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Star Trek: a different kind of “bold”

Posted by melagee on May 11, 2009

I saw the new Star Trek movie over the weekend, and when it was over my friend asked me what I thought of it. My answer was that I wasn’t sure whether or not I liked it, and it wasn’t really until I read another friend’s blog about the movie that I began to put my finger on what was wrong with this film.

I can’t deny that it was a good movie.  It was esplosions in space!  Who doesn’t love esplosions in space?  The problem is that when you consider it within the context of Star Trek, it failed to live up to the ideology that proceeded it.  Those things I enjoyed about the new movie are vastly and incredibly different from those things I enjoyed about “real” Star Trek.  This had sexy people performing sexy actions, and it included some very good impressions of familiar and lovable characters.  But “real” Star Trek is about humanity and the highlighting of different sides of ourselves.  It has always, to me, read best as a manual for how to achieve the perfect way of being in the perfect civilization.  And yes, it’s was sometimes heavy handed about it, but I could accept that.  This new version of Star Trek is almost exclusively about action, and while that makes for a fun movie, it doesn’t make for Star Trek.

I found some similar problems with Watchmen when it came out.  While a superficial viewing of the film revealed it to be an excellent film, it really was a horribly adaptation.  It was technically correct in representing what happened in the pages of the comic book, but there were so many things that happened in the comics that were cut out of the movie that the tone and message of the story was completely changed.  The Watchmen comic book was less about the adventuring of superheroes and more about the frailties and vulnerabilities of the heroes themselves.  Examples of this came in the form of Night Owl’s excess belly (which was trimmed down to a small and healthy pudge in the movie) and the reluctance Night Owl and Silk Spectre exhibited in fighting off a bunch of thugs in an ally (which became an exciting and sexy fight romp for the characters in the movie).  The actions were the same, but the motivations were vastly different, thus the message was corrupted.  Watchmen is an enjoyable movie, but it’s just not what Alan Moore had in mind when he wrote the comic book.

It’s the same thing with Star Trek.  Gene Roddenberry created a series about man’s ability to overcome his flaws and be a better person, and what we got in this latest movie was man’s ability to be awesome and kick ass, and it doesn’t matter how many catch phrases they lift from the original series or how many Red Shirt’s are killed on away missions, the message has still been corrupted.

Having said that, I don’t think it’s impossible for both versions of the story to exist simultaneously.  A new version of Star Trek does not diminish what Roddenberry created any more than a new Battlestar Galactica destroys the cheesiness of the original series, or a Scott Pilgrim movie destroys the homey grassrootyness of the comic book.   You can reject one face of Star Trek while continuing to embrace the other, and I do believe that’s what I will be doing.

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