Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Heath Holland On...The Endless Franchise Revisited

On second thought…

It’s a rare occasion when I see a movie that actually upsets me and makes me angry. I’ve tried to remain fairly optimistic and look at the bright side. I don’t always succeed, and sometimes movies get the better of me, but it’s been hard for a movie to actually get under my skin. This past weekend, however, as I exited the theater after seeing Star Trek: Into Darkness, I was pissed.

Usually when a movie fails or doesn’t hit me the way I expected, I’m able to shrug it off and move on. The few times that movies have actually angered me have been because they had my goodwill and threw it away. The last time I can remember this happening was after seeing Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises. Granted, the previous installment, The Dark Knight, was a fantastic success and ANY movie would have had a hard time even coming close to the level of that film. No, the things that bothered me about The Dark Knight Rises were mostly character choices that were made, things they chose to do that felt completely out of character (dare I say disrespectful?) to what had come before. If you’ve made a Batman movie in which Batman doesn’t act like Batman, there’s a problem.

The other time in recent memory that I left a movie angry was after seeing X-Men Origins: Wolverine. It felt like the people involved in the making of that film not only had never read a Wolverine comic book or a single issue of X-Men, but that they actively hated the character. Looking at those two examples, it’s clear that what really pisses me off is not when a movie fails, but when it does something so against expectation and logic that it seems as if its creators are either deliberately sabotaging that project OR they just don’t care. Sometimes I think it’s both.
That brings us to Star Trek: Into Darkness. I went into this movie ALREADY loving it, even though I hadn’t seen it yet. I’d seen the 10 minute IMAX preview several times before The Hobbit and really enjoyed it. It felt like an adventure, which is one of the things that Star Trek is (and so much more). Not only that, but I loved the last movie, as well. And I’ve had a long love for all things Trek. I’ve owned all the movies on VHS, then on DVD, and now on Blu-ray, in addition to the television shows, scores of novels, action figures, trading cards, underoos, and the list goes on. I’ve defended J.J. Abrams as being a great choice for this and for his upcoming directorial work on the other big space franchise, Star Wars. What I’m saying is, I AM the target audience for this movie. I was a fan before I even saw it. It didn’t have to work very hard to impress me. It just needed to do what it was supposed to do: be Star Trek.

I’m writing this column before the podcast episode for Star Trek: Into Darkness has been released, but I know Patrick will cover every angle of this film, the pros and cons, the expectations and the realities. Therefore, I will not go into details about the movie itself. For the conversation on that, click HERE. This is not a column on what I thought about Star Trek: Into Darkness. It’s a column on how Star Trek: Into Darkness has changed the way I feel about things. I’ve been doing a lot of thinking since I walked out of the theater about why I am so upset (I still am) and the effect this has taken on my overall attitude regarding summer blockbusters.

A few weeks ago, I wrote about the endless franchise and how studios are cranking out sequel after sequel, comic book movie after comic book movie. I wrote about how I’m both trepidatious and optimistic about the future of these franchises. I went on to explain how we have lost something because original ideas seem to be a rarity at the moment, but we’re seeing things in some of these gigantic blockbusters that we’ve always dreamed of. The tradeoff is almost worth it.

I was wrong. The tradeoff is not worth it.

Regardless of your thoughts on Star Trek: Into Darkness (many people are loving it and I’ve had a hard time finding others who share my thoughts), it has had a significant effect on my optimism for the future of the mega-franchise. This movie feels very insulting. It takes something that I have loved for a lot of my life and cheapens it by doing something it has not yet earned the right to do.

I’ve been a vocal fan of Star Wars for all these years and have defended the prequels as having merit. Yet Star Trek, once further down my list of passions, has become much dearer to me the older I get. The ideas in Star Trek of reaching for a more refined, enlightened way of life, of spreading humanity and prosperity and of accepting all as equals resonates with me far more than it did when I was younger. It took feeling what I did in the last half of Star Trek: Into Darkness to make me see and understand what so many others have felt when they complain about George Lucas. This is something I never felt during or after the Star Wars prequels. Telling, isn’t it?
I don’t like the term "raping my childhood" and still loathe that mean-spirited Patton Oswalt routine, but I now see the sentiment behind it: we once had something that we loved and that was precious to us. That thing was perfect and didn’t need to be fixed or tinkered with. For years it existed on its own, but when it became obvious to the studios that our affection for this thing could be exploited for more money, that perfect thing became fodder for a new, less perfect creation. The sentiment seems to be "You love those old movies? We’ll make new movies that have things from those old movies! Then you’ll love those too. And if you don’t, we’ll already have your money. We don’t care about artistic integrity or trying to remain true to the spirit of what made you love this stuff in the first place. We’re so bereft of ideas that we’re just going to go back and do what worked the first time AGAIN."

As a result of my feelings after Into Darkness, I don’t stand behind much of what I said in my previous column. I’m now afraid to be optimistic about the movies I’ve been looking forward to. I’ve been extremely excited about Man of Steel, not because it looked like a dark, gritty take on the character, but because it looked like they were going to ground Superman in our world and give him the emotional conflict that makes the character so interesting. He’s Jesus. He's the hero of a thousand faces. He’s greater than us, better than us, and could go anywhere and do anything. But he chooses to sacrifice himself and his happiness so that we can be safe. He’s our savior. I expect all of that from Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel, but now I’m very, very nervous about it. Perhaps the marketing surrounding it has just been set up to make it look that way. Maybe it’s going to have a one-hour fight scene between Superman and a polar bear. There may be two robots named Marlon and Brando. The point is, I just don’t know. I used to be willing to give a movie the benefit of the doubt and go into it without cynicism, but my perspective has now changed.
I was fairly excited about J.J. Abrams directing Star Wars: Episode VII. Now I am not. Star Trek: Into Darkness taught me that he is no different from anyone else inside the system. I liked what he did with the first Star Trek movie, despite the fact that it tried to have its cake and eat it too, and despite the fact that the screenplay didn’t actually make all that much sense. Now that we have another movie from him in the same franchise, I see exactly what he’s doing and what the plan is. I don’t want that for Star Wars. My excitement level has been reduced significantly while my skepticism has been raised to maximum.

I’m not sure where to go from here. By all accounts, Star Trek: Into Darkness has been a big success and made both fans and general audiences very happy. I feel like a man without a country. During the most recent Weekend Weigh-In, I expressed my fear of looking forward to future movies such as Man of Steel. JP, a friend of the podcast, responded with a quote from Spock to Captain Kirk in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country: "Is it possible that we two, you and I, have grown so old and inflexible that we have outlived our usefulness?" He’s right. That’s exactly how I feel.

I’ve wrestled with this for a while now -- feeling like I'm no longer able to connect with many of the movies that being released. I’ve fought it because I don’t want to become someone who turns sour on something that they once loved. My conclusion was that, even though it’s hard, I can’t give up. I can’t stop going to see movies just because I’ve gotten older and am not the target audience for most films now. But in the aftermath of Into Darkness, I feel very discouraged. I feel like something I love was taken and used against me. I took a step back and looked at the system as a whole, and I have found that system lacking. It looks broken to me.

It’s discouraging. The way I feel at the moment, I want to stop going to movies. I want to stay at home and delve into the thousands of interesting movies from the past: things that I’ve seen and loved, and things I’ve been wanting to see. I want to sink into the safety and comfort of the movies of Humphrey Bogart, Howard Hawks, Sergio Corbucci, Pam Grier. The movies of the past are safe for me. They don’t have the shadow of expectation hanging over them. Those won’t turn my love of movies against me. Those movies were made with low budgets and because the people involved in them WANTED to make movies, because they HAD to. They had stories they just had to tell. It wasn’t about exploiting a previous affection for something that they could market. It wasn’t about taking an old comic book hero and throwing 150 million dollars at it so that they could put it on lunch boxes and bed sheets. It was for the art of the movie.

So this is not a new feeling, and I’ve been disappointed with movies before. Yes, that’s all part of it, and few movies are perfect. But this time feels different for me. This feels personal. No, I don’t think J.J. Abrams, Damon Lindelof, Kurtzman or Orci had it out for me when they wrote their screenplay. But I am getting older and more stubborn, and like Spock (and JP) said, inflexible. My faith is lessened each year, and I grow less and less willing to subject myself to the risk. I fear I am losing the fight against my own hardened heart.

It’s the quandary of the aging geek: you spend your lifetime accumulating the knowledge of a thousand esoteric corners of pop culture: comic books and old B movies, cheap paperback novels and television shows you never knew anyone else watched. Those things give you identity and help you find others like you. Then these things that you love and are passionate about are eventually used to exploit you.
We live in a world that says that it’s cool to be a geek, but no one is willing to do the work. It’s easy to reference these things, but it’s so much harder to really understand what it is that makes them so special. Like the kid in my wife’s class wearing the Star Trek shirt: when she asked him if he liked Star Trek, his answer was no, he just thought the shirt looked cool. The things I love and have spent so many years pursuing are now valueless. I finally get it -- when these stories and characters became the coolest thing in the world, they also became worthless. They are now just empty product.

I want to hide out and stay inside my house and eat popcorn and watch old '70s television shows. And I do not mean the 60 million dollar big screen versions of those shows that cashed in on people’s affection for what they grew up with. I want to cash in my chips and say goodnight, but I can’t and won’t do that. I am a film fan. I love movies, and there will always be movies that resonate with me and that tell me a story and take me to a place I never thought I’d go. I will continue to seek out the hidden gems and the blockbusters that actually do get it right.

But now when I sit in that darkened theater, waiting for the new iteration of something I’ve loved for years to fill the screen, my willingness to go for the ride will be notably diminished. I love movies, but I don’t want my love of movies to be used against me. Something that once was there is now gone.

Into Darkness indeed.


  1. All of this is related to lack of courage or unwillingness to try new things in Hollywood. Why build a new franchise when you can repackage an old known intellectual property? (Even if it has little in common with the namesake material.

    The disappointment Heath had for Into Darkness I slightly had for Star Trek 2009. When I saw it I thought it was a good fun action adventure film, but it sure was not the Trek I know and love. I kept thinking why did the studio and Abrams not just make it a new property, make it as a new sci-fi franchise and universe instead of using the Trek IP? Well, to the executives it is a lot harder to sell that unknown label. So just slap the Trek label on the movie.

    I fear what Abrams will do with Star Wars. I am not a fan of Abrams. The only thing he has done that I really like is Super 8. Sure Abrams has a lot of popular and successful films and television series. But in the end I have often seen him as a borderline hack repackaging old franchises. (Alias = Le Femme Nikita, Fringe = X-Files) Super 8 was just a mash-up of Spielberg and 80s kid adventure tropes and homages.

    The thing is though, Abrams films and shows are usually enjoyable, often they are actually quite good, (My wife loves Alias, I like Fringe) it is just that they are not original thoughts. He is part of the current movement that just takes something and says "lets do it again just more dark and more gritty". He is a cover band that takes and a great classic song, remixes it, puts it in a minor key to be "edgy" and has a hit single. I believe that Abrams is one of the most overrated directors in Hollywood.

    1. I keep thinking that if J.J. Abrams just has a good script for Star Wars, he'll deliver a good movie. He's never really directed a good script before (and I say this as someone who loves Super 8). He's good at set pieces and energy and staging things. He just needs someone else's ideas to execute. Hopefully.

    2. Is Abrams able to recognize a good script when he sees one?

  2. Have you been reading my diary? I felt exactly the same way you did. My friends enjoyed the movie, I felt disappointed in myself as I walked out, afraid I had become as inflexible as Spock suggests.

    What I love about Star Trek is actually many of the same qualities I love about F This Movie!, namely the camaraderie of the "crew", the almost boundless optimism and fever for exploration and discovery, and of course Patrick's hairpiece. Wrath of Khan is a truly special movie, and to see a movie that apes it without even so much as an attempt to understand it is very disheartening.

    Richard Donner's Superman is my favorite movie, full stop. I'm trepidatious about Zack Snyder's take on the Man of Tomorrow, but I'm also optimistic because I know there's room for both to exist. I'm trying to take that same tack with Star Trek, but I'm finding it nigh-impossible. The shallowness of Into Darkness feels somehow personal, I don't really know how to explicate that.

    As I said, I truly love the positivity found at F This Movie! and I'm trying not to become a cranky Internet cynic, there's too much of that out there already. That being said, I'm going to think about this column a lot as the summer wears on. Even on a journey into darkness, it's good to know you have a reliable crew by your side.

    Thank you, Heath.

    1. Sweet. I'm Kirk. Because I was pretty sure I was Yeoman Rand.

      Thanks for saying that about our site. We are often accused of being too negative, which always takes me by surprise. But everyone takes things differently, so I'm glad we have rad people like you who get what we are trying to do.

      Saying that STID apes Wrath of Khan without attempting to understand it is the best, most succinct criticism I've read. Thank you.

    2. I'm Nurse Chapel.

      I've never thought F This Movie was too negative. What drew me here in the first place was how positive it seemed to be. No, you/we don't like everything. In fact, some weeks, we don't like more than we do like. But we are always reaching upward for excellence. We're not a bunch of Armond Whites trying to be controversial, we're honest and EARNEST. The earnestness is the key. We love movies, and we want every movie to be the best. I don't really get that vibe from too many other places. I see a lot of posturing, a lot of chest thumping and turned up noses, but no earnestness. Those other guys aren't people I'd want to hang out with. They wouldn't hang out with me anyway, because they're "above" me.

      I truly don't know how anyone could say any of us are being negative. We all clearly LOVE movies.

    3. JP:

      No, I haven't been reading your diary! To do that, I'd have to have a key to your house.

      *covers up lockpick*

      Thank YOU.

    4. Can I be the girl that hung on Kirk in the evil mirror universe?

      I have to go with Heath here. A big part of the reason I listened to F This Movie, and keep listening, is that you're not overly negative. Even when you are expressing a negative opinion, you do so with respect for other's views and you try to explain why you didn't like it.

  3. "Common sense isn't a gift, it's a punishment. Because you have to deal with everyone that doesn't have it." - Anon

    We are not "inflexible".

    We are the remains of the last few generations who were taught critical thinking and an appreciation for great story-telling. We weren't made so simple minded by things like music videos or games that we go, "Ooh, explosions! Fist fights! A girl in her underwear (even though you can see the same amount of flesh at any beach)! This is awesome!" We don't see "Twilight" as passable "fanfic" much less "literature".

    Maybe we're the last generations who's never been on ritalin...

    But don't let them con you into thinking that it's you and not them.

    Only thing I would add to Heath's rant is that this "exploiting our love" and just turning out crap he mentions didn't start with Abrams. In many Trek fans' opinion that started right about the first season of Voyager (TV and movies) Nemesis was called "The Final Nail" by some fans. Enterprise tanked. And instead of looking inward, Paramount decided that the fans were just bored.

    Now I could go into a rant about why do people like us still go to things like Michael Bay movies thinking they'll ever change (why should they change when they get your money anyway).

    But, this time I was no better. On the 16th I paid IMAX prices to see a sequel that in 2009 I swore you wouldn't find me within miles of any theater showing it. And then they cast Benedict Cumberbatch as "John Harrison". Plus we were lied to for months in the form of denials and BS like "No, it's another character from the original series who hasn't been over used" and things like Karl Urban saying at Comic Con that it was Gary Mitchell. So I went only to see Cumberbatch (don't judge me) and what he could do with this character he was given to "flesh out".

    In fact, they gave me a comment card at the end of the movie - one of the questions was "Why did you want to see this" and one of the choices was "To see a leading actor" and I wrote his name next to it. So there.

    If IMDB is right (?), a third movie is already in the works for 2016 and Khan will return. Don't know what that means to this "deep space five year mission" they were just sent on...unless Khan and his crew aren't being kept on Earth and they run into them there...but then how can that be "deep, uncharted space" if they're already there? *face palm*

    I'll admit I will see it...after I've watched another movie and I sneak into the theater showing it. I'm not proud of that but I'll be damned if I'll spend my money to see another Orci/Kurtzman/Lindelof/Abrams debacle.

    I'm too old for this shit.

    1. It's true, Kathy. We do seem to be the last of a dying breed of critical thinkers. I mean, to be clear, I like explosions and fist fights and wimmins in their underwear, but never at the expense of a story. Those things are window dressing, and without something to hang them on, there's no point.

      But I like your perspective that we are not the problem, everyone else is. I think that's true. We've done the work. I'll use the term again, because it's important: we've paid our dues. True appreciation for something comes when you've invested yourself in it.

      If what you are pursuing COSTS nothing, then it is also WORTH nothing.

      I can be forgiving of a poorly written indie drama, or an ambitious failure. But when something has 50 years (Star Trek) or 60 years (many comic properties) of goodwill and history behind it, then you better be aware of what makes that so special. Do your homework and show it respect and you've done half your job already.

    2. I wish Patrick was finished with DS9 already. There are points I could make with that but I don't want to poison the well, so to speak.

      And for anyone looking at that "50 years of Star Trek" as "No wonder they can't come up with anything new"...

      1) Doctor Who

      2) Since 1967 starting with "Spock Must Die" hundreds of TOS novels have been written (really, that's the most specific amount I was able to find on the interwebs - one of the tubes must be clogged). Not to mention comic books which have also been printing that long a time. And the animated series...

      With the exception of Shatner, all those writers were somehow able to invent interesting new adventures for those "same old characters" rarely changing a hair on their heads much less their entire lives.

      But Abrams and Company had to have a clean slate that they've done little with but mess with the formula and retell old stories.

    3. Well, though I've been unimpressed with Doctor Who for the last couple of years, I do completely understand your point. In fact, BECAUSE Star Trek has been around fro 50 years (and Doctor Who as well) the possibilities for stories are larger than ever. There's entire universes unexplored.

      And would you believe that I just finished reading "Spock Must Die" last week? I have almost all of the original series novels. Well, the ones published up until about 2006. I think that's a cool coincidence that you mentioned it. It didn't do a lot for me as a whole, but it did have a really thought-provoking debate between Bones and Scotty as to whether or not the transporter was murder (the argument being that if it disintegrates you in one place and creates you in another, the original "you" has died and whoever pushed the button committed murder).

    4. Speaking of books...

      I understand your trepidation about Man of Steel. On the other hand, what I saw in the trailer reminded me of a book called "It's Superman!" by Tom DeHaven.

      If it comes out half as good as that book, we're okay.

    5. Just a quick note on the Trek books that Shatner wrote...a friend of mine and I were discussing whether or not Shatner really had anything to do with writing the books or if he just slapped his name on them so they'd sell more. We both pointed out the same line as evidence that Shatner HAD to have written them, from The Ashes Of Eden: "Mistakes were for the young. Kirk didn't make them anymore."

    6. Didn't Shatner have them ghost written for him with Judith and Garfield Reeves Stevens? As in, he sat down with them, came up with an idea, maybe even dictated plot point, then they wrote it.

      That's hilarious.

      Kathy, I'm familiar with that book. I don't actually think I've read it, but I know exactly what you're referencing. I still have high hopes Man Of Steel, given that it's a director who has earned my trust (Owl movies notwithstanding, to reference Patrick) and can tackle expensive genre movies and be faithful but still be original. I hope, in a few weeks, we're all having a conversation about how pleasantly surprised we are by Man of Steel.

  4. This is the part of the movie where a friendly stranger's head pops out of the window and tries to talk you off the ledge. Here, friend, life isn't so bad, just let me come out here with you and take your hand before you do something you regret...*SNAPS HANDCUFFS ON* Got you, sucker, I learned that move from the great first movie of another franchise that eventually went off the rails. I'm not going to let you talk yourself out of it - we're going to do this jump together and this time there won't be an air-filled safety thingy to land on.

    I feel like we've had similar discussions before about the state of things where I've come off a lot more negative than you, but there is a fine line between pessimism/cynicism and being realistic, as there is between optimism and naivety. Welcome to the Dark Side - it's not that bad. Just accept the fact that we're in a state of moral and cultural decline that may have gone too low to ever correct itself without a bloody revolution. But don't worry about it - these are interesting times, find enjoyment in what you can and laugh at the stuff you can't. And more importantly, buy lots and lots of guns. :P

    I think you really nailed it when you talked about how geeky things are "cool" now - as soon as you said that first sentence my mind started working on a reply and then you went on to say what I was basically thinking, but I'll elaborate (with an annoying autobiographical pause). I was a social interloper growing up - I played sports AND I played Magic: The Gathering. I could hang out with jocks, geeks and everyone in between. That being said, I was never really one of the "cool" kids by definition and never really wanted to be (even though my Mom kept telling me I was). "Cool" is vacuous; "cool" has no passion; "cool" is too concerned with being cool and not with being ABOUT something. And cool is now ruining the things us geeks (or half-geeks) loved because it doesn't care about making you think or making you feel, it only cares about being cool which always emphasizes the superficial over the substantial. Which is what we got with Star Trek Into Darkness and what we're going to keep getting because the majority of people are either cool, think they're cool or want to be cool and the people who see coolness for what it is and reject it are just too few.

    But hey, there will still be exceptions and we can at least maintain a bit of hope every time we go into a new thing even if we have to prepare ourselves for disappointment...

    1. Your allusion to Lethal Weapon THRILLED me. I read that at work and it brightened my day. I said more regarding this post at further down. In my pants.

  5. There's nothing more disheartening to a fan than to see something you love, something you cherish, grabbed by an individual (no matter how talented) who has no feeling or affection for the material and who turns it into a cheap moment or throwaway gag. What really burns me is that new generations will consume this crap and wonder what all the fuss was about. "Star Trek? Yeah, that was a little cool - I don't get why my Dad's so geeked up about it. Isn't it just another action picture?" NO IT IS NOT. That is what it has been turned into. As much as I find the 2009 film entertaining, it's not the Star Trek I know and love. It's not a movie of ideas, but a movie of action. It's a movie where Spock freaks out and relishes the death of an enemy, and where Kirk goes from cadet to captain in 2 hours. It's fast food Trek.

    1. Fast food Trek is a good way to describe it. I will say this, though: it was the 2009 movie that really turned me on to the franchise, and now I love the original stuff way more than that film so it did serve a purpose. I will always be appreciative of that. And I'm ok with doing something different because the original still exists, so long as that something different a) doesn't spit in the face of the original or b) it actually IS something different and not just a pale retread that knows the words but not the music. It's a criticism that could be leveled at MANY of the remakes we've gotten in the last few years.

    2. I'm so glad that you've been inspired to seek the original material out. And you're on DS9 now, correct? Watch out for Gul Dukat - one of the all-time best villains the franchise has ever produced.

    3. Thanks! Me too! It's kind of funny how it came about, like someone becoming a "foodie" after eating at Arby's, but I guess how I got there isn't important.

      I'm bouncing back and forth between TNG and DS9, but right now DS9 has grabbed me enough that I'm pretty exclusive.

    4. @Steve
      You wrote, "There's nothing more disheartening to a fan than to see something you love, something you cherish, grabbed by an individual (no matter how talented) who has no feeling or affection for the material..."
      That is why the new Treks, especially Into Darkness fall short. I read an interview with Abrams where he said he had no particular interest in Trek growing up, had never watched it etc., and I thought this is the dude making the new films?
      I mean Sam Raimi loves comic books and read Spider-Man result, one good movie, one great one, and well the third one go bloated and fell short.

    5. @Patrick

      While watching all your Trek I hope you saw one of my favorite episodes from the Original series, season one's "Balance of Terror". That episode was the prototype for the final ship-to-ship battle in Wrath of Kahn. The whole episode was the Enterprise facing off against a Romulan ship inspired by submarine films. Great tension.

    6. You guys have really got me wanting to watch Deep Space Nine. I'm primarily an original series guy, and to a lesser extent, The next Generation. I've seen a few episodes of Deep Space Nine, but nothing hooked me. I know the Dominion War is supposed to be awesome, but it always seemed like Star Trek had diminishing returns after The Next Generation. I know all these shows are now on Netflix instant, so I'm going to start delving into them. Given my work schedule, it will take forever to make any real progress, but it sounds good. Patrick, knowing you are into it is like a stamp of approval. You don't like bad things.

      Also, this conversation made me crave Arbys.

  6. First off, I've been monitoring this discussion from work, where I can see it but can't add any comments due to our internet usage policy. So I've been unable to contribute before now, but I am 1) floored at the positive response this got, and 2) thrilled to see the level of discourse going on between everyone. It makes me very happy. We truly are all very similar. I've been waiting all day to get home so I could jump in.

    As far as JJ Abrams, has anyone watched the documentary from Rod Roddenberry, Gene's son, called Trek Nation? Toward the end of the documentary, Roddenberry gets a chance to sit down with JJ Abrams and he shows him a video of his father in which Gene expresses that he thinks the future of Trek lies with the younger generation and that someone will have to pick up the torch for the next generation and take the ideas forward. It's very touching that Rod wanted to show this to Abrams. But Abrams seems remarkably unaffected. Almost cold. I don't think this meant ANYTHING to him. I don't even think he likes Star Trek. I think it was an opportunity to make a lot of money by ticking off a few boxes and because he thought Star Wars was never going to happen, so he took the next best thing (in his opinion). Watching that made me very upset because you can see that there's just no respect there for the vision of the franchise he is in charge of. And as for Into Darkness itself, I am reminded of the dialogue from Ian Malcolm to John Hammond in the first Jurassic Park movie:

    I'll tell you the problem with the scientific power that you're using here, it didn't require any discipline to attain it. You read what others had done and you took the next step. You didn't earn the knowledge for yourselves, so you don't take any responsibility for it. You stood on the shoulders of geniuses to accomplish something as fast as you could, and before you even knew what you had, you patented it, and packaged it, and slapped it on a plastic lunchbox, and now you're selling it, you wanna sell it.

    I think it fits. It may be a slight stretch, but I do think it fits. JJ Abrams is John Hammond. He doesn't even realize the beauty of what he has, but he's ready to make money from it.

    the problem with this, and so many other things, is that there have been no dues paid. How can we expect anything when the people behind these franchises are just cashing checks and turning in a product? I am shocked that the Into Darkness screenplay was given the OK for filming. It's sloppy. The Wrath of Khan stuff is shoehorned in at the expense of the story. I mentioned in the comments to the podcast episode for Into Darkness how my wife hasn't seen Wrath of Khan and commented on how out of left field the whole third act comes. That's because it doesn't belong here. It's just fan service at the expense of the story. Only I don't see any real, true fans responding to it. They're finding it insulting.

    I'm still amazed at mainstream support this movie has gotten. It's being given a complete pass by so many. I now wonder, is this movie a litmus test of some sort? Because truly, we all seem to come down on a particular side, and everyone else is coming down on another. There seems to be a pretty clear dividing line.

    Out of space. Be right back.

    1. Okay, my mind has been officially BLOWN by your Jurassic Park reference. I don't think it's a stretch at all, Heath. I never once thought about that remark in the context of movies, but I think it's freakin' genius to suggest it. Ian Malcolm strikes again!

      Oh, and don't give up on DS9. It takes a couple of seasons to get really good, but when it hits its stride it rivals Shakespeare (yes, I'm serious) in the complexity of its themes. Plus the Dominion War is both exciting as hell and scary as hell.

    2. Well, thanks for not laughing in my face for comparing Jurassic Park to JJ Abrams. I'm glad you think the comparison works, as well.

      I guess I'd better get to watchin' some DS9!

  7. Sol:

    I hate to be this guy. I hate to come down on the side of negativity. I don't want to be a hipster who sits there and says everything sucks. I wrote a few months ago in my rant about the new Hollywood that I don't want to be the old guy in the Charlie Chaplin suspenders complaining about how it's all been done.

    But there is so much unrealized potential out there and these people are not tapping into it! I do still hold out hope for Snyder's Man of Steel because I think he actually has paid dues. I think he loves the source material, and he made a watchable movie out of the long-considered-unfilmable Watchmen comic. But I am afraid.

    I'm constantly at war with myself over this: trying to be optimistic in the face of increasingly crappy versions of what I love. I think something has broken inside me now where I can't justify the optimism anymore.

    For a few various reasons, I've started wearing my geekery on my sleeve. I've become so proud of it. All these kids are walking around in their Doctor Who t-shirts, but I've been living this for decades now. I'm proud. I'm not a hipster, I'm experienced. I'm in the process of entering my collection of 15 long boxes of comics into an online database. When I'm done, I'm going to link it to my Facebook account so everyone can see it. I'm not ashamed, I'm proud. I've done the work. I've paid my dues. I have earned the right to be discriminating because I've seen this all before. I expect quality, and when I don't get it, I am now ready to speak my mind.

    J. R. R. Tolkien was a medievalist, meaning that he studied the ways and the life of medieval society and identified with that society more than he did the society in which he lived. It was one of his (and many other) medievalists that society and culture are on a decline, and had been so since the beginning of time. He believed that the men of our time are no longer capable of the feats and the accomplishments of the men who came before us. For instance, the Greeks and the Romans were superior in intellect and physical ability, thus their massive contributions/creations, such as the olympics and philosophy. Whereas a man in 1000 BC could run 50 miles and lift 3 times his body weight, few can now begin to approach such levels of physical demand. Whereas man once contemplated existence and consciousness, Tolkien saw many in his world content to walk through their daily life performing the most menial tasks without question.

    His opinion, that society is slowly declining, never to recover, is one that I've been thinking about a lot for the last year or so. It makes a lot of sense to me. Given the topic of this conversation and Star Trek, it's interesting to note that the original series is less than 50 years old, but for many, it might as well be 200 years old. It holds no meaning or validity for much or our current society. As Steve K said, we live in a fast food world.

    1. Yep, fast food is a very good symbol of the overall problem - part of that problem being that the people selling the shit don't see it as a problem. To the contrary, dumbing everything down is very profitable if the masses will keep buying it. So again, we must also look in the mirror on this one...

      And I don't know, I guess you shouldn't look at it as "being negative". Having the awareness to realistically identify shit doesn't have to make you negative, though it could. I guess that's the struggle smart (and handsome) guys like us have to face - sifting out stuff we love while not getting too bummed about there being so much that we don't.

      I'll leave you with a good little quote from, oh, let's say Buddha: "Happiness is the management of expectations."

    2. I'm sorry, did you drop this? I think this Buddha belongs to you.

      Well done.

  8. I liked Star Trek Into Darkness personally (I've yet to see Wrath of Khan so that probably has a lot to do with it...ignorance something something bliss).

    That aside, I want to see a 5 year mission movie from Star villians, no conflict, just straight up jet setting across the galaxy and having fun. That flies in the face of drama and the purpose of a movie but I don't know...wouldn't it be cool to see Star Trek: Into Friendship?

    1. Adam, did you have any history with Star Trek prior to watching Into Darkness? I'm sure you've crossed paths with it, but I'm just curious if you considered yourself a fan of any of the previous entries or shows. Because it seems like the people that came to the Abrams Trek relatively fresh enjoy it more.

      And, to be fair, I'm really glad you enjoyed it. I don't want to take that away from anyone.

    2. I saw IV, V and Generations a LONG time ago. I don't remember anything about them. I've gone through spurts of watching TNG and I liked First Contact. I really liked the first Abrams movie and found STID entertaining.

      You're not taking away my enjoyment so no worries there. I love movie discussions even when they don't gel with mine. Except about The Hangover.

    3. You're right. In an alternate universe (ugh) where Roddenberry never existed so that Star Trek didn't happen and these writers made this up would still have problems but I'd be interested in seeing the sequel because maybe next time they'll do better.

  9. About 10 years ago, I started falling into this feeling that everything sucked. It wasn't true, but I was in a bad mood and I couldn't shake it. There were all sorts of things I found myself not liking.

    The hard point, the point where everything went wrong for me was Batman Begins. I rejected that movie like a bad kidney. I had never been so angry at a movie as I was walking out of that thing. When I explained to a couple of people what I thought was wrong, I could see their faces crumble because all the problems they hadn't noticed clicked for them. One of them can't watch it any more, all they see now are the problems I pointed out.

    That makes me feel like a monster, because I don't want to be the person who ruined a movie for someone else. That increased my bad mood toward the movie. That is where the ball of my movie bad mood got rolling. There were a lot of movies between the start and the end.

    Things got so bad, I had so many lousy experiences where I just didn't enjoy the show, that I stopped going to the movies for a few years there. I would only see something if it was vetted by a few people who I knew I could trust, and even then i would skip it if a director or producer on my Black List worked on it.

    I didn't see Iron Man in the theater, didn't see Kung Fu Panda, missed Grindhouse and Brick and The Departed and a lot of other movies I have subsequently enjoyed. The few times I did go, it was either a Bourne or Bond movie, or it was the 2009 Star Trek or Avatar which... Patrick and I can agree to disagree on those movies.

    Now, granted, there were Other Things (tm) going on in my life at the time that didn't help the situation along, but I felt like I'd lost something important.

    I was on the outside of the funzone, looking in and wondering why it seemed to be working for them and not for me. I'd grown too... something... to say that everyone else was just an idiot, because clearly that wasn't true, and that made me feel even worse.

    It was Terry Gilliam's The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus that got me back into the theater. It's odd, sitting in a theater when you're as near rock bottom as you've ever been and watching that movie. I can't define it, or defend it, but it made me want to sit in a theater and watch movies again.

    We went out and saw movies again. Iron Man 2 and Inglourious Basterds and Kick-Ass and True Grit and even garbage like Alice in Wonderland because we thought it might at least be interesting to watch Tim Burton become a parody of himself (Spoilers: It wasn't) the point was we went to see movies again.

    AND! I started listening to this podcast. The Rocketeer if I remember right. And here were some people who were being honest, and not saying "If you don't like what we like then you're a dick" and instead saying "Hey, everybody likes different stuff" and I'd spent the last... five or six years being an outcast because I didn't like the popular things.

    Here's the point of this long story.

    You've maybe got to go through a period of crankiness. There is a moment when things that you know should be working won't work because while the elements might be there, there is no heart and you can see the stings.

    You just pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and start all over again. You can retreat into the old movies (because there are hundreds of great movies you've probably never seen or even heard of) AND you can watch out for the new stuff of you're careful.

    Me? I've just got to say "No, I won't see that." because I know that I don't dig the groove of the people who made it or I think it'll be a cynical cash in and I can't do cynical anymore. Besides, if it turns out I'm wrong, someone will tell me that I should see this thing, and I can get a hold of it somehow.

    1. Out of fear of derailing the conversation can I ask what your problems were with Batman Begins? I'm just curious because that movie was a turning point for me too, but in the other direction. After that movie I got into Batman big time and subsequently comics and geekdom in general. I'm now a much bigger "genre" (don't like that term but it's handy short hand) movie fan and a comics fan Thanks to BB.

    2. It would be difficult to cite every example, I haven't seen the movie since it was in the theater and I don't want to sit here and rant against a movie you like.

      There were things that worked, but they were obliterated for me by the things that didn't. Things would be going okay for a few minutes and then something would happen and I was ripped out of the movie with rage at how bad the movie was.

      I was being deeply frustrated by the movie, and then the scene with Crane taking Katie Holmes to see the basement happened and nothing went right after that.

      But what would be the point in giving you a list of things I hated about the movie? You disagree, you like it, let's agree to disagree about that one.

  10. I don't want to be the party pooper of this thread, because in general I think I agree with some of the underlying sentiments to an extent, but I have a couple of points to bring up.

    Much like in your previous column HHH I have to point out the sounding of "Grumpy Old Men and Women" that is coming across here. I don't mean that as a harsh derogatory term, what I mean is that I think the community here is probably late twenties and over? maybe?. Well, I'm early 30s and I feel I have recently come through the other side of the "pop culture today is shit" phase of my life, and come to the realisation that I'm just no longer the target demographic any more. And I'm starting to feel fine about that.
    You know what movies I liked what I was a kid? TMNT, Police Academy 4, Encino Man etc. Do you know what those three films have in common? Their pretty crappy to an adult audience. But kids/adolescents loved them. In 10-15 years time the 30 year olds will be lamenting the glory days when they basked in the cinematic majesty that was the Harry Potter films, Lord of the Rings and the Marvel Universe. They wont understand how the kids of 2028 can justify their time watching "Slime Monsters from Mars part 3" or (hope hope) that they can be so devoid of fun since cinema has followed the cyclical trend in most pop culture realms and returned to the more subtle and complex story telling of the 70s. Either way, it wont be for them, and it shouldn't.

    In Steven Soderbergh speech he mentioned a couple times that maybe he wasn't the audience for the material he was critiquing and that maybe he should ask his daughter for her opinion. While he never actually said that he did ask his daughter I don't think it should have been her that he should have been asking. He should have been asking his father how he thought of the movies Steven watched when he was young.
    I don't know about any of you guys but my parents rarely, if ever, watched the movies I liked as a teenager with me, and so they shouldn't, they weren't for them.

    So, out of fear of sounding like an old man I say, Let the Kids have their fun. Those movies aren't technically for me any more anyway (doesn't mean I wont watch them though).

    My second point, is that while I see a lot of the flaws that have been levelled at Into Darkness I also want to insert into the conversation (after Adam Alpha) that the movie was still fun. I'm reminded of what Patrick says about modern movie discussions that something is either "the best" or "the worst" (usually shortly followed by him ironically(?) calling something The Worst, lol). Is Into Darkness really as bad as this discussion (and the one in the other thread) is making it sound? I don't think so, personally. And I wonder if we are falling into that Best vs Worst trap. ... just saying.

    1. I'll agree that much of the Star Trek discussion (as it pertains to STID) has been pretty negative, but I would never want to give the impression that it's the worst. There's plenty to like in it. I can only speak for myself, but I just feel very frustrated at what I think are some cynical, wrongheaded decisions that spoil the movie. I'm not interested in picking apart plot holes, because you could do that with a lot of movies. It's the broad strokes that break my heart a little -- maybe because the '09 Star Trek is a little like my Batman Begins in that it sent me down a path.

      But I really don't want to be part of that polarized culture, so I am sorry if it's coming off that way. Like Heath said, I truly wouldn't want to take away anyone's enjoyment.

    2. Let's do a hypothetical...devil's advocate, as it were.

      Man of Steel comes out and it's "the story doesn't make sense but it's fun". And it gets to the end and in order to save the world from whatever they make him a shape-shifter. He morphs himself into someone the villain trusts and he gets near enough to thump them.

      Is that okay because it's a fun movie?

      That's how I feel about Khan's blood. It's not part of the character and was probably only thought up to let them kill Kirk, do the bit in the engine room but then bring him back.

      Yeah, parts of the movie were great.

      The fight in the woods were Optimus Prime is killed in Transformers 2 is awesome (I think there's one other good part of that film but I can't remember). The Lynnea Quigley kill in Silent Night, Deadly Night was great. Creating the illusion of Felicia Rose having a dick was impressive.

      I don't go to movies for "parts" to be good and then suffer through the rest of it. And if that's "nitpicking"...

    3. Brad, I'm just going to reiterate what Patrick said. It's not the worst, by any stretch. I've always been honest in my columns about what I'm thinking and feeling, and I wrote about my crisis a few months back when I realized that most of what Hollywood is making isn't for me anymore. Then shortly after that, I wrote about how that had pushed me into a new area of film fandom and how that helped me grow. I'm not negative for negativity's sake. And I think I'm usually pretty optimistic.

      This week's column was me being honest about how it felt to have loved something for decades and then have someone take it and recreate it without understanding what made it special.

      I'm not trying to take anything away from you. You seem to have enjoyed the movie, and that's great.

      And the kids can certainly have their fun. But there's a bunch of us here who have loved and supported some of these things for most of our lives. Let's not write them off and put them in the old folks home just yet. They deserve to be heard as well, not kept silent to avoid making waves. They, after all, are the people who made these properties so successful in the first place. Maybe they have some wisdom left to impart before they go.

    4. This isn't all about age...

      There's a reason that British staples like Doctor Who, Red Dwarf and so on have found audiences here and why the "dumbed down" American version often don't. It can't be just older people alone.

      And this could turn into a tirade about education but I'll spare you. :-)

    5. In rereads to my post, it comes off as more harsh than I was intending. Sorry. It is basically an extrapolation of an idea I have regarding modern music and how the "youth" radio station here in Oz has been appealing to me less and less over the years. And I think the basic idea can be applied to nearly all areas of pop culture as they primarily target adolescents/early 20s. So with that in mind I guess I just wonder, when we look at the state of genre movies at the moment and see the quality as below par, or not like it used to be, I just wonder whether that’s because we are getting old?

      Now, besides that point is whether a movie is well made or not, which is more objective (in that subjective way that all art is). This is not impacted by the time idea…as much…maybe.

      And to clarify I never felt my enjoyment of Into Darkness was trying to be taken away. I didn't like it that much to be impacted like that, and I didn't even like it enough to really defend it as such. It was more an off hand comment regarding movie criticism and the overall impression the discussion was giving me (mainly from the comments discussion) , not necessarily anyone in particular (despite mentioning HHH's post at tge start of the comment)

  11. Brad L. - I see your point and agree to some extent but I think technological advancements and the evolution of capitalism/consumerism complicate things. I don't think you can simply chalk it up to getting older and not being the target audience anymore, though that's inevitably a part of it. But the fact is that Hollywood films as an art form seem far more willing these days to compromise for the sake of broader box office appeal. And I don't think that's just me going with my gut, that seems to be a complaint heard from people (with integrity) within the industry.

    Even Steven Spielberg, inventor of the Blockbuster, was able to create broadly appealing movies without simply targeting the lowest common denominator. He was able to find the Goldilocks point between Too Smart and Too Stupid. And that's not a fluke - it takes a lot of work (see: the making of Jaws). With Star Trek Into Darkness (for one example) Abrams and the writers aimed low, they were lazy. They fed us cold porridge with lots of sugar on top because that's the easiest for EVERYONE to get down. And I'll go back for another bowl myself - I liked it, there was a lot to enjoy - I just lament the fact he, like so many others, didn't take the time to warm it up a bit.

    1. Sol, I like the cut of your jib. Is that circumcised? But no, I think you're onto something, that Hollywood seems more willing to compromise for broad appeal instead of sticking to integrity and hoping THAT will bring 'em in.

      BRAD! I meant to say yesterday...I'm turning 34 soon. Do you know what else the movies you named (Encino Man and TMNT [I haven't seen Police Academy 4]) all have in common? I really dig them. I STILL love Encino Man because it's goofy and ridiculous and tries to be nothing more. It's Pauly Shore being The Wea-sel! I mean, yes, that character is outdated and annoying, but it's also innocent and fun. I still find lots to like in a lot of the stuff I watch with my seven year old, too, like Phineas and Ferb. I'm not a heartless bastard. Bastard, yes. Heartless, no. But anyway, I do know what you're saying, I think this week in particular just hit a nerve. I can assure you this: I have at least a month's world of my columns planned or partially written, and I can assure you, they're all positive.


    2. You know I saw something on tele last night that made me think of this conversation. I came across the Neverending Story Part2, and with my memories of being bitterly disappointed when I saw it at the cinema way back when I thought I would sit down and watch some of it. And I think the story, from what I could gather, is basically a meta commentary on this posts point while at the same time being that exact same thing too. coincidentally im sure.
      let me explain.

      Bastian who loves Fantastia and has populated it with his imaginations, hopes and dreams, which in turn represents all of childhood imagination, is under threat from an evil which. What is she doing? She is exploiting Bastian and his love for Fantastia, but making him go further and further into this world and wishing it to be how he wants it to be (read: investing more into the world of make believe, through emotional investment and/or financial) . With each wish the evil witch gets more powerful (read: corporate ownership), and she plays Bastian like a puppet. But the clincher for me, was what the witch was doing to Fantastia (our imagination land), she was making things hollow. Removing their substance.....fuck me, I almost had a heart attack.

      HHH. PA4: C.O.P. was my favourite when I was a kid, and it was the cast that the cartoon was based on (which for a time surpassed my love for TMNT). Now as an adult, it is clearly the worst.