Tuesday, 2 February 2010

Star Trek - J.J. Abrams (2009)

All posts may contain spoilers. For a full synopsys see Rotten Tomatoes

Best (by far) of a (very) bad bunch
Best Blockbuster of the Summer (2009) without a doubt. This may well have been the case if it came out any summer, but the feeble competition that it was up against this year really helped. Terminator Salvation was ruined for me by Christian Bale’s ridiculous Batman voice and one dimensional John Conner. GI Joe was actually quite enjoyable for what it was, it’s just that what it was, was a corny action film offering nothing new in terms of character, concept, effects, humour or anything else; it was completely average. Don’t get me wrong, average is better than being dreadful but it didn’t do anything particularly noteworthy. This brings me to one of the biggest Blockbuster let downs I can recall: Transformers 2: Rise of the Fallen. It has no soul at all and it is not a good enough excuse saying, “oh it’s only a film, just enjoy it”. Well I can’t! because it is boring, not very funny, the race and gender roles are far beyond forgivable, actually reaching blatantly offensive. This particularly came in the form of the squabbling pair of overtly black stereotyped idiots, a shocking attempt at some kind of streetwise comedy duo. This along with a female lead being completely unimportant and uninteresting; her sole purpose was to look hot (which to be fair she does succeed at) and reaffirm the male lead’s masculinity and central agency. I have no problem with physical beauty (either male or female) but for that to be the only defining feature of an individual is very demeaning. The character of Uhura (Zoe Saldana) in Star Trek smashes both of these simple 'black people = stupid' and 'women = useless' reductions immediately and lacks none of the beauty; she manages to be intelligent, important, absolutely stunning and all this while being black, how does she manage it in Hollywood. (I sincerely hope that the tongue in cheek sarcasm can be read in that last sentence).

Innovative way of rebooting a series
I have mixed feelings towards rebooting franchises like this. Batman was done incredibly well as the previous canon had gone way off the mark and Christopher Nolan brought it back, even surpassing the attempts of one Tim Burton. Although in another similar instance I cannot help but think that there is very little to gain in rebooting the Spider-Man series. The main advantages of rebooting these kinds of series’ are to re-imagine their myth in light of more recent socio-political and cultural settings. Hence the two sets of Batman film series were distinctly pre and post 9/11. The existing Spider-Man’s are blurred, having been created just before but growing through the early stages of a post 9/11 world. This Star Trek film sits alongside Batman in the ‘ready for a reboot’ section of contemporary mythology. This is particularly prominent in this series due to the changing face of masculinity in this era compared to that of the initial Kirk's time. The subtle difference that is held up here is the ‘guy gets the girl myth’. Kirk, despite his efforts and the viewer’s expectations fails to get the girl that he wants. This girl as discussed earlier already flaunts most qualities that would be assigned to women in the Hollywood circles of previous eras. In this scenario it is the one which shows the least sign of classically masculine features that gets the girl, in the character of Spok. Though she does end up with one of the male characters, she still retains her own agency, she is not there merely to prop up anybody’s masculinity a la Megan Fox in Transformers.

The thing that sets this reboot apart from other series reboots is what gives it that touch of class, elevating it to more than a trashy summer blockbuster. This is that it isn’t really a reboot at all; it merely takes the existing canon then uses a time travel narrative device to start again from a certain point. Contrary to usual reboots where the characters are completely revised, this simply takes a point in the existing history and changes it from there giving a real tangible reason for this change to have taken place.

Problem with fate
The only problem was when (original) Spok and Kirk conveniently ran into each other. This probably came from Abram’s fate/destiny pre-occupation but this was not made clear enough and should really have been eluded to a little more in order to not leave the viewer thinking “well that was a bit of an outrageous coincidence”, because then they are out of the narrative and the questioning begins. The film is certainly good enough on the whole to suspend your disbelief and enjoy the character interaction, all apart from this chance meeting.

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