Friday, May 8, 2009

In Praise of Hecklers

I am one of those people who reads film reviews both before and after I watch the film -- I have even been known to read reviews during a film, at home when I'm watching on DVD within reach of the internets's vast reservoirs of well-formed critical commentary. I read film reviews because I believe in the practice of criticism in general, having long since come to recognize that criticism aids the understanding of the works and their creators -- how the work succeeds, how it fails, what it means, what other works it references, what real-world circumstances might have inspired it, and so on.

For anyone who believes I am belaboring the blindingly obvious with the above remarks, I invite you to watch the documentary Heckler, which begins as an interesting and humorous examination of heckling but gradually devolves into a platform for various writers, comedians, filmmakers, and other creative types to whinily declaim against the fact that someone, somewhere, sometime, didn't like their work and dared to make it known.

All of which serves as prelude to my pleasant surprise that the critics are speaking very favorably of the new Star Trek film (trailer). As I proceed under a " hates every film" presumption, I am especially surprised to see that has given it a favorable review under the byline of Stephanie Zacharek, who says:

You could call it "Star Trek Origins," although unlike "X-Men Origins: Wolverine," it actually bothers to invent and support a believable back story for the characters originally created by Gene Roddenberry and played by the likes of William Shatner, DeForest Kelley, Nichelle Nichols and Leonard Nimoy ... the plot specifics of "Star Trek" are less important than the way the actors so comfortably slip into the outlines of the show's original characters, capturing their essence instead of just impersonating them. Abrams and his writers have created a sturdy enough world for those characters to inhabit.
Reasonable people may turn out to disagree on the substance of the claims made here -- to read a criticism is not to be bound to agree with a criticism, another blindingly obvious point that nonetheless needs repeating -- but as an on-again, off-again fan of the Star Trek franchise, these comments answer at least one of the questions I have about this new movie: how well does the prequel blend with the stories and characters we already know? Does it go so far in reimagining the origins of that world that we're asked to accept wholly new version? Or does it find a place of genuine fit?

I'll be reading more reviews both before and after I watch this new Star Trek movie.


Anonymous said...

Check out Nichelle Nichols new film coming fall 2009:

Zennalathas said...

I saw the film last night, and it was by far the worst film I've seen al year, and that includes Wolverine's little movie.

Since I think you'll end up seeing it, I won't ruin it for you with spoilers, but the plot doesn't hold up to even the most casual scrutiny, and, yes, this movie is a reinvention of Star Trek, not an origins story. That's actually explained in the movie.

The only decent parts of the movie were the call-back jokes to the old series and its movies, so anything the film did outside of what's been established for nearly 50 years was rubbish. Really, I've never scene a movie so dumbed down just to attract more viewers.

I'll go out on a limb and say it's a worse movie than any Star Wars prequel; unfortunately it won't be reviled as equally because the original Star Trek was nigh-hated by the average movie-goer whereas Star Wars was loved.

I wasn't even going into the movie hoping for it to fail as a fan of proper Trek canon. I thought it would have made a decent sci-fi flick, but it turned out to be an action movie wrapped in a sci-fi blanket where none of the HUGE plot point science makes sense.

There's blackholes in the movies shown as actual FLAT HOLES in space! WTF!

Dale said...

Zen, I just saw it too, and what I saw beggars description. Well, not quite.

I can't argue with your criticisms -- why, pray tell, did the planet-destroying weapon have to involve black holes? Why does that idea have to be so blatantly abused in talkies? Couldn't it just be a really powerful bomb?

The insider-stroking references to the original series ranged from deft to excessive. I liked the additional development of the characters of Spock and Kirk; the others were more tossed in fully formed than further developed. I didn't "buy" the early Sulu or Ahura. And I really didn't need each of the major characters to recite his/her catch-phrase six times. He's Scotty, and he's Bones! We get it!

The generous interpretation is to say that this opens the door to continue Star Trek but leave all those crusty old actors behind. Good riddance. I'm not sure it will work at all without them, but still, good riddance. The increasingly decomposing corpse of Leonard Nimoy should really be kept off the big screen forevermore.

And good riddance (I hope) to all the ridiculous time travel scenarios that keep making it possible to bring back the old crusties.

I enjoyed it -- I enjoyed the casting, the pace, the action -- but it's not what I'd call a good movie.

Of course Star Trek always had its gaping flaws, so who knows?