A blog formerly known as Bookishness

By Charles Matthews

"Dazzled by so many and such marvelous inventions, the people of Macondo ... became indignant over the living images that the prosperous merchant Bruno Crespi projected in the theater with the lion-head ticket windows, for a character who had died and was buried in one film and for whose misfortune tears had been shed would reappear alive and transformed into an Arab in the next one. The audience, who had paid two cents apiece to share the difficulties of the actors, would not tolerate that outlandish fraud and they broke up the seats. The mayor, at the urging of Bruno Crespi, explained in a proclamation that the cinema was a machine of illusions that did not merit the emotional outbursts of the audience. With that discouraging explanation many ... decided not to return to the movies, considering that they already had too many troubles of their own to weep over the acted-out misfortunes of imaginary beings."
--Gabriel García Márquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Star Trek Into Darkness (J.J. Abrams, 2013)

I'm not a Trekkie. I never watched TOS* when it was first on TV, and only got hooked on TNG* when it went into re-runs. I don't speak a word of Klingon. But I can do the "Live long and prosper" hand sign, so I guess I can pass among those who aren't really hardcore. In fact, when I learned that J.J. Abrams, the rebooter of moribund franchises, was going to make his first Star Trek film (2009), I was neither appalled nor intrigued, as a real Trekkie would be. Only one of the movies featuring the cast of TOS was really very good: Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (Leonard Nimoy, 1986), aka "the one with the whales." And even then, it was the script that made William Shatner in rug and corset trying to recapture the old Capt. Kirk swagger even plausible. Fortunately, it will take a few more years before the new cast -- Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Zoe Saldana, Karl Urban, Simon Pegg, John Cho, and Anton Yelchin -- need their own reboot. The great charm of Star Trek has always been its ensemble work. No one watching the series either on TV or in movies really cares that much about the story. It's the interplay of characters -- the bromance of Kirk and Spock (heightened to near-homoeroticism in the Pine-Quinto version), the grumpiness of Bones McCoy, the devotion of Scotty to his engines, and so on -- that makes the creaky old sci-fi clichés come to life. Throw in some in-jokes for longtime fans, such as the Tribble in this film, and you've got a surefire hit. The remarkable thing about the cast of the Abrams films is that they so far have transcended the paint-by-numbers quality of the plots and managed to make the CGI effects secondary to the humanity. Benedict Cumberbatch is a far more terrifying Khan than Ricardo Montalban with his rubber pecs ever was. And I admit that I teared up a bit seeing Leonard Nimoy in what turned out to be his farewell cameo. No, this is not a great movie, but there is great shrewdness in its casting.

*If you're reading this entry, I assume you don't have to be told that this is Trekkiese for Star Trek: The Original Series and Star Trek: The Next Generation. But if you're reading this footnote, I guess you do.