Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Star Trek Into Montage

I went to see the new Star Trek movie last night, and I have discovered J. J. Abrams's method for making Star Trek movies. You start with a bunch of lists: Iconic Star Trek (KHAN!, slow reveal of ship, Vulcan neck pinch, Klingons, Spock's death scene, "live long and prosper"), Things Star Trek Fans Have Wanted to See (an Engineering section that looks like Engineering, more of a sense of what life is like on twenty-third-century earth), Jokes about Star Trek (McCoy's over-the-top metaphors, Kirk's woman thing, redshirts). Then you modify them slightly (switch characters, add an unexpected detail) so that people can interpret it as innovation or irony rather than just list-making. Last, you need some very loose narrative theme, which requires a villain. However, since this is the second Star Trek movie by Abrams in which the vast majority of the villain's potential is wasted, nothing too serious hangs on it; you just have the villain meet one or more of the items on your list. Then you string the items on your list together using this narrative theme, filling in the gaps with lush visual. Because an Abrams Star Trek movie is not a story; it is a montage with story-like trappings.

Because of this, I can now give a prediction of what the next Star Trek movie will involve. It will have the Enterprise undergoing time travel, probably with snarky comments about whales, Uhura will sing, someone will say to Spock, "You are, and will always be, my friend", there will be Galaxy Quest-like running through a spaceship that no rational person would ever design, however alien their psychology, and a hand-to-hand combat scene, perhaps three or four, with a villain, almost certainly Klingon, probably Kang, Kor, and/or Koloth.

The interesting thing is that it kind-of works. Cinema is a very forgiving medium if you ramp up the Spectacle and edit well, science fiction is an especially forgiving genre within cinema. And the Star Trek franchise, while it has done great stories (like "Balance of Terror" from TOS or "Far Beyond the Stars" from DS9), has always been a mixed bag of the interesting and the ridiculously cheesy. The movie wasn't awful, which is impressive, since it has a plot that can't be summarized without sounding like you are summarizing a seventh grader's fan fiction. Since it throws everything into the post, there are whole sections of the movie that are quite fun. And that seems to be what it was trying to do.


  1. John Farrell1:47 PM

    'Balance of Terror' was indeed one of the best episodes.

  2. MrsDarwin1:53 PM

    Who was the villain in the first movie? What even happened in it? I can't even remember.

    Kirk's father... another unrealistic labor scene... Little Kirk... That scene in the bar that the Girls On Film did... Karl Urban in a shuttle... Kirk in Uhura's room... Spock does something...
    Spock and Spock and Scotty on the ice planet?
    Lens flare?
    How did it end?

    I even liked it okay, but the plot completely eludes me.

  3. branemrys5:17 PM

    Actually, I think you've plot down pretty completely; you just have to add fighting the Romulan villain whose name nobody remembers because they cut most of his backstory from the movie; which fighting was done in a mining ship that was apparently designed to violate every conceivable safety regulation.


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