Posts Tagged ‘retcon’

New Star Trek Trailer

November 23, 2008

As with most things, I’m pretty late on this. The new Star Trek trailer has been up for almost a week now, after all. Still, I decided to hold off on writing my impressions until they’ve had time to gestate a bit. Now that they’ve reached full term, I’m finally ready to birth them into the world, with an ugly placenta to follow afterward. (How’s that for imagery?)

My first impression is that six months is an uncomfortably long time to wait. I’m a Star Trek fan, after all. I’d go see this thing if it were titled Star Trek: Klingons on Ice! (Come to think of it, that sounds pretty awesome.)

My second impression is one of trepidation. I’m of course not alone in this. The makers of this film are in a position to manhandle the very heart of Star Trek canon. By recasting the original characters and setting the film in their pre-Enterprise days, they are in a position to completely undo the foundation of the original stories, or even to start Star Trek over from scratch. (The former is known in Nerdish as “retconning.” The second has become known to those prone to fan-rage as a “reboot.”)

From what I’ve seen, J.J. Abrams and the rest don’t intend to let this happen. They intend to stay true to canon. And to their credit, the cast they’ve assembled so far seems to fit with that intention. None of them looks badly out of place in the shoes they’re trying to fill. (Except perhaps for the young James T. Kirk, but no amount of handsome young faces are going to fill those shoes.)

I like what glimpses of the design of the film I’ve seen. They have the bright, clean feel of the original series, with the high-tech gloss that a 1960’s TV budget couldn’t bring to bear. The starship design manages to be new and interesting, while also true to the aesthetic of the show. I’m nothing but excited by the design so far.

That leaves me with one last point of concern. I’m just old enough to have lived through about ten years of Hollywood revisitations of 1960’s and 1970’s TV shows. I’ve sat through enough Brady Bunches, Beverly Hillbillies, Dukes of Hazzard, and even Rocky and Bullwinkles to know that no decade of television is safe from being realized on the big screen, if the whiff of profit is on it. I fear that Star Trek will see this treatment. I fear that there will be too many moments of “Ooh, look how nice the Enterprise looks now!” too many CG-powered space battles, too many strings of technobabble (and “bairns”) and not enough attention to advancing our understanding of the original characters. This is not a rational fear, but I feel it nonetheless.

In any case, I’m extremely excited about this movie, and I’ll be first in line to see it when it opens. Maybe even in uniform. I’ve been known to be precisely that nerdy sometimes.

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It is not canon

May 28, 2008

I learned a few years ago that two movies would follow the Lord of the Rings trilogy. One would be an adaptation of The Hobbit, which is so exciting as to set my nerdly demeanor all atwitter. To see Bilbo in his prime; to see Smaug meet his end; to see the Dwarves and their Thief steal into the heart of Erebor, the Loney Mountain; to see the Battle of Five Armies… Such a treat seems almost excessive, after how wonderfully true and moving the LotR movies were. But it is not the forthcoming Hobbit movie that moved me to write this post.

If you’re reading this, you’ve probably already heard. Another movie will be released the year after The Hobbit. This one will concern itself with events that took place in the sixty years between The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. It will track the actions of certain (not yet specified) characters from LotR, to bridge the gap between the two. In other words, it will be making stuff up.

Tolkien wrote very little about those sixty years. Some was set down in the Appendices to LotR, such as the attempt by the Dwarves of Erebor to retake Moria, and some was hinted at in both The Hobbit and LotR, such as the White Council’s actions against Sauron in Mirkwood, Gollum’s imprisonment in Thranduil’s caves, and Aragorn’s fighting alongside the men of Gondor under a false name. The essential point, however, is that these are all short snatches of story or simply vague hints. Peter Jackson, Guillermo del Toro, and everyone else behind the project will be cobbling these snatches together, along with their own fabrications, into a narrative for the film. They’re going to retcon Tolkien.

Penny Arcade linked to a transcript of a chat session between fans and Peter Jackson, the producer of the two films, and Guillermo del Toro, the director. Both are obscenely talented people, and i have no doubt they will bring all their expertise to bear on this product. I’m just concerned about what this means for Tolkien’s legacy. On the one hand, he is one of the greatest authors of all time. He constructed an entire world, one with a history that lives and breathes, that can be pored over with just as much fascination as the histories of the peoples who live and who have lived in our own world. It should be near instinctual to wish to protect that creation, to ensure that no one else trivializes Tolkien’s vision by inventing new stories for time-honored characters. On the other, Tolkien created a full and vibrant world, and perhaps it would not be so harmful if people of great talent explored that world in ways that the original author did not think to.

I am on the fence. I will remain there, happily containing my fanboyish malcontent, until the film comes out. Rest assured that if it falls short of my expectations, I will be online within moments, registering my disgust throughout the world.