Saturday, June 06, 2009

Star Trek by J J Abrams

There are films which are thought provoking, and there are films which aren't. This one isn't.

Star Trek, when it debuted on TV, captured the minds of a generation by provoking questions about science, the future of humanity, our roots and limitations, and about the wide but essentially human spectrum of experience in the universe.

This film has been directed by J J Abrams, whose most well-known action film is Mission Impossible 3, a film, to put it mildly, not considered a legend.

The director and the screenwriter play to the gallery by including many redundant and vulgar action sequences, and by pitting the infantile egos of three people against each other. I didn't have respect for any character in the whole film. Scenes of heroism should linger and focus on the character, not on pyrotechnics. Kirk's father did something heroic, but the filmmakers couldn't resist cutting to a loud (in space, of all places) fireball instead of lingering on the silent and agonized face of the hero.

The film does provide a nod to 2001 A Space Odyssey in the jump sequence by Kirk and Sulu, and the sequence showing Spock's education as a child is genuinely fascinating. Unfortunately, Spock is shown more as a repressed person having a fetish for logic rather than a person who is truly rational and understands human frailties. The dichotomy between Kirk and Spock is not between the mind and the heart/body, but (unfortunately) between an anal-retentive kind of repression and a risk-taking, impulsive spontaneity. Since both are silly attitudes to have in general, their mixture will be either silly this way or that way, and will succeed only by sheer chance.

It is also noticeable how certain aspects of personality which are unfamiliar or amplified provide comic relief. Observe Sulu's antics, observe the Russian's accent, observe Spock's fetishistic dialogues, observe the doctor's agitation, and so on and so forth.

And let me not even begin to talk about the paradoxes of time travel trivially side-stepped by the film.

A science fiction action film today is mostly a juvenile enterprise, with an overabundance of light and sound, egotistical screaming and just-in-time escapes from death.

There are action films which are muscular, and there are those which are cerebral and surgical and which understand that violence is tragic. Two of my favorite films, Heat, and the original The Day of the Jackal deal with violence as a bitter choice, not as entertainment.

And it is not a question of box office performance. Heat was a hit, despite its mature themes.

An attempt to create an epic cannot focus on providing shallow entertainment. When will directors and screenwriters understand this?

No comments: