OT: Star Trek, and some thoughts on science fiction

Let's get something straight. I am a sci-fi geek, but not in the normal sense.

I do not devour any and every sci-fi and fantasy movie or novel that comes my way; I am very selective in what I find "good" fiction. I enjoy science fiction that is thought provoking and based in some semblance of realism. I desire a look at the future that has something deeper to it, rather than just being a means for geeks to escape the real, present universe.

I do not play World of Warcraft.

Ender's Game, On The Beach, Atlas Shrugged, The Foundation series and anything ever written by Isaac Asimov are what I consider to be top quality, provocative science fiction.

Science Fiction as a literary genre can be absolutely incredible to read but most times translates horribly to television and the big screen. Too often studios are afraid that mainstream audiences would be unable to keep up with multiple layered stories, all new universes with deep histories and rarely do you see big bucks spent on these types of movies. Instead you have derivative, brainless action "sci-fi" get all the attention and ironically these are big hits financially. Armageddon, Independence Day, Starship Troopers (although that was certainly a fun movie, but nothing like the book) and Transformers are some of the more popular movies that relied more on action and special effects and ignored everything else that makes science fiction great.

 

There have been exceptions, however. Close Encounters of the Third Kind, 2001: A Space Odyssey and the original Star Wars are examples of films that were able to bridge the gap between great sci-fi and financial success. Of course, George Lucas turned Star Wars into the exact opposite of what made it great in the first place.

Battlestar Gallactica (the reimagined series) is to me the epitome of science fiction on the screen. Great special effects and action, but more importantly it focused on the human aspect space travel and conflict. It also felt real. Writer/producer Ronald D. Moore did an incredible job of turning a campy series into a fantastic drama that was epic in scope and amazingly emotional.

So it's no surprise that my second favorite science fiction series was Star Trek: The Next Generation (Written and produced by Moore). This was the first show I ever followed week to week and was also the first time I remember sitting down with the family each show to watch it. This was a show that was heavy on drama and was purely driven by story and dialogue. I still think the series finale is one of the greatest two hours in television, ever.

Other than TNG, I never really paid any attention to the rest of the Star Trek universe. I remember watching the original series and thinking it was a bit campy (blasphemy!) and was never interested Deep Space Nine or Voyager. Just didn't have the same resonance with me that TNG did.

Now, while I might not have enjoyed the original television series all that much I've really like the movies. The Wrath of Khan is one of the best sci-fi movies ever made, but it's also an incredibly dramatic look at human emotion and revenge. Not surprisingly, however, is that the top-grossing Star Trek films were the ones that played much more the mainstream audience (like Star trek IV). First Contact was an enjoyable film and was as close to a perfect TNG movie we could ever hope for. It also benefited from one of the greatest villains in all of science fiction.

The last two movies were mindless pieces crap unfortunately, and it seemed that the series and films had their course. And then last January I was knocked to the floor when I saw the teaser trailer for JJ Abrams' reboot of Star Trek.

In my eyes, Abrams is one of the few directors I could actually believe would have the ability to breathe new life into the Star Trek universe. I waited over a year for this movie to come out, hoping that I wouldn't be disappointed.

I saw it Thursday. What an absolutely incredible experience that was.

When I talked about how the science fiction I love is the one that is heavy on story, drama and dialog and doesn't use effects as it's only feature, I never thought that I would hope that Star trek would go that route. This franchise needed a breath of fresh air, an adrenaline kick that would make not only Trek fans rejoice but the general audience as well.

JJ Abrams' Star Trek is exactly that.

It toes the line perfectly between human emotion and non-stop action, while keeping enough from the Trek universe to appease hardcore fans. The action is nearly flawless, the special effects incredible and it somehow makes the Star Trek world come alive. THIS is what Lucas had hoped his new Star Wars movie could be.

While the film is far from perfect, it sets up what should be an even better second film in the new franchise. Like what Batman Begins was to The Dark Knight, so this Star Trek should provide the foundation for a monumental sequel.

I never thought that I would enjoy a blockbuster style Star Trek movie, with big effects, lots of action and big holes in the plot. And yet somehow I found myself itching to see the movie all over again as soon as I left the theater.

I'm not going to go into a dissection of every aspect of this film, but I will say that it's one hell of a director that can completely overcome such a horrible, horrible script. If this movie had just a bit better writing behind it, we'd be talking about a science fiction masterpiece and not just the awesome summer action movie it really is. However, it does do a fantastic job of bridging the gap between geeky science fiction and great action and special effects that so many big movies lack nowadays.

I'm still waiting on that next, great science fiction film that has a great story and provides the viewer with more than just big explosions to gawk at. Moon, coming out later this summer, is receiving great buzz as a low-budget sci-fi thriller. District 9 also seems promising.

But for now we have what is an amazing summer movie, with fantastic effects and great acting. Couldn't hope for much more at this point.

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