So, we went and saw Star Trek Into Darkness tonight. I did not have high hopes. I’m pretty eager to dig up spoilers on films I like, and even though JJ kept as tight a lid as possible on this production (more on that later), pretty much the entire plot found its way onto the interwebs weeks and weeks ago. And I was not happy about what I heard.
Let’s do this differently. I’ll start with what I didn’t like. I’ll try to be as spoiler free as I can, but if you haven’t seen it yet, you might want to skip this post.
First and foremost, I think the writing on this movie (the script, the plot) was lazy and sloppy…like the preceding Star Trek movie (2009). There are plot holes you could fly a starship through…big lapses of logic. Things work when the writers need them to, then inexplicably don’t when the writers need them not to. Transporters have become magical devices that can beam people to distant planets, yet debris or energy fields or whatever constantly render then useless (again, when the writers need it to be so).
Things move awful fast in this movie, and since its creators seem hellbent to turn Star Trek into an action franchise, it’s probably a good thing. Because the action masks a lot of plot problems that you ignore while they’re happening, yet scratch your head about after the movie is over. Again, I had a similar complaint about the 2009 movie. Thing move too fast, and the plot moves too fast. In the 2009 movie, we’re expected to accept that Kirk went from Starfleet Academy to captain of his own vessel in, I don’t know, about three days. Really? Here there are similar rushes to move the plot along, which result in some fairly significant disconnects, especially on an emotional level. And it’s the emotional level they really want to hit with this film, but they don’t give you any time to let it have some impact.
Finally, about the writing. You’ve been given the reins to a unique, successful franchise. You made a movie in 2009 that was at least original. And your sophomore effort is to crib from the one acknowledged classic Star Trek film, The Wrath of Khan? Really? How about doing something new and exciting, something unexpected? But no.
I will not spoil the character Benedict Cumberbatch plays. Suffice it to say that if you know or if you are familiar with Trek, you will know the character and the resonance he brings to the awkward, Byzantine plot. If not, you will have no idea and so it doesn’t matter. And here’s the thing, one of the two main problems I have with JJ Abrams. I understand not wanting the details of the movie released too early. I really do. But the active misdirection this director dabbles in is, I think, disrespectful to the fans. And self defeating in the end. I don’t really believe in this whole notion of “We’re making a Star Trek movie for people who don’t necessarily know or like Star Trek.” Really? Will he be applying this misdirected logic to Star Wars Episode VII? I think not. His constant playing with the fans about who Benedict Cumberbatch is or isn’t playing I thought was irritating, and it served no real purpose other than to magnify the “Who cares?” aspect of the whole thing once the film starts. And once the big reveal is made.
The second main problem I have with JJ is his constant, unrelenting need to tell everyone every time he’s interviewed that he wasn’t a fan of Star Trek. OK. We get it. Shut up. The two films you’ve produced illustrate that. These two films aren’t Star Trek. I’m sorry, they’re just not. They’re unrelenting roller coaster rides, unadulterated action films with little time for the niceties of coherent plot. And if that’s your thing, great. But it ain’t Star Trek.
As I said, I walked into the film really expecting to not like it. And you know what? I did like it. A lot. It’s so relentless, so in your face, so needy as a film that it’s almost impossible not to like it. Its special effects are fantastic, the musical score is awesome, the set pieces are fantastic and the actors continue to demonstrate that the person who cast them in the 2009 movie deserves a big raise. Pine is Kirk in this picture. Love me some Shat, but Pine has embraced the character and has found his own way to be Kirk. Quinto was remarkable as Spock. I’m beginning to think that Urban is actually channeling DeForest Kelley. Simon Pegg as Scotty is marvelous. And everyone else is great, too. And while Benedict Cumberbatch is (inexplicably) not a Sikh or an Indian (oops), he is formidable in this part.
Sure, its plot is wonky. Sure some of the scenes make little sense when you think about them later. Sure, they cribbed from Wrath of Khan (a far better movie). But damn if it wasn’t fun…even if it wasn’t really Star Trek.
I will see it again. At least it was better than Iron Man 3. Here’s hoping Man of Steel is awesome!
Here’s what he had to say about Little Deaths: ”In Little Deaths, John F. D. Taff give the reader plenty of variety. Sci-Fi, erotic horror, humorous horror, body horror, an urban legend tie-in, and plenty more are all represented. Highlights for me included: “Calendar Girl” (deeply disconcerting look at privacy and submission), “The Closed Eye of a Dead World” (an absolute romp, loved this one…it reminded me of the good parts of From a Buick 8 and Lisey’s Story, but scarier), “Helping Hands” (this one was like something from the glory days of Weird Tales), “In Men, Black” (I have a very, very good idea which anthology Taff wrote this for, because I had a story in it! I thought this story was excellent), “The Mellified Man” (another superb story; I’d read it before in a magazine. Fascinating subject matter) and “Box of Rocks” (a great example of how using an unreliable narrator can mess with your head.) Sorry for the stream of consciousness review and dodgy punctuation! Bottom line: this is an excellent collection. I’ve recommended him to friends, but felt compelled to write a review also. Hopefully this author continues to reach new readers.”
Go see about Adrian and his fiction here.
And go get Bedtime Stories for Carrion Beetles.
And then, of course, go get Little Deaths!
So, the big announcement has finally come!
The two books are entitled The Bell Witch and Kill/Off. A little about both.
The Bell Witch is my fictionalized retelling of what is perhaps the most well-documented poltergeist case in America. It happened in the 1820s in rural Tennessee…well, wasn’t it all rural back then? Anyway, I’ve read about this since I was a kid, did some extensive research, even poking around the town of Adams, Tennessee, around where this is all supposed to have happened. What I’ve written is a kind of a gothic ghost story, complete with a terrified family, a malevolent entity and a very dark and disturbing secret.
Kill/Off is as different from The Bell Witch as is possible. It’s an outright thriller/suspense book, with not even a peep of the supernatural about it. This one is more about the evil men do rather than the evil men see. It’s about an organization that recruits (read: blackmails) ordinary people into becoming assassins, then pits them against each other in kind of a contest…a kill-off. Get it? This one has murder and blackmail and sex and secret societies and nutmeg…well, you’ll have to read it to figure out that last reference.
Two books. To say I’m excited is an understatement. And both from a publisher I’ve worked with before and come to respect. BOTD produces some nice books. I don’t just mean they have a great eye for authors (I mean, come on, they obviously do), I also mean they excel at things other small presses always seem to frak up–cover design, interior layout, typeface, etc. BOTD’s books look like…well…books. They’re professional and slick and easy for readers to enjoy.
So, there it is…the big announcement. I don’t know which book is first or when they’ll be out, but be sure that I will pass this along as soon as I know. Be sure to follow here for more information.
And really, I want to thank everyone for their support. Before Little Deaths was published, I had no blog followers really and no Twitter account. Now, just about a year later, I have some fantastic reviews under my belt, some hard-won name recognition, some people who are fans beyond my immediate circle of family and friends, nearly 7,000 followers, and a new-found reason to keep writing. Thanks for all that. I truly appreciate it. And I hope you all enjoy what’s next from me.
P.S. Let’s not forget Little Deaths is still for sale! It’s a terrific book, if I do say so myself (and I do!), so pick up a copy!
This is very funny. What worries me is that it might be better than the new Star Trek movie…
I especially like Mr. Nimoy trying to cram his clubs into the trunk…
Got an unexpected surprise this evening from Rob Errera, who hosts Bobby’s Book Blog. The surprise came in the form of a very nice review for Little Deaths, my short story collection released about a year ago by Books of the Death Press (Toronto).
You should go to his site, here, to read the entire review, but here’s a snippet:
“Little Deaths showcases Taff’s writing skill and knowledge of the horror genre. No matter how dark things get, Taff has fun with these tales, and that feeling comes across as you read them.”
Take a look at Rob’s blog, he’s got a bunch of great reviews posted there that are worth a read.
And, of course, buy a copy of Little Deaths!
Before I start, I am a big fan of what Marvel is doing with its film empire. The first Iron Man was spectacular. The second was pretty good. And I went into Iron Man 3 last night with high expectations. I mean, it was getting some great reviews.
I dunno what those reviewers were watching, but it wasn’t the same film I did. It was long, semi-tedious and despite its action sequences and the peril they put poor Tony Stark in, it was curiously flat and uninvolving. Nothing really seemed to matter. HUGE plot points were dispatched in a second or two, and they took the No. 1 villain in the Iron Man universe and relegated him to a cardboard cutout–a fake, an actor playing a role for the other villain, who was not that frightening or much otherwise.
The movie, while not bad, was hugely disappointing. RDJ was RDJ, which is great. The humor was there, the action and effects were first-rate, but it seemed to lack something. And the ’70s-style credits at the end (and the music that played over them) were awful…awful. Even the kicker at the end, something we’ve all come to anticipate and love in our Marvel movies, was, while funny, lacking in any kind of spoiler or hint or even a connection to a future movies.
And Star Trek Into Darkness is getting bad reviews, too. Great.