Tuesday, June 02, 2009
Seriously, I couldn't believe all the hype I was hearing for this movie from across the Pacific. Apparently everyone loves it save for Roger Ebert, who only sort of liked it. New fans, old fans, it doesn't matter if you know how to do the Vulcan salute or not: Star Trek is a bonafide hit. Critically and financially, this is the most successful Trek movie ever. Not bad for a forty year old franchise that had been in mothballs for most of the 21st century.
I tried to keep an extremely open mind about Star Trek because of my long history of enjoying the television programs and feature films. I was once a Trekkie who went to conventions and spent hours obsessing over each week's episode (hell, I wrote an extended piece nitpicking the hell out of Generations that is still floating around the Internet last time I checked) but I've come to accept that Star Trek has its ups and downs. I didn't want to get caught up in the hype and set myself up for disappointment, but at the same time I didn't want to become a sourpuss who pined for the "good old days" of the sixties, the eighties or even the nineties (the less said about the "aughties," the better). In other words, I didn't want to come out of the theater sounding like these people.
Well, the good news is that Star Trek is a tremendously fun movie. All of the actors did a wonderful job of slipping into roles that were famous years before any of them were born. In particular, I thought Karl Urban (as McCoy) and Zachary Quinto (as Spock) were most impressive. Simon Pegg (Scotty) is brilliant as always, but he doesn't even appear until the second half of the film so I was a little disappointed by that.
Even more than the actors, I was amazed at how well the dialogue was written. When it's not weighed down with infamously meaningless technobabble, one of Trek's strengths has been conversations between the characters. The new movie virtually eliminates all the mumbo-jumbo and just lets these people argue, flirt, and kid around with each other. I thought Kirk had a ton of great lines, making him just as cocky and arrogant as you always figured he must have been as a young man.
The movie has its flaws, the biggest being the story which relies on time travel to "explain" how this adventure doesn't fit into the Trek continuity. While this does allow for Leonard Nimoy to show up as Spock and have a few dramatic scenes with the new cast, it raises more questions than it answers. Frankly, all of the black hole/time warp/red matter stuff doesn't make any more sense than the "Nexus" plot device that allowed Captain Kirk and Captain Picard to share the screen in Generations did.
There were plenty of petty imperfections I noticed in the movie, but I was more concerned with the strangely empty feeling I had when it was over. Even though I had been thoroughly entertained for two hours and was already looking forward to the inevitable sequel (will they call it Star Trek II?), I had a very unpleasant thought while the credits rolled. Knowing that this new Trek film is such a hit, I realized that the Trek I grew up with is officially dead. I know things were bad when Nemesis tanked and Enterprise was canceled, but even when there was no new Trek being produced there was always a remote possibility of a revival. Now that we've got a new cast, a new ship and a new "timeline" to explore, there's no way anybody is going to look back. I'm reminded of Project Genesis from The Wrath of Khan: in creating a new planet capable of sustaining life, it destroyed any existing life in favor of its "new matrix."
So while I applaud J.J. Abrams on his excellent new take on Trek, I must simultaneously mourn the loss of the old Trek which will never return to the small or big screen. There's always DVDs and reruns, I suppose. Maybe someday The Next Generation will get an HD facelift like the original show has been given. And who knows? In twenty years, maybe someone will decide to reboot that show with a new movie. That's the beauty of this: Trek can be killed and reborn an infinite number of times.
Star Trek is dead. Long live Star Trek!
つづく...(Click here to read more)
Thursday, March 12, 2009
I was riding the train this morning and taking in the human scenery around me when I made this observation via Twitter:
sitting on a train across from a man (NOT a teen) reading a pro wrestling magazine. Even when I was a fan I knew those mags were crap.In hindsight this sounds harsh but it wasn't meant as a strict judgment of the man, just his choice of reading material. And yet it took less than a second for his magazine of choice to color my whole opinion of him. I started looking at his hair and decided it was weird. I thought the way he ate his breakfast was comically ape-like. My entire opinion of a stranger was dependent on his method of passing time during his morning commute. All this from a man who used to be one of those people who not only watched pro wrestling every week on television but actually spent a good deal of money on attending live events.
After looking across the aisle for a while, I glanced at the man next to me. He was wearing a suit and coat with a briefcase on his lap, and he was reading a Golgo 13 manga. This made more sense to me because Golgo 13 is awesome, but why? Just because I preferred one hobby over the other, I found one guy normal while the other was some kind of primate? That didn't sit right with me.
I know we all have our inner passions, many of which are far from mainstream. Earlier this same morning, I read the following message from Robert Ashley on Twitter:
"... is overrated" is one of the emptiest phrases in the English language. People love everything too much. That's fandom.As much as I agree with his first point (the Internet is awash with cynical morons who declare "[popular thing] is overrated" ad nauseum) his second point is what echoed inside my head on the train. Falling in love with something means getting excited about it beyond the "appropriate" attention level as decided by the masses. Even those niche hobbies that are considered mainstream, like baseball, have their own subculture of intense statistical analysts and historical archivists whose enthusiasm would not have much in common with the casual fan.
Looking back on my own life, I've had my share of (unhealthy?) hobbies and interests over the years. Overlooking my fondness for certain toy lines as a boy, when I was a teenager I spent my free time playing a lot of video games and watching a lot of Star Trek. While I always had at least one friend who shared my enthusiasm at the time, I always had at least two friends who weren't interested at all. There were video game friends and Star Trek friends, but not both. I would bounce between hobbies and fluctuate my passion depending on the company I kept.
Last night I was watching the latest episode of House which featured an unusual "patient of the week" who had lost all impulse control and said whatever came to his mind. This led to a lot of awkward conversations where he insulted his clients, pointed out the doctors' physical attributes (good and bad), and clashed with his wife about her charity work. But hidden amongst the sitcom-level gimmickry was one interesting idea: what is this man's real personality? If this is what he thinks about all day but he chose not to say it before, does that mean he's always been a raging asshole? Or is the way he decided to behave his actual self?
We all have our own little quirks and habits, and we all shift our behavior depending on who we spend time with. Your average man is not going to comment aloud on a new attractive coworker in the office, no matter how striking she may be, but he will certainly bring it up around his friends afterwards. I know my wife talks a certain way around me, a different way around her parents, and yet another way when she talks to her friends. Which one is the "real" Mako? Likewise, I behave in a certain fashion while at home and in a very different fashion when I attend the Tokyo Game Show. Was her panic concerning my gaming around New Year's really a frightened reaction to seeing too much of my geekiness?
I can't help but wonder if the world would be a better place if we had fewer social pressures to keep our interests bottled up. "Honesty is the best policy" isn't always necessarily true, as evidenced by the guy on House, but isn't more honesty better than less? What if Trekkies could wear Starfleet uniforms in public as casually as sports fans wear team jerseys? What if Danny Choo was just one of a million Star Wars fans who dressed up in stormtrooper armor on the weekends?
I honestly believe that half of the people going to conventions are just looking to be "themselves" for a few hours around people who won't judge them so harshly. I've been to more than one Star Trek convention in my life and I assure you, there's not much to do there. Maybe you get to hear one of the actors speak, maybe you even get an autograph, but the reason I kept going back was the opportunity it presented to just immerse myself in all things nerdy. The exact same thing is true now with my love of Den Den Town. I almost never buy anything but I love being surrounded by old games and marveling at the passion surrounding that old technology.
So go ahead - take this chance to leave a confession in the comments section. What hobbies or interests do you feel uncomfortable sharing with everyone? It's the Internet, let yourself go!
PS: What was I doing on the train this morning? Listening to my iPod, specifically a playlist made up entirely of Neo Geo music. Hell yeah.
PPS: Tried writing this without Write or Die. Managed 988 words in 35 minutes. Not too shabby but I'm not ready to move on yet.
つづく...(Click here to read more)