so integral to rorschach's philosophy).

so the other argument is that it will spread the gospel, and that people will take notice of one of your favorite things. is it really worth the flagrant disrespect of something you love so that the masses take notice? as far as means and ends go... this whole thing feels like something that ozymandias cooked up and that the watchmen would be fighting against. all watchmen hysteria would accomplish is the intellectual dilution of a tremendous property. i dunno bout everyone else, but i kinda like that talking to someone about watchmen involves an implicit respect and mutual understanding that the person to whom i'm speaking is wise and worldly enough to have sought out such an interesting piece of fiction, or at least a feeling of shared sensibilities... it's a genuine community (which is at the very heart of fandom), and i don't think that paying to see some (INCREDIBLE) actor dress up as rorschach... something my the graphic novel enabled my imagination to be perfectly capable of... is worth all that loss.

conversely, there's the case of Y: the last man. now here's a property i flat out don't get. i could only stomach the first two volumes, and find vaughn's writing (particularly his dialogue) to be juvenile and forced in all the worst ways... combined with hollow scenarios and the most nauseating protagonist since shia lebouf starred in... anything shia lebouf starred in. that being said, a lot of people effing love this stuff, and that's fine by me. but here's the tricky part... if i had to choose between either Y or Watchmen to be made into films, i'd choose Y in a heartbeat. here's a story that is rife with potential thanks to a wonderful premise and that - in my estimation - was marred by shoddy execution. moreover, from what wikipedia tells me... the general story seems rather well thought-out, even if the ingredients rubbed me the wrong way. soooooo here we have a story that - because of it's relative size and scope when compared to something like watchmen - can afford / must make some of trims and omissions to find a pace that best fits it's new medium. it's the kind of thing that - if i were to adapt - i would keep the basic characters and their fundamental destination and eliminate a lot of the silly and excessive verbal sniping and scattershot plotting while retaining the flippant nature and everyman qualities of our hero and his quest. a lot of tasty things can be made with so many ingredients, and... as alone as i might be on this... i think it's the kind of project that would be best handled by someone who has a love for good stories, but doesn't feel bound to the particulars of THIS story. well... okay, so i haven't read them all and so my opinion on this matter is worthless, but would you rather have something slavish and serviceable (i.e. the harry potter films.. of which the 5th and longest book resulted in the shortest and best film) or something that takes the basics and rhythms of previously published material and uses the tools unique to the cinematic medium for something that was previously impossible (spiderman 2, and kind of the dark knight)????

so, this wasn't short. at all. and don't get me wrong... i will be there at midnight on march 9th (if not before) and be more than happy to eat some delicious crow, because if i'm gonna devote almost 3 hours of my life to something i obviously want it to be time well spent... i'm just trying to wrap my head around some things. one thing i DO know is that if Y the last man actually happens... the effing monkey BETTER be real.

LoquaciousMuse said...

I get what you're saying and you know if the edits and alterations are done well and make sense, I'm okay with it. For Y that is. But if what DJ has suggested so far is any indication -- I'm nervous. It seems like he wants to change shit up for the purpose of making y: the last man more like something he is capable of directing rather than changing shit so that the medium of film is used to its fullest potential. You sees what I'm saying?

Now if Y were made into a TV show by someone capable, I would want a bunch of the storylines from the comics to be used, but I'd want way more too. If it's gonna be ongoing and they expect me to watch every week, it would need more what's on the page. If Gossip Girl were EXACTLY the same as the book every week, wouldn't those who've actually read the books aka the property's biggest fans, get bored?

All I got for nowz

EruditeChick said...

David, what the hell, man, put that shit under the Y the Last Man post.

Now, re: Y the Last Man. If you look at Muse's post, she lays out five easy to follow guidelines that would make the movie(s) not suck. No story survives a translation to an other medium intact. It can't, literally cannot, because it's being translated. The sheer act means that something's going to change or be lost or be added. So that's a given.

However, there are ways of changing something a lot but doing justice to where it comes from as opposed to changing everything and ending up with crap that has a familiar name posted on it. League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, anyone?

Y the Last Man is... expansive. It's a five season tv show. On HBO. Y is a huge undertaking. Can you put all that on film? No. Most of the issues could easily span multiple installments to tell them. Can't be done.

But certain things, like- not casting your cash cow by default in the title role when he's wrong for it, or, not turning a character into a plot device or, not lobotomizing a complex and interesting plot for a dime-a-dozen race-against-time Hollywood plot that doesn't fit the material at all, these are not just reasonable requests from a fan, but they are beyond reasonable demands from a member of the movie going audience.

It's bad enough directors still try to force hackneyed, trite, common and predictable action flicks down our throats. It's just plain fucking offensive that they'd want to use a work like Y the Last Man to do so.

LoquaciousMuse said...

Mmmm, EruditeChick should be my ghostwriter

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오피 said...

You're so interesting! I don't suppose I've read anything like this before.
So great to find someone with a few unique thoughts on this issue.
Seriously.. many thanks for starting this up. This site is something that is needed on
the internet, someone with some originality!