Saturday, February 28, 2009
Star Trek: Countdown #2
I'd like to do a little mini-review of IDW's Star Trek: Countdown now that I've read the first two issues in the series. In the course of this review I'd like to compare the upcoming Star Trek and Watchmen films and their respective directors JJ Abrams and Zach Snyder. In the course of doing so I may be revealing minor spoilers to the Star Trek film and a major spoiler in Watchmen if you're not already aware of the Big Change from the book at the end of that movie that's consumed comic fans on the net over the course of the past year.
If you've managed to remain blissfully unaware about the details of both those films and want to go into them cold then read no further.
I like to search the net for pre-information about upcoming genre films. This includes set photos from spies, designs and interviews with the creators. So if I had to summarize the "feel" I've gotten for the Watchmen and Star Trek films coming out shortly I'd have to say that I've felt for awhile that Zach Snyder, a director I haven't had much use for, "gets" his material better than Star Trek's Abrams.
In interview after interview Snyder has displayed a demonstrable love for the source material that makes it clear to me that the film's in good hands. In fact: if Snyder's recent comments on the film are true he's already saved the film from what the studio was planning before he took the director's job.
When it comes to the infamous missing giant squid at the end of the film Snyder has a pretty good reason for reluctantly removing it from the story. As they plotted it out the story was already three hours long before they even got to the climax. The squid would've taken about 15 minutes to explain, which was 15 minutes they didn't feel they had.
JJ Abrams, on the other hand, has done nothing but make comments such as "this film is not for Star Trek fans" and admits that as a child he loved Star Wars more than Trek. Blasphemy in Trek circles.
On the other hand Abrams also talks about Star Trek being about the characters and about Rodenberry's optimistic world so he does have some understanding of Trek's appeal. Whether that translates into the finished film is up in the air.
Which brings me to the Star Trek: Countdown comics. I wasn't going to read these as it seemed more like an attempt to cash in on the film than they had some story to tell. Then I came across the first 8 pages online and read them but only for a pretty geeky reason: I wanted to see if the Romulan ships that Abrams, Roberto Orci, and Alex Kurtzman designed for the film and would be included in the comic looked like the ships I loved from the original television series.
What I found was that writers Orci and Kurtzman, who are also the screenwriters for the film, have an obvious reference for Trek and can tell a good story. Forget the alternate timeline stuff we've heard about. None of that is here. Instead we have a story set solidly in "our" Star Trek universe some years after the last Next Generation film.
There's so much they get right but let me just point out one little part out of the second issue that I just finished that had me chuckling. At the end of the first comic Data appears and he's now in command of the Enterprise. If you're one of the five people that saw the last Next Gen film you know that Data was killed (he had to be since they were ripping off Wrath of Khan.) In a meeting with Spock and a throwaway line it's mentioned that they haven't met since his memory engram was installed on his double.
In one small frame of the comic they sent a delicious "fuck you" to the Braga/ Berman team that so many of us think killed Trek on television by casually undoing one of their biggest mistakes. I love this.
As for the story itself it's centered on Romulan miner Nero, who will become the villain of the upcoming film, and his attempt to stop a disaster from befalling Romulus. He's an extremely sympathetic character in these books. He's falls strongly into the Trek hero tradition of bucking the powers that be to try and prevent very bad things from happening.
Of course this won't work for poor Nero, which is the point. We get to see why he's angry and why he blames the Federation and some of it's greatest heroes for what happens.
The bottom line is that these comics are actually making me a little more confident about the upcoming Trek film, which is not what I expected. If the film's as good as the comics then we have nothing to worry about. That's still a pretty big "if."