Posts Tagged ‘ Star Trek ’

The Expanse is the Best Space Opera. Full Stop.

This week brought the dreaded news that the SyFy channel would not be picking up the series adaptation of The Expanse novels for a fourth season. The move was not quite shocking, but still somewhat of a surprise. The show’s productions values are top notch and not cheap, so the fact that it has not garnered a broad fan base like Game of Thrones made its future uncertain. But the universal critical acclaim seemed to suggest that SyFy would want to keep it around for bragging rights, if nothing else.

In the glory days of the SciFi network (before the questionable and to many, odious name change) the network took a similar gamble on an expensive critical darling that never really had the viewership to justify its budget but was a flagship for what the network wanted to be–before it decided to be the home of craptacular fare like Sharknado. Battlestar Galactica was part of the early wave of revitalizations and everything-old-is-new-again fervor that has gripped Hollywood throughout the twenty-first century. The show took name recognition and the outline of the original series’s concept and created a “gritty” and “philosophical” version of a pulp sci-fi dud from the 70s.

It worked and the network spun the long-running show into a prestige piece with a dedicated fan base that still argues for the series as one of the best sci-fi shows of all time.

Here’s the thing, though: The Expanse is better and will continue to be better than Battlestar Galactica.

Early in its life, the remade Battlestar Galactica (BSG to aficionados) promised its viewers that its nefarious android antagonists had “a plan.” But the producers and writers have since admitted that they included that bit in the show’s crawl simply because it sounded cool. Not only did the Cylons not have a plan, neither did the show runners.

The series sometimes raced and other times lurched through a thinky, but often incoherent exploration of man’s relationship to technology and the age-old question science fiction never gets tired of reheating: what does it mean to be human? Along the way there were some great characters rendered in fantastic performances (often having to overcome inconsistent writing) and some truly intolerable ones (looking at you, Apollo).

Many a science fiction series has waded through such unevenness. Star Trek: the Next Generation‘s first season is unwatchable today and rarely suggests the heights the show would someday reach. It’s natural enough for a series to take its time to find its footing.

It would be easy to look at the first few episodes of The Expanse and think that’s what was happening, but the pacing is not a sign of uncertainty, but confidence. The Expanse rewards patience as it builds its world and its characters. Now, in the third season, the complexity of that world and the investment in those characters is paying off in a tense conflict of epic scale.

But that conflict is only prelude to what’s coming.

Many other science fiction and fantasy shows struggle with endings just as much as many flail about for sure footing at the beginning. One only has to look back at the last few seasons of the X-files (to say nothing of the disastrous rebooted seasons) to see how a lack of “a plan” can be disastrous to a show built on mystery and intrigue. The same could be argued of Lost and, if last season was any indication, may taint the denouement of Game of Thrones.

But fans of The Expanse novels have no fear for that outcome. We know the shape of many things to come and they are earth-shatteringly awesome.  Fans like me aren’t worried by this (hopefully momentary) cancellation because it means we won’t ever know what happens in the story. What we’re afraid of is being deprived of the cinematic rendering of that story that we know it so richly deserves.

Hopefully, that won’t come to pass. Hopefully, the press swirling around the cancellation–every article I read reiterates that SyFy’s move is either a crying shame or down right tragic–will find it a new home at Netflix or Hulu and the Cinderella story will inspire more people to watch it.

It is a show that deserves viewers, but more than that, it is the space opera the Golden Age of Television deserves.

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Sci-Fi Connoisseur: Star Trek Into Darkness

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Spoilers, Spoilers, oh-so-many Spoilers! Seriously, do not read this unless you’ve already seen the new Star Trek movie or you have no interest in ever seeing it…and if that was the case, why on Earth would you be reading this at all?

Ratings:

Alright, if you’re a dedicated follower of every geeky thing I write (and I know there are actually three of you out there somewhere) then you’ll know I have already written obliquely about this film. First, I bemoaned its spoilery trailer and then more recently, I predicted that J.J. Abrams basically did not get what Star Trek is all about and was turning the saga entrusted to his care into a flashy action franchise. Based on the trailers and the hit-or-miss fealty to the Star Trek legacy in the first film, I predicted that Star Trek Into Darkness would be a loud, bright, engaging film that nevertheless followed the recent trend of Hollywood movies emulating The Dark Knight. The villain is super-maniacal, the good guys are basically strung along the whole time, and their victories in the end are pretty hollow. In the ads, we’d even seen the antagonist of the film played by Brit Benedict Cumberbatch locked up safely inside a Starfleet brig–just as the Joker was safely locked up in MCU in The Dark Knight, Loki was safely locked up on the helicarrier in Avengers, and Javier Bardem’s baddy was safely locked up in MI6 in Skyfall. Hollywood can be one hell of a reductive crap factory and the trailers gave us every reason to believe that the stink of it was going to spew out of the Enterprise replicators like a tribble infestation.

Let me digress for a moment to talk about why this matters to me. Star Trek geekiness is such a well-worn punchline that it’s practically a cultural touchstone, but for me, there’s a deep personal dimension to my attachment to these stories and characters. My right ear has a little bump of cartilage and the joke growing up was that it was because my father had watched too much Star Trek. When that same father told me he was leaving, I distinctly remember taking my teary, eleven year old self out of the moment by watching the show. This series, probably more than any other, enlivened my pre-adolescent imagination and I don’t doubt that my worldview was shaped partially by the positive and optimistic outlook of Gene Roddenberry’s vision of a future where humanity had solved its problems and become the best we could be.

So what J.J. Abrams was making of this newest Star Trek movie mattered to me.

Thankfully, though, J.J. and his screenwriters hit it out of the park. This is not the Dark Knight in space. In fact, it’s the opposite. After the immense success of the second Christopher Nolan Batman movie, a lot of people saw some fittingly dark parallels between Batman’s battle with the Joker and America’s War on Terrorism. It was more than possible to read Batman’s positioning himself as savior, martyr, and scapegoat as a vindication and validation of the Patriot Act and all of the despicable dimensions of Bush’s endless war.

Well, Mr. Nolan, the crew of the Enterprise has something to say back. Benedict Cumberbatch described his character as a one man “weapon of mass destruction” in an interview before the film’s release. That wording was clearly not accidental. After both a terrorist bombing and a brutal assault on the high command of Starfleet, Captain Kirk jumps at the chance to race off into space after Cumberbatch’s then-unknown terrorist threat. He does so with orders from a surviving top admiral to use a new, long-range torpedo that can be fired remotely to snuff out their single, human target.

Sound familiar anyone? Kirk, already chided for his previous brashness, listens to his crew–especially hyper-rational Spock–and realizes that a drone strike across space would be immoral. Instead he leads a bold mission to capture the terrorist and bring him to justice. In the process, he discovers that he and his crew have been hung out to dry by the admiral who is looking to start a preemptive war with the Klingons using secret weapons developed via nefarious means. The destruction of Vulcan in the presebootquel Star Trek has become the September 11th for the Federation and at least one admiral took a big dose of Cheney-juice in the wake of the tragedy. The movie becomes a struggle to protect the Federation from this corrosive lack of faith in its founding principles. Just as Star Trek VI was a political allegory for the end of the Cold War, Into Darkness establishes itself as an allegory for moral rectitude in the face of terrorism. Unlike The Dark Knight, this film reminds us that it is only by being moral and rising above the darkness that we can be the people we want to be.

Theme …10
Thwarting my negative expectations (it’s my scale, I can give points for whatever I want)…9

From the initial casting there was speculation that Benedict Cumberbatch was, in fact, playing original Star Trek villain Khan in the film. I suspect now that his casting–with absolutely no physical resemblance to Ricardo Montalban–was part of Abrams’ attempt to hide this big surprise from the fans. I don’t know how many fans walked into the film confident that he was actually the same character from the original series and the (until now) best Star Trek film, Wrath of Khan, but I wasn’t really leaning that way. I didn’t make it to the big reveal, though, before I mumbled to my wife, “He is Khan.” Watching Kirk wear himself out trying to beat on a wry Kahn who had just single-handedly wiped out a couple of Klingon patrols, it was obvious that Cumberbatch’s “John Harrison” was some sort of genetically enhanced super-soldier. So, yeah, duh. But whatever was lost in surprise was more than made up for in excellent execution. Cumberbatch plays Khan with a sinister edge that is no less effective just because we’ve seen so many villains aspire to the same lately. Khan in the original series was a charismatic leader–so much so that he wooed an Enterprise crew member to become his wife in like, a day–who became twisted by revenge after Kirk’s exile of him proved disastrous for his people. This Cumberbatch is a committed leader as well, whose end goal is to captain the dark-hulled anti-Enterprise he helped the twisted admiral build with his genetically superior followers at his side. He is not evil, per se. He is ruthless. He is cunning. But he is not a caricature of revenge (cough, Skyfall, cough) or a free radical bent on chaos (so, not a Joker, then) who has the magical ability to predict the good guys’ every move and set up Goldberg-esque traps for them at every turn.

Antagonist …9

Another fear I had from the trailers was that Kirk’s character arc in the movie would be too simplistic. The trailer seemed to set us up for: Kirk is an ahole (check) who rushes off on his own (nope, he had orders) into a dangerous trap (ah, by listening to reason via Spock, he avoided the worst of the trap) and then had to turn to his crew and apologize for his own stupidity which was about to cripple his ship and result in their deaths. Some of the broad strokes were there, but Kirk isn’t so much put in a situation to redeem manifold faults as to grow a bit more into his role. The entire cast is given similarly respectful material. Spock and Uhura get some time to work out their feelings a bit (by the way, wouldn’t there be some sort of regulations against shipboard romances?) while Scotty gets to save the day and Sulu gets to sit in the big chair. Only Chekhov comes off as useless, but he always was anyway (he should just be glad Khan doesn’t put any monsters in his ear this time).

Characters … 8
Plot…7

Total: 43

For those of you keeping score, you’ll note that I just gave Star Trek Into Darkness the same rating as Alien. Yeah, it was that good.

Nitpicks:

  • I know that the arrival of the Naratu in the first movie (well, not the first movie, but you know what I mean) changed all of the expected events of the original Star Trek timeline, so I can see how Carol Marcus, who resented Starfleet and was definitely not an officer in Wrath of Khan, might have ended up in uniform after all (I also guess this explains why she had such a negative view of Starfleet in the first place; since her father was secretly a militarist at heart, he probably gave her the wrong impression). Most likely the loss of Vulcan spurred recruitment the same way 9/11 did, right? Loads of young Federation citizens like her probably signed up to do their part after such a tragedy. What I don’t get, though, is how suddenly, in this timeline, she’s British.
  • Toward the end, Checkov can’t beam Khan up as he runs through the chaotic streets of San Francisco. Okay, nevermind that he was the one who successfully beamed up Kirk and Sulu in free fall in the last movie, but once they realized they could beam down folks, why only send Spock and Uhura to apprehend the madman? Why not surround him with red shirts sporting phaser rifles?
  • I’m confused by Starfleet’s construction capacity. At the end of the movie, it takes them a solid year to fix up the Enterprise, she’s so banged up. In Star Trek, Kirk gazes longingly at the Enterprise as it’s being built in Iowa and then it’s barely being commissioned three years later when he’s graduating from Starfleet Academy. However, in the time since the first movie, Admiral Marcus has had the USS Vengeance, which looks to be three times the mass of the Enterprise at least, built in secret. How long has it been exactly? No matter how you cut it, it seems like they built this ship a lot faster than the Enterprise in the first movie. Hmm, we Trekkies complained when they showed the ship being built on the frickin’ ground instead of in space like in every other Star Trek story ever. Looks like gravity really did slow down the construction.

Nice touches:

There are so many geeky nods to the fans that I’ve got to mention a few.

  • Tribble!
  • Kllingon honor!
  • Prime Directive!
  • The five-year mission!
  • And the biggest of all, the cute inversion of the death scene from Wrath of Khan, where it’s Kirk on the other side of the glass and Spock shouting “Khan!” vengefully. Though it did ring emotionally hollow since we knew McCoy had a solution sitting in that tribble experiment all along, it was still quite gratifying to my geek sensibilities.

Oh, J.J. You do care after all.

Sci-Fi Connoisseur: Star Trek

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No, I’m not going to take on the whole saga in one post. I’m referring here to the 2009 film that stripped away all the subtitles and numbers back to a title as simple as the original ‘60s TV show that has since become a staple of Western civilization.

It was bar-none the biggest hit of the entire Star Trek franchise which had, to that date, spawned: five live-action television series for a total of 27 seasons; ten feature films with a cumulative box office gross in excess of a billion dollars; countless merchandising tie-ins from video games to collectible toys; and fully 23% of the jokes on The Big Bang Theory.

Now, here’s where things get complicated. The film was a sequel to both the original series set in the 23rd century and the follow-up series Star Trek: The Next Generation, which was terribly named because it was set 75 years later in the 24th century (I guess the name Star Trek: Like Three Generations Later didn’t focus-group too well), because the original series character Spock (as played by Leonard Nimoy) who was Vulcan (everybody knows they have pointy ears, green blood, and stuffy dialogue, but not everyone realizes that they live much longer than we puny humans) and lived long enough to appear on The Next Generation. After that appearance, he got mixed up in the politics of a generally unpleasant planet named Romulus (where people also have pointy ears and green blood…but generally more bombastic dialogue) and, according to the back-story of Star Trek (the 2009 movie, I mean, do try to keep up) he tried valiantly to protect the planet Romulus from a supernova, but failed. In the process he, and one really cheesed off Romulan mining captain named Nero, are hurled back in time.

So, it’s strictly speaking a sequel…except when Spock and the Romulans are shot back in time, they arrive before the events of the original series, changing all of the rather voluminous history of the saga (except, regrettably, the really ill-advised prequel series Enterprise, which deserved to be erased from all of time). So, in this regard, the movie also serves as a reboot of the Star Trek series…with hot, young actors thrown in for good measure. In a way, though, it is also a new prequel. So we’ll call it a represequel.

Ratings:

The purpose of this represeboot is basically to get more money pouring into the Paramount coffers via a hot new version of the franchise. Central to that agenda were younger versions of the beloved Star Trek characters. Instead of wheeling out the geriatric cast of The Next Generation one more time, the time travel trope let director J.J. Abrams (who, with Star Trek, Star Wars, and Mission Impossible under his direct sway, is apparently intent on controlling every movie franchise imaginable–be watching for his version of Fast and the Furious 8, Harry Potter 9: A New Beginning, and J.J. Abram’s Presents Tyler Perry’s Madea Into Darkness) and his screenwriters infuse new life into the worn out characters of the original series. Young Kirk, Young Spock, Young (and smokin’ hot) Uhura, and Younger McCoy all meet anew in this alternate universe and (mostly by luck) defeat the sort of lame threat presented by Nero. Now, here’s the thing about these characters. They’re classics! They’re icons! They weren’t ever really that great to begin with. Yes, I said it. So basically, there was room for improvement. Chris Pine’s Kirk and Zachary Quinto’s Spock are fun interpretations, but there is one cast member who really adds something to the cast. It’s well known among Trek geeks that the original Uhura, Nichelle Nichols, was dissatisfied by her role on the original series because the writers gave her so little to work with and had to be talked out of quitting the show by none other than the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr. Zoe Saldana’s Uhura, though, doesn’t seem to be suffering that difficulty and she runs away with just about every scene she’s in. Her interactions with Quinto’s Spock–fleshing out a tiny, teeny, almost imperceptible hint in the original series that the two were close–are absolutely electric. Judging from the trailers and promotional material for the sequel due out…um, yesterday (NO, I haven’t seen it yet. Dammit.) she has replaced stodgy Dr. McCoy as the third main character in the series.

Characters …8
Plot …4

The story, such that it is, quickly pulls the crew together and throws them in the face of a universe-shattering threat…from a disgruntled jack-hammer operator. Nero is not exactly the most intriguing foe imaginable (something the screenwriters seem bent on addressing through the mysterious villain in the sequel played by Sherlock-star and Skeletor-stand-in Bennedict Cumberbutch). He really only poses a threat because he has managed to capture Spock’s snazzy little jellyfish spaceship with its ultra-dangerous payload of “red matter.” This stuff is never even given a single line of techno-babble to explain its awesome destructive power. Suffice it to say, if you have red matter, you really jump up the payscale of nefarious intergalactic ne’er do wells. I’m only going to give him a decent rating here because he actually did manage to blow up the planet Vulcan and totally mess with the continuity of the Star Trek universe in the process.

Antagonist …6

Of course, we Trek geeks are notorious for our attention to detail. J.J. Abrams, though, wanted to take some liberties with the universe through his sequeboot. One of the biggest is the beloved Enterprise herself. Trekkies know that the old lady Enterprise was already a well-worn ship when James T. Kirk becomes the youngest captain in Star Fleet sometime before the first episode of the original series. Not good enough, says J.J. (Expect a shiny new Millennium Falcon in Episode VII, Star War nerds) So in the revised timeline of the new movies, Star Fleet changes all of its construction plans because of the brief appearance of Nero’s ship in the past and waits twenty some odd years to build the Enterprise. But that’s okay because when they do, she looks ginormously huger (with some giant open spaces inside) and a gleaming Apple store for a bridge. Now, there have been many Enterprises throughout the history of the Star Trek saga. I’ll spare you the inventory of all of them and their merits; my son and I go on and on about how to rank the various incarnations, but what’s important here is that we agree the new 2009 version is really, super-duper pretty.

The Ship …8

In fact, the whole movie looks great. I love Abram’s choice to over-light everything. He takes the visual lens flares of Firefly and spins the dial ‘till it won’t turn no more. His thinking: he wanted to depict a future so bright that it was, like, literally bright. This amounts to about his only nod to Gene Roddenberry’s vision of the future in Star Trek. Roddenberry originally forbid his writers from depicting any conflicts between human beings. He very consciously wanted to portray a future for the human race in which we had gotten our $#!% together and become responsible galactic citizens in the United Federation of Planets–a sort of United States in space except without the nasty history of slavery and genocide at the outset. Obviously, Abrams chose not to honor this tenet of the Star Trek canon (in his defense, it hasn’t been the law of the land since Star Trek II). Kirk begins as a reprobate and a “repeat offender” (crime was “cured” in the original series) and he gets into fist fights on Earth with beefy cadets who call him “cupcake.” This may seem like a quibble, but fealty to what makes Trek special is important. It’s not just an action franchise. The original Star Trek meant something. It was landmark television because of Roddenberry’s vision, which also led to a diverse cast (and American television’s first interracial kiss) promoting a vision of multicultural cooperation. It was that vision that allowed the show to comment on both political and philosophical issues throughout its best incarnations. The fact that J.J. Abrams chooses to say exactly nothing in this movie is significant. I suspect I’ll have something more to say on this when the sequel comes out…er, I mean, when I get to the theater Sunday.

Theme …1

Grand total: 27

Nitpicks:

  • Romulans are named after Romulus, their home planet, which, apparently in a cosmic coincidence, has a twin planet named Remus (established in Star Trek: Nemesis). So it makes sense that a lowly Romulan mining captain would have a fitting Roman name like Nero. Oh, wait: NO, IT FRICKIN’ DOESN’T! One of the conceits of the series is the “universal translator,” which now apparently also chooses cultural allusions when assigning pronounceable names to aliens you meet.
  • Like I said, Nero only poses a threat to the galaxy and our heroes because he has that red matter stuff. The question is, though, how’d he get it exactly. We see later in the film that Spock’s little jellyfish-shaped spaceship is ridiculously maneuverable and wicked fast. How exactly did this lame-ass mining ship (that’s big, slow, and plodding) capture the nimble little thing and its omnipotent payload in the first place? We conveniently don’t see that actual moment in Spock’s flashback-via-mindmeld, but I also have to wonder, why was Spock carrying so much of this red matter stuff? One drop created a wormhole back in time, yet he’s carting around enough to wipe out Vulcan, Earth, and heaven-knows-how-many other planets.
  • Through a cosmic coincidence (which a cut line of dialogue explained as the timeline trying to restore itself) Kirk actually bumps into trusty engineer extraordinaire Montgomery Scott and old Spock is able to use technical knowledge from the future to get Kirk back into the game. Spock tells Scott that this “trans-warp beaming” technology is actually his design from the future. Brilliant plot twist, J.J. Except, again, we Trekkies pay attention to detail. There was no trans-warp beaming in The Next Generation. Granted, Scotty was resurrected through a trick of transporter technology in the 24th century, so I guess it’s possible that he used his sabbatical in the future to mull over transporter technology and that Spock heard about his later, innovative work…or it could be that the writers just made some nonsensical thing up to get Kirk back on the Enterprise after Spock jettisoned him in complete violation of the code of military justice.
  • So at the end of the movie, all the pieces are in place. Kirk is on the bridge as captain, Spock is at his side. (“Ah, Spock, old buddy, remember that time you almost crushed my trachea? Ah, good times, good times.”) Except, um, Kirk was a FREAKING CADET before this mission!?! He just jumped five officer grades to take command. The writers were really playing fast and loose with Starfleet’s rules for field promotions here. Though we never–I mean, never–saw a single captain leave his bridge and actually field promote his subordinate to captain in any of the series, we see it happen twice in this movie. I get that Starfleet would be grateful for Kirk leading the mission (in, um, defiance of orders from his superiors) that saved the planet Earth, but let’s look at what he really did: He psychologically tortured his bereaved commanding officer to get command, and then rushed in–balls to the wall–and basically lucked into a plan that disabled the enemy ship. That sort of bravado might deserve one promotion, but five simultaneous promotions?!? Maybe if he’d managed to save Vulcan, too, it would be warranted, but he totally didn’t. This is becoming a bad habit with these prequels. They’re always in a rush to set the stage exactly the way it needs to be at the ostensible “beginning” of the story they’re trying to connect with. Take X-Men First Class. Instead of being patient and leaving some loose threads for subsequent movies to tie up, that movie–like Star Trek–improbably rushes everyone into their starting positions for the first X-men movie…which is set at least thirty years later. I’m surprised they didn’t have Professor X lose all his hair from fright in the last frame of the film.

That’ll do it for this chapter. By the way, I’m noticing that these silly sci-fi posts are regularly breaking 1,500 words (this one’s 2000?!?) when my posts about politics and such are usually about 500. What does that say about me?

It’s That Time of Year Again

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Today marks the release of Iron Man 3.

Screws the constellations. Forget the movement of the sun. Marvel Studios now marks the official beginning of summer.

There’s a lot that could be said about the Modern American Blockbuster® and the commodification of the imagination that underpins its monumental construction as a cultural artifact. As someone who used the word “postmodern” sixteen times in his graduate dissertation, I should probably be more interested in deconstructing these massive, bloated consumer vehicles–or at the very least critiquing big Hollywood’s corrosive effect on the art of cinema.

But here’s the thing: I love the movies.

I remember a moment in Duffy’s The World as I Found It when his protagonist, none other than Ludwig Wittgenstein, prattles off a deconstructive diatribe to his companion as they sit down to enjoy a Mickey Mouse cartoon. Yes, he tore it apart in his mind. Yes, he turned his intellect on the motion blur and its cultural resonances. But first and foremost, he “enjoyed” it.

Movies are tradition and ritual of my family’s life. My wife and I courted by holding hands in the dark theater, marking the progression of our life from sweetheart to fiancé to spouse to pretty-much-everything with art house dramas, award show wannabes, rom coms, sequels, remakes, and adaptations.

We are creatures of habit and so we have passed our legacy to our children who crowd around the laptop screen to watch trailers for upcoming movies and speculate endlessly based on the glimpses offered by the marketing machine.

You know what, somebody made money at the margins of the odeon in Ancient Greece, too. Commerce is woven into civilization. Artists have been as aware of that fact as they have been that there are critics and audiences to please. This isn’t exactly a new dynamic we’re talking about here. If there were a debate in front of me about the issue, I might be forced to concede that today’s film industry is probably the worst example of that corruption of the artistic process outside of fascist propaganda, but here’s the thing: the kids love it.

So I love it, too.

I’m henceforth unapologetically embracing the Summer of Sci-Fi®. Oblivion was meh, but we’ve still got Iron Man, Star Trek, Elysium, World War Z, Man of Steel, Wolverine.

Geez, you get the idea. It’s going to be a good summer to be a geek. So stay tuned.

The Art of the Tease

My son saw Alien at age…four, I think. Okay, not really. But he was pretty young. Maybe I should get a “terrible parent” award for this admission, but what can I say, he likes aliens. The other night we were watching the movie again and he asked me about what the movie trailer for the sci-fi classic was like.

I showed him.

“So awful,” was his verdict.

I tried to explain to him that movie trailers had come a long way since then, but he remained unimpressed.

It put me in mind of one time, a few years before he was a twinkle in my eye, when I was burned by the Hollywood hype machine. I remember excitedly dragging my (then) future wife to “this generation’s Star Wars.” It was 1994. The film? Independence Day.

The trailers had lured me in–nay, reeled me in. Then, while sitting in the theater, the obligatory exposition leading up to the alien attack in this presumably-soon-to-be-classic-space-epic suddenly introduced Cousin Eddie from the Vacation movies.

“Randy Quaid? Wait a second, am I in the right theater?”

After that stinker of a movie, I was always a bit wary of trailers.

These days, though, I’ve noticed a lot of them–for romantic comedies especially–completely reveal the entire plot of the film. I mean, the formula for these rom coms is already predictable enough, but must you actually reveal the final kiss that we knew was coming all along in the two minute trailer?

Recently, my boy and I suffered another upsetting trailer experience.

A new trailer for Star Trek Into the Dark Knight debuted and, being us, we wanted to see it. With bated breath we crowded around the laptop screen. Yes, yes, that guy from Sherlock is talking menancingly again. Good. There’s some–What the hell! Giant evil ship looks like the Enterprise?!? A row of menancing alien-looking dudes! Evil-Sherlock guy says, “You’re a pawn, Captain.” Kirk turns to his crew, realizing he’s warped into a trap (Jesus, must every screen villain be the Joker now?) and says to his crew, “I’m sorry.”

We, the boy and I, literally ran away. The stupid trailer just went to spoilerville on the express train. We don’t know what the rest of the clip showed, though my daughter continued watching and ooh’ed and ahh’ed a bit. The boy and I are swearing off new trailers (no matter how awesome that new Man of Steel one was).

Where’s the mystery, Hollywood? Do you want me see the whole darned movie or do you want to give it to me for free in the frickin’ preview?

You want to see it done right, check out the Hunger Games films. The pre-release commercial for the first movie showed exactly half-a-nanosecond of the games themselves. Imagine that–holding back scenes from the heart of the story, and the most exciting segment, for when people actually sit down to watch the movie. The sequel is apparently (fingers crossed) following the same playbook. The new trailer for that upcoming presumed-blockbuster was also released this week and if you watched only that, you’d think there were no more “games” in the Hunger Games sequel (readers of the book will know better–oh crap, spoiler alert!).

So that’s how you do it, folks. Flash a little thigh. And wait.

A Taxonomy of Dweebs

I’ve made no secret of my own geekery (here and here). Hell, I figure if Junot Diaz can get away with it, then I need feel no shame over knowing the exact dimensions of the Starship Enterprise (original, A, D, and E) and being able to intelligently discuss the inherent contradictions in the linearity of the Dr. Who series.

Recently, though, as my children flipped channels, we encountered this:

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Now, apart from the obvious question of how they think they could ever bestow this title on anyone through a contest in which I was not involved, I have one tremendous complaint about this program (based on my one partial viewing from the adjoining room).

I think America needs to get its lexicon straight here. To my dismay, I am seeing the words “nerd” and “geek” used interchangeably left and right. What’s worse is that more often than not, people actually mean “dork” when they throw these terms around.

Words have meanings, people. Let’s keep them straight. A nerd is someone studious, bookish, knowledgable. Think Bill Gates. Geeks, on the other hand, have narrow, sometimes obsessively narrow, interests, i.e. the sideshow freaks who would bite heads off various animals from whom the term is taken. Stamp collecting. Star Trek. Taxidermy. Pokemon. These interests can be almost anything–except sports. So someone whose favorite pastime is playing video games is a geek, unless the game is about math. Then he’s a nerd.

This King of the Nerds show is full of people who are, as far as I can tell, mostly just dorks. What’s a “dork,” you ask? Dorkiness is characterized by social awkwardness. Think of people who snort when they laugh or who don’t know to close their mouths when they chew.

And who am I to comment on all these definitions? The trifecta, baby. Three-way split. Even Steven. The holy trinity of dweebery. Yeah, that’s right. When I lecture in class I can connect Shakespeare to the storyline of Halo and then trip over a desk while I do it.

Booyah.

I hope that clears things up, and have a nice day.