Tags: trek

Dublin

Doubling down on the fandom

And just as a follow-on to my appreciation of the movie USS Enterprise, here's an old bit of fan art of Star Trek Movies II to IV that I did way back in 1989 at the tender age of 19. How time flies. Not that my viewing habits have significantly changed...

Star Trek Movie montage (1989) (c)iainjclark (small).jpg

It's a weird shape because it follows a roughly cinematic film ratio across the middle, then blossoms out at the sides. I think it still looks okay, but I'd hope to do a much better job of it these days. The eagle-eyed reader may notice that Lt. Saavik is drawn in a very different style from everyone else, which is because I did the bulk of the drawing many months earlier, and even by the time I went back to it I was in a different mood artistically.
Dublin

The USS Enterprise and me

If I said that the sight of the Starship Enterprise calms me down you'd think I was bonkers, right?

tmphd1122.jpgNot any USS Enterprise, you understand. Certainly not the version from the recent JJ Abrams movies with its squashed toothpaste-tube proportions1. Not the eccentric Next Generation version, though I am fond of it. Not even the original 1960s design classic. The one that I love is the refit design from the first six Star Trek movies, from The Motion Picture through to The Undiscovered Country. The very sight of it is food for my soul: its grace, its curves, its balance. Its rightness.

tmphd0729.jpgThere are very few designs that can do this to me, and they all share deep roots in my childhood and adolescence. Another is Doctor Who's Tardis (about which I'll eulogise another time). Maybe the Dalek too. Iconography embedded in my psyche at a tender age from endless VHS videotape viewings, cinema magazines, spin-off novels. I look at these things and sometimes I can't even tell any more if they have an intrinsic merit or if it's just my childhood speaking to me across the decades.

Since I'm Really Old, I first encountered this spaceship (AKA nicely-lit fibreglass model) at the cinema in 1979 when I saw Star Trek: The Motion Picture on its original release. If ever a film fetishised a piece of hardware it's that one, all lingering pans over structural curves, somewhere between asexual porn and a 2 hour car commercial. But this was also the dawn of movie merchandising as we now (shudder to) experience it, and so I probably didn't first encounter the design at the cinema at all. Instead I probably inhaled it through magazines like Starlog, and trading cards, and promotions on the back of weetabix packets, and white chocolate bars with weird multi-coloured bits in them. Given that my main memory of the film is coming home afterwards and drawing Klingon spaceships going 'pew pew' I think that the content of the film (such as it was) was always secondary to the spaceships in my ten year old brain. And in that supporting merchandise the spaceship has a mythic beauty that even the film's Male Gaze For Spaceships doesn't quite capture.

Take this old, scanned promotional photo for example, which not only emphasises the ship's graceful proportions but a pearlescent, self-illuminated, polychromatic quality that the film only glimpses (and later movies largely dispensed with):

Scan0106.jpg

Blinded as I am by the hardwiring of my brain, I do think that as a spacecraft design it has few equals. The original sixties version is all rectangles and cylinders. In fact it's easy to forget just how odd that design is, like a Forbidden Planet flying saucer mated with something much more functional and Naval in character. Even so it has a certain sense of balance and proportion, particularly when shot from a nice angle. The movie version keeps only the basic morphology of saucer, secondary hull and engine nacelles joined by struts, but it pushes and pulls each of those elements into something rounded, tapered and elegant. From the swell of the secondary hull to the angles and fins and neon stripes of the engines, it creates the sense of a unified whole rather than parts bolted inelegantly together. In many ways it looks completely different from the original, and yet you could never mistake it for anything else.



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Ageing Spaceship baffles engineers with this one weird trick

In the subsequent movies the design remains the same (it is after all the same model even when technically a different ship) but the iridescent paint job that would catch the light in interesting ways is replaced with a matt chalky white finish, and it's lit more brightly with less reliance on the ship's own running lights. The quality of the effects and cinematography varies hugely too. But it's hard to completely screw up a design this beautiful. In Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan2, a film I've probably seen even more often than the original Star Wars, it's treated like a classic tall ship in a Hornblower movie: trading ponderous broadsides with its sister ship in a Naval game of cat and mouse. Its a big, majestic vessel not nippy a little X-wing fighter or a barrel-rolling Millennium Falcon, and that's reflected in its shape and size. Slow to turn, crewed to the nines, wind in its sails.

When I catch one of the original Trek films on repeat, or actually moreso when I stumble across images of it on the web, it's like looking at a great landscape painting or a classic Lake District view, perfect in every proportion. It fills me with inner peace.

Bonkers, I know.
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1 If you didn't even know there was a difference this is maybe not the post for you...
2 Out on Blu-ray in its Director's Edition soon. And its Director (and script doctor) Nicholas Meyer is working on the new Star Trek TV Show. What goes around comes around.
Dublin

In a world...

Nothing new to report on the Bump front, so here's some nice eye candy that distracted me last night.

Here's a really impressive trailer for a film that was completely off my radar, Daybreakers. Stars Ethan Hawke and Willem Dafoe, and set in a world in which Vampires are the majority and humans the hunted underclass. Pushes all my buttons, really.

The surprisingly good, even mature looking (I know, I know), trailer for Torchwood's Children of Earth mini-series (running in five parts Mon to Fri in a single week.)

I'm intrigued by the Johnny Depp / Christian Bale / Michael Mann gangster flick Public Enemies, even if the trailer is just an abridged version of the entire film as far as I can tell. Although he can be quirky and mannered as an actor, Depp is such a chameleon sometimes.

And BIG 'SPLODY THINGS. Roland Emmerich destroying the world again in 2012. Unlike Transformers, the astonishing spectacle of this one may actually lure me to the cinema against my better judgement.

Finally, and on a slight tangent, I'm a complete nerd sometimes but this CGI image from a forthcoming Trek calendar is just stunningly beautiful. In a nerdy way. (From the blog of Doug Drexler, an FX guy from Trek / BSG.)

Dublin

Crazy mixed-up world

Dollhouse has been renewed for a second season. Warner Bros are making a big budget movie of Primeval. And Star Trek is a smash box office hit. It's like the world's been turned on its head.

Still, this plus Niall's admittedly lukewarm defence of the show may finally prompt me to give Dollhouse a try.

EDIT: And as if that isn't enough craziness, they've greenlit a remake of alien-lizard invasion series V which stars Alan Tudyk (Wash) as a human and Morena Baccarin (Inara) as an alien. There's a spoilery review of the pilot, which I haven't read, here.

EDIT to the EDIT: Comment from Joss Whedon confirming the Dollhouse renewal.

Dublin

Trailers

Unexpectedly, the latest trailers (Trailer 3 in both cases) for Star Trek and Terminator: Salvation are not just good but *so* good they've more or less sold me on the films. I wasn't sure either of them would amount to more than superfluous cash-ins on their respective franchises, but the Star Trek one in particular reached me on a gut level in a way that previous promos for the film missed by a mile. Maybe it's just been so long since Trek had some genuine spectacle, drama and energy on its side.

If streaming video doesn't float your boat, both trailers can be downloaded directly here

Dublin

It's Leonard Nimoy!

OMG Leonard Nimoy!

It's a new shot added to the recently released trailer for the new Trek movie. Seeing an actor in 2008 playing an elderly version of a character he first played in 1964 is fairly unique in itself. What strikes me first is how very old he looks, but then I look things up on the interwebs and realise he hasn't appeared on screen as the character since 1991. That's an amazing 17 years ago.

As for the trailer itself (HD versions here) it's a strange mixture of homage and newness pitched primarily at a mainstream movie audience. I expect they're hoping, as with the revamped Doctor Who, that any lingering lack of coolness surrounding Trek will have faded with time (notwithstanding the near saturation screening of modern Trek shows in the intervening years). Despite a few moments of more widespread appeal, like The Voyage Home, Trek has always been a fairly niche property so they're clearly pitching at a bigger audience of non-fans who have a nostalgic fondness for the '60s show but aren't that familiar with later incarnations.

What that means is a film that looks high budget, action oriented, with a youngish cast, plenty of humour and only a passing resemblance to the original show. Probably wisely they've opted to keep the general look of the costumes and the core characters but little else. The cast seem okay, aping the original actors to greater or lesser degrees: on the one had is Karl Urban practically impersonating DeForest Kelley as McCoy, and on the other Simon Pegg seems like Simon Pegg with a Scottish accent. But that's probably just because he's so familiar. Likewise Zachary Quinto looks like Sylar dressed for Halloween.

It's hard to deny that it looks interesting, but although I'm keen to see it I think my main reason is less excitement and more a burning curiosity to see what they've done with the concept. I really don't know whether it'll be any good, but I really do want to find out.

Dublin

At the Movies

The second trailer for Watchmen is out. (There are some new posters too.) I know that movie trailers are filled with Lies, but impossibly it looks like they may actually have succeeded in adapting the graphic novel for the big screen. That's a very nice trailer indeed. Director Zack Snyder's 300 was so slick and hollow that I do worry whether this will turn out to be an exercise in obsessive visual style over substance, but some of the dialogue scenes in the trailer hint otherwise. The source material is far richer and more thematically complex than 300 (which is, when all's said and done, a fairly trite, macho, sexist and homophobic work). What's clearly intact in the Watchmen trailer is the deconstruction of what it means to have superhuman beings or vigilantes in a more flawed, realistic and political world.

I notice that the film is R rated, which is a bold move since that'll severely restrict its potential audience. By comparison, The Dark Knight was a 12A (even though that nasty little pencil scene alone should have pushed it to a 15 for me). The fact that they've gone with such a box-office-denting rating shows at least some artistic integrity is involved. Also the official Watchmen site currently crashes my browser. Yes, that's how hardcore this film is.

Quantum of Solace director Marc Forster will direct the movie version of World War Z from a script by J Michael "Tin Ear" Straczynski. Not 100% sure what to make of this but my wife loved the book and the script has at least one glowing review. jms is also scripting a remake of Forbidden Planet, an idea so wrongheaded that even he thinks he's walking on hallowed ground.

Finally, an image has been released of the new Starship Enterprise from the semi-reboot Star Trek movie. Casual viewers would probably shrug and say this looks exactly like every other picture of the Enterprise they've seen. Devoted fans have unleashed the kind of lack-of-perspective hate-storm not seen since Daniel Craig's hair was deemed to be the wrong colour for Bond. (Although at least that fan implosion focused on the main role, not just a bit of hardware.) I kinda like the new design myself, but I don't love it. It's growing on me. There's also an image of an earlier generation of starship from the movie, as well as heaps of cast images. It'll either be awesome, or an utter disaster.

Dublin

Coming Soon

Oh god, Bones is doing a two-part season opener set in the UK, aka the famous bits of London. This is not something US TV is noted for doing well, and Bones is not blessed with what we like to call "subtlety". I'm expecting this to be full of Scotland Yard officers wearing tweed and bowler hats. (I wasn't sure what to make of the previous season finale either, which featured a major twist in which one regular cast member acted completely out of character for the sake of the plot.)

Torchwood Season 3 will be a five part miniseries, and it'll air on BBC One, stripped across one week at 9 p.m. in the same vein as the disappointing BBC1 drama Criminal Justice. BBC1, eh? The continued success of Torchwood is as meteoric as it is inexplicable.

Ronald D. Moore has another pilot TV Movie on the go, Virtuality, which sounds a) exactly like a holodeck-goes-wrong episode of The Next Generation and b) completely uninteresting. Virtual reality almost never makes for good TV because it has no consequences, meaning that consequences have to be unconvincingly slapped on: "If you die in the game you die out here too" / "If you unplug her she'll die".

I do seem to remember having a sneaking fondness for the short-lived VR.5, but that's probably because it had Anthony Head and David McCallum in it. (Alternatively it may be because it's "without doubt the best, most entertaining and thought provoking and compelling sci fi TV series I have ever seen, or can ever envisage being made" as someone on IMDB hilariously claims.)

I'm enjoying HBO's seven-part Generation Kill miniseries at the moment. It took a little while to get to grips with the characters, and I'm still not entirely sure I know who everyone is, but over the first few episodes the series has deepened and become more absorbing. It's esentially a cross between Band of Brothers and Jarhead, but based on a real journalistic account of the early days of the Iraq war. The production values are impressive, and the series looks for all the world like it was shot in Iraq during the invasion. It has the same sense of verité that David Simon and Ed Burns brought to The Wire, and a lot of clear parallels in showing flawed people at the mercy of petty and incompetent leaders. What's remarkable is the sense of complete aimlessless and confusion in what should be a co-ordinated military campaign.

Dublin

Ooh

Not entirely sure about this poster as a design, but how perfect is Zachary Quinto as Spock?



That's Eric Bana with the tatoos, although it's pretty hard to tell. Plus Chris Pine as Kirk and Zoe Saldana as Uhura. TrekMovie.com has more details.

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In unrelated news, today City Link delivered a parcel, to our door, while we were in. They knocked and rang the bell. I believe this means the apocalypse is nigh.