Saturday, October 18, 2008

Boldly Going Into a Theater Near You

SOMETIME IN 2009, a new Star Trek movie will be released, focusing, surprisingly, on the crew of the late-60s incarnation of the show. Not news to anyone reading this blog, I'm sure. I hadn't really been following developments of the shoot, plot, or portrayals of the characters and Enterprise — and it's been a very long time since I had any emotional investment in how that's handled. In that, I am a minority on the Internet.

Judging by replies to stories about the film on Gawker Media science fiction blog io9, interest in these films, or in getting them right at least, is massive. Your average io9 post will pull 10 to 20 replies. Recent Star Trek posts, like this group of stills and this speculation over whether J.J. Abrams has made this film, in possible homage to the original show, deliberately cheesy, pulled four to five times that number of comments. Only posts about the Watchmen film (in which I very much do have an emotional investment) and The Sarah Connor Chronicles have come close. Posts regarding original science fiction creations, relying on no previous and adapted intellectual property, don't usually get this level of attention.

Nor the level of passionate argument. Rightly or not, opinions run hot on the Trek film. The Original Series raised the game of fandom to a new level. Write-in campaigns to save a TV show, fan-organized conventions, fan fiction (including what we'd come to know as slash fiction): Folks owe a debt to those whom Star Trek inspired to express their appreciation in these modes. But some fans have become unhealthily possessive of their experience with the show, and nitpick things that displease them or don't match up with what they saw on TV as children. This might be why these io9 threads are so long. I've come to believe nitpickers and aggressive geek-savants do this because they feel such a lack of control over their lives, they seize upon minutiae, bits of obscure knowledge they polish to a shine in their nervous grips, in their overcompensating attempts to wield dominion over something. And when something threatens this control, they lash out like startled cobras.

In May, I attended a cookout and gathering hosted at the home of my fine friends Dave and Julia. It was a rare summit of geekdom for our group, featuring folks usually several counties or states away. I commented to my buddy Len that I would reserve judgment on Heath Ledger's take on the Joker, comic fans' favorite Batman villain and no doubt a contender for top comic book (and comic movie-adaptation) bad guy. I'd been a bit skeptical about the first publicity image, but I'd decided I would reserve judgment and see how this Joker fit into his own skin. (Two viewings later, I'd say he all but burst the fuck out of it.)

For this film, and for the Watchmen film over which I'm still pessimistic, my best course is just that: See how this Enterprise fits into its shiny new skin, and what Abrams hopes to achieve by doing so. Try to understand why he chose this Spock, that Scotty, and why he leaves out what he chooses to omit. (He's not going to be able to name-check each little bit from TOS in 2 hours, much as we'd all like to see a salt-vampire-scarred redshirt or a scuttling Horta around each corner.) Leave a little bit to faith and enter the theater ready to be enchanted. I can always throw in a DVD or pull a graphic novel off the shelf to revisit what's been done. It keeps a brain fresh to see what nobody's done before, even with 40-year-old character concepts. And without curiously entering the unknown, what's the point of Star Trek — or any science fiction?

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