The new Star Trek is a prequel— it removes itself from the narrative stream of the original series; unlike the original films that took place ‘after’ (a natural choice considering the aging original cast), this film replaces everyone with dopplegangers, re-casting the roles by hair color, and takes place ‘before’. The prequel creates a narrative problem. In the film-as-television-sequels there was a natural metamorphosis of characters—their episodic youth replaced by longer narrative form middle-age. The prequel must tell a story where the ending is known; it is a reverse story, where the ultimate status quo is already known and the dramatic tension is created by disjunctures which mark that-which-must-be-resolved… Kirk is not yet Captain, the Enterprise is not yet launched, the crew has not yet bonded… blah.
The problem with the remake is that the characters become static; their arcs already known, they exist in a state of fait accompli. All the characters’ protestations, victories, tears seem little more than gross or comic gesture (certainly Spock comes across as a comedia dell’arte caricature, Zachary Quinto taking on the role of autodidactopath, the Harlequin of science fiction).
It is like Peter Jackson’s King Kong. The characters began the film in their post narrative state— the monkey already human, loveable, and redeemed, the Fay Ray characteer already in love with it, Nature in every aspect already dominant, mysterious, and over-powering the greedy machos. In the first 15 minutes the film had already ended; the cast was left with two hours of comic gesticulations of performing-their-role through the film, like the amateur troupe performing in front of the screen at a Saturday night Rocky Horror Picture Show in the suburbs. ”Twas beauty that killed the beast.”
Star Trek takes a more interesting approach—maybe because of Director J.J. Abrams’ tolerance of convolvement and f time-traveling fated narrative in Lost. The story begins with the characters being detached from their prequel. A time traveling villain (traveling back from a movie in the future… Star Trek 12 or such) has invaded this film to destabalize the prequel. Kirk’s father died early and he is—in Anthony Lane’s words—a dickhead. Spock seems to be completely un-Spock-like, always on the verge of tears, a constant source of irrationality on the bridge (running off to see his mama die, sending Kirk to his death, having sex in the elevator). The most Spock-like character seems to be Uhura who, in traditional Hollywood style, has been de-masculated, de-racialized, and subordinated to a pretty face that says “Don’t go.” The stakes are high. The imaginary Producers must be sweating bullets— what if the Enterprise never reaches the future franchise? Maybe all will not return to predictable equilibrium. The fans will be furious. …Who will come to save the film?
A visitor from the future franchise, of course. If there is any human Star-Trek-constant beyond pseudoscience terms, special effects, and federation symbols it is Leonard Nemoy who arrives in the film as if stopping off on his way from ComicCon. ”You must find the franchise,” he tells Kirk-head. The characters must get in to role or the universe/film will fall apart. By the end of the film, everyone takes their correct chair on the bridge, literally in last minutes. ”Places everyone? …Action!”
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