Or: a categorical thesis on the recycled recycling of recyclables in pop culture

Everything old is Jung again

Everything old is Jung again

by J.D. Oxblood

I knew we were in bad shape during the previews.  Sandwiched in between trailers for the latest installment of the “Terminator” franchise and the sequel to “Transformers” was an ad for an action-packed Summer Blockbuster that I didn’t recognize.  I started thinking… what haven’t they done yet, and what could this be?  Evil villains in hot Matrix-y black leather, a handpicked crew of “elite” heroes donning metallic super-suits… I turned to my date and said, “This has to be ‘G.I. Joe.’”  In case you haven’t figured it out yet, I’m basically a pessimist, which means that I HATE to be right.

[Spoiler alert:  if you haven’t seen the new “Star Trek” yet, and want to, don’t read this.  It will only piss you off.  Devil’s advocate alert:  if you have seen “Star Trek,” and loved it, please read this, it will totally piss you off.  Sympathizer alert:  if you saw “Star Trek” and thought it was stupid—whether or not you enjoyed watching it—I can’t make a recommendation one way or the other.  I got nothing to say you don’t know already, but sometimes it’s nice to have confirmation.]

The best thing you can say about “Star Trek” is that the well-cast actors do their damnedest to breathe some life into the cardboard cut-out United Colors of Benetton that was the cast of the original show:  the hot black chick, the “oriental” guy, the Russian, the funny Scotsman, the crotchety doctor, the swaggering alpha male, and the dork from another planet.  (A dork by any other name…)  Yes, it’s true, ol’ eyebrows from “Heroes” was born to play Spock, and Uhuru never looked so enticing.  Well, maybe that’s going a bit far—Technicolor in the 60s made everything look more appealing, kind of like Monsanto’s engineering makes fruit look more appealing in the grocery store.  Hyper-real, as it were.

I realize that it’s pointless to berate the film industry, as it has become nothing more than a recycling factory for all the films, comic books and toys we loved as kids—this is the true legacy of the Robot Chicken generation:  slacker irony gone mainstream.  Why make up something original when you can just diss/spinoff/remix/mashup something that somebody already done did?  This is simply the status quo.  But while “Batman Begins” gave the Dark Knight a new beginning—not to mention a new franchise, and Christian Bale a new island in the Caribbean, and Tom Cruise a new reason to put a leash on his wife—giving Maggie Gyllenhall some more screen time, amen—it just started a “new” trend in recycling—LET’S ALL DO CREATION STORIES!  And yet, some of them were, for a minute there, badass.  “Iron Man,” anyone?  I mean, that’s good summer nonsense in a can.  A can painted the color of cherry-flavored Mountain Dew, if they made it, and wouldn’t that be bitchin’ for summer?  But what irks me about this new piece of… er… celluloid… is that if you’re going to spend Umpteen Zillion Dollars on a movie that looks this good, sounds this good, with all the major food groups represented—name stars, killer special effects, wicked costumes and makeup and big-budget everything—why, for the sake of Roddenberry, can’t you spend a measly half million more and start with a halfway-decent script?

The story here is so unbelievably derivative that I would challenge the blogosphere to find ONE FUCKING SCENE—one moment, one set piece—that has not been lifted wholesale from other movies.  Plural.  Every scene in this flick is totally comforting, like a Budweiser and a McDonald’s cheeseburger, precisely because YOU’VE SEEN IT BEFORE.

(BTW: I had a great time at this movie.  I found it completely hilarious and enjoyable.  But, I have a dark sense of humor, and I laughed at every scene as my mind was flooded with the other times I’ve seen it, the things that I thought I’d seen but couldn’t place—and, just basically enjoying the actors’ thrill of “Holy shit!  I’m in a Star Trek movie!”  Hey, live it up.  We won’t mention that, clearly, ANYONE can get into a Star Trek movie these days.  I mean, Whine-ona made it into this one.)

Here we go:

First off, dig the United Colors of Benetton cast that mimics—elaborates?  No, mimics is right—the lineup of the original 60s show.  You got the white-hot black chick, the quiet, unprepossessing (closeted) Asian guy, the barely-understandable let’s-make-Reds-cute Russian, the hilarious Scot, the drunken, tell-it-like it is, prematurely over-the-hill medic, the wild western cowboy lurching and devil-may-care and leading them all into ruin—and, of course, that geeky alien dude that makes everyone feel cool by comparison.  It is a “creation” story, so I shouldn’t be surprised, but isn’t it just so… dated?  In the 60s, having a black chick on TV was a step forward, but now….  “Ok, no Arabs.  Absolutely no Arabs.  Actually, no central Asians.  They just had that slumdog thing, so off it.  And NO BLACK MEN.  Our focus groups indicate that white men still find them threatening.  And make the Chinese kid a little dorky.  We know they’re gonna own us.”  “Get this—how about a Korean instead?”  “Perfect.  No one can tell them apart anyway.”  (FYI: the original Sulu was Japanese, and had that “thing” happen to him and his family during WWII.)

Opening scene:  Oh, yeah, woman gives birth during an adventure sequence.  Our hero, born from a crucible.  This shit is so played I can’t even begin to write a list… women giving birth in the back of cabs?  Stuck in elevators?  They even used that bit in the 70s classic “Same Time Next Year,” when Alan Alda had to deliver Ellen Burstyn’s baby, shacked up in a hotel, the both  of them married to someone else (high drama for that flick).  They spoofed in Monty Python’s “Meaning of Life”—remember the woman dropping a kid and not noticing?  Most recently, check “Children of Men.”  That’s born under punches.  Although for most graphic, you gotta see “Way of the Gun”—the less-notable film of that guy who wrote “The Usual Suspects.”  Cue Juliette Lewis screaming.

Young Kirk hauls ass in a stolen antique vehicle burning fossil fuels, peels out and jumps out of the car as it careens over a cliff.  Man, was young Kirk actually wearing RED in that scene?  Can someone check me on that?  Coz of all the movies that have pulled that stunt, the greatest is Jimmy Dean’s “Rebel Without a Cause.”  The red would, at least, be a nod.

Speaking of  “The Usual Suspects,” wasn’t Kobayashi the name of Keyser Soze’s lawyer?  Somebody ask Bastard Keith—he’ll know.

People will tell you that it was clever to have Kirk eating an apple during the Kobayashi Maru sequence, since Shatner was eating one when he admitted to cheating.  I’m not one of those people.

Insert a couple of dick jokes—Tarantino, you get a check for that?—in which Uhura goes on about how “orally skilled” she is.  Fast forward and you’ll hear her claim to speak “all” Romulan dialects.  But don’t worry, kids—we know that Americans are too stupid to read subtitles, so you won’t hear a SINGLE WORD of Romulan in this movie.  The Romulans speak English, even to each other, even when there’s no one else in the room.  Henceforth, Uhura is demoted to pure, unadultured eye candy.  She serves no purpose in this film except to look hot and to comfort and make out with Spock, which is to say, look hot.  Black women have come so far in 30 years.

We have this great scene of Kirk’s hands swelling up because Bones keeps injecting him with this, that, and the other.  Classic.  Then his mouth gets swollen and he can’t speak when he really needs to—classic squared.  We haven’t seen that kind of thing since Jim Carey got deported in “Fun with Dick and Jane” because he’d gotten hit in the mouth and lost his wallet and was talking like a Mexican.  Come to think of it, THAT film was a remake.  Not like anyone in American remembers Jane Fonda, though.  Shit, no one remembers Bridget Fonda.

We get into that jumping out of the spaceship set piece, and all I can think is how fucking awesome Harold and Kumar are.  Kumar’s working for Obama, Harold’s in the new Star Trek.  Have two stoner heroes ever gone on to such fantastic careers?  Not since Kenunu has anyone come close—and that kid forgot ALL about Alex Winter.

The addition of Chief Engineer Olson may be the only original moment in this film:  he’s introduced, he’s killed off in less than five minutes, and he’s NOT BLACK.  Groundbreaking shit.

But the whole jumping without a parachute thing… oh, man, it’s so played.  And played better than ever in the greatest of all Kenunu flicks, “Point Break.”  Watch it again.  Trust me.  If you’re gonna do bad movies, do GOOD bad movies.

Checkov gets to do some fancy beaming, basically because no one on this ship knows how to do anything.  That’s why all the rookies are shining.

“Prepare the red matter.”  What?  Did he say “Prepare the spread batter?”  “Declare the dead fatter?”  “Beware the fed hatter?”

Vulcan is destroyed.  Hmmmm… when did we see an entire planet blown up before?  Have we?  There was that super-obscure movie from the 70s… Star Wars.  Right.  No one saw that.  And it’s not like that movie went on to become a big franchise and, like, did it again in another movie or anything.

Delta Vega.  I’m pretty sure that’s Suzanne’s older, fatter sister.  Kidding—it’s actually the ice planet Hoth, with better CG.  That way, you know that someone who’s already dead is about to make an appearance, and that there’s likely to be some comedy behind it.  Besides, when they gave the screenwriters 50 bucks and a case of PBR to write this travesty, there was only one specific direction:  “Nimoy hasn’t worked in a looong time.  Throw the old dog a bone.”

And here’s where you can really hang your Stephen Hawking:  We have the technology to create a singularity.  Got it.  But when we create one, it only destroys a planet and then, like disappears, rather than acting like every other singularity in the cosmos—more commonly known as a “Black Hole”—which has an infinite appetite and will suck anything into it’s gravitational field.  Ok, we’ll let that one go—it’s a pocket-sized singularity—an iSingularity.  BUT THAT’S NOT ENOUGH—our iSingularity destroys a planet, but then allows our villain AND our hero to pass THROUGH it, just like they did in that 70s flick “The Black Hole,” a flick with such a dissatisfying ending that… you can’t even find it on Netflicks.  Um, screenwriters, I think what you’re looking for is an Einstein-Rosen Bridge.  You’re mixing your mega-phors.  It’s well-said that as you approach a singularity, your last moments would last an eternity, as you approach the event horizon but never actually get there.  Kind of like approaching the logic of this movie.

“Hey, Pike, put this bug in your head.  It was our favorite moment of ‘Wrath of Khan.’”  “No!  Not in his mouth!  In his ear!  Shit!”

“Should we do another take?”

“No—no—we’re overbudget already and with this escapist economy, no one will care.”

The mind meld: coolest lazy writer’s excuse for a flashback since the… er… flashback.

Kirk dukes it out again.  Will this guy ever win a fight?

And here we are into the big rescue, the last-minute beam to safety, handed by Scotty, so now he’s the beam queen and the poor Russian is reduced to an adorable accent.  Nicely done, Simon Pegg.  Now you can truly settle into mediocrity and a fat paycheck.  Sequels, ho!  Now seal the deal, Simon… get the ship away from the black hole and belt it out, the line we’re all dying to hear you mimic like a Mynah bird—“I’ma givine her alla she’s gawt, capn!”  Ah, that’s the stuff.

And no film this bad would be complete without some Spock-on-Spock action.  Make sure to stay for the credits so you can giggle at the character named “Spock Prime.”

Hope you had fun.  I wasn’t nearly stoned enough.

Kiss kiss,