5 Things Star Trek Fans Must Admit About The Film Franchise
In case you missed it in the wake of all the hype for that other space movie, the trailer for Star Trek Beyond dropped this week.
Did you enjoy that? If your answer was "OHMYGODYES!" then we're going to assume two things about you: You're not a fan of the original Star Trek, and you probably won't like what we have to say. We're sorry about that, and we hope you enjoy this exciting new color in the garbage rainbow that is the reboot of Star Trek -- a superfly mass-murderous series once known for its sci-fi innovation and optimistic space adventures.
To be fair, we're not saying that the new Star Trek film is guaranteed to be terrible, considering we've seen fewer than two minutes of it. But it doesn't take a Medusan to know where this series is headed, now that it's been placed in the hands of a Fast & Furious director and peppered with a steady stream of totally relevant '90s hip hop. Let's be clear: In NO way does the Star Trek Beyond trailer resemble a Star Trek film. In fact, not a single installment of the rebooted Star Trek movies has come anywhere close to resembling a Star Trek film. It's almost as if they're deliberately trying to destroy Star Trek's fanbase and replace it with four-quadrant action fans.
... Yeah, that's exactly what they're doing. See, there's no money in genre science fiction. The big bucks are in widely-recognized properties that can be sold to every single person on planet Earth. Which means getting rid of everything that made Star Trek what it was (heady science fiction, diplomacy, and adventure) and replacing it with explosions and running.
So what happened? Well, what we're seeing is the end result of an unfortunately common assimilation that not even Captain Picard would be able to resist ...
The Franchise Was Already In Bad Shape
Back in the mid-2000s, Star Trek was in deep shit. It had been over a decade since the last film based on the original series, and Star Trek: Nemesis marked the depressing, Data-murdering final chapter of the Next Generation movies, which had started out strong and then gradually dwindled into a blight on F. Murray Abraham's career.
"Just put enough shit on my face so nobody knows I'm in this movie."
Enterprise, Voyager, and Deep Space Nine reminded fans that there were no more likable TV shows to adapt to the big screen. The quaint town of Treksville was in hobo shambles -- an abandoned shell of a formerly glorious metropolis, left to be wandered by forsaken fans. But then 2009's Star Trek emerged from the dust, literally glistening like a beacon of hope.
It's so beautiful.
But that was poison candy, my friends. As fans soon learned when they saw the film and realized ...
The Reboots Have About As Much Understanding And Respect For Its Fans As The Star Wars Prequels
There's a ton of money to be made in playing on nostalgia, as Jurassic World proved this year by simply filming a bunch of people saying "Hey, remember this part from Jurassic Park?" for two hours and becoming the third-highest-grossing film of all time. J.J. Abrams' Star Trek aimed to shamelessly trade in on fans' love for the original series by bringing us Kirk, Spock, Bones, and the rest, and throwing in a few fun references for die-hard Trekkies while completely failing to grasp what people liked about Star Trek in the first place.
For example, the heart of the original series is the relationship between Kirk, Spock, and Bones, who are meant to be three sides of the same person. Kirk is the central decision-making part, Spock is the logical side, and Bones is the emotional side. With very little exception, Kirk always has to defer to the two of them before making his final decision, which invariably involves seducing some manner of female alien.
"No, Jim, I said a female alien!"
Except in the reboot, Kirk is just running around shooting things and Spock is a moody asshole. Meanwhile, Bones has been absolutely replaced by Uhura, because the makers of the reboot decided that what Trek fans really wanted to see was a love triangle between her, Kirk, and Spock. Bones says a few funny things and then is barely seen. It's even worse in Star Trek Into Darkness, in which he appears in maybe three scenes.
Speaking of Star Trek Into Darkness, that installment also sought to cash in some nostalgia chips by making its central villain Khan, the fan-favorite antagonist of the Original Series episode "Space Seed" and the titular angry man from Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan, which is widely considered the best Trek film ever. But the character in Into Darkness bears absolutely no resemblance to the legendary villain. J.J. Abrams and crew rewrote The Dark Knight and changed the Joker's name to Khan. The one thing they did manage to keep was casting an actor who is in no way Sikh to play Khan, who is supposed to be a Sikh.
... Yeah, neither of these is correct.
The Star Wars prequels absolutely ruin everything we liked about the Jedi with that stupid midi-chlorian nonsense. The Force was awesome because it was this mystical magic, not because it was a freaking mutant power. We liked Yoda because he was this small unassuming creature who was a master of this nonphysical magic Force. The prequels turn him into a break dancing, back-flipping master swordsman. That defeats the entire purpose of Yoda being an ancient, tiny puppet: His mind was his weapon. Boba Fett is a mysterious "man with no name"-type Old West bounty hunter. Giving us his backstory as a creepy orphan space clone ruins his mystique, which is the only reason anyone ever liked him to begin with. He doesn't do anything in the movies; he merely stands there looking mysterious and cool. And the prequels gave us his entire elementary school history. And this isn't even getting into the whole quagmire that is the Special Editions of the original trilogy, which is the clearest example of a filmmaker being completely tone deaf as to why people enjoyed his films in the first place.
Hint: It wasn't this.
Speaking of which, neither the Star Trek reboots nor the Star Wars prequels have any idea what their tone is supposed to be. Star Trek the original series is very much for adults. There's an inherent goofiness to everything, and some episodes (like "Spock's Brain") are downright farcical, but for the most part, it's heady science fiction. Which is what the state of science fiction was back in the '60s, before Star Wars came out and turned "science fiction" into "action movie in space." In fact, the one thing Star Trek absolutely isn't, is an action movie. The original series, and their subsequent feature films, are all relatively light on action and heavy on plot.
The Trek reboot was made by a bunch of people who grew up loving Star Wars, and so their first order of business was to turn Star Trek into a Star Wars movie. That meant throwing out all the heady plot stuff and replacing it with lots of running and space explosions. There's a reason Richard Matheson and Harlan Ellison wrote episodes of Star Trek, but were never contacted to whip up a Star Wars screenplay. And Richard Matheson wrote fucking Jaws 3-D.
Meanwhile, it's impossible to nail down a tone in a Star Wars movie, because the tone of the original trilogy is so inconsistent. The first one was a swashbuckling space adventure, a Flash Gordon / Buck Rodgers copy. The second one is brooding and grim, and the third one is an action figure commercial straight-up designed for children (because by that point, Star Wars was an empire built on action figures). That's why the prequels feel so uneven: They skipped the first two stages of discovery and went straight for "action figure commercial." Revenge Of The Sith went more for the Empire tone, but after two films unabashedly made to sell toys to children, it felt out of the blue and strange when the movie's main character ignites his lightsaber and kills a room full of children.
"Thanks for the money, suckers!"
Despite clearly failing to understand anything their fans enjoyed about their respective franchises, both the Star Trek and Star Wars prequels sold millions of dollars of tickets to loyal fans. This is because ...
Fans Tolerate It Because It's Better Than Nothing
Okay, so the new Star Trek had a lot of awkward lens flare in it and brought us to an alternate timeline in which Kirk's father died and Iowa is suddenly known for its scenic bottomless pits. But we smiled and nodded along to Beastie Boys anyway, because while it was off-putting to see Kirk introduced with a Dennis the Menace car chase, we were happy that the franchise was being given another shot. And you know what? It wasn't bad. Despite a few missteps, 2009's Star Trek did an amazing job at reinvigorating fans while potentially drawing in a whole generation of new ones. Now all they had to do was not screw it up by turning it into a baffling 9/11 truther allegory ...
Space cocks! Paramount is starting to build a franchise out of insufferable throwbacks and references the way a hipster bar in Brooklyn might add fake graffiti in the bathrooms. And we see this in other franchises as well: glimmers of hope for fans that could easily turn out to be reckless pandering. Like these guys:
Thirty-somethings everywhere had to swallow the pale mutant shit that was Tokka and Rahzar back in 1991's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret Of The Ooze, so it's hard for us not to get a little excited when the new film finally promises a live-action(ish) Bebop and Rocksteady after 30 years of Ninja Turtles movies completely ignoring them. But the thing is, the Ninja Turtles are supposed to be for kids, right? That's why we liked them -- because we were kids at the time. It shouldn't matter whether a bunch of adults want to come see your children's movie.
Only it does inexplicably matter, because ...
The Studio Made Star Trek Mainstream To Appeal To Everyone
Hey, quick question: Why was the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles reboot PG-13, and why did it feature Michelangelo making boner jokes at Megan Fox?
It wouldn't be the first time Paramount encouraged a bunch of adolescent monsters to slobber over Megan Fox.
The answer is, of course, that they wanted to somehow make a film both for the nostalgic adults and the impressionable children they would bring along. Much like how Paramount wants to make a Star Trek film that actually generates a profit.
Yep -- it turns out that the original Star Trek films didn't do great at the box office. The highest-grossing one, First Contact, only brought in $140 million on a $40 million budget. While that's nothing to sneeze at, for an iconic series spanning ten films and five TV series (six if you count the cartoon) over half a goddamn century, it's not exactly a space king's ransom.
Now that Trek was being resurrected, the people putting up the money to pay for it would expect to see a return on that investment. And so it needed to be retooled in order to draw in the maximum range of consumers. In other words, if Star Trek was going to be a blockbuster (which Paramount inexplicably wanted it to be), it would have to get with the times. And that meant following the popular trends, like this dumbass rumor:
Except now that we've all seen the trailer for Star Trek Beyond, we know that dumbass rumor was absolutely true. Beyond looks as much like a Star Trek film as Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit felt like a prequel to The Hunt For Red October and Patriot Games. Which is to say, not at all. Coincidentally, both of these films were made by Paramount, and both feature Chris Pine doing sick tricks on his motorcycle.
Can you tell which one is Star Trek? Because we fucking can't.
To make Star Trek accessible for everyone, Paramount cranked up that Beastie Boys, took out all the unique sci-fi elements and world-building, and replaced it with generic action and hollow throwback references. And the worst part is that it will totally work, despite the fact that ultimately ...
By Making Star Trek "For Everyone," They Alienate The People Who Love It
Here's a totally insane quote about the making of Star Trek Beyond:
That's a real quote from Simon Pegg, who wrote the script after quitting the job three times during the process ... presumably because the people who hired him to write it didn't actually want him to write Star Trek. After all, now that J.J. Abrams left, any connection to the spirit of the revival was long gone. And so they were left to do whatever they wanted with the series, which apparently included making it a bizarre piece of Guardians Of The Galaxy/Furious 7 crossover fanfiction that completely alienates Star Trek fans.
That's not an accident or an unforeseen side effect, either. This was Paramount's exact strategy: Take a unique property, refurbish it under the ruse that they are giving it back to the fans, and then make it as generic and safe as possible in order to make a bunch of money. Because who gives a shit if a movie has staying power when studios aren't worried about home video sales? What matters is the immediate payoff ... and that audiences will be hyped enough to pay to see it one time and then leave happy enough to see a sequel, never noticing that they just watched a re-dressed Fast & Furious film with worse physics.