Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Star Trek Lets it Stay Broken

Finally got around to watching the Star Trek reboot. Nevermind the special effects and other "Wow!" moments. The biggest treat for me is that we have a time-travel story that dose not get fixed at the end. Let me say that again.

A time travel story that does not get fixed.

That is awesome on so many levels. It does not just allow the creative team to work in their own little part of the universe. It allows for the studio to go in any new direction that it wants to. This movie is not just a shot in the arm. It is not a band aid. It is not just a reimagining. It is what might have happened at any point in the multitude of time travel stories in the Star Trek franchise if even one of those plots were not neatly tide up and fixed at the end of the episode.

I can't wait for the sequel.

What is Science Fiction? (Part One)

This is an ongoing debate in the medium and I certainly do not have a solid opinion yet. This is just an attempt to jot some thoughts down and maybe I'll change my idea on some of them later.

On one side, you have what I call "purists" who believe that good sci-fi must always be introspective, thought-provoking, speculative. They believe that if the story does anything other than make you think about what the future holds for humanity and how we might choose the most positive solutions to our problems, then that story is trash. The pure sci-fi story wins the awards.

On another side, you have writers who just want to have a good time telling a fun story. They place their heroes into a time or environment that we currently can not reach (or might soon) then they kind of roll some dice to see what befalls the characters until the end of the story is reached. This story could be an action adventure, an epic tale of cosmic empires clashing, a time travel or alternate dimension tale of hi-jinx and swashbuckling. These stories do not win many awards, unless the story is a blend of purist speculation and fun.

I understand some of the origins of the debate. In the past, sci-fi was so broad and undisciplined that is was often confused with tales of medieval fantasy and magical tales. When the speculative authors emerged, the brought with them some direction for the genre. The stories that they wrote, the ones that made the reader stop mid-sentence and think for while, were a fresh experience. The science in the speculative stories was based on real, actual science and some of it was very cutting edge.

Some of that cutting edge science has not aged well. Since some of the thought provoking speculation was based on that science, some of the stories themselves have unraveled. That does not mean the "other" old science fiction has fared any better. As modern tastes and intelligence has changed, many of those stories have proven to be nothing more than silly tales of fanciful ideas that no longer have a place in modern society.

A purist will tell you that just because the story has a space ship or time travel does not mean it is a sci-fi story.

I understand the idea. A part of me wants to agree with it. At this time, however, I can't. A space ship suggests future technology, time travel suggests future science. A weapon that does not currently exist in the modern era, but has a place in your story suggests future warfare. These are the components, or tools, used to tell a sci-fi story. It may be a story that makes you feel dumber after having read it, but it is a sci-fi story none the less.

Those are my thoughts on the topic so far.

Transformers Goes Criminal

If you read Rotten Tomatoes, you might have noticed that the going belief is that Michael Bay's treatment of the Transformers was criminal intent from the start. Negative reviews aside, I liked both movies. I simply did not expect a whole lot of meaty introspective story telling. Sure, it would be nice, after all, some of the Transformers comic book stories have been very well written. But for the most part, the Transformers have always been campy sci-fi at best. Honestly, what can you expect from a marketing tool designed to sell action toys?

That said, Revenge of the Fallen crossed a line. It is rated PG-13 but I won't be letting my thirteen year old son watch this film. Between the sexy scenes and the rampant vulgar language, I just can not justify letting my child watch what amounts to trash.

Most of the negative reviews you might have seen probably focus on what "the experts" claim to be unnecessarily long scenes of explosions, sunsets, "military porn" (tough troopers decked out with the latest killing machines and tools of death), and off-centered camera shots. Personally, I love that stuff, can't get enough of it. I think what is more important to focus on is how this film was cleared as PG-13. With all of the ghetto/gangsta talk from the Autobots and the wanton cussing from everyone else, and the masturbatory hot chick scenes, what exactly does PG-13 cover? This is not a family movie, certainly not a children's movie. Just because thirteen year-olds really are talking and acting that way in public school does not mean we have to endorse or encourage that behavior.

Did you know that some of your daughters are texting naked pictures of themselves to their boyfriends as early as Sixth grade? Some of them have even been caught and expelled and written up as sex offenders, permanently placed on that List you've been hearing about.

So, let's get something straight. We don't need gangsta transformers. We don't need Megan Fox half naked. We don't need "cute and clueless" parents cussing at each other. The Transformers can be a great sci-fi story and we just don't need that modern, stereotypical trash mixed into it. Stop being lazy Mr. Bay, give a little more time to the dialogue. Keep the explosions and the rest of your awesome talents in the film, but leave the trash out.