Is J.J. Abams "Star Trek" Sustainable?

Discussion in 'Star Trek Movies XI+' started by Danger Ace, Apr 17, 2013.

  1. Danger Ace

    Danger Ace Commander Red Shirt

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    Yes, seriously. In terms of variety of stories that were told the old Trek looks to be superior to what Abrams is giving us. I don't feel that anyone could argue that he has given us "Star Trek"-lite so far, and by definition that means less than what we were given before.

    Not everyone thinks a great time at the theater is to stare wide-eyed and slobbering at the screen as they're assaulted with one bombastic CGI sequence after another.

    That, of course, is just my opinion.
     
    Last edited: Apr 21, 2013
  2. Greg Cox

    Greg Cox Admiral Premium Member

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    I'm curious. When you say you want "hope and celebration," what kind of story are you advocating?

    I mean, sure, Trek is no dystopia, but, as far back as the original series, there's always been plenty of jeopardy, drama, conflict, and heartbreak. Remote colonies and outposts get wiped out by exotic menaces. Hostile aliens threaten the crew. The Enterprise is on the verge of blowing up in five minutes. Kirk needs kill his best friend to save his ship. Joan Collins has to be thrown under a bus . . . .

    Last time I checked, all those redshirts didn't die from an excess of "hope and celebration." The Final Frontier can be a very dangerous place . . . and that's always been reflected in the shows and movies.

    Seriously, how do you translate abstract notions like "hope and celebration" into an engrossing adventure or drama? By throwing in lots of inspirational speeches? By avoiding conflict and disaster? I admit, I'm not sure what sort of plot you're advocating, as opposed to something that puts our heroes through the wringer.

    "Hope and celebration" are something you save for the end of the story. But first you need to test your heroes by putting them through hell . . ..
     
  3. horatio83

    horatio83 Commodore Commodore

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    Need sounds a bit strong. There are many options to tell a story and as we already got a coming of age story last time I am not too eager to see the main characters go through hell again. Although this is of course most likely what will happen.

    You can also tell a story in which somebody learns something without going through hell. Worf learned quite a lot in The Drumhead in a fairly abstract manner (as we often do in real life) and Kirk learned quite a lot in TWOK. OK, he did go through hell but the key scene in TWOK, the death of Scotty's nephew, was intense but didn't permeate the movie. You had to keep Kirk's failure in mind to empathize with him, it wasn't as "loud" as e.g. Picard smashing his little ships.
     
  4. Greg Cox

    Greg Cox Admiral Premium Member

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    Well, there was more than one intense scene in Wrath of Khan. The Enterprise took a major beating, Chekov got an eel in his ear, Tyrell committed suicide, Khan murdered and tortured the scientists at the space station (offscreen), Spock died, Khan's entire crew died violently,and, in general, things were pretty grim through most of the movie. Heck, Kirk's own son attacked him--which Kirk took pretty hard. Nobody was having a good time, not even Khan.

    The point being, I'm not sure anyone would say that WoK went out of its way to be hopeful and celebratory or whatever. And the trailers for the film played up the danger and action and suspense--as trailers tend to do.

    Anyway, I don't want to start tabulating the number of Bad Things that happen in such-and-such movies and TV shows. My main point is that, in general, it's not uncommon for Star Trek stories to have the characters, the ship, and the Federation in deep trouble--because who wants to hear about that pleasant, upbeat mission where everything went smoothly and nobody broke a sweat? :)

    Would people still be talking about "City on the Edge of Forever" if Edith Keeler had lived happily ever after? Or "Balance of Terror" if Kirk and the Romulan Commander had simply shook hands and gone their separate ways?

    Heck, the last ep I watched was "Let That Be Your Last Battlefield"--which ended on a very somber note, with Bele and Lokai doomed to eternal hatred on a dead, lifeless world littered with unburied bodies.

    Star Trek is not just "hope and celebration." It's frequently warped "Into Darkness," as it were.
     
  5. horatio83

    horatio83 Commodore Commodore

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    But TWOK ended quite optimistically. I really like this aspect of Meyer's work, he seem so militaristic and dark on the first glance but there is always a bright ending and you realize that the guy is not really somebody who is antithetical to Roddenberry. He does the same stuff but, as you said, first everybody has to go through hell.
    This usage of contrasts leads to a much more refined notion of paradise and utopia. It is feasible but constantly threatened, you have to strive and fight for it the entire time. Not just out there but also, to use TUC and FC as examples, in yourself. You think you are a nice guy and before you can say Kobayashi Maru you are on record as a racist. But you straighten yourself out before it is too late. Trek can be utterly dark but never cynical.
     
  6. Greg Cox

    Greg Cox Admiral Premium Member

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    And what makes you think that the new movie isn't going to end on an upbeat note, like KHAN or TUC or the last movie for that matter? I seem to recall that the 2009 movie ended with Kirk taking command of the ship, the crew working smoothly together, and the Enterprise warping off into space . . . just like the endings of TMP, TUC, etc. Nothing new or cynical about that.

    Just because Earth is attacked in the trailer doesn't mean the movie is darker and more cynical than, say, the time the Gorn massacred that colony on Cestus Something. Heck, even the whale probe and V'Ger menaced Earth.

    And, personally, I've never thought Trek was supposed to be about "paradise" or "utopia." Things are better in the future, sure, but they aren't perfect and life isn't always easy--especially out on the Final Frontier.

    "Risk is our business," remember? And Kirk is many things, but he is not a Boy Scout--or a saint.
     
  7. Admiral Buzzkill

    Admiral Buzzkill Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    No. What you call "variety" is not congruent with quality.
     
  8. horatio83

    horatio83 Commodore Commodore

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    I talked about Trek in general, not about ST09. But if you wanna know, yes, ST09 did have an untolerable and inexcusable cynical moment; when Spock basically said that he wanted revenge for mummy. Orci took so mnay ingredients from TWOK but missed the key idea about the futility or rather self-harming nature of revenge.

    Trek is most definitely an utopia. That is its key defining feature. As I just described, utopia has nothing to do with a static paradise or a naive vision and more to do with the everyday struggle to improve and it doesn't exclude what you called 'going through hell'.
     
  9. DCR

    DCR Commander Red Shirt

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    I always thought Trek was about entertainment that also made you think.

    As for Into Darkness, while I don't like everything about the reboot, I have a very simple plan: I'm going to watch the movie and then decide if it's any good. I expect it will be, but I won't know if I like it until I see it.

    On the flip side, I won't know if I hate it until I see at least some of it, either.
     
  10. Admiral Buzzkill

    Admiral Buzzkill Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    In fact, that's exactly what Utopia is.

    TOS was not utopian.
     
  11. Greg Cox

    Greg Cox Admiral Premium Member

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    Gotta disagree with you there. The original series was much more about exploring strange new worlds and encountering exotic alien life-forms than painting a picture of utopia. Heck,we never even saw 23rd century Earth in TOS or really heard much about how it worked. Just the occasional bit of lip service about how mankind had progressed since the bad old days.

    To my mind, there's a difference between optimistic and "utopian." Trek stands out because, unless most scifi series, it's not set in some dystopian, post-apocalyptic future where robot cyborg gorillas have taken over. It's set in a future that works, where humanity didn't blow up and get conquered by alien invaders, but when you go back and look at the original episodes, they're mostly about running into salt vampires and sexy female androids and Doomsday Machines and so on. Sure, there's the occasional speech about how much humanity has grown, but that wasn't the gist of the episode. And we were just as often told that humanity was still a half-savage child race with a long way to go.

    TOS was actually very suspicious of seeming utopias. Pretty much every time Kirk ran into some "perfect" world, there usually turned out to be an evil computer or mind-warping virus involved! Utopias always seemed to involved sacrificing some degree of humanity . . .

    But I digress. Bottom line: to my mind, STAR TREK is primarily about exploring the Final Frontier, not some portraying some vaguely-described utopia back home.

    Just look at the opening spiel. It begins "These are the voyages of Starship Enterprise," NOT "Welcome to the Utopian World of the future . . ."
     
  12. horatio83

    horatio83 Commodore Commodore

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    Cruising on a spaceship through the galaxy with the former enemy and the current enemy on board while there is peace on earth was definitely an utopian notion in the sixties and it is still utopia today.
    Democracy has been an utopia several centuries ago, a totally lunatic and unrealistic idea and frm a contemporary perspective I think consider the idea of a United earth to be even more crazy and unbelievable than democracy was e.g. in the sixteenth century.

    Utopia is in a very literal sense a nonexisting place that becomes real once enough people start to believe in it (and act on this belief).


    Of course TOS was critical of totalitarian end of history utopias. But gee, there was a black woman on the bridge. If this wasn'T utopian in a time when virtually all black women on TV were maids I don't know what is. Uhura even inspired a black woman to become an astronaut so there have even some admittedly fairly trivial real world implications. But it still made some people change their minds.

    Now I am totally with you when you say drama above all. But there is no real conflict as the utopian element of Trek is, as you just pointed out, just the background for the stories. As I tried to point out earlier, Trek's bright vision can go hand in hand with the darkest stories. Kirk's darkest hour has certainly been his racism in TUC and the overcoming of this error is the optimistic Trekkish atmosphere.
    But I am not with you when you falsely claim that Trek is just an arbitrary adventure sci-fi franchise. The line from Archer in my signature shows that adventure, exploration of the human soul and optimism all belong into the mix that makes Trek.
     
    Last edited: Apr 22, 2013
  13. BillJ

    BillJ Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    Spock was expressing his grief. We often say things that we have no intention of carrying out in moments of grief. Spock is half-human.
     
  14. Therin of Andor

    Therin of Andor Admiral Admiral

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    Exactly. Did people care when "Forbidden Planet" remade "The Tempest" without even giving Shakespeare a screen credit? Does it make FP any less exciting for those who start realising how things might pan out as the film races to its climax?

    When "Elaan of Troyius" paid homage to Helen of Troy and "The Taming of the Shrew"?

    Or any number of films and TV shows that have based themselves upon "Romeo and Juliet"?

    Didn't JJ Abrams' ST 2009 also end optimistically? Spock Prime was off to assist the quest for New Vulcan. Young Spock and Uhura still had each other, and Spock was on better terms with Sarek than Spock Prime had been at that age. Scotty and Keenser were finally off the ice planet and snug in Engineering. And Kirk had just inherited the Enterprise from Pike.
     
    Last edited: Apr 22, 2013
  15. Coloratura

    Coloratura Snuggle Princess Premium Member

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    No, they didn't.

    TMP) Somewhat cerebral. Mostly a 2001 knockoff. Illia in a ridiculously short skirt.
    TWOK) Revenge. Explosions. Getting old. KHAAAAAAAN! A FUCK TON of Pew!Pew!
    TSFS) GE-NE-SIS?! Kirk's son killed. Get out! Get out of there! Lots of Pew!Pew!
    TVH) They are not the hell your whales. One damn minute, Admiral.
    TFF) Three boobed cat stripper. Sha-ka-ree. Lots of Pew!Pew!
    TUC) Racism. Cold War. Shakespeare. Lots of Pew!Pew!
    GEN) Fantasy land. Duras Sisters. Enterprise go Boom. Lots of Pew!Pew!
    FC) BOOM! Sweaty Borg. Sexual healing. Drunks. A METRIC FUCK TON of Pew!Pew!
    INS) Face lift. Forced relocation. F. Murray Abraham on a couch. Lots of poorly paced Pew!Pew!
    NEM) Dune buggy. Mentally deficient android. Slowly moving doom device. Lots of random Pew!Pew!

    I have highlighted two of the most popular pre-JJ Trek movies in the fandom.
    Trek was an action franchise from the second movie installment onward. To suggest otherwise is to completely ignore everything beyond The Motion Picture.
     
  16. Admiral Buzzkill

    Admiral Buzzkill Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    TWOK didn't end particularly optimistically. "Wistfully," is more like it.

    Of course, the shot of the coffin on Genesis was tacked on after Meyer was done.
     
  17. Nerys Myk

    Nerys Myk The Real Me Premium Member

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    Don't forget they pew pewwed the asteroid in the wormhole in TMP. And the transporter accident,
     
  18. Greg Cox

    Greg Cox Admiral Premium Member

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    I'm not sure when I said it was just another arbitrary adventure scifi franchise. Clearly, the optimistic elements of Trek are big part of its popularity. Star Trek isn't Logan's Run and it isn't Terminator or Planet of the Apes or V or Aliens or any other cautionary tale. There's definitely an idealistic streak to Trek that distinguishes it from most of the competition.

    But, as a writer and editor, I don't think that fiction is just a delivery mechanism for delivering morals and messages. It's also about imagination and entertainment and style and art for art's sake (he says pretentiously). And Star Trek is more than just a manifesto; it's also an exciting and imaginative work of science fiction that can't be judged on just how "utopian" any individual installment is. And where the characters can be flawed, flesh-and-blood human beings, not plaster saints and role models.

    In my experience, when you start putting the "message" ahead of the plot and characters, you end up with sermons, not stories!
     
  19. Shaka Zulu

    Shaka Zulu Commodore Commodore

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    The 'Tattoomulans' were that way because they were mourning the dead. The tattoos were their way of expressing grief.

    THIS.

    Actually, as somebody else said, Trek was an action franchise from the second pilot of the original series.
     
    Last edited: Apr 22, 2013
  20. Nerys Myk

    Nerys Myk The Real Me Premium Member

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    The first pilot had it's action quotient as well. The battle with the Kaylar. Throttling the Talosian. Blasting the hidden entrance with the laser.