Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Star Trek Beyond trailer first impressions

So ... just watched this a few minutes ago, and it looks fun.

First off, I need to get something off my chest. I don't want to tell anyone that they can't voice their opinions because I wouldn't want anyone silencing me the same way. But having said that ... I'm sick of the haters spewing their vitriol at these movies. Most of them bitch about the exact same things the others keep bitching about, and to me it looks like they're hating things just because those things aren't exactly what they want them to be.

Specifically, a lot of the complaints I've heard is that these are mindless action movies that aren't true to Star Trek, or they're a betrayal of the spirit of Star Trek, or something along those lines. Well, I grew up watching the original series back in the 1980s (weekday afternoons at 4:00 on KPTV from Portland, Oregon), and the show was more of an adventure than TNG and the other sequel series ended up being. It was more action-packed and more focused on exploration and finding new wonders while often dealing with real-world issues (sometimes more successfully than others). But more than anything else, it was an adventure. It was fun.

I loved TNG and enjoyed the first few seasons of DS9 (despite its similarities to Babylon 5 and my opinion that B5 did a much better job of telling its story). I lost interest in DS9 later on, and only saw a few episodes of Voyager. But the sequel series kind of gradually became their own thing, in that episodes were often characters just standing around and talking. Which is fine, I actually love that kind of stuff (some of my favorite moments in Babylon 5 were the characters just talking to each other). But it was a very different approach than the original series, and there were times when I felt like the newer series were doing too much navel-gazing.

When people complain that the new movies are somehow a "betrayal" of the "spirit" of Star Trek, it seems to me like they're thinking only about TNG and the rest, and completely forgetting that TOS ever existed. The series that started it all was very different. It was an adventure.

And that's what the new movies are. Not only that, but they're a reboot of the original series, not TNG or the others. If the rebooted Trek were extrapolated to its own version of TNG, I'd expect its tone to very different from these three movies. But the rebooted Star Trek is a different take on the first series, which, as I keep saying, was an adventure and had its share of swashbuckling moments.

I loved the 2009 movie. I still think the best film in the series was The Wrath of Khan, but I'd actually rank this one very close to it. It was a breath of fresh air after the TNG movies (which I enjoyed when I saw them, but on repeat viewings I've felt more and more "meh" about them). And I loved the fact that time travel, which has been an overused trope in the franchise, finally had actual consequences. Everything wasn't returned to the status quo at the end. For once, history was changed and it stayed changed. Now we get to see the setting taking shape in a whole new way, which I'm perfectly okay with, even speaking as a lifelong fan of the original series.

I had a few issues with Into Darkness, but I still enjoyed it. My biggest problem was Khan being brought into it. Mostly because as soon as I heard rumors that he'd be the villain in this movie, I thought it was a mistake because it was just the obvious way to go. If the writers were going to revisit anything from the original series, I'd like it to be the planet-killer from "The Doomsday Machine." I'd love to see a modern take on that.

Anyway. I did end up liking the way Khan was used in Into Darkness. Montalban's version was terrifying, but Cumberbatch's take on the character was equally frightening, just in a whole other way. And though the opening sequence set up a conflict that resonated through the rest of the movie, it was mostly played for laughs and was focused on an already overused trope -- a population of primitive aliens who see the Enterprise soaring overhead, have no idea what it is, and immediately begin worshiping it like it's a deity. It was an amusing sequence, sure, but it's been done too many times to be that interesting.

Though I'll give that intro credit for giving me the idea for a technologically primitive alien species that went in the complete opposite direction -- the zorai, which I introduced with a character in my novel Game Over and had her appear again in the short story "Mission to Bellatrix" (which I'm fleshing out into the full-length novel Uncharted Territory, by the way). The zorai were always very rational and never made up explanations for anything they didn't understand. For example, they didn't see lightning strike and come up with an entity like Thor as an attempt to explain what it was. Their homeworld was so hostile to life that the zorai were barely avoiding extinction, and too many of them were killed by natural disasters or predators while they were still children, so they tended to focus their efforts on just getting through the day alive. If the zorai saw the Enterprise rising out of the ocean and flying overhead, the conversation might go something like this:

"Uh, what the hell was that?"
"No idea. Maybe we'll find out someday. As long as it doesn't hurt us, it's enough of a victory."
"Fair enough. Well, let's see if we can gather enough food for the next few days without becoming something else's food."
So, in a twisted way, I guess that opening scene in Into Darkness is a good thing because I might not have thought of the zorai (and a fun character like Grishnag) if it hadn't been in the movie.

Also, the bit at the end of the movie, with Kirk talking about not giving in to the urge to seek revenge, and how we need to be better people than we are, is very much in the spirit of Star Trek. One of the problems I have with the TNG-era series is that humanity is portrayed as a little too perfect. In TOS and the reboot movies, humanity hasn't gotten there yet. We're still in the process of figuring out how to become better as a people, and I think makes for a more interesting story than it would be if we had already achieved that. If Star Trek had an overall message way back then, I think it was that we're not there yet, but we should always keep trying.

Now, on to the new trailer. A few things that went through my mind when I watched it ....

  • This movie is probably set somewhere around the year 2260, so you'd think Kirk would have access to a better stereo. Whatever he's playing that music on, it sounds like it's coming from the five-dollar speakers I bought for the Walkman I had back in 1990.
  • The Enterprise getting its shit wrecked looks like it's becoming a running gag in these movies. Still, it should work to the story's advantage by stripping away assets and resources and leaving the crew to get by with whatever they can get their hands on. And maybe they'll redesign the Enterprise when it's repaired/rebuilt. I always had mixed feelings about the rebooted hull design, particularly that phallic protrusion the navigational deflector is mounted on. My favorite Enterprise is the one from the TOS-era movies. There's just something majestic and beautiful about it.
  • Looks like the uniforms have been redesigned again. I like some of the jackets the actors are wearing, but the day-uniform shirts ... well, on the one hand, they look more plain and resemble the ones from the TV series a lot more, which is kind of cool. But on the other hand, I actually liked the spiffier shirts from the previous two movies. I'd actually like to someday see the rebooted-Trek take on the uniforms introduced in The Wrath of Khan.
  • Hmm, an action-comedy style moment with Bones and Spock. Almost like a scene from a buddy-cop movie from the 1980s. Still, McCoy's comment sounded exactly like something he'd say at a moment like that, and the Spock-McCoy bickering, "Vitriolic Best Buds" routine was well established back when TOS was first on TV in the late 1960s.
  • The transporter effect looks kind of boring. I really liked the more dynamic effect from the previous two movies. It made the transporter process look like it wasn't entirely risk-free yet.
  • Also, it looks like a big chunk of the story takes place on an alien planet and it's going in a different direction rather than rehashing something from the TV show, so I consider that a positive.
  • Kirk on a motorcycle. Don't know enough about the plot to know how he got his hands on it, so I'll wait till I see the movie. Seems anachronistic at first glance, but then, the 2009 movie established that antique vehicles are still a thing, so ... shrug.
  • Next we see an alien woman beating the shit out of several dudes. It passes by too quickly to see much, but I like her already. I'm kind of a sucker for female characters who kick a lot of ass. <3 Also, since TOS was made in the 1960s, there was a lot of sexist stuff in it, despite its progressiveness, and the previous two films reflected a lot of that, aside from Uhura's moments in Into Darkness. (The cast being mostly male, and all.) The way she dealt with that Klingon, and later, shooting Khan repeatedly to distract him, holding her ground without flinching even as he advanced on her, were two of my favorite scenes. So it's good to see another female who appears to be a much better fighter than even Kirk.
  • Seconds later, there's another glimpse of this same character damn near hurricane-kicking a guy's head off. I can watch that kind of stuff all day. <3
  • Then there's a glimpse of another alien, presumably the movie's main villain. And he has a strong resemblance to the Narn species in Babylon 5. The skin color is different, but the overall shape of his head looks a lot like Ambassador G'Kar as he appeared in the B5 TV movie/pilot episode. Interesting ... but on the other hand, it's good to see aliens that actually look like aliens, rather than humans with bumps or ridges on their foreheads.
  • Hmm ... looks like Kirk is getting his ass kicked again.
  • Again, I like that the movie appears to be going in its own direction this time, rather than reworking something from the TV show. And from the dialogue, it seems the Enterprise has been exploring new areas of space and encountered something that doesn't want the crew there.
  • Related to that, the planet the Enterprise is torn apart above. Again, it passes by too quickly to get a really good look at it, but I'm pretty sure I caught several glimpses of ship wreckage strewn over the planet's surface. Whatever that swarm of small objects is, it appears to have shredded a considerable number of ships. Could be an automated defense system or something similar. 
  • "Okay ... let's never do that again!" Haha! Okay, I actually laughed out loud at that. The exact same thing happened to Kirk in the 2009 movie, when he rescued Sulu. And I can't blame Kirk for getting a little tired of it.

So, overall, the trailer is really lighthearted, making the movie appear to be a comedy/action/adventure. I've heard people bitching about that, too, but if that's what this movie is, it wouldn't be the first time Star Trek has done full-on comedy. A few episodes of the original series were almost entirely comedic, so this would fit. But then, the trailer could be misleading, which wouldn't exactly be a first time a trailer has done that. It's possible that, since this is just a teaser, it could be focusing on humorous and action-oriented moments to get the attention of a broad audience. The next trailer might focus more on serious moments or character interaction.

I'll wait for the next trailer, and go see the movie before I decide whether I like it or not, as opposed to all the people who start screaming, "It sucks!" or "RIP Star Trek!" before they even see it. The reboot and Into Darkness could be considered action movies, but there's more to both of them than that. That could be the case with Beyond, as well.

And even if this turns out to be little more than an action-adventure with a lot of humor throughout? Well, I'm okay with that, too. From what little I've seen so far, it looks like fun. All I really ask from a movie is that it entertains me. I often hope that certain movies will also make me think, but it's not the end of the world if they don't. As long as I enjoy it, it's one in the 'win' column.

I'll wait and see.

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