Friday, May 17, 2013

#585. Direct Current Friday

Rounding out the week, I'll secretly be participating in the Remakes Blogfest, but not until later in the post.  I've decided that if I do things officially, it just won't work out.  Somewhere along the way I think I either really did alienate everyone or somehow it was construed that I don't want comments.  I love comments.  I loved the dialogue that went into some of the comments recently, and would love to continue that.  Although if I really have alienated everyone, as the title of the obscure Marlon Brando movie suggests, Sayonara.

Today Star Trek Into Darkness opens.  This counts as a holiday for me, although I probably won't be seeing it until tomorrow.  When Star Trek opened four years ago, I used it as an excuse to make repeated trips to the movie theater to see it in an almost exact replica of the instant adoration I had for The Dark Knight a year earlier.  Sadly I have no monies in 2013, so I will not really be able to do that again, but I would beg borrow and steal my way into the auditorium for this.

I'm a Star Trek fan.  Some of us call ourselves Trekkies, and some of us call ourselves Trekkers (because let's face it, "Trekkies" sounds stupid).  I'm not a Star Trek fan in the sense that I regularly attend conventions and have psychotically (but awesomely) retrofitted my living quarters into a replica of a set.  In fact, I've only ever been to one convention, and I had to leave before Robert Picardo made his appearance (yes, one celebrity appearance, so obviously not a big one).  I'm a Star Trek fan in that I've loved Star Trek for a long time.  It's not just one or two of the series or movies that I love.  I have a whole blog committed to the entire franchise.

Ten years ago it was a rotten time to be a Star Trek fan, or at least one the least bit attuned to the rest of the community.  Star Trek Nemesis had bombed in theaters over the winter, and Enterprise was limping its way to a woebegone conclusion two years later.  Fans talked more about what they hated than what they loved.  It was my introduction to Internet culture.  Everyone's too cool for the room, harvesting a cult of personality rather than insightful commentary.  I'm more of an insightful commentary kind of guy.

And so when I talk about Star Trek, it's about the things I love, and I love Star Trek because there are many things I love about it.  I don't spread this love around unconditionally.  It just so happens that Star Trek has a hard time disappointing me.  The last time I was disappointed with it, I pretty much stopped experiencing the offender, which is the pocket universe of the Pocket Books novels.  I used to read those all the time.  I guess the more filmed Star Trek there was, the less tolerance I had for work that I found poorly derivative.  Although that's what the fans who hated the later filmed material said about that, too.

It's all a matter of perspective.  And I'm coming back around on the books, by the way.  I'll be reading a few of them probably later this year.  Anyway, it's not such a bad time to be a fan these days.  Star Trek was more popular than any other film in the series.  It made buckets and buckets of money.  We're only just now getting another one, but that only figures.  I maintain to this day that the main problem a decade ago was franchise fatigue.  The fans went from having a single series that had run for three seasons to a new movie every few years a decade later to another series and more movies to three more series for more than another decade...These fans found plenty of shiny new obsessions, and they had their fun elsewhere.

The reboot was something some of us had dreaded for years.  There was such an interconnectedness to the previous version and all its incarnations, despite minor deviations here and there, it was for those who could follow it exactly like a given author's beloved epic cycle.  But the reboot worked.  It was immediately different from what had come before, but it put a new focus on some of the elements that badly needed attention in the original versions of Kirk and his pals, being a knowing examination of these characters.  Kirk and Spock were already legends.  Now the stories themselves explained why instead of just letting the fans extrapolate.

Some people say the J.J. Abrams version of Star Trek is missing the insightful commentary of its predecessors.  I offer a counterargument that this Star Trek has that, in spades.  It speaks about the human condition, using the main characters, and doesn't do too much to distract from that, other than all the spiffy whizzbang action that won Abrams a seat at the Star Wars table.  Star Trek has always been about the human condition, from Christopher Pike being held captive by the Talosians to "Trip" Tucker deciding to sacrifice himself so his buddy Jonathan Archer could disentangle himself from the mess Shran made.  Every incarnation of Star Trek has interpreted this basic mandate differently.  The new movies are no different.


The remake I choose to spotlight in my unofficial participation in the blogfest is The Maltese Falcon.

Wait just a hot dog minute, The Maltese Falcon a remake?!?  The classic starring Humphrey Bogart and Peter Lorre?!?  Indeed, grasshopper.  It's also based on a book!

Okay, maybe you knew that one.  Dashiell Hammett's book was published in 1930.  Someone in Hollywood figured it would make a great movie.  The Maltese Falcon was duly released in 1931.  And then Satan Met a Lady was released in 1936.  Bogart's Falcon, "the stuff dreams are made of," came out in 1941.  It was an instant classic, a masterpiece of film noir.

And just think, all those people who claim remakes are a terrible thing would have done everything possible to block it from ever being made given half a chance.  What are they, a thug in The Maltese Falcon?  I know, I know, they usually adopt this stance because they hate to see a treasured memory attempt to be replaced.  Obviously most remakes aren't based on actual treasured memories.  Except Harrison Ford's The Fugitive.  Or Judy Garland's The Wizard of Oz.  You get the idea.  "Remakes" are the basis of storytelling itself.  You only think it's about original ideas.  A story is only a version of something that already exists.  It's inspired, no matter how tenuously, on events whether fictional or real.  Every single story ever.

I'd much rather live in a world where Bogart's Maltese Falcon exists, thank you.  I love that Homer helped give us The Iliad, and The Odyssey.  Those poems were composed centuries after the events they evoke.  Stories based on stories.

For the bonus round of music, I'm going unorthodox again.  As I recently stated, I'm a fan of the Beatles.  For a few years, I collected issues of the British music magazine Mojo that included complete covers of Beatles albums, uniting various artists and their particular interpretations of the songs.  My favorite remains Revolver Reloaded, based of course on Revolver, another of their formative masterpieces.  It includes Mark Mulcahy's version of "She Said She Said," which is to my mind the definitive one.  These Mojo albums were probably why I was able to enjoy the movie Across the Universe so much, because it features another collective effort to cover Beatles song.  As far as I'm concerned, you can't go wrong with Beatles songs.

Plus we wouldn't have this without remakes.

And I really wouldn't want to live in a world where that wasn't possible.


Maurice Mitchell said...

I'm not sure how you got alienated Tony, but I didn't get the memo. There are some great movies based on books and Maltese is one of them. The funny thing is I was just thinking of that video earlier in a comment!

Tony Laplume said...

I dunno. It seems the more I wigged out at the end of the challenge and after it, people got a lot less interested in reading, or at least responding to, what I write here.

As for thinking about Maltese Falcon, a lot of people talked about movies I was glad to see referenced in the blogfest, but I was glad to referenced this one, especially since few will even think of it as a remake. It made Bogie's career, and that alone should be celebrated, because of course we also got Casablanca out of it, one of the perennial contenders for best movie of all time.

The Armchair Squid said...

We went to see Trek today. Mock and his son came, too. I was impressed. If anything, I thought it was better than the previous one. My wife's a big Cumberbatch fan so she was very pleased.

Tony Laplume said...

I saw it late last night after all, and I loved it, too.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

We saw the new Star Trek this weekend and I absolutely loved it.

Tony Laplume said...

What I love is that it has so much going on but doesn't seem cluttered at all.


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