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Some Ramblings - Star Trek
By Srinivas Kanchibhotla
star trek

Add 'apologist' to the list of eras that have clearly demarcated the film domain. There was the romantic period - the long sweeping drawn out epics, the hard boiled variety - the gritty film noir crime dramas, and then there were the French wave and the Italian splash of neo-realism, which was faithfully adapted in Hollywood to create the golden age of realism (of the 70s), which ultimately gave way to what is now known as the blockbuster era - the escapist fare, the pure entertainment popcorn cinema. However, if the past few years are any indication, particularly with regard to super hero movies, the comic book and the graphic novel adaptations, which sum up the 'franchise' fare, one can clearly mark this period as 'Apologist era' or the 'Atonement period', where all the sins committed against the popular characters in the bygone years, by ways of outlandishness, silliness and ridiculousness in themes are atoned for, by giving the characters their due weight and moving the plots back to roots of franchise. The new pact between the makers and the characters make it clear that old transgressions are forgotten and forgiven. No more bat suit nipples, no more American flag waving patriotic Superman. The re-imagining would be fueled by irony and cynicism - the two primers that are absolute essentials to get by in the current age. The operating rules of the script are bound by the contemporary laws of the real world (to the maximum extent permissible). In the hands of more serious and able filmmakers, these characters rise above their conventional image trappings allowing the movies to transcend the expected fantasy genre, capable of being evaluated on their own individual merit without having to fall back on their feel good nostalgic crutches.

Continuing the trend of atonement that has started with 'Batman Begins', the latest re-imagination of a 40 year old franchise, that has been left for dead both in the television and the movie mediums, reminds of a famous quote of a noted film historian - (to paraphrase) every generation repeats the same stories, of love, valor, friendship and guilt, period after period, adding their cultural zeitgeist so as to make the stories their own, if ever so briefly, before passing down to the next generation. Going by that 'Star Trek' is the family heirloom, the legacy that has been handed down by the celluloid forefathers that spawned several television shows, several movies, and books during the past 4 film generations (the span of a film generation is a decade). The iconic prologue of an old television show that started off with a somber voice saying "Space....the final frontier" assured that the voyages of the star ship 'Enterprise' was only meant to be a five year mission, boldly going where no man went before. However it went way beyond that, over 5 different Star Trek branched off missions (the original Star Trek, The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, Voyager, and Enterprise) with the same immutable setup of the star fleet, the star ship, the captain, the bridge and a multitude of human and non-human characters, over all these years. This time around the Enterprise went to a place that it truly has never been to - its origins, the start of it all. This seems to be the new mantra for bringing the dead (characters and franchises) from the past - when everything fails, start over (which worked wonders for Batman and worked reasonably well for Superman).

Star Trek is a unique show. It doesn't have the vibrancy or the dynamism of Star Wars despite being set in the similar worlds of science fiction. At its core, the show relied more on talk and less on action. That suited well for the times (the 60s), considering that break through special effects haven't been invented yet. The themes were centered around exploration than conquest, coinciding with the space race that US got into with USSR trying to send the first man to the moon. In an inter-galactic tussle, laser guns and warp speeds were not what that ultimately tipped the hand in favor of the Enterprise. It is the brow-beating of the opponent with inscrutable logic and sharp intellect that saved the day for the human race. For all practical purposes the show was a fantasy take on the United Nations, with Enterprise essaying the role of U.S. performing the role of hall monitor in the galactic corridors. The Enterprise didn't get it right every time, but its intentions were noble all the time. Captain Kirk was mercurial and instinctive. Spock was the voice of sanity and maddening reason. Sulu and Scott were the first line of defense. McCoy was the counterpoint to Spock. And week after week, they embarked on missions, encountering new civilizations, meeting enemies, making friends, all the time expanding the extents of human endeavor. The new movie offers a chance to revist all that old glory in great detail, filling in the back stories of all the characters, making their introductions for the first time, all the while peppering it with some of the classic lines from the old show, that became part of the mythology and gradually the culture, of which one seems to portend the shelf life of this new remastered classic - "Live long and prosper".

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More Ramblings on films
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Slumdog Millionaire
Quantom of Solace
The Dark Knight
Wall - E
The incredible Hulk
Indiana Jones and the kingdom of crystal skull
Speed Racer
Iron Man
Jodha Akbar
There will be blood
Chrlie Wilson's War
No Country for Old Men
Om Shanti Om
Lions for Lambs
American Gangster
Michael Clayton
Happy Days
Chak De India!
The Bourne Ultimatum
The Simpsons Movie
The Grindhouse
Casino Royale
The Departed
Lage Raho Munnabhai
Superman Returns
The Da Vinci Code
Sri Ramadasu
Rang De Basanti (Hindi)
Jai Chiranjeeva!
Munich (English)
Sarkar (Hindi)
Mangal Padey (Hindi)
Kaadhal (Tamil)
Anukokunda Oka Roju
Batman Begins (English)
Radha Gopalam
Mughal E Azam
Virumandi (Tamil)
Lakshya (Hindi)
Yuva (Hindi)
Kakha Kakha (Tamil)
Mr & Mrs Iyer
Nuvve Nuvve


This article is written by Srinivas Kanchibhotla
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