Saw a couple of last year’s sci-fi features over the last week.
Moon is a thoughtful, low-budget, psychological science fiction piece that, in its depiction of one man losing his marbles in the loneliness of space, put me somewhat in mind of that old classic Silent Running. Sam Rockwell turns in not one but two excellent performances as the one-man crew (if you’ve seen it you’ll know what I mean) of a power-harvesting operation on the moon, and Kevin Spacey backs up as the voice of his Hal-alike sinister robot buddy. He has but days left on his three-year contract when he starts to see things out there, and paranoia and head-fucks ensue. I’d say the outcome is actually a bit less interesting than I was hoping for, but it’s still an intelligent and affecting old-school piece
A film that seemed to deliberately avoid being either intelligent or affecting is the recent “reboot” of Star Trek. I was a huge fan of Next Generation back in the 90s, watched the whole lot of about 160 episodes within a few weeks. Occasionally, and particularly during the Lwxana Troi episodes, me and my friends would shout, “bollocks!” at the tv, but generally I loved that show. I’m also an admirer of JJ Abrams’ Lost and Cloverfield, he produces some clever, original, entertaining stuff. Plus I’d heard some very positive reports of this new take on the original Star Trek from people who really do know the difference, and so I was expecting big things.
I thought it was bad. Let me tell you why.
Star Trek always tried to be clever. It didn’t always succeed, and at its worst it spouted a lot of boring, pretentious pseudo-scientific waffle, but it was always aspirational. It aimed to gel with science, to have internal consistency, and at times it reached real heights, tackled serious science-fictional, ethical, political issues in dramatic and entertaining ways. The reboot … not so much.
Spoilers to follow.
Star Fleet Regulation 619 apparently means that any officer emotionally involved in the mission can be relieved of command. Ignoring the delightfully vague wording, how do you define emotional involvement? Once planets get all blown up and billions killed and the universe as we know it under threat surely we all get a tad emotional, no? And use of said regulation in the film? To allow utterly unqualified Kirk (whose father had been killed by the villain) to replace reasonably qualified Spock (because his mother had been killed by the villain). Wha?
A black hole is not in fact a hyper-dense collapsed star that exerts such powerful gravity that even light cannot escape from its event horizon. No. It iz kind of like a big magic mirror, like out of Zelda, which you can get dragged into and will probly go back in time though I’m not shure how far coz that’s science, but you can get away from it by TOTALLY BLOWING UP YOUR OWN WARP CORE. KABLOOOOOOOOOOW!!!!!!! It is an explosion so ace it is BLUE!!!!!!
Star Fleet is very advanced. The bridge of its latest Flagship USS Enterprise looks like WAY cool with all kinds of transparent shit and ergonomic back-friendly chairs and glowy touch buttons like on an i-phone. But its engine room looks like a soviet-era russian slime factory with big turny-turny wheels and great huge twisty pipes full of bubbly blue water.
Space battles in star trek were once a question of careful decision making and pinpoint timing, all played out within the unimaginable inky vastness of actual space. “Aft torpedoes, fire!” and all that. Proceed at quarter impulse. We all remember the classic sequence of Kirk battling Khan in the nebula, right? It was all about cunning. All slow build-up, then sudden and deadly. Phasers were precise and surgical. But why have one phaser firing when you can have ten thousand? Surely that’ll make the film … 10,000 times better! With the reboot the Enterprise can blaze away like a crap seventies lightshow at an ancient Egyptian monument. Zanger zanger zanger go the pretty fairylights!
Worst of all was the villain, Nero, who seemed to suffer from every crap-villain cliche in the crap-villain rule book. I was talking about how much I enjoyed Avatar the other day (though I seem to have these two films entirely the wrong way round by most people’s estimation), and observing that, despite it’s plotting issues, the villains were pretty convincing. I understood what they were doing and why. When looked at from the villain’s point of view, the film still made sense. Nero’s motivations made no sense, his plan made no sense, his individual actions were all completely mad, and not in a Hannibal Lector way, just in a “I can’t be arsed to work out a story that makes any sense” way. Why did his mining ship look like a thistle? Why was his mining ship so heavily armed it could annihilate a klingon armada (from the future, maybe, but could a modern supertanker defeat a fleet of World War II warships?) Why did he blame the entire federation for the destruction of Romulus? What was he doing in the 25 years between blowing up a federation ship and waiting for Spock to appear? Why did he not try to make contact with the Romulus of the past? Why all the tattoos? Why, why, why, would he maroon Spock on an ice planet to watch another planet explode when he could have kept him on his own bridge to do it, then killed him at his leisure? If you wanted to force someone to watch the destruction of earth, would you maroon them on Saturn? I am quite mad, insanely angry, and absurdly powerful, but only within certain spookily plot-helpful parameters!!! Raaaargh!!!! Even his demise was a rubbish psycho-cliche (No! I would rather die than accept help from you!) SHITTEST. VILLAIN. EVAH.
Now there were glimpses of quality through the haze. Some of the characters were very nicely played, Bones and Spock in particular (though Simon Pegg’s comic relief Scotty was neither comic nor relieving for my money), some of the effects work was nice, and I liked how it was sometimes surprisingly ruthless. There were a good few laughs too, but for me it was like sticking nice bumpers, underlighting and a flash spoiler on an old banger that just don’t go. It had the classic problem of trying to give every character their little moment regardless of whether it made a contribution to the whole. I was too distracted by reeling from one nonsensical clanger to another to ever get immersed in any of the character work or the action. There didn’t seem to be a coherent film there at all, just a load of sequences all tossed together and shot with a really irritating star filter that put sparkly horizontal flares on everything.
I mean, I’m all for a focus on entertainment, especially when converting from small screen to big, after all Star Trek’s most successful film outings have been the most action-oriented (Wrath of Khan and Undiscovered Country) and its diabolical worst the most self-consciously, pompously intellectual (I cannot speak the name of Star Trek V). And I concede that the franchise was badly in need of a reboot after the largely rubbish Voyager and Enterprise, but I don’t see why we have to so conspicuously disconnect the grey matter. Maybe if I’d seen it on the big screen I’d have been wowed by the scale, like I was with Avatar. Maybe I’ve been harsh, but I was disappointed. It’d be a shame if the sf franchise that aspired to depth and intelligence ended up as dumb and shallow as this.
Say it with me, now. Bollocks!
EDIT: It has been drawn to my attention that Adam Roberts posted an eerily similar review more than six months ago with deeper insight and better gags. Curse these ivory tower sf-hating holloway-don academic english professor types!
43 comments so far
Haven't seen moon yet,kinda reminds of an old GRMM short story called "The Second kind of lonliness". Been wanting to check it out for ages.
As for Trek, always been pompous twaddle, far more of a Red Dwarf man myself.
I've never been into Star Trek enough to get too annoyed by the plot holes in the new film. I just rented it on DVD, watched it and enjoyed it for the popcorn film it is, took the DVD back to the shop and forgot about it.
The only thing that REALLY bugged me about the film were the lens flares on EVERYTHING. That's right, capitalized! And exclaimed! Exclamated… whatever. The camera pans across the bridge and whoah, a lens flare that makes you shade your eyes emanating from the top of Chekov's pen lid or something. Pan some more and irridescent wheels of colour spinning away from the gleam on Kirk's teeth.
It was quite off-putting.
Liked Deep space 9 myself.
Enjoyed Moon as an extended Twighlight zone episode, no bad thing.
Was underwhelmed by the new Star Trek, just not very good. Galaxy Quest was a better film, infact Galaxy Quest was the best 'Star Trek' film, ever.Although First Contact for me has the most action.
This all irrelevant as Celtic were cheated again today and I'm beyond gutted.
Sounds *exactly* like Second Kind of Loneliness. Wonder if that's an official adaptation – the brief summary Joe did here is pretty much that story in a nutshell.
I didn't mind a bit of red dwarf either. Trek can be pompous as all hell, and it can be boring, and it can be risible. Pretty much all of Voyager was all three. But there were some superb episodes of Next Generation.
Having been into Start Trek doesn't help, but I'd have thought there were enough plot holes in this to make anyone who was into cogent thought slightly annoyed. And yes, the lens flares, the sparkly reflections, the star filters. It looked a bit like a high budget hip hop video.
Wrath of Khan was the best Star Trek film. It is very cold … IN SPACE …
I'm starting to wonder whether I should stop responding to your blog posts (and it's only the second one too) as I'm worried I may just come across as antagonistic and awkward, basically a curmudgeonly sod.
I really liked Star Trek. I've got to say that you may be on to something when you note that watching it on the big screen may have made a difference, I watched it at the cinema and on the IMAX.
While I can recognise most of your gripes, they don't bother me. My biggest nitpick was that phasers 'blasted' rather than 'beamed', which I had always thought was cool and different.
Moon is on my 'to buy' list, just waiting fo something else to add to it in my Amazon basket.
Just a clarification, by 'bother' I mean they don't affect me deep down in that part of the gut that governs my enjoyment of films.
Your comrade-in-arms, Adam Roberts also shared many of your Star Trek misgivings… http://bit.ly/4RRr8r
Yeah, the script was an illogical mess, but then it was written by Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman who have made millions from confusing filmgoers with scripts riddled with confusion and plot-holes, and so this was to be expected as you took your seat in the cinema.
The reason I enjoyed the movie was that it was such fun. Big, stupid, unadulterated, watch-with-a-shit-eating-grin fun!
After years of gritty reboots – Bond, Batman etc – each one darker than the last, it was great to watch a movie that wasn't afraid to have a laugh and entertain its audience. Of course, in the cold light of day it became clear that the plot made very little sense (you're right: with a movie like this, you should always plot from the villain's POV – the diabolical schemes need some sort of logic), but at least I wasn't being asked to watch and care about long and convoluted Wire-inspired discussions about Mayoral elections for a city that doesn't exist (I'm looking at you 'Dark Knight'), and in the end I was quite happy to watch Kirk and Spock blow shit up for a couple of hours.
I think that's the difference between watching on DVD at home and in a theatre full of excited movie-goers; you may well have been more won-over by the big screen experience, because you're participating in what can sometimes be mass-hysteria. You get swept along by the excitement and the noise.
That can be difficult when you're watching something in your living room on a 28" telly with one eye on the baby monitor (I'd be interested to see if you think Avatar stands the test of time when you watch it on TV/DVD).
Which got me thinking about the difference between writing for TV and cinema: can blockbuster film writers get away with dumb plotting because they're riding on a wave of hype? Do TV writers have to work harder to engage with their fickle and distracted audience?
Discuss and show your working…
RE Moon – loved the hell out of that movie. for me it was the best movie of 09. Happily it came to not just the shitty little indie theater in my town but two weeks later to the nice digital one with stadium seating. heck yes we saw it again! maybe even 2 times. i haven't read the story mentioned, am certainly curious to know, but…having seen the movie, if that story follows joe's summary then it has nothing to do with the short because his summary gave away nothing about the real plot. i am actually going to disagree with you, joe, on it not being as interesting as you hoped…it satisfied me. maybe watching it a second time made that more clear? i think it was more tragic the second time around.
RE star trek, i would take it a thousand times over avatar. at least this story was entertaining. it had about as much logic as avatar…but this one was enjoyable to watch. 🙂 also, i liked it because it wasn't afraid to have actual heroes in it. i'm worn out on the relentless anti-hero motif in EVERYTHING. (er…NOT directed at you, lol). it's only fun when only some people are doing it. i will see a sequel if they make one. but, i also saw it on the big screen AND went in with really low expectations, so, that might have made a difference too….
Why, Joe, you ought to become a movie critic! Instead of exerting strenuous brain power to create your own brilliant characters, you could just sit around and criticize other people's shitty characters! I think it's a great idea!
No really though, I completely agree with you on the Star Trek thing. And I'm kidding. Please continue to supply the world with good characters.
if you're interested, this little post from moi is tearing up our site right now. 🙂 pertinent to the discussion at hand, i promise!
As usual, I learn new plot holes whenever I read a serious review of a movie, but my favorite science confusion with Star Trek was the red matter.
Bear with me- this stuff is so powerful that one tiny drop can destroy a planet, yes? So WHY does Spock have a metric ton of the stuff in his tiny space-speeder-thingy? It was pretty as hell, but kind of pointless.
Despite that, I managed to enjoy the movie both times I watched it- on big screens, if it means anything.
Star Trek was a factory film that liked to portray itself as a new age remake. It's just another one of the dozens taking advantage of franchises that have still living fanbases. Next film The British Empire: The Flag Dilemna.
I went to see Star Trek, and you pretty much nailed it. Karl Urban's a fine actor, I think Zachary Quinto actually overacted Spock, Simon Pegg was far too English for Scottie, the list goes on.
And I loved Star Trek: Enterprise…I feel dirty just for saying that.
Comment away. You can always disagree with me. Just be aware that it does make you, by definition, wrong.
By the heavens, he already wrote the same review I did. I guess my feeling is that fun vs. making sense is a false choice. You can do both, and there was just no need for a film to have such yawning plot holes as this. But as Adam says, it wasn't so much the nonsensical plot as the portrayal of a nonsensical Star Fleet and, indeed, a nonsensical universe that really grated on me.
Oh, I can do both.
A lot of people have chosen Star Trek over Avatar, but by god I disagree about the logic. By god I do. Still, of course you are entitled to your (clearly mistaken) opinion.
Ashamed to say there are four films on your best of list I haven't seen. I'll have to take some of those in, though the reviews of The Fountain I've read said it was worse than the worstest thing ever, so I might have to take a rain check on that one…
Red matter. Pffft.
You should feel dirty. The best thing about Enterprise was its theme music. Which gives you some idea how whack the rest was.
I always enjoyed how the original show and Next Generation series tried to make the invented science ring true. But the rebooted movie made no such concession.
The Red Matter has been mentioned. I was also baffled by the existence of a giant red carnivorous insect on an ice world; I'd like someone to explain the environmental pressures that lead to that evolutionary solution!
And then there are the procedural stupidities. Joe mentioned the ridiculous way command is essentially passed to a stowaway.
It also frustrated me immensely that when three men skydived on a sabotage mission, only one carried explosives. What where the other two hoping to achieve, emotional support? And guess which one doesn't survive the dive… Stupid plot device.
Maybe it helped that i have never been a big Star Trek fan or that interested in Sci-Fi's (sometimes) over-complicated attempts to ruin a good story (Iain Banks, Consider Pheblas is the only Sci-Fi novel i haven't put down and stamped on).
I absolutely loved the film, but then i just went with it and didn't watch it with a critical eye. It was Star Trek minus pertentious bollocks, which, for me = 'great'!
But, I'm sure your points are very valid for any 'real' sci-fan.
Joe, for me the logic of avatar was more in the set-up which felt insultingly artificial, and the implication that it was a happy ending. All whitey did was seal the doom of the entire race by inciting them to fight back. Sure, maybe they were going to be left alone for 12 years…but then they would be annihilated.
but that wasn't really why i'm recommenting, lol.
The fountain got a lot of flack because it is an abstract film. If you can enjoy a movie for visuals alone (which your love for avatar proves you can) then you should watch it just for those. if you are also the sort of person who can enjoy an open text that you have to think about to get much sense of, then you'll probably enjoy it. I loved it. but I tend to be pretty intellectual and abstract, and a lot of people–including movie critics–aren't. So. but I honestly think it's one that everyone needs to decide for themselves about. you may hate it. fair enough. but you might love it. 🙂
@jens – aesthetic differences between us? let's agree to disagree…
Really? If you preferred Avatar, then I wouldn't have thought story would have been too big of a concern for you.
Pretty, pretty, pew, pew, pew.
I think Star Trek was great for the expendable crew-man alone.
The procedural stupidities were so many that it seemed to be set in a parallel dimension of dumb. A good example I didn't mention – Uhura is asigned to a ship other than the enterprise, demands Spock reassign her, and he immediately does so with a flick of his holotablet. 1- would the logical Spock not have gone for the best candidate, presumably realising that to pick a worse one would draw more attention to his illicit relationship than the alternative? 2 – would the logical Spock, having decided, change his mind so easily? 3 – does the enterprise now have an extra communications officer while another ship does without, or what? As soon as you thought about any decision made by anyone in authority for longer than a microsecond, it made no sense. Star Fleet was like a school playground in which everyone did whatever they wanted. Now you could say the above example was amusing, said something about the personalities of the two characters and their fledgling relationship, but surely you can achieve those things in a way that makes some sense?
I agree the lack of pretentious bollocks was no bad thing, it was just a shame about the non-pretentious bollocks they used to fill its place…
It's true I did enjoy the scene of the vulcan first officer (name forgotten) and the engineer (name forgotten) greasing each other. I stopped after that.
Yeah, the happy ending bit of Avatar grated on me too, and there were a couple of other things that didn't totally convince, but overall I didn't feel it had anywhere near the level of plot unbelievability that Star Trek suffered from. It's all subjective, of course, but for me the universe of Star Trek reboot didn't feel even faintly real – in people's behaviour, in the science, in the way the organisations functioned, in any aspect of the plotting. Broadly speaking, Avatar did seem real to me.
If you preferred Star Trek then I wouldn't have thought higher brain function would have been too big of a concern for you.
YEAH! In your FACE!
Also, I'm curious – what were the other 3 you hadn't seen?
I do think that you maybe being overly harsh and critical.
I can understand all your points and in some way agree but I think what Abrams was going for was a reboot of Star Trek. A way to make the film appealing to a new audience and to do that he dummed it down somewhat.
I think the best part of the film was the matches they got for the characters.
I sometimes think the best success of this film is that it gives us a chance to redo Kirk and Spocks adventures completely different and I for one think thats exciting.
You have to remember that most fans and critics universally panned Star Trek: The Motion Picture, and it wasn't the best as that is universally accepted to be Wrath of Khan. I'm thinking history may repeat itself again!
Code 46 (never even heard of that one), Solaris, and Sunshine.
The financial success of the film certainly indicates that he's succeeded in appealing to a broad audience, and kudos for that because the franchise seemed pretty much dead and buried. It seems likely there'll now be more films and I hope they make a lot more sense than this one. Believe me, I'll be cheering if they do. As far as being overly critical goes, I can only express my opinion and say why. I didn't enjoy it. It made no sense.
I suppose that saying you were being overly harsh and critical is kind of ignoring your right to have an opinion. I think it is also interesting that having really enjoyed Star Trek and recommended it to many people, that I found your arguments impossible to ignore. This is why I love reading blogs and peoples opinions, especially of my favourite authors.
I take it, from your post, that you are not a "die-hard" trek fan who watched every series to death, regardless if it was actually any good? I ask this because despite there being a lot of good, intelligent and interesting concepts explored in TNG none of the others were ever as good in that regard (however much I love them, except Enterprise, which was just plain awful despite some actors best efforts). The Original Series was not much more than swashbuckling adventure in space with a different coloured alien in every port for Kirk. I think that this film managed to capture the essence of that part of the Star Trek mythos.
I think you hit the nail on the head with Trek being dead (sadly) before this film. Although you may not have liked it at least you can understand the potential many see in this. I think it is this potential and the right chord that this film showed that won many people over. Regardless of a plot so full of holes it should have sunk with barely a ripple.
A final word on that is that a lot of Sci-Fi is full of plot holes and because we "suspend-disbelief" we mostly ignore it.
It's always nice to see an author reply to comments on his blog, thank you for that.
I think I can understand why poor plotting grates so much for you considering how well plotted your novels are. Thank you for writing such wonderful books. I'm thoroughly enjoying Before They Are Hanged.
I take your points about Trek on board and yes there were some giant plot holes but overall I actually preferred Trek to Avatar. I recently saw Avatar recently in 3D (bear with me it is relevant), which unfortunately didn't wow me at all. It's been years, maybe decades, since I saw a film in 3D, and if I was ever going to see one it had to be Avatar. Sadly, apart from the odd fern in my face or mosquito, the 3D added bugger all to my movie experience. Anyway, the film itself, while an amazing visual feast, while entertaining, exciting and awesome for the big screen, is nothing new at all. Don't get me wrong, I really enjoyed it, and seeing it at home on TV is not going to be the same, unless I sit really close to my TV in a dark room and wrap speakers around my head. Even then it won't really compare. Avatar is basically at its core a remake, it is Dances With Wolves. In fact, swap out Blue seven foot Indians for Red Indians and you're there. Swap Sam Worthington and Zoe Saldana for Kevin Costner and Mary McDonnell and it’s the same film. Right down to him becoming one of the tribe and going native etc. Ok, so one is in space and one Earth, but it’s the same story. As a writer I'm surprised you enjoyed it as much as you did, since it was very predictable. If you can switch off that writer persona part of your brain, suspend your disbelief and natural cynicism and just enjoy the visual feast, then I agree, it is very entertaining, it sucks you into this fun alien world and you're away on a wild action adventure. Which is exactly what I experienced with Trek as well.
I’m a big fan of Trek overall and Next Gen, not enough to tell you episode names and stuff, but I can point out Worf in a line-up if pressed. The new film wasn't my Trek, it wasn't old Baldy, sorry, Sir Baldy, bringing literature, classical music and culture to the ignorant alien masses (and it hasn't really been since First Contact to be honest) but it was a version of Trek and something we've also seen before through a different lens. Twice in fact.
If I were a giant nerd, I could point out all the parallels between Khan and Nero, and even the Nemesis villain Shinzon and Nero. It was a revenge story really at its core, Khan blamed Kirk for the death of his wife, Nero blamed Spock for the death of his wife…and his planet. Both films have doomsday devices deployed by the villain etc. and so on. Is the new Trek film better than Khan? Hmm, not sure. It has been a while since I saw Khan but its not miles better than the new film for me.
Oh, and avoid The Fountain. It looks amazing but it’s utter nonsense. I was sucked in by the trailer, but the film is just a giant pile of brown stuff. Stick to Firefly and then Serenity.
New Bond? Pffffft, yeah right, don't get me started, who wants to see that gap-toothed gypsy pretending to be suave and sophisticated. He can't even spell it.
LOL! I am an astrophysics student and I grew up wastching The Next Generation. Most of the time it was greatly enjoyable, however, there was the occasional moment when I too shouted at the screen. Most of the science wasn't unconcievable or beyound the realms of possibility.
I went to see the new film on the big screen and whilst I was impressed by the scale, I did indeed shout "BOLLOCKS!" at the top of my voice more than once. I mean my eight year old nephew seems to know more about physics and gravity than these guys!
I was truly dissapointed with their disregard for science and totally agree that they should put all the science back in!
I really appreciated the act the you hated the Star Trek redux. Despite the fact that I loved the film and was a huge fan of both the original '60s show as well as NexGen (but no so much the Deep Space 9, et al), I applaud you pointing out the obvious flaws (except Pegg's Scotty) in logic, science and character development. Typically I find such flaws to be obvious insults to my intelligence (such as that is), but there are times that I completely suspend my disbelief and allow myself to be thoroughly entertained.
As for Moon, I initially hadn't planned to watch it due to what seemed to be an obviously derivative story, but with your praise will instead give it a view.
yeah, me again… that first sentence should have read: "I really appreciated the fact that you hated the Star Trek redux."
It sure would be helpful if I were able to look up from the keys while typing. Either that or go back and read what I've written before posting.
I have to disagree about the villains in Avatar and Trek. In Avatar, the villains were what made the movie weakest for me, because their actions made very little sense to me and lacked any strategy, and the dialogue was so completely corny, it caused me to wince. It was basically the Colonel having an Apocalypse Now moment. Whereas the crazed miner was, well, crazy. He blamed the Federation and Spock for the death of his wife and planet, and spent 25 years arming his mining ship, chasing after red Jello, and plotting an elaborate revenge. (The tatoos, I assume, were because the make-up people thought they were pretty.)
Not that Trek didn't have massive plot holes and ridiculous science. If you're going to trash the movie, the red Jello has to be up there at the front. Sending Spock to the ice planet did indeed make little sense in the villain's plan, as did shipping Kirk down to the exact same outpost which also conveniently had Scotty, the guy who could actually make the Enterprise work after bouncing through its blue tubes. There are many, many things in Trek that don't make sense. There are also many, many things in Avatar that don't make sense.
Both are pretty movies that make up for it in other ways, Trek with getting the characters more or less right but giving them interesting twists, using a traditional Trek lets change time reboot method and having lots of fun action, and Avatar with phenomenal, next stage of evolution film effects. But I can't give either of them an A for stories that make sense. Or even a B.
Boy, I really hated Star Trek too. For all the reasons you mention. As time passes though, I think the thing that bothers me most is how much they misunderstood Kirk. Kirk is not Han Solo. In the original series, Kirk is GOOD at his job. He's a martinet – regular army through and through. Kirk doesn't have a problem with authority. He is the authority. He the best captain in Starfleet because he's talented and he respects that talent. He breaks rules because he's not willing to let men die. Not because he holds his superiors in contempt. He's much more of Horatio Hornblower, than Han Solo.
This is why I fear, even if the sequel has tighter plotting and better science, that it will still fail to be Star Trek. They don't understand the characters.
I agree with you that TNG was very much the high point. As for suspension of disbelief, that's a fragile thing and can be easily destroyed by massive plot clangers and stupid behaviour on the part of the characters.
People talk a lot about the pretty visuals on avatar, and I think they slightly miss the achievement there, which is a fusion of effects work, camerawork, editing and design on a level I've certainly never seen approached before, and to present a fully realised alien world with a level of detail I've never seen approached before. I didn't have to "suspend my natural cynicism", the filmmakers did that for me (as the makers of Star Trek egregiously failed to do). The plot's certainly a hoary old chestnut – pretty much the same one as Dune or Man Called Horse let alone Dances With Wolves, but so what? To say there's nothing new about it as a film … that ain't the way I felt.
And not unrelatedly, KatG,
Ultimately it's a subjective thing, Star Trek obviously worked better for you and you're a long way from alone on that. I agree Avatar was far from perfect in the plot department. I'd give it maybe a C for plotting and general believability. I'd give Star Trek about an H. I wasn't aware of stonking plot holes, wonky science or organisational stupidities on anywhere near the level of Star Trek while watching Avatar. And Avatar had huge compensations of unprecedented technical splendour and great action that Star Trek, for me, didn't. It's often a fine line between being drawn into a film and not being. Between making that suspension of disbelief or failing, and given that both are big screen slap-you-in-the-face kind of pictures, a lot of that may be due to big screen vs small screen, but ultimately Avatar kept me gripped and immersed throughout. With Star Trek every time a gag or a bit of good character work (and Bones really was very good) evinced a smile, it would turn into a wince a minute later at some unbelievable clanger. I would have enjoyed Spock a lot more if the plot had not required the super-logical genius to frequently behave like an eleven year old child.
I guess they're trying to show a different Kirk who grew up without the influence of his father, and I guess that's an intriguing idea – I guess if they're going to reboot it's fair and perhaps necessary that they should present different interpretations of the characters. So my problem wasn't necessarily with Kirk being a reckless maverick, it was with him being such a selfish prick to boot. Han Solo is a maverick but he's a good guy. I never got that feeling about new Kirk. Here is a man who steals someone else's rightful command by goading him about his recently dead mother. Worse yet, everyone seems to, by-and-large, approve. If I wanted to be really unkind I could say the film seems to celebrate reckless prickish individuality as the best way to behave. That's not Trek, man.
Was anyone else bothered with the fact that some 200 year old Vulcan was the one saving ROMULAS? Really? Romulans were always great villians, in some respected better than Klingons because they could be cold rutheless bastards. So why, to set up this WHOLE movie, do we make the Romulans backwater pussies, who can't fly a ship to a star their damn selves? And it's not like they didn't have some warning. Where the hell is the Romulan fleet evacuating the population? It pissed me off and pulled me out of the movie.
On the whole, I appreciate rebooting the series. It needed it, and could do better without all the history weighing it down. I liked the new actors, and thought they did a better job than any of the original caste. And Karl Urban is sexy.
Karl Urban was very good. It was quite an achievement that he managed to be all big, butch, and sexy while at the same time being eerily reminiscent of Sylvester McCoy who was small, sleight, and not sexy at all. I think it helped greatly that he was more or less the only character entirely excluded from the zone of stupid. The way in which he acquired his position, and his behaviour in it, actually made sense! Quite an achievement on the part of the scriptwriters….
You're right, the visual aspects of Avatar were definitely a unique achievement that we've not seen before in the cinema and I shouldn't have underplayed them or all that Cameron did. Even so, I had to bury my natural cynicism to get beyond seven foot blue cgi figures, ignore and shelve what some parts of my brain were telling me, so that I could just enjoy it.
Maybe Trek did it for me more easily because it was a familiar landscape and I knew what they were roughly about. Happy to agree to disagree….but only if you admit to being wrong! 🙂
Bits of Trek that annoyed me – lens flares, Chekov's accent joke went on for far too long, the adult Kirk succeeded only in getting his arse kicked, not beating up others which seemed odd. Where was the famous Kirk take down where he instantly beats three men at once by leaping across them horizontally?
Joe- Sylvester McCoy not sexy!?
Different strokes for different folks I suppose. I suppose your not enamoured of Colin Baker either.
Forgive me, deForest Kelley. I ventured into the zone of stupid myself for a moment there.
And I have no significant opinion on Colin Baker.
i just read your books over christmas break, and after reading the books i found out about this site and i read your opinions on avatar and startrek.
i'd like to know what you think of a movie called layer cake, it isnt sci fi, but since you loved the wire so much i figure this movie wont waste your time; not to compare the wire and this movie, just saying.
if you do watch it just respond to this comment please, (or if youve already seen it) im curious.
Yeah, saw Layer Cake some time ago – the Daniel Craig one, right? It struck me as an above average attempt at a British gangster flick.
Snowed In Swindon Nick,
Haven't seen Holmes yet. Sherlock Holes sounds like an entirely different kind of take on the source material. What a difference an 'm' makes…
BtW Colin Baker once threatened to sit on a co-worker of mine.
Electronic Boutiques in Swindon of all places. Its a strange and disturbing world.
I liked some of the performances in the new STAR TREK movie, but overall it was a mess. Abrams and his writers seem to put spectacle ahead of logic, which is always a bad idea.
STAR TREK certainly has a history of magic science macguffins like the Genesis Device, but in ST2 at least we got a sweet instructional video on how it works and what it exactly it was supposed to do. The red matter in the new movie was basically fairy dust that would cause/solve problems just because the script said so.
A bit of trivia for trekkies, and evidence that the cheesiness of the original series continues. All the which purported to be in the Enterprise engine room were shot in the boiler room of an old steam electric station. The heavily supported pipes, concrete floor, and plastic tanks for chemical additives added a "steampunk" aura to the film.
I'm glad you didn't like Star Trek, Joe. My friend and I saw it and were very disappointed, and I was feeling very much in the minority. Your similar feelings help a lot!