Monday 1 August 2016

The future is past

I went to the cinema at the weekend, to see the new Star Trek film, as much out of habit as anything else (although subliminal nostalgia was also in the mix, hardly surprising when even the film poster, left, is an homage to the original crew's first big-screen outing). The new film's alright - good, not great, entertaining without being award-winning. As I sat there, sipping my Pepsi Max (bought from the village shop beforehand - I'm not made of money, after all), a few things struck me.

First off, I think the Star Trek franchise is living on borrowed time. As good as these rebooted films are (and all three have been solid), and as undoubtedly wise a move as going back to Kirk et al has been (because, let's be honest, that's what everyone really wants, however many spin-offs and other crews there have been), I don't think the franchise is winning new fans. Specifically, I don't think it is winning the hearts and minds of kids, certainly not in the same way the Star Wars franchise continues to. I'm going to be generous and say there was no-one under the age of 25 in the cinema as I sat down to watch Star Trek Beyond. Truth is, there were only one or two under 30. Most of the audience looked like long-term fans, men (mostly) of a certain age, and their perhaps long-suffering/tolerant partners. There would be a raft of teens and younger in a Star Wars film, making the next generation of fans-for-life. I don't think this is happening with Star Trek, to the extent that the law of diminishing returns probably starts to kick in now. What Kirk, Spock and McCoy really need is a Lego tie-in... but sadly it seems that is a non-starter.

Secondly... well, after my first thought, it occurred to me that some of the more hardcore Trek and Star Wars fans might be upset by me referring to their sacred texts as franchises. Now don't get me wrong, I like both, especially classic Trek, but really they are both just franchises. They're not ways of life. I'm sorry if you feel otherwise, to the extent that my comments offend. They're not meant to.

And finally, I sat through a lot of trailers, most of which left me wondering where the new ideas are. Sky Atlantic's new TV version of Westworld is coming, apparently, despite the fact that it would be difficult indeed to improve in any way on the original 70s film. A remake of The Magnificent Seven is also on its way. Now I know the Yul Brynner version was, itself, a remake of The Seven Samurai but at least that changed/updated the setting. The imminent version is just another Western - I am already not bothered, preferring Brynner, McQueen, Bronson, Coburn, Vaughan, Wallach and Dexter, much as I like Denzel Washington and Ethan Hawke. For God's sake, the new version has Vinnie Jones in - reason enough to stick with the original. And then there was a trailer for a new Jason Statham movie that appears to be an unnecessary sequel to an unnecessary remake - if you want to watch a film about an intelligent assassin for hire called The Mechanic, seek out Charles Bronson's original. It's excellent, in a way I struggle to imagine the Statham-powered version being. Oh, and then there was another trailer for another remake, this time for Ben Hur, of all things! As if that hadn't been "done" enough in the first place. I wish I was making this up.

So... remake, reboot, re-imagining, rehash... where, oh where, are the new ideas?

Maybe I should take a scriptwriting course. In the meantime, let's watch a bit of what one YouTube commenter calls "the closest Bronson ever came to making an art house flick".


  1. I didn't like the new Trek film, but I didn't dislike it as much as the last one. The first one was all right, at least it had a story and some form of character progression.

    I was discussing this elsewhere. Like you, I'm only really a fan of Kirk era Trek, and like you I think the remake cast do a good job with these characters. The problem is that they've tried to make Trek into Star Wars: big bums-on-seats action films... when, at its best, Trek was never about action. It was about discovery and proper science fiction ideas and metaphor and a little bit of soap opera. None of which is going to fill the multiplex on a summer's afternoon, but that's why it should have stuck to TV. Such things are much more acceptable to TV audiences. (Even the best of the original Shatner Trek movies were more plot and character than explosions... although perhaps that's why, even 20 years ago, they never really set the box office alight.)

    I hold out faint hope for the new TV show. No, it's not the original gang, but it does have Nathan Fillion, who's as close to Shatner as we can possibly get these days (with a little Harrison Ford thrown in). Perhaps it will boldly go where the movies just can't anymore...

    1. You're bang on, Rol. There were times watching Beyond when the action was so fast-paced and close-up, I literally had difficulty taking in what was happening. I also agree that the last reboot film is the weakest of the three, despite Cumberbatch making a decent villain - I think they were too much in awe/deference to the source material. Simon Pegg's script for this one is much better - referential, not deferential.

      You're also right, I think, about Trek being better suited to television - look at the best movies: II, VI, maybe IV - all essentially stories that, with a bit more editing and a bit less bombast, could fit in 60 minutes (as long as you didn't have to contend with adverts). Of course, the other thing II, IV and VI had in common was Nicholas Meyer, so it's good to see him involved in the new series, even if only as a consultant.

      I thought the Nathan Fillion thing was still at the rumour stage, I didn't know he had been confirmed.

    2. It better not be just a rumour!