Thursday, March 12, 2009

Star Trek 11?

So I've gotten a lot of complaints that I haven't yet blogged about the new Star Trek movie. But we have a pretty good news hook to do so now, in that they launched this new trailer a couple days ago before "Watchmen," so here goes:

(Waits patiently for readers to watch the trailer.)

I have two main points.

1) The Star Trek franchise, while it has created some quality work in the interim, has failed to genuinely rouse the interest of its fans, or a wider audience, since First Contact (which was in 1996 - THIRTEEN frakking years ago).

2) If STXI cannot perform well - which means not only box office revenue but also boost sagging interest in conventions, merchandise, and previous incarnations of the show - it will spell the final end of the Star Trek machine. (Note: I predicted this after the humiliating final entry of the Next Generation movies; while that was (obviously) not true, the gap between STX and STXI is six years, larger than any other in Star Trek history, representing a significant drop in ST momentum.)

As with all ST movies, it will live or die by how well it can attract a broader audience while drawing repeat viewings from die-hard fans. Can you make the fans happy without dumbing the film down for some bone-head mass audience?

The reason Voyage Home is the most successful, both critically and commercially, movie in Star Trek history is because they got non-Star Trek fans to come and see it. (I remember at a party a while ago, a girl tried to impress me by telling me "They are not the hell your whales." People know that film; it's a good film.) STIV's creators were able to get non-Trekkers into the theaters because 1) they based it in a modern, easily relatable setting, and 2) they used a lot of humor.

(STIV is also, incidentally, the first film where Shatner earned a 7 figure salary.)

In trying to shoot the gap between a mass audience and hard-core fans, the film's creators have made a couple really good decisions, namely tapping JJ Abrams to direct and casting Zachary Quinto as Spock. Both represent two very successful science fiction TV shows ("Lost" and "Heroes") that are able to get non-sci-fi folks interested. The powers that be at Star Trek are acknowleding that they are no longer the big kid on the block. For 30 years, except for a little hiccup between 1977 and 1983, Star Trek was the end-all, be-all of science fiction. But this has not been the case for a long time (starting, probably, with the rise of the X-Files).

On the TV side, one of the reasons that Star Trek Enterprise failed to generate any interest, beyond its first season, is it had to compete with the phenomenally well-received reboot of Battlestar Galactica. (Note: I am so disinterested in Enterprise that I didn't even hyperlink to its Wikipedia article.)

On the film side, while no one looked at the Star Wars prequel trilogy and said, "Hey, that's the future of science fiction!", the special effects of said trilogy blew anything Star Trek has done out of the proverbial space water. All of the Next Gen films (except for First Contact) felt like their creators were just doing extra-long episodes rather than movies. STXI's budget is $150 million, about 2.5 times that of Star Trek Nemesis, so one hopes that the battle scenes will look more like this (the intro scene of Revenge of the Sith)...

... than this (the horribly bland "climactic" battle from Star Trek Nemesis):

They are boldly going where they've already been, and as we saw with last year's Indiana Jones movie, nostalgia pieces can fall flat on their faces if they don't appeal to nostalgia. I don't know if they can generate the same kind of reverent fervor created by the Star Trek Phase II project, and they have a cameo of Leonard Nimoy playing an older Spock, which counts for a lot.

They will draw some non-Trekkers into the theaters, but this film will live or die by the Star Trek fans. I believe that this film will make them happy.


That is if you
can make Star Trek fans happy. As all true Star Trek fans know, the best part about loving Star Trek is hating Star Trek.

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