Friday, November 20, 2009

The J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek: A Break with Tradition?

Despite alienating most of the long-time Star Trek fans, does the latest Star Trek motion picture still have something to offer to the venerable 40 year-old or so franchise?

By: Ringo Bones

As one of the major summer blockbusters of 2009, the J.J. Abrams directed Star Trek movie did more than just kept the promise of financial viability to its underwriters. Unfortunately, the movie single-handidly managed to devastate that much-beloved Gene Roddenberry established canon of one of the most beloved works of science fiction of the 20th Century. This time around, the cocky self-styled directorial genius of J.J. Abrams proved to be the undoing of the latest Star Trek motion picture. But could have Abrams done better?

On the sets and special effects side of things, the latest Star Trek movie could be viewed as a proverbial godsend. The Starship Enterprise’s engineering section – and her related sister starships – are no longer the low-ceiling cramped spaces that they used to be in the original series, The Next Generation, Voyager, and even the 21st Century prequel – i.e. Captain Archer era Enterprise - of the original series. Maybe the next step is that they should make the starship engineering section as spacious as the Large Hadron Collider at CERN to make it believable that the said vessel could travel faster than the speed of light without moving at the speed of light. And the visual effects are up there with the best that Hollywood can currently produce.

On the established Star Trek canon side of things, I think J.J. Abrams was given a tad too much liberty in making this Star Trek franchise into the multi-worlds theorem image of Lost. Given that Star Trek: First Contact had changed the timeline a bit (blame it on the borg) and became part and parcell of the Captain Jonathan Archer era Enterprise – but the Gene Roddenberry canon busting of Abrams is just too radical for my taste.

From the various books and TV series of Star Trek that stayed in line with the canon, the Cardassians were “discovered” by the United Federation of Planets long after – maybe 5 to 10 years after – Captain James T. Kirk passed away. So how come a Starfleet Academy bar in San Francisco was serving Cardassian drinks while James T. Kirk was yet to earn his commission. Looks like J.J. Abrams failed to keep up with the Cardassians this time. And the original series hinted – somewhat blatantly – of Uhura’s excellent hearing, I found it odd that Abrams haven’t exploited this factoid by making Uhura an audiophile. Think the Charlie’s Angels movie sequel “musical” montages.

The movie also missed some very important vital factoids like planet Vulcan’s (planet Vulcan is Spock’s homeworld by the way) lower than average atmospheric pressure when compared to Earth and a somewhat slightly higher force of gravity when compared to Earth. The “insertion team” should have worn snazzy-looking Dave Clark like partial pressure suits given that they sky-jumped from an orbital height with ablative coatings to withstand the reentry. Think that suit worn by B’Ellana Torres when she took orbital sky-diving as an extreme sport in the Holodeck of Voyager. Sadly, snazzy silver colored Dave Clark partial pressure suits are about as rare today as an airworthy B-47 Stratojet. The “scientific”, “anthropological”, and “historical” errors on the latest Star Trek movie could fill a book with comparable thickness to the Ronald Reagan’s Commission on Pornography report of July 1986.

Compared to other competing science fiction franchises, the Terminator Salvation movie – despite of director Christian Bale’s web-worthy expletives and imprecations – did a much better job of sticking to its established series canon. Even playing the original Guns N’ Roses track - i.e. You Could be Mine circa 1991 - as bait in one of the scenes. Even the Terminator franchise’s first ever TV series Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles has so far stuck to the original established canon despite of time travel being the main literary device.

Is there ultimately a method to J.J. Abrams’ madness when it comes to his creative liberties done to the latest Star Trek movie? I don’t know it yet, but if he wants to retain the millions of alienated fans of Star Trek may I suggest using the many-worlds theorem of Lost as a main literary device in making the sequel of his “creatively” ill-advised Star Trek movie. I think it’s a nice way to undo the damage that Abrams had done to the much beloved Gene Roddenberry canon.