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Australian philosopher, literary critic, legal scholar, and professional writer. Based in Newcastle, NSW. My latest books are THE TYRANNY OF OPINION: CONFORMITY AND THE FUTURE OF LIBERALISM (2019) and AT THE DAWN OF A GREAT TRANSITION: THE QUESTION OF RADICAL ENHANCEMENT (2021).

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Athena Andreadis on Star Trek

For some good discussion by Athena Andreadis, go here and here. The second link is to a review that gives her first impressions (and has a good discussion thread). The first link is her considered opinion and also links to the other one.


Athena Andreadis said...

Many thanks for the shout, Russ! The second link should be here (*smile*)

Magpie said...

(Sorry to cut/paste myself again: here's what I put at Athena's blog):

Liked it, but was annoyed by the stupid backstory.

Supersupersupernova WTF? Maybe this is explained in the backstory, but the idea that a supernova is going to detroy the entire galaxy is pure stupid. Galaxys are BIG. Hell, unless the edge is moving faster than the speed of bloody light(???), then they should have had years to save even the closest star systems. This had to be the universe's slowest armageddon. When scifi lacks the imagination to grasp the scale they're working with, it shits me.

Then there's the guy who’s so upset about the death of his world he completely *ignores* his chance to save his world and instead spends 25 years plotting revenge against the guy who TRIED to save his world the first time around. And all his crew go along with it. BRILLIANT. Did his crew even have brains? It seemed Nero was the only one with motivations - if tremendously stupid ones.

Oh, and we get Nero's big ship killing Kirk's dad, then just completely vanishes for 25 years. Hmmm, something suggests a script edit - hey, wouldn't it be cool if Nero killed Kirk's dad? Let's just tack that right on!

A bit I might not have been paying enough attention to: Enterprise spends some time in warp, but then drops Kirk on a planet within sight of Vulcan - so close that Spock could see details of the planet as it died, so we're talking pretty much in orbit. Warp is slower in this new universe, apparently. And they drop Kirk right next to another character who just happens to be the only person in the universe who can explain the plot. Even with the right planet, the right region, hell, the right 12-mile radius circle, it still beggars belief that they'd just run into each other.

There was no reason they had to construct the plot like this. All of these things could have happened in non-stupid ways. It's like they made a sketch plot to build the cool dialogue and interactions around, but never got around to going back and fixing the overarching storyline.

It was a lazy-ass plot. The dialogue and characterisation was good, the special effects were cool, and it was a good movie (I really enjoyed it), but the plot was just pure lazy placeholder bullshit. I enjoyed the movie only by furiously ignoring the plot.

I submit to evidence Wrath of Khan, which is a lot of people's favourite (certainly mine). Some lessons to learn there.

1. Stop making enemies who are impossibly powerful, and thus require intense stupidity on behalf of said badguys to defeat. I want to see a stand up fight, where cunning is used to gain an advantage, not to find and hit an I-win button. The more supidly powerful the enemy, the less I've enjoyed the battles in Star Trek.

I want battles, not puzzles.

2. The good guys don't have to be perfect paragons of perfect golden perfection. Sometime their enemies can have legitimate reasons to hate them, not random idiot 2-dimensional mouth frothing insane self-destructive reasons that can't possibly make any sense.

Moby Dick was a good book and all, but does EVERY bad guy have to be Captain Bloody Ahab? Yeah, Khan was guilty there, too, but at least he made sense, and even his insanely loyal, equally messed up minions had enough depth to question his motivations.

3. The more complicated the story, the more opportunity to screw it up. Guy A hates his old enemy Guy B, and Guy B wants to stop Guy A getting away with a superweapon of doom. Simple motivations, go.

In popcorn scifi, characters should be deep, the action should be deep, but the exposition should come out during the action and the character development. You shouldn't need some guy to stand there, look 10 degrees off camera, and explain what the hell is going on. That's just flat out poor writing.

Again, look at Khan: his motivation (hatred for Kirk) comes out in a cool scary scene involving a brain eating bug (and compare this scene with the bug scene in the new movie: which was more effective? Which did most to progress the plot?). The deadly implications of the genesis device comes out in a cool special-effects "presentation" and some fun character interplay between Spock and McCoy. The naivety of the scientists comes out in pieces of dialogue, but no-one ever stands there and talks to camera to tell the idiot audience what's going on. The rest of the movie is character development and action.

Again, I liked the new movie, but gaping plot flaws in SCIFI - where you control all the bloody variables, where you can wave your hand to whip up anything you want to make a satisfying plot - hurts me right in my balls.

I find their lack of imagination disturbing.

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