Star Trek: spammin’ ur brainz

July 8, 2009

    Star Trek
    Directed by J.J. Abrams
    Written by Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman
    Starring Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Leonard Nimoy, Simon Pegg, John Cho, Eric Bana, etc.
    2009, Paramount, 127 minutes.

to boldly go where no HUE MONN has gone beforeLike Batman, X-Men, GI Joe, Transformers, Spider-Man, and every other violent mainstream nostalgia and franchise-based movie to come out in the last few years, Star Trek is PG-13, CG-filled, and aimed at the largest possible movie-going demographic. It’s not a remake, but a re-interpretation of the original Star Trek movie plot, and introduces the characters of the franchise with some small adventures. It’s a mindless action flick, which is fine — although this is a break from the franchise in the typical way all franchises have deviated in film recently; they’re basically licensed fan-fiction by uninterested writers.

The movie starts off fairly well, building up an eerie atmosphere when a Federation ship encounters a humongous, sinister Romulan spacecraft, which demands to speak to the Federation captain in person. The Federation ship is itself huge, a city in space, and is completely dwarfed by the size of the Romulan ship. Unfortunately, most of the ominous, exciting atmosphere the movie might have created is dissolved at the appearance of the Romulan villains, and deflates entirely when we’re soon after introduced to the young James T. Kirk. The one-note, forced attitudes of these characters gives the movie an unintentional amateur slant, awkwardly juxtaposed with extremely expensive movie SFX crews (I bet you’ve never seen a movie like that before, eh?). In all fairness, the special effects are cutting edge and sophisticated. Very impressive, but also somewhat comical and unintentionally making some kind of statement about the obsolete nature of science fiction.

A young cast covers up the lack of character depth with superficial attitude and angst; the direction covers up poorly thought out action with lots of camera cuts and computer-rendered graphics or special effects; the missing excitement is masked with an obnoxious blaring symphonic score; the one-dimensionality of the villains is offensive, and the rivalry of the Romulans and Vulcans is given a pretty boring, shallow analogy to the Palestine/Israel issue (U.S.A. Enterprise, lolz…..or maybe that was just me and my conspiracy theories). The special effects were nice and mostly seamless, but there’s hardly a camera shot that lasts longer than 4 seconds, or a joke in the script that wasn’t already tired and predictable 15 years ago. All pretty standard for Hollywood franchise films by this point — a digestion system that consumes venerable cultural input and excretes it into silver screen feces.

Simon Pegg and Leonard Nimoy, supporting as Scotty and Spock, are the only seasoned, decent (tolerable!) cast members, and are wasted (read: paid) in a script that is pretty much a screenwriters’ round of Mad Libs. The number of times characters referred to Spock’s superior “Vulcan logic” inappropriately or out of context made me wish theaters sold prescription painkillers instead of $5 M&Ms at the concession stand (actually I wish that were true regardless, YEAH?). The really dim plot pretense spits in Trekkies’ faces, but the film industry has been doing that one forever, yanking their chain, so that’s no surprise. But yeah, anyway, Spock’s lines are akin to a 12-year-old’s fantasy of a smart person’s banter; insecure peppy ego without direction (the dialog here makes Gilmore Girls seem like Woody Allen. Please come home, J. Michael Straczynski!).

What’s bizarre to me was the peer social reaction to criticism of films like this. A lot of (young adult) friends enjoyed this one — recommended it even. Sure, you might think this was bound to be the case with such a production, where the critically derisive avoid it from the start and for the rest of us agree it is “enjoyable for what it is”. But judging by other stuff being shown in theaters lately, it seems like everyone is more and more manipulated into being a kid in the contemporary marketplace, herded by nostalgia and emotionally flattened by the illusory plethora of choice amongst products all pitching the same message (as my uncle pointed out, it’s all about vague, undeveloped or explored “friendship” in pretty much every mainstream movie these days, which are woven from lucrative franchise remakes aimed at pleasing everyone, and thus, no one).

What confuses me though, is how this is successfully manipulating people. I couldn’t put my finger on the specific reason (if there is just one aside from what I’ve discussed), but something in the project seemed dull and maliciously stupid, subtly robbing the audience of individuality and integrity, as the movie has none itself. It occurs to me that with less leisure time and less foresight or experience to gauge our entertainment and casual activities by, in our modern neo-capitalist society full of hyper-networking and rapid communication, entertainment becomes an aid to lowering our ethical standards, critical thinking skills, individuality, capacity for pleasure and self-love, as well as intellectual thought processes and the ability to follow a complex narrative. Nobody wants to hear what you think about Star Trek, because then they’d have to shut up for a minute and listen to someone else, which is a bold offense in today’s social environment. Conversely, nobody wants to question what they’re watching because that would indicate a struggle of personal responsibility.

Of course, this isn’t a problem isolated to the Star Trek movie, which is just one of a bazillion movies like this that come out every year. It’s just another indication of the typical propaganda tactics of modern mainstream media culture, which uses the image of an idea people like, in order to manipulate them into thinking they like it no matter the actual substance of the product in question that is using it. It’s an advertisement from the get-go. That’s an old trick, but there’s some weird technopoly shit going on around that too. The big downer is that I wanted to relax and enjoy the movie but somehow became engaged in an epic battle for my own soul.

But yo’s — the movie woulda been hella soulful had they removed the orchestral score and replaced it with Linkin’ Park songs, as most masterfully done in the live-action Michael Bay opus, Transformers.

Transformers… now that’s a movie!


2 Responses to “Star Trek: spammin’ ur brainz”

  1. […] science fiction, as I’ve said before, seems almost obsolete (both irrelevant and surpassed), but we do not pursue the space technology […]

  2. […] only Mr Masher, if only.  They enjoyed it! Traditional science fiction, as I’ve said before, seems almost […]

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