Monday 30 March 2009
The Couch Surfer: 'Any tour of post-war pop culture takes in the basics of Star Trek mythology'
The trailer begins with a motorbike speeding across a deserted plain at dusk. The young man riding it rolls moodily to a halt. You can tell he's moody because he has a beat-up leather jacket and a bloody nose. And because he's riding a motorbike. Cut: to a bar fight. BANG! Biff! Pow! Cut: now the moody young man with the bloody nose is being given a stern, post-brawl talking-to by some old dude, and the stirring score is starting up.
"Your father was captain of a starship for 12 minutes," growls his interrogator. A starship, you say? "He saved 800 lives, including yours." Music swelling, heart thumping – a pregnant pause: "... I dare you to do better." Cut: and there it is, coming into focus as the brass section builds and the moody young man - whose name is already on the tip of all our tongues – gazes up at it from his motorbike: the Starship Enterprise.
The season of the summer blockbuster trailer is upon us, when hardened filmgoers get totally over-excited about a bunch of forthcoming movies; many of which will, without doubt, prove disappointing. And the most exciting teaser of the lot is for writer-director JJ Abrams' take on Star Trek.
The trailer might be so successful thanks, in part, to its adrenaline-rush orchestral score - but it's also because the film has the weight of the pop cultural canon behind it. I was never a Trekkie (truly, I wasn't), yet even the most heavily abridged tour of post-war popular culture takes in the basics of the Star Trek mythology: Kirk - for the moody young man is he - Spock, the Klingons, the Enterprise, "Live Long and Prosper".
The film itself could easily turn out to be rubbish, but when such a recognisable franchise gets a reboot, and when that reboot contains a retelling of the myth's genesis, it's hard not to feel a tingle in the pit of your stomach. There's something incredibly enticing about an origins tale.
It's an easy sell, for one thing. Part of what made Batman Begins so compelling was that sense of inevitability; right from the start, you knew Christian Bale's Bruce Wayne was destined to become the Dark Knight. Another of the big, bowel-moving trailers doing the rounds right now is for the fourth film in the Terminator series, directed by the minimally-monikered McG, and with Bale as its hero, John Connor.
Set in the future from which the original, Schwarzenegger-shaped killer robots came, Terminator: Salvation, too, is an origins story of sorts. And the overly self-explanatory X-Men Origins: Wolverine - also due this summer, or so says the promo - details the backstory of X-Men's most popular character.
So when, back in the Star Trek trailer, some gravel-voiced chap dares the young Kirk to do better, you know full well that he will, indeed, do better. And when you later see him chucking someone I can only assume is the half-naked Uhura on to the bedspread, you understand its significance: William Shatner's Kirk and Nichelle Nichols' Uhura famously shared the first interracial kiss in television history. They're all borrowed thrills, but they're thrills all the same.
I was always a Star Wars kid myself, but we know where origins prequels got that particular franchise. Another notable "forthcoming attraction" is the documentary The People vs George Lucas. To judge by its trailer, it's filled mostly with fanboys lamenting the very creation of Jar Jar Binks.
I haven't touched my lovely Mac laptop in almost a week. Instead, I've been watching most of these movie trailers on a netbook. That's one of the low-priced and low-powered mini-laptops you now increasingly see commuters tapping away at on trains.
Since the netbook was conceived with cloud computing in mind, I can get by with just two desktop icons: the internet browser (a choice of Safari, Firefox or the lush Google Chrome) and the trashcan. I suppose, at a stretch, I could stick the Spotify and Skype shortcuts on there if I wanted to clutter it up, but the point is to do everything – emails, work, social networking, listening to music, watching iPlayer – online.
Being one of the cheaper models in the market, mine feels rather like a robust educational tool for five-year-olds, but perhaps it heralds the beginning of the end of tech fetishism. If all our stuff is stored on the web, and our diminishing hardware needs can be serviced by £100 computers, maybe we'll stop caring that they're ugly – and Apple will promptly go out of business. Maybe...
By Tim Walker
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