News Column

Herald & Review, Decatur, Ill., Tim Cain column

May 24, 2013


May 24--My reaction to much of the geek stress about upcoming or ongoing shifts and changes in the entertainment landscape has been basic.

I shrug a lot.

"Star Trek Into Darkness," last week's top film at the box office, received wide acclaim. But there's always someone who disagrees.

Disney acquired, among other things, "Star Wars" from creator George Lucas. The rage of fans swelled social media and the rest of the Intrawebs.

To tie both together, director J.J. Abrams has been tabbed to direct the first of the new "Star Wars" films. After directing two fabulous "Star Trek" films starring Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto. The decision has angered some fans who have favorite preferences on both sides of the "Star" universes.


There have even been intimations of sadness over "Into Darkness" being Abrams' final "Trek" film. Which certainly may be the case -- helming one special effects-driven, high-budget, high-expectation franchise comes with plenty of pressure and responsibility. No director has ever tried to handle two. But nothing definite has been said about Abrams abandoning "Star Trek."

One particularly baffling argument offered by "Star Wars" fans is how additional sequels could and probably will break canon, introducing contradictory elements to a universe that already has its own stories, history and rules.

The "Star Trek" 'reboot" has cleverly avoided this conundrum with its alternate parallel universe, which allows us two Spocks and stories that can be similar but can also have their share of clever twists. There's no suggestion that this kind of trick might be applied to "Star Wars." In fact, it would feel like a terribly cliched treat if it did.

But regardless of what happens, how does any change in the "Star Wars" film universe affect any enjoyment fans previously received from fictional works? Those works are always there to revisit and enjoy. This is kind of like another conceit that baffles me: Think "The Simpsons," or "Resident Evil" films, or anything you think has gone downhill since you started consuming it. How can the downward trend of entertainment that's overstayed its welcome negatively impact your previous love? Bad now doesn't make the earlier work equally bad, or worse than it originally was.


None of this is new. Entertainment is ripe with misdirection, unexplained changes, and just plain silly insults to audiences. To cite a couple of recent examples where a shrug more easily replaced my sense of outrage, consider television series "How I Met Your Mother" and "Heroes."

From the very beginning of the once-brilliant "How I Met Your Mother," the audience is literally told point-blank that the sought-for mother is not Robin (Cobie Smulders). The narrator even regularly refers to the character as "Aunt Robin." Yet audiences have been frustrated and had their time wasted in watching the show continually to attempt a revival of the romance between Robin and the narrator.

"Heroes" similar insulted its audience and wasted its time, although it didn't take quite as long. An entire episode was devoted to a trip five years into the future of the "Heroes" world, in which an explosion had killed millions and a large city is flattened. But the opening moments of the next episode contains an event that immediately renders the previous episode moot.

At the time, outrage. Now? Shrug.

Some of the most pointed criticism of "Star Trek Into Darkness" was directed at a brief scene. Alice Eve's appearance in bra and panties is one of the most-seen stills from the film, and even found its way into many of the trailers. Some critics observed the scene was unnecessary, a bit of cheesecake thrown in just to appeal to the more base of fanboys' instincts.

Those critics clearly forgot the number of scantily clad women featured in the TV series, some wearing less than Eve does in "Into Darkness." And it should be difficult to forget those women, some of whom built careers off their then-shocking appearances. And anyone who saw the original series should never forget the miniskirts of the female crew members.

"Star Trek" has always been about a number of things, and one of those things has always been attractive and barely dressed females.

You don't like it?

Shrug.|(217) 421-6908


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