Thursday, May 7, 2009

To Boldly Go Where No Man Has Gone Before [Again]

Its the end of an era, I think. We had to do it sooner or later, and though I haven't seen it, the newest Star Trek movie looks to be garnering a lot of fan and critical praise. [Scoring 94% on the Rotten Tomatoes meter!]

In short, what Batman Begins did for our Dark Knight, and Casino Royale did for James Bond, this is doing for the crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise. The good news is that the baby is not being thrown out with the bath water and a logical explanation within the parameters of the Trek universe is given for the changes we will see.

I haven't been this impressed since I heard Geoff Johns brought back Hal Jordan.

It sounds like a script I would have been proud to have written as a fan, hoping with all my heart to keep the essence of our heroes but updating them with a new cast. It is a re-birth and I for one like the cries the baby is making.

I've seen ham-fisted shallow attempts at making an old character 'cool' by those who never appreciated the original. To see what I mean, just remember some of the Marvel cartoons of the 90's, specifically, The Avengers. GAAAAHHHHHH!!

Two different artist friends of mine were called to aid in re-imaginings and re-designs for two different comics. Both were humble men, willing to please the editors and worked hard to make the decisions from the higher-ups work. Neither re-launch went anywhere after they were done. This was not their fault, but hey, guess what fans remember?

It stinks. It really does.

So I am glad for J.J. Abrams was able to pull this off. I am glad for other creators who had a successful launch after wading through the millions of opinions and wretched pressures of fanboys (Jon Favreau comes to mind). Some re-workings work well, some do not. We've done everything possible to undo the changes in Superman, Supergirl, and Green Lantern wrought by "the powers that be" at DC Comics. Let's not even talk about "One Day More" with Spidey losing his wife over at Marvel. Wow - Mephisto has the power of God - who'd have guessed?

Why does one re-boot work and another does not? It's simple, really.

We are creatures of reason AND imagination. We want both satisfied when we are being entertained. Are you trying to make the character more logical, more human, more engaging or are you just trying to attract attention - "NEW AND IMPROVED!"?

In essence, are you wanting to go new places and expand his or her mythos, or just give them a "cooler look"? If the latter, you've failed from the get-go.

We don't mind new designs that reflect a better aesthetic - but those kinds of changes are usually gradual - look at Superman's costume for crying out loud. He's had nearly 11 different logos at last count over 70 years of publication, but we never complain. In Star Trek the Motion Picture, Gene Roddenberry dropped the ball by re-designing EVERYTHING. In Star Trek II we actually breathed a sigh of relief when we saw black boots, black pants and some semblance of color in the uniforms again. The only non-gripe: we had to admit the updated design for the U.S.S. Enterprise was pretty darn cool. She looked more elegant than ever.

Abrams and crew are wise enough to keep the main aesthetic in certain areas and dropping them in others. You treat our heroes right, and we will forgive this. We will even accept it as necessary and good, given time.

Reason AND imagination. We want to go on new adventures with our old heroes reborn. We do not want hang around imposters and wanna-bes who got no clue what a tricorder does or why compassionate McCoy is so doggone irritable (hint: he worries all the time about the crew.)

We'll miss Shatner, Nimoy and Kelly. They laid out a ground-breaking Shakespearian triangle I hope these principals capture.

But going into the future boldly is what Star Trek is all about.

I'll be seeing it tomorrow, Lord willing.

And if I like it as much as I liked that first episode I saw some 33 years on that ABC affiliate in Memphis, TN, I will be one of the most surprised and delighted Trekkies you've ever known.

Yeah, I know I should say "Trekker", but I am too old to care.

Live Long and Prosper.

Amen.

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