Posts Tagged ‘bodly go where most nerds have already gone’

Have your Kirk and eat it

Sunday, May 10th, 2009

Star Trek, in its original incarnation at least, is routinely regarded as kitschy, campy fun – a technicolour romp with overwrought acting, smooching hot alien floozies and shaking cameras and staggering about to denote being hit by photon torpedoes. It’s easy to laugh, albeit often with affection,  at the recurring themes: men in red shirts being disintegrated, repeated visits to the planet of Vasquez Rocks, and Captain Kirk shagging everything in the known universe.

However, when you were a kid (and most of us were pretty young when we first experienced the adventures of Kirk and Spock, seeing as it’s been in reruns for the last 93 years) Star Trek was never campy. When you were too young to understand limited special effects budgets, hand me down sci fi tropes and the concept of William Shatner’s ego, Star Trek was weird, thrilling and scary. 

Just another normal day on board The Enterprise

Like The Avengers‘ off kilter surrealist edge proved impossible to update convincingly for a big budget 90s remake you could never recapture the claustrophobic psychedelia of the original Star Trek now. The movies, and the subsequent TV series featured a more realistic aesthetic, and plots that relied more on action or political and philosophical issues, than mind bending Lewis Carroll  influenced fantasies.

I’ve never spoken Klingon or dressed as a Star Fleet Officer and referred to myself as “Lieutenant Commander”, but on the other hand, I spent one summer holiday watching The Wrath of Khan every single day, I know the difference between Bajorans and The Breen, and have seen nearly every episode of TNG and DS9. And I refer to them as TNG and DS9!  I also once turned down a night of sex in order to watch Star Trek themed night on BBC2 (they showed the premier of Voyager – definitely not worth it), so I suppose to most civilians I am indeed a Trekkie.

Planet of The Vasquez Rocks on Futurama

So I was initially uncertain of the prospect of a reboot. Someone other than William “The Hamosaurus” Shatner playing Kirk? Unthinkable! Surely they should just have the balls to create a new set of characters for young, sexy Academy based adventures if they must. But against all expectations the new movie, which cleverly both prequelises and sequelises the existing franchise (using the time honoured device of a temporal anomaly), is great. I won’t bother reviewing it here as many more have done it far more incisively than I can. Suffise to say, while it continues the realistic look of the previous movies but broadens the scope enough to live up to current movie standards (which the last couple of entries in the sequence most certainly didn’t – I caught some of Nemesis on TV last night and it looked like a cheap night out at a cybergoth club), both the spirit of adventure and the essence of the original crew is captured wonderfully. And having Leonard Nimoy in there for us old purists doesn’t hurt either.


Childhood, Changes and Choices

Saturday, September 3rd, 2011

There’s more changes to the Star Wars movies on Blu Ray and certain parts of the internet are blowing up with outrage. Most of these tweaks are pretty inconsequential (as ever), aside from one, namely at the end of Return Of The Jedi when Darth Vader finally turns and pitches The Emperor down one of the Star Wars Universe’s many bottomless shafts, he bellows “NOOOOO!!!”, seemingly a cut and paste of the audio from the heavily memed and much hated ending of Revenge of The Sith. If you’re going to do a callback to something in a movie series that’s mostly awesome, why go for something so risible? It’s exactly the same as Chewbacca in Sith reprising his Tarzan roar from Jedi. Yeah, like that was anyone’s favourite bit.

A tense scene on Cloud City

I'm not sure about some of these changes to the Star Wars movies on Blu Ray

It’s a pretty ridiculous change, and undercuts the epic nature of the scene, where the music tells you everything you need to know about what’s going on in Vader’s head. And I got a little depressed about it when I first heard about it. This just seemed so baffling a choice that it sent my tiny nerd brain into a tailspin. I’ve never really had a problem with the changes in these movies, and ultimately, none of them change the movies or make them worse, but none of them were necessary. Adding extra stuff in is just gilding the lily, or as I believe it’s called in modern parlance “Vajazzling”.

After reading a ton of tiresome “Lucas raped my childhood by changing the movies again even though I hated every version of them for the last decade” style invective, I came across this measured and thoughtful article on GeekPlanet, and it got me thinking about choice. We have become so accustomed to having every possible choice presented to us, when limited choices come up, we tend to lose our shit. People want the original versions of those movies, and it’s a pretty reasonable and understandable point of view.

Leaving aside what you consider to be the original version (even back in 1977 there were two different sound mixes of Star Wars in circulation), or which version you grew up with (for me it was a recording of the first showing on ITV in 1981 or 82, complete with ads for Bisto and Allied Carpets, not to mention a different voice for Aunt Beru and the presence of the line “Close the blast doors”), I think people forget that we live in a privileged age of unlimited on demand entertainment. Listen carefully younglings, because this crazy old man’s gonna teach you a few things about the past.

A long time ago, in the 1970s to be precise, there was one Star Wars movie and it was called Star Wars. Darth Vader was some asthmatic dude who killed Skywalker senior, The Emperor was just some politician who got lucky and people didn’t allow droids in drinking establishments. Luke still never really had a chance with Princess Leia though, even though we thought he did. There was no video version. The only way to own a part of that movie was to get reels of “selected scenes” on super 8 film. They were silent and in black and white, but if you were willing to fork out the price of a small house you could get them with sound and in colour. I dread to think what the quality was like, but the very idea of it was so far out of my reach, it seemed an impossible fantasy.

Years later (many years later) the films were available on video. I won The Empire Strikes Back on Betamax in some competition or other. It had trailers for The Cannonball Run and All The Right Moves (featuring a pre Scientology Tom Cruise), and in the actual film you could clearly see the plains of hoth through the snowspeeders. That tape withstood several hundred plays, and that suggests to me that audio visual nerds are right when they say Beta was the superior format. Incidentally, why did they name it “Betamax”? Isn’t that automatically dooming it to runner up status in the format wars? They should have called it “Alphamax” at least.

I remember reading about the Laserdisc collection in the early 90s. Not only did it have the movies in a digital format that would never degrade (like a CD!), it had – gasp! – bonus material like documentaries, photo galleries and audio interviews on something called “alternate layers”. The very idea blew my fucking mind! But again, this was something I could only dream of, surely only millionaires owned such a thing as a laserdisc player. With actual LASERS!

I am not sure how this fits into Return of the Jedi but it looks awesome!

Yet more changes to the Star Wars movies on Blu Ray

When it comes down to it, if I want to watch Jedi without that weird outburst from Vader, I can just watch the DVD. And if I want to watch Jedi without creepy old Hayden Christensen’s head pasted over avuncular old Sebastian Shaw’s (Star Wars FACT: Sebastian Shaw had a long term relationship with John Peel’s mother), I can watch my bootleg versions of the original trilogy (dubs of the laserdisc versions). If only I’d waited a couple of years I could’ve bought them legitimately as Lucasfilm went ahead and released pretty much the same thing in 2007, although I think mine were put together by someone whose love of those movies is a little more casual than mine, as the case of the first movie reads “The New Hope”. I have the choice to watch whichever version I choose.

Those bootlegs aren’t perfect of course – a source of fan rage is that they want HD remastered versions of the original versions of the movies, presumably unaware that once you remaster anything it can’t be considered to be “original” anything. They are however, perfectly watchable  – better than the video versions I had growing up (when the shield generator on Endor blew up in Jedi, the tracking always went mental), but the DVDs aren’t perfect, and guess what, the Blu Rays won’t be either. In a few years we’ll be watching everything in Super High Definition that will make HD look like dogshit  (or, more probably, it will be ever so slightly better if you look closely).

People will continue to bitch, loudly proclaim that they’re not buying it, and make fan edits. Fair play to them if they want to painstakingly piece together their preference as to what those movies should be (a bit like one G. Lucas seems to do every few years – everyone’s gotta have a hobby), but I have no interest in watching some ridiculous version of The Phantom Menace with both Jar Jar Binks and Jake Lloyd edited out. I bet that makes sense, and after all the original is ridiculous enough (HEYOOO!)

Being surprised about Lucas changing his movies after the fact is like being surprised about all the porn on the internet. He’s being doing it ever since the first movie, and will keep on until he becomes a force ghost. The biggest change he ever made was making Darth Vader Luke’s father. It’s pretty clear they were unrelated in the first movie and by including that plot twist in the second (and the full explanation in the third), it changed the meaning of the first movie and the whole shape of the saga. And yet I don’t recall anyone ever complaining about that.