Saturday, November 22, 2008


That trailer I posted the other day for the new Stat Trek movie couldn't help but remind me of the late Gene Siskel's review of Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan, in which he praised the visual effects for being gratifyingly modest, saying something to the effect of how he didn't know how they were done, exactly, but he appreciated that they were only there to serve the story.

Wrath Of Khan came out in the summer of '82, the same year as another heavily-promoted science fiction epic, Tron. Much was made at the time about how Tron's computer-generated visual effects--a revelation at the time--would change the future of movies. But it was a colossal dud at the box office, and at the time it looked like this "future" would never happen.

Things change, don't they?

On its release, the failure of Tron was chalked up to the fact that it was nothing but empty sensation--the special effects didn't drive the story, they were the only reason the movie existed. Surely audiences wanted more than just a cheap thrill ride when they went to the movies! Wrath Of Khan, on the other hand, was a huge success, largely because it gave fans of the Star Trek TV show exactly what they wanted--an episode of the series, only bigger. And it had the virtues a good TV show used to have: strong characterizations, an interesting story, a strong sense of forward momentum that nonetheless allowed some breathing room, throwaway bits of humor or drama.

Those qualities are rare enough on TV these days, but they're virtually impossible to find in mainstream movies. Wrath Of Khan got good but not spectacular reviews at the time of its release, but if it came out now, it would probably seem like a revelation. Plot? Characters? In a big-budget franchise movie? Huzzah!

I guess what I'm saying is, that new Star Trek movie, with its flashy camera moves, jittery editing and overkill CGI effects, looks more like Tron than Wrath Of Khan, a flashy, ruthlessly efficient thrill ride, with not a hint of human feeling.