A lot of familiar points are made in this excellent article:
Star Trek (2009) is thematically not about science fiction, exploration, speculation about alien cultures, or any of the other nifty stuff that defines the spirit of Star Trek. Instead it’s a movie about destiny, good versus evil and unlikely heroes coming together. In other words, it’s the the same stuff that makes Star Wars awesome, but also what makes it really generic.
... the J.J. Abrams brand reminds me less of storytelling and more of a product. ... just because he’s good at assembling something that looks the way it should, doesn’t mean it’s good.
... We shouldn’t care if the boxes are being ticked off on the Joseph Campbell/Jungian archetype chart. We shouldn’t care too much about rapid fire editing or awesome cuts. Instead, we should hope for something new and interesting that might linger in our thoughts and consciousness for longer than we’re sitting in the movie theatre.
The problem, of course, is that it's no longer practical to do anything else but tick off boxes. The pipeline won't stand for it; the marketing apparatus won't stand for it; the financiers and merchandisers won't stand for it; and neither will the audiences who have been trained to believe there's not supposed to be anything else out there but one archetypal, template-filling product after another.
That's all bad enough. But when that cynicism trickles down into the ears of the very people who are supposed to be finding a path away from all that -- into the ears of the creators -- then it becomes positively deadly. And now that geek culture is pop culture, it's all the more urgent that the next wave of geek writers and directors not simply recapitulate everything that came before.
To be honest, it's not like I feel Abrams is a traitor, exactly, because I don't think he was ever all that promising to begin with. it's more that I'm worried about true mavericks like Shane Carruth (of Primer and Upstream Color) getting fed up and settling for directoral gigs with a number after the title because he's tired of nobody wanting to pay him to do his own thing. Including, I might add, the very people who bitch and whine about there never being anything new and interesting out there, but who consistently refuse to support it when it does show up.
I mentioned before that what made Star Wars so fantastic in 1977 was not just that it was about good vs. evil, but the way it was about those things in its particular moment in time. We can't go back to being that kind of audience, no matter how much we really, really want to. We have to find a way to speak to the audience we have now, and through that find a way to also speak across time.
After making Primer, Carruth worked for several years on a project named A Topiary, which for a time sported a website with the following promo copy: Over and over you have been promised ADVENTURE but have not found it. I wonder now if he had been referring to the experiences we've been having in multiplexes lately.
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