Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Is it "Trek?"

Last week, I watched the new "Star Trek" film (in IMAX, no less).  Yes, it is a fun movie.  It is a thrill ride that will appeal broadly to non-Trekkers, and has enough tips of the hat to the original to appeal to the core fandom (right down to a red-shirt crewman inevitably getting killed), and I encourage anyone to see it.  But there were things about it that bugged me.

J.J. Abrams deftly took an all-too-overused sci-fi conceit, time travel, and used it with great effect to literally reboot the moribund franchise, establishing quite clearly that what is unfolding on screen is literally a pristine, new timeline, where established canon for anything subsequent to the birth of James Tiberius Kirk is officially out the window.  Anything goes.  Assumptions about what must take place for the sake of continuity with Trek of days gone by no longer apply.  Forget about Spock ever taking a trip to Vulcan to calm his raging hormones in "Amok Time." Not going to happen. That was the life of Spock Prime.  The new Spock will have to sort things out his own way, potentially with the help of a certain Communications Officer.

No, I can't say that turning the snow globe of Trekdom canon over and giving it a good shake is what bothers me about this film.  I think my issue is something more aesthetic.  I can overlook the overused lens flares, and the shaky camera work, both of which were exacerbated by the IMAX format. I don't even mind the revamped production design aesthetic.  The uniforms were true to the original, while being updated enough to not look cheesy. The overall look of the ship, well, I'll get used to it, even though the nacelles and secondary hull just look wrong.  I even kind of liked the fact that the shuttles used at Starfleet Academy looked worn and battered, covered with scrapes, dents, and peeling paint.  Let's face it, the Academy would get hand-me-downs from the rest of the fleet.  So, what is it that just doesn't sit right with me?

Oh, I'll just come right out and say it.  J.J. Abrams, what the hell were you thinking shooting the Engineering scenes in a fricking brewery?  Those scenes completely demolished willing suspension of disbelief.  A brewery in no way resembles the inside of a starship.  The walls and floors were made of concrete, for crying out loud, not to mention the fact that no engineer constructing a spacecraft would make such inefficient use of interior space.  Even a reproduction of the set from the original series, as cheesy as it was, would have been more believable.

It is a minor thing, I know.  So much about the film was so very well done, but every time that the scene cut to Engineering, I was left thinking "Is this Trek, or the opening credits of 'Laverne & Shirley?'"

On the next installment, please set aside some of the budget for a proper set, one that won't yank the audience out of the story.  Please.

Two Beautiful Astronomy Videos

The Bad Astronomy Blog at DiscoverMagazine.com has links to two beautiful astronomy-related videos.  The first is a trailer for a planetarium show that I would dearly love to see. On top of everything else, it is narrated by David Tennant.
The second is a time lapse exposure of the Milky Way rising in the night sky.  It is truly a majestic sight.