Friday, May 31, 2013

One more Quick Defense of "Star Trek Into Darkness."

So, apparently on top of all the other imagined liberties JJ and the crew took with Trek, they also disrespected the Enterprise.  Being as my favorite character on any Star Trek IS in fact The Enterprise (yeah, that’s right) I have something to say. (Of course.)  So, let’s look at what JJ didn’t do for the old girl:

  •       Did not relegate her to the menial task of training vessel for cadets.
  •       Did not have her then crippled by a man who’s never commanded a Federation vessel before using a smaller ship.
  •       Did not send her back to Earth to be decommissioned.
  •       Did not then have her so damaged by a 12 man Klingon scout ship she has to be scuttled.
  •       Did not then slap the name “Enterprise” on some other ship so hastily they are still painting the number on when the Captain shows up.
  •       Did not then show that the 1701A is in fact a complete “disaster.”
  •       Did not then have THAT ship all but destroyed by a Klingon scout.
  •       Did not then send THAT ship back to be decommissioned not even a decade after the paint dried on that “A.”
  •       Did not then have her successor leave space dock without a tractor beam or any photons. 
  •       Did not then have the 1701D destroyed…BY A KLINGON SCOUT SHIP.

So what did JJ do?
  •       Have the 1701 survive not one but TWO undefeatable super vessels. 
  •       Have the 1701 do more than we ever saw her do in any previous version (whether we needed to see her act like a sub is debatable).
  •       Establish the bond between ship and Captain where he literally crawls into her heart to save her.
  •       Uses a REAL particle collider as the warp core.

So, which version of Trek has been more disrespectful to the Enterprise?

Monday, May 27, 2013

You liked "Star Trek Into Darkness;" now what?

This is my answer to all of those (and there are more than a couple) who have asked me, "so, what is up with this thing called "Star Trek"?  I have talked elsewhere about the series I like or don't like, but I want to provide some history here for those who may be new, particularly those brought into the fold by JJ Abrams; new films.  To them I say welcome: there's a lot of wonderful viewing ahead of you, just remember to put it in the context of when it was made.  Each show was groundbreaking in its own way, even if it seems outdated now.  Each one is worth at least a look.

To the older fans who were perhaps less impressed by JJ's work, I say: Tsk tsk, young minds, fresh ideas, Mr. Scott.  I recall the hullabaloo regarding each series as it came out, and how it flew in the face of "what had gone before."  JJ's Trek is drawing attention, and most importantly showing Trek is financially viable despite being nearly 50 years old.  You don't have to like it (though I love it like ice cream), but at least give it a tip of the hat for what it is doing to increase interest in our family.

Here's the initial overview of the shows, but below is the watchlist punctuated by "what you should know" and what season of the shows in which to find the listed episodes.  It is in no way authoritative, but should give you a good taste of all of it in about as much time as it would take to watch a single season of any show.  I will of course entertain any questions one might have afterwards!  Some of my interstitial comments are based on supposition, either my own, or that of the amazing Mike and Denise Okuda who wrote this book, that though outdated it a must for ANY nascent or established Trekkie.

Production wise the six series and first 10 movies were made in this order:
Star Trek (often called "TOS" or "The Original Series") 1966-1969
Star Trek: The Animated Series (TAS) 1973-1974
Star Trek: The Motion Picture (TMP) 1979
Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (TWOK) 1982
Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (TSFS) 1984
Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (TVH) 1986
Star Trek: The Next Generation (TNG) 1987-1994
Star Trek V: The Final Frontier (TFF) 1989
Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (TUC) 1991
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (DS9) 1993-1999
Star Trek: Generations (GEN) 1994
Star Trek: Voyager (VOY) 1995-2001
Star Trek: First Contact (FC) 1996
Star Trek: Insurrection (INS) 1998
Star Trek: Enterprise (ENT) 2001-2005
Star Trek: Nemesis (NEM) 2002

The last series, ENT, was actually set 100 years BEFORE TOS and is a prequel.

Movies 1-6 take place between TOS and TNG and feature the cast from TOS.  Movies 7-10 take place after TNG with that cast, and are concurrent with some events in DS9 and VOY.  

After four years out of production, Paramount released the 2009 film "Star Trek" which though connected to the original timeline above, served as both sequel and reboot with characters from the original making changes to the timeline and creating an alternate reality in the period before TOS.  The sequel "Star Trek Into Darkness" (2013) continues as both sequel and reboot showing some parallel but changed events. 

If you want to watch them in the order they were made, see the above list.  I recommend taking an overview by following the below regimen with an "in universe" chronological order.  Understand this is like Cliff's Notes, so there will be things you miss, so any questions, please just let me know.  All of these are available for NETFLIX streaming.  These are usually referred to as the "Prime Universe" since the new movies are out and changing the timeline.

What you need to know before you start ENT:
The various small wars around the world in the 1990s were actually the result of a number of genetically enhanced humans born in the late 60s attempting to seize power.  Most were deposed, some went into hiding, and 96 of them were placed on an experimental sleeper ship in 1996 and launched into the depths of space.

In the 2020s, the economy got worse, and eventually lead to a "purist" movement (possibly influenced by leftover genetic supermen) that started WWIII.  In the 2030s and 2040s much of the world was plunged back into a new dark age, and there were some nuclear exchanges in Asia that were devastating.  Despite that, a man in Bozeman, Montana named Zefram Cochrane in the late 2050s started playing around with a leftover ICBM and by 2063 built the first faster than light, or "warp" drive by a human.  His test flight in April 2063 drew the attention of a starfaring sentient species-the Vulcans-who found a bunch of dirty faced Homo Sapiens who now knew they weren't alone in the universe.

The discovery of warp and the arrival of the Vulcans brought a new resolve to the human race.  They began to clean up their messes and unite their planet.  By 2100, they were sending out colony and trade ships using their warp drives.  The Vulcans would advise, but refused to actively help citing the idea that they could not interfere in human development.  By the 2140s Earth has pretty much fully united, and formed a "Starfleet" often much to the Vulcan's chagrin.  They wished a race that only a century before had tried to nuke itself out of existence was taking its time.  Humans are hungry to grow, and a bit resentful of the Vulcans for holding them back.  In 2151, the Earth Starfleet launches the NX-01, Starship Enterprise which is the first ship capable of Warp Factor 5 bringing planets that were once years away to within weeks.

Now Watch:
ENT: (2151-2156)

Broken Bow (S1)
Stigma (S2)
The Forge (S4)
Awakening (S4)
Kir'Shara (S4)

The villain you see at the end of "Kir'Shara" is a Romulan.  This is a warrior race who were Vulcans, but left that planet some 1500 years earlier when logic and peace began to sway that culture.  All but forgotten on Vulcan, the Romulans have been preparing to stretch their influence back toward their ancestral home.  In 2156 (the following year after "Kir'Shara") a war begins between Earth and Romulus, eventually bringing in the Vulcans, Andorians, and Tellarites, all different races near Earth.  The war is so devastating, no human or ally actually sees a Romulan (they tend to destroy their own ships when faced with capture and are extremely secretive).  In 2160 a treaty is negotiated via radio, and a "Neutral Zone" established between Earth allies and The Romulan Star Empire.

In 2161, the allies decide to make their friendship formal and form the United Federation of Planets.  Former Starfleet Captain Jonathan Archer becomes the Federation's first president (NOTE: Though "Federation President is still on Archer's resumé, the Trek Wiki now states he was not the first, but rather served 2184-2192).  The Earth Starfleet becomes the basis for the Federation Starfleet, though individuals from all member races serve.  Starfleet's mission is equal parts protection and exploration, "boldly going where no man has gone before."  Conflict does also break out with the Klingons eventually resulting in a Cold War type of situation with the Federation.

In 2145 the first Warp 8 capable starship is launched, the USS Enterprise, named for Archer's vessel.  She is the Federation flagship and commanded by a Captain Robert April and a Captain Christopher Pike before being given to Starfleet's youngest Captain, James Tiberius Kirk.  She begins a five year mission in roughly 2263 (some of these dates are conjecture based on dialog).  

Now Watch:
TOS: (2263-2268)

Balance of Terror (S1)
Space Seed (S1)
City on the Edge of Forever (S1)
Amok Time (S2)
Journey to Babel (S2)

TAS: (2268)
Yesteryear (S1)

Kirk leaves command of the Enterprise in the late 2260s and takes a promotion to Admiral.  The Enterprise goes through an extensive refit, and is pressed into service early when a huge spacecraft called "V'Ger" attacks Earth in 2272 (TMP).  Kirk takes Command again for that mission and continues to lead for a second five year mission.  He then returns to the Admiralty and leaves now Captain Spock to command the Enterprise.

Now Watch:
STII: The Wrath of Khan (2282)

Following the death of Spock, Kirk returns to Earth and asks to return to the Genesis planet, having discovered that Spock has left his consciousness or "katra" in Doctor McCoy.  Starfleet refuses.  Kirk and his crew steal the crippled ship and go to Genesis to find a Klingon vessel attempting to unlock the secrets of the planet.  The world is actually unstable, but has regenerated Spock physically.  After the Klingon commander Kruge kills Kirk's son David, Kirk destroys the Enterprise to kill the Klingons.  He steals THEIR ship and takes his crew with the resurrected Spock to Vulcan where mind melds are used to restore Spock's mind to his body.  (TSFS.)  While returning to Earth for trial, Kirk and crew manage to stop an extra-galactic supership from destroying Earth (and restore the once extinct humpback whale to Earth's ecosystem).  Charges for stealing the Enterprise are dropped, but Kirk is reduced in rank to Captain and put back in command of a new Starship Enterprise where he begins another five year mission (TVH) approximately 2286.

Now Watch:
STVI: The Undiscovered Country (2291)

Following the retirement of the 1701A, Starfleet and the Federation begin a new age of peace with the Klingons, which lasts for nearly a Century with only the occasional hiccup.  In approximately 2311, there is a diplomatic (and possibly military) row between the Federation and the Romulans which results in a complete lack of communication or contact between the two Governments for more than 50 years.  In 2344, the Starship Enterprise NCC-1701-C does rescue some Klingons from a Romulan attack resulting in her destruction.  Somewhere also in this period, the Federation engages in war with the Cardassian Union, and the Cardassians occupy a previously peaceful world known as Bajor, starting a brutal occupation that lasts for decades.

In 2363 a new "Galaxy Class" Starship Enterprise NCC-1701-D is commissioned and begins a new trend: Starships on 20 year missions where Starfleet officers may bring their families, and whole generations will be born and raised in space. In Command of the Enterprise D is Captain Jean Luc Picard, whose previous command lasted 22 years.

Now Watch:
TNG/DS9/VOY (2363-2379)

TNG: Q Who? (S2)
TNG: Best of Both Worlds (S3/S4)
TNG: Ensign Ro (S5)
TNG: Unification (two parts S5)

In 2369, the Cardassian occupation of Bajor ends and the Federation sends a peacekeeping force to take command of an old Cardassian mining station called "Terok Nor."  The station is redesignated as Starfleet station Deep Space Nine.  The command crew is integrated between Federation and Bajoran personnel. The Commander is Benjamin Sisko, a survivor of the Battle of Wolf 359 as seen in "Best of Both Worlds."  The first officer, a Bajoran Major named Kira was a freedom fighter during the occupation and is now a member of the Bajoran militia.  She is NOT happy with the Federation presence.  During the handover of authority, Starfleet discovers there is a stable wormhole leading across the Galaxy into unexplored space, making Bajor a new frontier trade hub, and target for Cardassians who want it back.

Now Watch:
TNG: The Inner Light (5)
DS9: Duet (S1)
DS9: The Visitor (S4)

While negotiating with the Cardassians, the Federation hands over sections of disputed space to the Union.  This results in a militarized dissident faction known as "The Maquis" fighting Cardassians in the disputed areas.  As this is occurring, Starfleet finds there is another advanced starfaring government in the Gamma Quadrant on the other side of the wormhole, The Dominion.  They are more advanced than the Federation, and set their eyes on adding Alpha Quadrant planets to their Empire.  War is inevitable.  Cardassia joins the Dominion.

The 1701D is destroyed by Klingon pirates while saving a planet from a space/time anomaly.  Due to the rising conflict between the Dominion and the Federation, the Enterprise 1701E eschews family space and is more built for battle.  Starfleet intelligence becomes more active. (GEN)

Now Watch:
DS9: Dr. Bashir I presume? (S5)
VOY: Caretaker (S1)
VOY: Tuvix (S2)

The Enterprise E is launched under Jean Luc Picard, 2372.

Now Watch:
ST: First Contact (2372)
DS9: Inquisition (S6)
DS9: In the Pale Moonlight (S6)
VOY: Living Witness (S4)
VOY: Blink of an Eye (S6)

The Dominion War ends with a fragile peace and the Dominion retreating to the far side of the Wormhole.  Cardassia is nearly destroyed.  The peace between the Federation, Klingons, and Romulans is also fragile, but Ambassador Spock now openly works on Romulus for reunification with the Vulcans.  The Voyager returns home after seven years in the Delta Quadrant in 2378.

In 2386, Ambassador Spock returns to Vulcan to ask the Federation to help protect Romulus from a strange new supernova that is expanding faster and further than should be possible.  He arrives with help too late, and along with a Romulan mining ship disappears into a black hole.

Please keep in mind the model for "physics" established in Star Trek shows there are any number of alternate universes similar to the Prime; though the events of the new films are different from the "Prime" universe, that timeline has not been erased, but rather both timelines exist side by side.  

Now Watch:
Star Trek 2009 (2386/2233/2258)
Star Trek Into Darkness (2259)

This list provides one possible narrative overview of the Star Trek series, and I have tried to choose episodes that both demonstrate the message of Star Trek, and shows the connective tissue making this nearly fifty year old tale one cohesive story.  If you have watched all the above, go back now and watch the series you liked the best in its entirety, and welcome to the family.  There is Trek I love, Trek I hate, but in the end it is all Trek, and worth at least some consideration.  It is not perfect, but I find I often love Trek not inspite of, but because of its foibles.  It makes mistakes and doesn't always go the right direction…just like the Humans it examines.  

("Star Trek" and all associated series, movies, or images are property of Paramount Pictures and CBS; last photo is from Empire magazine: no profit is being made from their use.  Except to Trekkies who profit from knowing what to watch.)

Sunday, May 19, 2013

The Official Black Owl Review of "Star Trek Into Darkness."

Ok, you need to know right now, there's going to be spoilers, oodles and oodles of spoilers.  If spoilers were tribbles they would be pouring out of a grain storage cabinet onto Kirk's head.  If you don't want to be spoiled, let me give you this little bit: there's a few little problems, but I loved it.  If you want to see why, keep reading.  You have however been warned. Spoilers, approaching at Warp 8.  Also, I am going to assume if you do read ahead you HAVE watched the film, so I will comment on the plot points without providing context.  Honestly, if you haven't seen it, just come back later (please).  

You may remember that when JJ Abrams first Star Trek movie came out, I went into it with every intention of hating it.  I WANTED to hate that film, but found instead a savvy and shiny new mythology that played the appropriate service to what had gone before while promising me a bright new future.  That promise almost derailed this film for me. You see, I got advanced word of the true identity of the bad guy.  A whole new universe open to them and instead they want to remake Khan?  I was disappointed.  I wanted new, I wanted to be surprised.

What they did, which I never imagined they could, is not rehash the Khan story, but extend it.  This new universe, and the changes that came about in the 2009 movie, has some unforeseen ramifications, ones that to a degree grow out of what we had seen before.  I want to address more of that later on, but it turned out not to be the Khan story, or the twisted mirror reflections of his story that bothered me at all.  The similarity is part of the story, the events that repeat are inherent to these characters in ANY universe, and to a degree fated.  If you didn't like the fact that the universe WANTS to happen a certain way--as seen in everything from "City on the Edge of Forever" to "Parallels" to "Cold Front" to 2009--then you may not like it here either.  It has however been inherent in Trek storytelling since 1967, so you may want to get used to it.  

Again, I am very impressed with the fact that events in the first film really come into play here.  Kirk as a stowaway cadet saved the world, and Starfleet's a little concerned how cocky that made him.  Old Spock bringing Scotty's "transwarp beaming" equation into this timeframe is being exploited by Section 31.  Spock--and the Federation--is still dealing with the loss of Vulcan and the Narada incursion.  It is not however just Trek 09 that resonates into this film, but the Prime Universe with Spock's warning to his younger self regarding Khan, and indeed the understanding of the Augments from the series "Enterprise."  Patterns of events from other worlds coming into play in this story, and nothing is happening in a vacuum.  Starfleet, and Admiral Marcus are different because of the Narada, while Kirk--who knows he must in fact be Spock's friend following his mind meld with the older version of the Vulcan--is trying to make this universe like the Prime, and not necessarily succeeding.  The ripples travel far in both directions.

The story plays out in such a way as to give us a true evolution of the relationship between Kirk and Spock.  This comes to fruition with each character reacting to a major crisis as the other would have done, or wanted their friend to.  The filmmakers choose to demonstrate this to long term fans by showing a reversal of fates for these two, something that is apparently sitting poorly with many fans.  That's a shame, as I saw it driving home the circumstances rather than aping them; again an extension rather than a rehash.

So what is great in this film?

This film has the two things great Trek before has had: a moral lesson, and a heart.  The moral is one that would at first seem a little behind the times, dealing with how we as a people reacted to the September 11th attacks.  However, recent events have brought that paranoia back to us, haven't they?  As well, the entire plot regarding sitting in neutral territory to send an unmanned weapon into a sovereign power's airspace to kill one of our citizens who turned against us certainly has some resonance.  As much as people tried to tell you Roddenberry Trek was only about our utopian future, that was never quite true.  Trek at its best is an allegory that gets us to examine ourselves, and this story has that in spades.

At the heart of the film is the development of Kirk as a real hero, Spock as his stalwart friend, and the crew as the team that will spend five years going boldly.  Yes, this is a Kirk/Spock film, but everyone gets their moment as well, reminding me of "The Undiscovered Country" in that respect.  McCoy learns how to turn Kirk's death into a fighting chance for life.  Chekov get a chance to get his hands and face dirty holding together a sabotaged engine room.  Scotty becomes a saboteur himself reminiscent of his work on the Excelsior in "The Search for Spock."  Uhura gets to negotiate face to face with the new Abrams Klingons (which are fantastically well rendered).  And Sulu gets to prove he has the mettle to one day have his own big chair to sit in.  There's one more character who goes through hell here, but keeps coming back: The Enterprise.  I have come to really love the design of the Ryan Church Enterprise, and she gets some spectacular scenes on Nabiru, and stands tall after a near death experience in the clouds over Earth.  Perhaps one of the most important relationships we see here involves the Captain and his ship as she holds together under the onslaught of a mammoth Dreadnaught, while he later crawls into her very heart to literally kickstart her.  She doesn't fire a shot in this film, but she proves she will always bring you home, like a lady should.

Then there's the villains, though one could argue there are not villains in this film, but victims of circumstance lashing out.  Peter Weller brings great gravitas to Admiral Marcus both when sympathetic and vicious.  I have more to say about his character later, but his performance is a delight.  Have I mentioned Benedict Cumberbatch yet?  He is truly amazing in this role. I completely believe he is the superior being genetically engineered.  Words like "intensity" somehow don't seem strong enough to describe his performance and physicality as the character we find out to be Khan, himself somewhat victimized.  I could have spent two hours just watching him deliver lines and been pretty entertained.  Thankfully, THANKFULLY, they don't kill him in the end, breaking the trend of damn near every movie I have watched in recent memory (except perhaps Cobra Commander's escape in GI Joe).  When you see him lying frozen again in his tube, it's not like he is a villain subdued; he is rather a lurking threat, just waiting to be unleashed again.

The look of the film is again fantastic.  We get a new Warp effect, and some neat new sets.  I love the new warp core, which is apparently a real particle collider.  Every alien, focused or background is wonderful.  The specific Starfleet uniforms are great, though evocative of the change that Starfleet has undergone, one at the core of the moral center of the film: are we explorers or soldiers?

Little Trek Easter eggs are all through it: models of both the TMP ringship Enterprise and the NX-01 make appearances.  The trade ship Kirk uses to approach Kronos was confiscated in the "Mudd" incident.  Section 31 appearing at all.  Mention of Christine Chapel and the appearance of Carol Marcus.  A tribble!  There's obviously some fans involved here, though perhaps that lends to the problems as well.

So, given all that gushing, why isn't this film perfect?  Though I don't think the Khan plot points come off as a rehash, I DO feel the "Admiral out to help the Federation by subverting its values" is well overplayed.  Marcus eventually comes off as a cross between Cartwright in "The Undiscovered Country" and Dougherty from "Insurrection."  TNG in particular took advantage of the scheming Admiral as a heavy, and THAT to me does feel rehashed.  It does however fit with the story, and the performance is strong. 

Also, Uhura, a very strong character in '09, gets played a little too weepy girlfriend here. She has good moments, but her concern for Spock and that little catch in her voice at the drop of a hat gets really old and relegates her to Spock's girlfriend once or twice too many.

There's some little in-universe nitpicks I have as well: JJ again uses some time compression in his trips between worlds, but that to me is an artifact of his storytelling method, which trims fat.  Not the first time Trek has done that either though.  I also am not sure how the Earth's gravity grabs the Enterprise so quickly when she is obviously at least beyond the moon.  They should have had quite some time there.  I also have to ask why they parked the Enterprise in the ocean on Nabiru rather than keep it in orbit…which would have solved the whole line of sight transporter problem.

Now, I don't usually do this in my reviews, but since I did write this before I watched this film, I feel compelled to answer the complaints I see out there on the boards.  There are things that I don't understand people complaining about.  Yes, everyone is of course entitled to their opinions, but I want to give you why those things didn't bother me.

A lot of people complain about the USS Vengeance being a big ugly ship that looks like the Narada.  It's something the Federation would never build, and an affront to Roddenberry and Trek science.  Indeed, it is big and ugly; that's part of the allegory that we have lost our way due to the need for Vengeance.  Starfleet, Marcus in particular, in response to the Narada, the destruction of Vulcan, the impending Klingon threat, he becomes that which he hates.  Perhaps cliche, it is a powerful allegory, relevant to where we are today, and visualized wonderfully by the USS Vengeance.  It is supposed to be big and ugly, reminiscent of the Narada; that's the point.

I keep hearing that the JJ Universe is not what Gene Roddenberry would have done.  He made a perfect world where humans are explorers and not soldiers, and his crew is infallible.  Really?  "The Omega Glory."  "Bread and Circuses."  "Dagger of the Mind."  "Court Martial."  "Patterns of Force."  All Classic episodes with a corrupt diplomat or Starfleet Officer acting against the Federation's values.  Drama comes from conflict, and Roddenberry loved to wrap his admittedly humanistic message in drama.  Into Darkness, in my opinion, gives us that in spades.

There's a lot of talk about how ridiculous transwarp beaming for Harrison/Khan is to go from Earth to Kronos.  Teleportation is in general a pretty ridiculous concept.  The only reason Trek has transporters at all was to save production costs on the original show.  I liked the fact this was an extension of the last movie, it showed the poor intentions of Section 31 by having them confiscate it for their purposes, and it's yet another indicator that no one is going to push a temporal reset button on this universe; it IS developing differently.  I look forward to seeing how this affects the Federation.  Some people have mentioned it eliminates the need for starships.  How exactly will you use that planetary teleporter when the Klingon battle fleet arrives in your system?

Khan's magic blood.  In the context of the greater Trek universe, we already knew augmented blood/DNA was special.  Star Trek: Enterprise used Augment blood to rewrite the entire Klingon species DNA, explaining Classic Trek smooth-browed Klingons.  In the context of this film, there is no Deus Ex Machina: the film shows us Khan's blood used to repair a Section 31 officer's little girl's diseased body.  Dramatically, it is established, waiting for that thread to be picked up at the end.  My personal interpretation of the incident was not that Khan's blood brought Kirk back to life, but rather that it repaired the cells damaged by radiation.  That's why McCoy has to put him in cryo, to keep his brain from deteriorating.  When people die, it's from a lack of oxygen to the brain.  What ever has "killed" them has somehow prevented oxygen from getting to the brain, hence out current ability to revive someone whose heart has stopped.  Khan's blood will repair Kirk's damaged cells.  McCoy will have to work other miracles to get his heart and brain working again.

Finally, I have seen complaints about the writers just rehashing older, better plots. My personal interpretation which I hinted at above was that this continued to build a new universe for Trek with new stories, while maintaining its interwoven status with the Prime Universe.  I basically see people complaining that it is too different and too derivative at the same time!  Those are strengths to me, giving me the new, nested in the old.  Khan is a great example of that.  Yes, he's British and white.  But he's Khan, new and old all at once, bringing the universes together.  

I suppose I should address that last point as well.  Yes, Khan has been "whitewashed."  If you're going to use one of the most hated and dangerous men in human history in a world where (as we see in the film) everyone's face is catalogued in images, do you think maybe you should indeed change his face?  On classic Trek, McCoy made Kirk look Romulan in minutes.  Surely Section 31 has the ability to change his appearance.  And, if Khan is from India originally, once a British colony where schools in the 20th Century taught British English, we shouldn't be asking why nuKhan speaks with a British accent, but rather why Prime Khan speaks with a Spanish one!

Though not perfect, Star Trek Into Darkness is a very worthy addition to the Trek library and moves this new version along smartly toward where we want to see these characters.  Much as "Skyfall" made me want to go watch "Doctor No," this film makes me want to throw in the first season of Classic Trek.  That's exactly what any new Trek should do, serve as a gateway to the old.  I'm on board.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Dan's Justice League

So, with Man of Steel on the way, the implication from Warner Brothers is that it will set the stage for a DC shared movie universe.  I have to admit, as much as I am anticipating what I have seen of this film, I don't see WB's movie department really being able to build in that way, particularly with they, their TV associates, and right now in my mind their comics, completely unable to come up with a Wonder Woman that works.  It did get me thinking though, who I would WANT to see in a JL project, and I realized, there really hasn't been a project in a while that really captured me outside of the animated shows I have seen on TV, all of which are being cancelled apparently.  So there's that.

So for no other reason than my wish list, here is what I would want to see in any JL project, by bringing together these particular versions of these characters.  One is going to stand out like a sore thumb, but think about it a bit before you declare it "outrageous" (that's a clue).

I have not seen MoS obviously, but for my money, if I need a modern version of Superman I am going to draw from Mark Waid's "Birthright."  To me, it is the definitive origin of Superman from a decade that rewrote the story about five times.  Indeed, it stands out to me as the best telling of it in the character's long history.  I do want to give honorable mention to Grant Morrison's "All-Star Superman" which I love a bit more as a story, but Waid does a better job of giving Superman the god-like abilities, while keeping him human.  Morrison's Superman in All-Star is simply a god.


Nothing against the actor, but after the huge misstep that was The Dark Knight Rises, Christian Bale doesn't make even the short list.  There's a lot of takes on Batman out there, and many I love, but if I can have just one it has to be the version Bruce Timm gives us in Batman: The Animated Series.  Full credit of course to Kevin Conroy who will forever be the voice I hear in my head when reading any Batman comic.  That guy, he IS The Batman.

Wonder Woman:

I saw the 2011 pilot for a proposed Wonder Woman tv series, and I think Adrianne Palicki was a great choice for the sheer physicality of Wonder Woman.  The writing however completely missed the heart. I have nothing but fondness for my delightfully...stimulating childhood memories of Lynda Carter.  If I have to choose a Wonder Woman though, I am going to include the goddess/diplomat/warrior from Greg Rucka's two years on the title.  In a four color land of over-sexual bosomy fantasy archetypes, Rucka's Wonder Woman was a wondrous woman, and definitive in my mind as the hero.  It isn't pants that Wonder Woman needs to be taken seriously; it's heart.


Every few years, someone comes along and says, "but I am going to do Aquaman right."  The result usually entails more brooding, perhaps a hook, and bouncing between more or less hair on either head or face.  Then, a couple years ago, someone really did breathe new life into "the guy who talks to fish."  I give full credit to Batman: The Brave and the Bold.  Many people discounted this throwback series as too kiddy or goofy, but really it was a fine representation of those pre-Silver Age tales that set the stage for all the classics that helped define those characters for us today.  In Aquaman we find someone who is confident, a little arrogant, and absolutely loves the fact he gets to be a superhero.  That really resonates with me as he is the guy responsible for 5/6 of the Earth.   Is it so bad that some of these heroes might actually enjoy what they do, and what a great role in the league for Aquaman to take.  We'll save the brooding for Batman.

The Flash:

Yeah, I know Barry's back.  Hurray Silver Age and all that.  For me though, I am calling on the 90s, and Mark Waid once more along with William Messner-Loebs and Mike Baron, and bringing Wally West to the table as The Flash.  He had a legacy to deal with, his own fears to calm, and a rogue's gallery in the waiting.  Yet, he could crack a joke with the best of them and was truly a hero.  Perhaps I am jaded as I really found The Flash post crisis, and though watching that old TV show, those comics really brought the character home for me.  And, I miss the Kilg%re.

Green Lantern:
GL used to be one of my very favorites.  After the last couple years of rainbows, a movie so bad it made me like the comics less, and the impact of the New 52 being lessened by keeping the GL continuity though it MAKES NO SENSE WITH THE REST OF THE UNIVERSE (see Batman for this problem too), I almost left him off.  Alas, though, Hal Jordan was at the top of my must buy list for a long time, and I do love the hard sci fi elements of the character and the supporting cast.  So, I must harken back to who made me love the character in the first place, and that was Dennis O'Neil.  Hal was a hero who asked questions, and had Green Arrow along like a bearded Jiminy Cricket to point out things Hal wouldn't always want to see.  Added bonus to picking this Hal: we get Ollie as a freebie.

Martian Manhunter:
Yes, I insist on J'onn J'onzz as being on the League.  He links our heroes mentally, and provides nearly as much power as Superman in a fight.  Oh, and he's the last of his race, blasted from another planet alien who doesn't look like he grew up in Kansas.  Sure, many verisons give us a J'onn who can take purely human form, but I prefer the Justice League Unlimited Manhunter who uses his shapeshifting as a weapon while maintaining a distance from humanity.  He's a great foil for Superman reminding him how different people can be, and I want him sitting in the Watchtower.  I dip from the Bruce Timm well again for this one.

So, there's my dream line-up.  Of course I could go on: the "JSA/Kobra: Engines of Destruction" Power Girl.  The Young Justice cartoon Black Canary.  The Jaimie Reyes Blue Beetle post "One Year Later."  As a villains, the Smallville Lex Luthor  and definitely, DEFINITELY Mark Hamill's Joker from B:TAS.  Commence your arguments... NOW!

Oh.  And a pic of Adrianne Palicki as Wonder Woman, just because.  Somebody get this lady a writer!