How to Reboot a Franchise

There have been many attempts over the years by Hollywood to reinvent a franchise. By and large, they have failed miserably. The problem is studios try to fill every frame with as many of the currently popular cliches as possible while casting pretty boys and hot girls. There’s little wonder why fanboys and fangirls are pretty bitter about the whole thing. The atrocity that dared to be called Dragonball: Evolution is a recent example of how to do everything wrong and guarantee that you’ll piss off every fan of the original work. Such acts used to culminate in torch and pitchfork bearing mobs righting such disgusting wrongs.

And yet, I have the joy of saying somebody got it right. I just left the theater from watching Star Trek. I’ve been reading all week the various twitter posts from geeks and celebrities (and celebrity geeks like Wil Wheaton) about how completely and totally awesome this reboot of the flailing franchise is. I’ve pondered over the tales of how this one act of media beauty can finally give the fans a shred of hope that Hollywood won’t mercilessly rape everything we geeks hold sacred and dear. And I worried. I’ve heard this tripe before and it always ended in bitterness and disappointment.

Tonight was different. Tonight was fun. It was…GOOD. Somebody in the movie industry finally grew a brain cell and learned how to select an appropriate cast. Pine as Kirk was perfect. While it wasn’t quite the same attitude of ST:TOS Kirk, you have to understand he’s just getting his feet under him. I think the difference was completely appropriate for the time frame of the movie. He still has to put a few notches on his bedpost on the Enterprise before he can be the swaggering self-confident James Tiberius Kirk we watched when we were younger (No, I’m not that old. I saw re-runs as a kid).

Quinto as Spock was wonderful. Although I have to admit that it’s a little weird to see Sylar with pointed ears. You won’t understand if you don’t watch Heroes. His face is very reminiscient of a younger Leonard Nimoy and he can pull off the mostly emotionless Vulcan with style. I don’t know that there could have been a better choice for someone to fill those very large shoes. Besides, Quinto’s experience on Heroes as Sylar has given the experience of playing a range of emotional states and the ability to be very convincingly cold. That’s two for two.

Urban as McCoy was a joy. See what I did there? Though a little stockier than his namesake from TOS, his bearing and his screen presence is like seeing DeForest Kelley reincarnated in the role that geeks will forever hold in a special place. My only regret from this casting is that Kelley did not live long enough to see this wonderous sight and masterful portrayal of a role that defined and will forever be remembered for.

Uhura and Sulu were well done. The former is more bold than her TOS counterpart but fit well if you include her character in the movies. It’s understandable considering the studios were already pushing boundries simply by having her in the cast back in the late 60’s. The latter did a respectable job. He was slightly humorous in the right places and effective at action when it was called for. Let’s face it, Sulu was a man that filled gaps but almost never took center stage. In this he succeeded admirably.

Weakest in the line-up was Chekov. They tried really hard to overplay the accent. He was nearly unintelligible because it was so thick. While it lended a gag or two, he is quickly tuned out. You have to go a little out of your way to notice he did a bang-up job running the transporter systems when others could not do it. If only they had made it more like Koenig’s portrayal where you have the accent but it isn’t the all powerful force driving the character as it seemed to do here.

Finally there is Scotty. Pegg stole every scene he was in. The accent was spot-on. The emotion was just right. Everything about his performance made everything else better. I’m not kidding when I say he literally owned every scene he was in. It didn’t matter if he was in the background with the rest of the starring cast and he only had one line. It was his scene and he did it all with style.

I could continue to gush about how ridiculously amazing the cast is but I have to have a word or two about the plot. While the story isn’t masterful, it is functional. They accomplish a total reboot of the Star Trek universe without invalidating everything we hold dear. Don’t get your hopes up about an epic story like LOTR. After all, this is Trek and few stories they tell are that epic. It was a fun ride, though. The token bad guy is just that…token. He’s pretty uninspiring and not worthy of cleaning Khan’s shoes. But I don’t hold that against Abrams. Every epic has to start somewhere and I’d rather he get the shaky footing out of the way now. Especially since this movie was pulled off with such an amazing cast that you can easily overlook the less than stellar plot and easily forgettable bad guy.

Bravo to everyone involved in breathing a fresh breath of life back into one of the most titanic and game-changing sci-fi creations of all time. May this reboot live long and prosper. (And burn slowly, Rick Berman, for the horror you visited upon a beloved mythos)

Knight Rider Revisited

I watched the 2-hour NBC Knight Rider movie yesterday. I have read many, many reviews and opinions both before and after the original airing. And yes, I am a huge fan of the original KR series. (I’m still looking for an ’84 TA so I can build my own.) That being said, I have a response to the community in general. Get over it. You cannot go back and remake something that campy and expect it to fly. Nothing will ever live up to those giddy feelings you got from watching KITT turbo boost over an 18-wheeler while bullets bounce off the windshield when you were 7 years old. This movie was good. Let’s review…

KITT is not a Firebird. Guess what. It was never about what kind of car the A.I. was shoved into. He was also a ’57 Chevy Bel-Air at one point. Heck, he was a box at one point as well. The series has nothing to do with that and if you actually watch the show with an open mind…the Mustang can grow on you. I say this because it grew on me with just the movie and I don’t like Ford in general.

William Daniels is not the voice of KITT. Val Kilmer is. Remember that in the 80’s everything was really over the top. Subtlety was actually frowned upon, I think. Now don’t get me wrong, William Daniels was wonderful for the personality they created for the Knight Industries Two-Thousand. But that was 25 years ago. These days we have room for more subtle nuances. Val Kilmer can fill that role. He managed to inject a highly subtle emotion into his voice…or as I once heard it described for another character…emotionless emotion. I thoroughly enjoyed how one could get a feeling that there is a possibility for KITT to obtain emotion but just hasn’t quite gotten there yet.

The Hoff isn’t the star of the show. Have you looked at him lately? It’s been 25 years. He is starting to show signs of…well…getting old. Somebody else would have to have the role unless you want to make sure KITT is equipped with oxygen and adult diapers. No offense to David Hasselhoff fans, but the man isn’t in his 20’s any more. Seriously, people like that are the same ones that think Sean Connery is still spry enough to play Bond. They were good in their day…but that day is long gone. Get over it and let’s hope the current casting picks can portray the relationships and personalities that give a show like this life.

That doesn’t mean the show is without problems. While this is not as bad as Team Knight Rider by any stretch of the imagination…the “nano-bits” are just a bit silly when it goes so far as to give KITT different hoods and spoilers. I would be willing to go so far as changing the car’s color and repairing damage near instantaneously without comment. After all, the original KITT had a “molecular bonded shell” that protected him from all but a BFG-9000. I just cannot get over the whole building of entirely different body panels with the stuff while driving at 90mph down the interstate. Besides, where the hell do the scanners go when KITT builds that other hood? According to the KR mythos, those things are needed for KITT to “see”. Something stinks in fantasy land, like the rape of long-standing and established facts of the world.

One other thing, why in the hell does every male lead have to have constant 5 o’clock shadow?? I am right on the verge of buying a truck load of Gillette razors to send over to Hollywood since there appears to be a shortage of shaving hardware in the area. Call me crazy, but the ratty facial hair really doesn’t improve the character. This show is supposed to be a bit different from the run of the mill fare usually served up by stations. Why have the run of the mill pretty-boy look? It’s possible to have the star be hunky enough for the ladies and cool enough for the guys without pandering to the Universal TV Show Popularity Formula.

Sci-Fi’s Flash Gordon

I’m old enough to remember watching the old 1980 film Flash Gordon. I liked it. I still do. As a matter of fact I watched it a couple of weeks ago and found the hammy acting and horrid “special effects” nostalgic and amusing. Ming was as cliché a villain to ever touch the silver screen. Zarkov was suitably eccentric for a run-of-the-mill mad scientist. Vultan was the perfect boisterous warrior just waiting for his moment to strike. HOWEVER…

Sci-Fi’s new Flash Gordon series is just bad. I managed to eke through three or four episodes trying to give it a chance. I know that starting a new story requires a little time to set up the world and the characters. But the blasphemy they’ve done to a cult classic is just wrong. Yes, I know that Flash started as a comic and has enjoyed a long run of radio shows, movie serials, and various live action and animated television series before now. But the Flash Gordon that most people today will remember is the movie from 1980.

They’ve turned Zarkov from a brilliant yet eccentric lunatic into a fidgety, bumbling, cowardly parody of a man. A man that creates devices that don’t work. Great work, guys. Flash is a track star…a far cry from the football all-star he was in the movie. Dale has been turned into Lois Lane a-la Smallville and Ming looks like some James Bond-esque euro-trash villain. Absolutely brilliant.

Now production is decent. The special effects are right up with what you’d expect from a Sci-Fi TV series and the camera work isn’t bad. The title theme is a cover of the 1980 movie theme by Queen. But after that it’s all down hill. The dialogue is stiff and uninspiring as are the characters. While the movie didn’t make any history for a quality script, there were engaging characters. I haven’t had such an effect with this series. What I see here is a bunch of cardboard cutouts from all the worst written paperbacks to ever grace the trash can.

At the very least I would have hoped for something bad enough to be enjoyable much like the Rocky Horror Picture Show. But sadly all we are rewarded with for spending our Friday’s watching this is a lost hour that could be used getting the lint out of our navels. At least that would have had something positive about it.


I watched Transformers yesterday. I went in with a carefully guarded hope that Michael Bay had managed to not destroy one of my favorite shows from my childhood. Let’s face it, more often than not such undertakings are met with near universal disgust at the result…Super Mario Brothers comes to mind. With that said, I’ll fill you in on my take of the overall movie while trying not to include spoilers.

I’ll start with the previews. They lend the opinion of a near non-stop action flick. This isn’t the case. There are a myriad of side stories that take place throughout the movie that I found engaging. The writers did a good job at telling stories of the different people drawn into the conflict even if their characters weren’t quite as fleshed out as they could have been. Some of them offer humor while others touch the heart (and quite possibly can be construed as commenting on current world affairs a bit). The pace of the movie starts out a bit on the slow side but it doesn’t really feel like it’s dragging. As things accelerate, you find yourself being swept into the frantic battles with little sense of transition from the slower events that happened earlier on.

Now, I can’t say the movie should get glowing reviews…it wasn’t all a cakewalk. There are characters that were quite obviously put in for the younger audience…The Section 7 officer comes to mind rather quickly. I’m certain that was his whole purpose for existing in the movie…to add a little of that ‘weekday Nickelodeon almost-teen’ show feel…fan service for the kids that don’t remember the original Transformers TV show. There is also little things like the way some body panels on the Autobots will split when they transform into robots, yet you see no lines between those panels when in car form. Admittedly, it’s nit-picking, but I notice such things. I do have a couple of theories as to how that could work such as their ability to morph those panels or their holographic capabilities…but it’s still something that bothered me.

Finally, let’s talk about the music. It’s the same pop-culture action-flick fare you’ve come to expect. Hard Rock from various bands jams in the background during most of the action sequences. The selections do help with the mood of simple bad-ass butt stomping, but I doubt it will stand the test of time. There is no “The Touch” moment that stands out musically.

And for the record, I was one of the one’s that protested all GM Autobots. Bumblebee is a VW Bug, damnit. But his personality was pulled off with a flare that just matched the Camero while still retaining, as far as I’m concerned, the core Bumblebee character.