Aaron R. Davis
As I promised earlier, I went out to see the new Star Trek film. It was everything I hoped it would be and more.
The “more” I’m referring to is the crying of “true fans” that just can’t handle certain realities of the new film and are intensely disappointed. The people who just weren’t going to be pleased either way. And now that the new film hasn’t catered to them specifically, which is what they’re used to; they’re going to have to seek validation elsewhere. They’re going to whine to anyone who loved the new movie and say that the new movie wasn’t “real Star Trek.” Yes, their disappointment is highly amusing to me.
There are myriad reasons why Trekkies/Trekkers/dorks are complaining about the new movie. A sampling just from conversations of my own and perusing message boards:
- The movie destroyed the established continuity, as if J.J. Abrams himself had gone to Paramount and used a flamethrower to destroy the master negatives of every Star Trek episode and movie from the previous 40+ years.
- The movie was a fun and exciting space opera instead of an arrogant pseudointellectual wank designed for people who think “attempting and failing to emulate the wit of Chesterton” is an admirable writing style.
- John Cho, who plays Sulu, is Korean and as an actor – a profession which requires pretending to be something you aren’t – is incapable of playing a Japanese man. (Also, Zachary Quinto isn’t really a Vulcan.)
- The movie wasn’t actually shot in outer space and therefore lacking verisimilitude.
- J.J. Abrams didn’t have the grace to go back in time and film the movie with the same actors in the same roles because, of course, change is terrifying.
- A complete inability to understand why, even though this movie takes place in an alternate reality, everything isn’t exactly the same as all of the other Star Trek films.
It’s that last point that completely galls me. I had a lot of trepidation about seeing a Star Trek movie based on a time warp. Time travel plots aren’t always done well; too often the time travel is just there to create a cure-all for plot holes. But in this movie, the time warp serves as a marketing decision. It’s how Abrams and his writers have tried to separate themselves and their movies from the crushing weight of continuity-obsessed superfans. The same fans who killed Star Trek.
Now, this may be a bit spoilery, so if you’re very sensitive and haven’t seen the film, I recommend not reading this next bit.
The conceit in Star Trek is that an action taken by Spock (Leonard Nimoy Spock, operating, I guess, at the furthest point we’ve gone in regular Star Trek continuity) leads to himself and a Romulan miner called Nero (Eric Bana) getting pulled back in time to, appropriately enough, the day of James T. Kirk’s birth. This event changes the established continuity and sets everything in an alternate timeline. In other words, the original Star Trek timeline is still there – all of that stuff still happened – but this new adventure takes place in an alternate reality that is similar but new and has no effect on the old Trek continuity that some people in this world are far, far too attached to.
So, do you see what Abrams did? He purposely set the movie in its own little universe, COMPLETELY SEPARATE from everything that’s gone before. And it’s pretty brilliant. And you don’t even need to care about that to enjoy or understand the movie. Abrams purposely made a Star Trek film that didn’t cater to the fans at all. He just made a movie. A damn good one. A space adventure that doesn’t rely on four decades of familiarity with every trivial aspect of an invented world in order to enjoy. And there are lots of nods to the past that were fun to me as a fan, but there was never any sense that Abrams was apologizing to fanboys for doing something different. Which is good. He shouldn’t have to.
Did you notice I used the word “fun” in there? That’s something I haven’t been able to say about Star Trek in about 20 years. This was a fun movie. And that, somehow, seems to be the major complaint from the fanboys who just can’t get over this. But who cares what those people want? Those are the people who took Star Trek and drained it of its dramatic tension, its adventurous spirit, its ability to laugh at itself, its good nature and good humor, its humanity and its very soul. Like Lenny hugging the rabbits, they took something they loved and embraced it so hard that they murdered it. And perhaps they were happy with the corpse of something once so great, something that now only existed for their specific needs and low expectations, and the validation of lives spent genuinely caring how every utterance fit into a canon that only exists in their minds.
But I sure as hell wasn’t. I wanted to care about Star Trek, and those people made it impossible for nearly two decades. And now J.J. Abrams has made me care again, and those people are threatened because, as years spent with fan communities online will tell you, the archons don’t want just anybody appreciating something without coming to them. The Catholic Church called Martin Luther a heretic for saying anyone should be allowed to read the Bible and not just the clergy. Now Trekkies are calling J.J. Abrams a butcher for opening up something forbidden, arcane and stodgy to anyone who’s curious.
Fanboys are the only people I’ve ever seen who will take the thing they love the most and convince each other that sharing their love with others is destructive. Better to keep it to themselves and stifle it than see someone else enjoy it.
Well, Trekkies, you’ve been the problem. J.J. Abrams stopped that problem by cutting you off, leaving you in the past and, to try and spare your easily hurt feelings, setting his movie apart from your precious imaginarium. We want you to stay there, stuck in the past, wedded to the continuity, and let the rest of us who enjoy the characters get on with being entertained.
You have your Star Trek. Leave our Star Trek out of it.
Aaron R. Davis lives in a cave at the bottom of the ocean with his eyes shut tight and his fingers in his ears. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.