Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The Hobbit: An Unending...Er, Unexpected Journey

Let's get right to it....

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is not a good film. It's not a disaster, but it's just not a good film. You may enjoy it for various reasons, and it may satisfy your personal needs and whims. I do not begrudge you that experience, but it is not a good movie.

It's a quintessential example of how to take a simple, direct, compelling and fun story, and bury it under the weight of connection to other stories that it really has precious little to do with. Peter Jackson's film is so busy trying to show you every, single facet of Middle-Earth and it's mythology that the story of J.R.R. Tolkein's homebody hobbit, Bilbo Baggins, is drowned out by details and story elements that Tolkein wisely left to Appendices and The Similarion.

I have read The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, I enjoyed the trilogy, but personally found The Hobbit a bit precious and twee. However, I do understand a respect the world that Tolkein created. I understand the depth of lore and history that Mr. Tolkein dreamed up that give his stories a taste of realism. However, what Tolkein understood, and Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh, Phillippa Boyens and Guillermo Del Toro clearly do not, is that history and lore should be there to illuminate a story, rather than being part of it.

If you are a Tolkeinite, and view Jackson's films as fodder for a checklist of elements from Tolkein's books, you'll probably be in heaven. I understand that for a portion of the devoted fanbase, seeing Radagast the brown and his sled pulled by rabbits is VASTLY exciting. Watching Galandriel, Saruman, Elrond and Gandalf discuss the rise of the Necromancer (i.e. Sauron) and impending danger to Middle-Earth is pretty much crack.

It just doesn't belong in this movie.

The harsh truth is that this stuff has absolutely nothing to do with Bilbo's journey with Thorin Oakenshield and the dwarves to the Lonely Mountain to confront Smaug the dragon. Worse than that, the general audience is left feeling like the major players in the story they are supposedly here to enjoy are paper-thin and under-baked. Bilbo is damn near a cypher in this film, with only one speech, almost two-and-a-half hours into the damn thing, to finally give him some motivation. Thorin? Plays out like a less-interesting, shorter clone of Aragorn. The rest of the dwarves are less characters, and more collections of prosthetic make-up (Tolkein's rhyming names help not at all). In Jackson's rabid attempt to make this story epic enough to justify a nine-hour (when all is said and done) running time, that he forgot to make us give a damn about the small story, and the characters, at the center of it.

Oh, yes, yes, Bilbo does manage to steal The One Ring out from under the nose of Gollum (a smashing scene, I'll grant), but none of the characters in The Hobbit understand the import of what has happened. One of the major problems here is that Jackson and crew seem intent on making damn sure the audience understands the macrocosmic importance of what's happening, but the characters, just due to how they react in The Lord of the Rings, can't, EVER, understand it.

The greatest sin, however, is simply this; watching The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey isn't any fun. At all. You're either trying to remember who each character is, or wondering why you should care. It feels like a history lecture by a professor who is deeply in love with what he's talking about, but so self-involved about it that he can't just tell the story, and make you involved with it.

Our lead character - I think Peter Jackson forgot.
This first film already felt nine hours long. Even with the 34 endings of The Return of the King, I was never bored. Embarrassed, maybe, but not bored. An Unexpected Journey trumps that with 3 or 4 openings. Including a return by Ian Holm as the older Bilbo, and Elijah Wood as Frodo, that only serves to remind you of much better movies that you realize, as the running time trudges onward, this film will never live up to.

I'm not going to sit here and lie, I'll be seeing the other two films. If nothing else, I want to see the dragon. I've also got little bad to say about the performances, everybody plays what they're asked to by this sub-par adaptation well enough. The film itself is also quite pretty, if overindulgent (who'd EVER guess that) in the New Zealand travelogue imagery. Why one shot, or even two, of the tiny men running in front of mountains, when we could have five? There are things here that are worthwhile.

It's just muddled. Muddled to the point where the story that's supposedly being told here, The Hobbit, gets sidelined and lost. If you want to argue that it's not just telling The Hobbit, but also "untold tales of Middle-Earth," or whatever. Then it's just a TERRIBLE script that doesn't have any idea what it's trying to be, or how to tell that story effectively to an audience who isn't clutching a copy of The Similarion for reference.

All I want is a home-video cut, akin to the much-lauded "Extended Editions" of The Lord of the Rings, but, instead, shorter. A "Just The Hobbit" cut.  My guess is, about 30 minutes of this 2:45 film would survive.

Friday, December 21, 2012

A Little Pre-Christmas Snark

My buddy Dave F and I use to make fun of all the movies in the 90's, because every pitch (I'm guilty myself - he made fun of me a lot) started with "Ok, these guys are COPS!..."

Now, every pitch starts with "It's a zombie apocalypse!...."

I miss the 90's.

The Walking Dead is renewed for a 4th season...and I am so apathetic, I can't even describe it.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Is It Time to Stop Chasing Perfection?

I even had promo photos - Thanks, Les Kerrigan!
I put out my last CD of music in 2007, when I was 36 years old (Jesus!). That was almost six years ago. I have been working on this next set of tunes since.

Well, not since day one, but you get the picture.

I have, right now, about eight or nine songs in various stages of development. Some have lyrics, some don't. Some still need to be tweaked, arrangement-wise. Some are "finished. " I have two acoustic numbers that, by all rights, should be finished and mixed by now. There is no reason they shouldn't be. I've got a glut of stuff that I should have more developed, but isn't.

It's ridiculous. It really is. I've come up with every excuse in the book, and some are even valid (I have been very busy, acting-wise, in the last few years). Most of them really aren't. How many times have I bitched about the drum machine, and wished for a different option?

Well, I went and looked at some electronic kits, and just came to the conclusion that I don't have the room to deal with a full kit of any stripe. Plus, how long was it going to take me to get up to speed on drumming? Right now Dave F. is just laughing at me, and saying "forever."

So, I feel stuck with "Dr. Rythum," for the time being. Is that really such an impediment? Is it REALLY?! No. Frankly, I should just learn how to program the Goddamn thing. If I can mix in a few less-rote drum bits with the standard patters (which have been my lifebood), maybe I can get more of the feel I want. I don't need Moon or Bonham, but...Jesus, the thing doesn't even have a pre-set for riding the hi-hat.

I think I can program that.

Still, it's all bullshit, right? I need to move forward. I cannot sit on my thumbs and wait for everything to be perfect.

Because it's never gonna be.

I have pretty decent equipment, and I can good quality recordings. Perfect, however? Never happen. I need to embrace that. I need to just play from the gut, get the shit recorded, and let people hear it. They may hate it, a lot of people hated the last couple of batches of stuff.

Do it. Finish it.

A Good Day For....

Jesus, what a day.

Rehearsal last night. Frustrating. I am feeling a bit at sea, and unable to get a grip on what the show needs from my character. Or, seemingly, execute all.

Tried playing some guitar last night when I got home, realized I'm in a position where it's probably best to burn the ships, again. Erase everything and start from scratch. I need to get focused and work out each of these tracks...again. I think this is good stuff, I just need to figure it out.

So, square one.

In that end, put the headphones on to try to find proper fuzztone for what I'm thinking. Utter disaster. Damn amp.

Managed to lock CByrd out, and couldn't hear her calling, due to the headphones.

Went to bed. Couldn't sleep last night, as my hacking/cough/plague decided to return and wake me up.

Then got up to hot water.

Did not complete my full Wednesday morning workout.

Gray day...snow coming.


A Good Day for the Blues
by Storyville

Sometimes you fly so high
You can't find a place to land
Got money in the bank
A drink in your hand
When the love gets low
Someone's gonna lose

Cause our love is driftin,
and it's a good day for the blues

When you shuffle your cards
You always have a winning hand
When luck is on the run
You never have to take a stand
When the chips get low
You know you're gonna have to choose

Cause our love is driftin,
and it's a good day for the blues

It's a good day, for Bobby Blue Bland
For the thrill isn't gone, Magic Sam
Whatever it takes, I do what I can do
To bridge this river that flows from me to you

Our love is driftin,
and it's a good day for the blues
Whatever it takes, I do what I can do
To bridge this river that flows from me to you

Our love is driftin,
and it's a good day for the blues

Our love is driftin,
and it's a good day for the blues

Our love is driftin,
and it's a good day for the blues

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Oh, Instagram

Note: I do not use Instagram. I have not read their new terms of service, nor do I care to.

So, Instagram can sell your pictures. Pictures that they are hosting on their servers for you, for free. Who've allowed you to do this for quite a while, and, y'know, have a right to generate some income for the service they are absolutely, without question, providing (it's a stupid service, but everybody thought it was "so cool," so kudos, Instagram). And everyone's SOOOOOO shocked.

First off. You put your crappy pictures of you and your friends showing each other your butt cracks while doing shots of Everclear on the top of the water tower on Instagram. Because you just needed all of your friends to know what a jackass you are. Those one hundred and fifty pictures of your cat that you felt you wanted to makes sure your nephew saw? Yep. You posted them.

You also posted these things to pretty much the entire internet. There is no way around that. It's time to get real cozy with the idea that one you digitize your precious things...nobody gives a shit if it's "yours:" anymore. At that point, "private" is a joke. Nobody cares if you might, possibly, want to make a little money off it, or if you might object to someone else taking your intellectual property and make a tidy profit off it.

Does that bother you? Hmmm- sounds familiar.

Sucks when the shoe's on the other foot, huh? Maybe the folks that got your picture from Instagram might pay you for another one, huh? Maybe?

Friday, December 14, 2012

Yes, I Am Sad...

...and I have nothing but love and prayers for those children, and their families. Nothing in the world I can say will make it better, or changed what happened.

That said, something else needs to be said:

I say this not to be callous, although I'm sure the accusation will come. Bad things happen. Bad things have always happened, and will always happen. We just happen to live in a world where bad things get splattered on our computer and TV screens in 10 seconds, rather than hours later. It gives us a false sense of personal connection, and personal stakes, in something that really isn't about us, at all.

I am not "outraged." I am saddened. I am not taking this horrible act as a personal affront. It's simply because it really has nothing to do with me. It has to do with those people, those children, those parents, and if I were to try to make it about my feelings, or my issues, would be, frankly, disgusting.

This is a moment when I know how utterly and completely stupid social media is. How useless it really is at "communication." How happy some people are to jump up on their soapboxes and pontificate in the most useless and self-aggrandizing ways. Especially when it's a Facebook post, for example, almost literally defines the idea of preaching to the choir.

The blood is in the water, and the sharks can smell it, they're gonna keep tearing at the body until it's ripped to shreds, and pat themselves on the back for it. Take a tragic moment and make it about them. They can't even give it a day to let it just be about the victims.

To all the parents I know who tweeted or posted that they were going to hug their kids extra hard tonight. Bless you, and know that you focused on what was important in a moment like this. You are the best of us. I hope the whole world would read your posts, and skip over the lectures, speeches and sermons.

Led Zeppelin: Celebration Day

I'm really into Led Zeppelin right now.

Like, REALLY into Led Zeppelin.

Maybe Jimmy Page cast a spell on me.

I've written about Zeppelin before. How I feel like they represent the best and the worst of 70's rock. I feel like much of their recorded live work is a little too indulgent for it's own good, while their studio work just defines the idea of a great hard rock band. I recently picked up the Led Zeppelin DVD, and it's a great set, with lots of great live footage, but it still has these moments when I find myself thinking "get back to the song." Yeah, I like a good long-form jam from time to time, and I can dig a focused drum solo, but I dunno.

When Led Zeppelin reunited (replacing fallen drummer John Bonham with his son, Jason) in 2007 to play one night at the O2 Arena in London, at a tribute concert for Atlantic Records founder Ahmet Ertegun, twenty million people submitted for the lottery to get eighteen thousand tickets. Rumors abounded that this gig might be the first step to a full-out reunion tour of the world, but Zep fans sensed (rightly, as it turned out) that this might be it. The last chance to catch Led Zeppelin live, or even an only chance.

The word that came from London after that evening, from the lucky few that witnessed it, was that Zeppelin had managed the impossible. Especially after lackluster reunion appearances at Live Aid (with Phil Collins not quite making the grade on drums) and the Atlantic Records 40th Anniversary Concert. Robert Plant, Jimmy Page, John Paul Jones, and Jason Bonham had brought the magic back to the stage for a powerful two hour show.

Well, if this Celebration Day set is an accurate depiction of what happened that night, and nobody's saying it isn't, they did. I'm not going to say they were as good as they were in their heyday. I don't honestly know, this is the only full, beginning to end, Led Zeppelin show I've seen on video, and I've certainly never seen them in person.

What Celebration Day represents is a rock-solid performance that any band, especially one that hadn't played together for nineteen years, ought to be proud of. Yeah, there's down-tuning to accommodate Plant's voice...but Robert Plant was 59 years old when this show was performed. No, he can't hit those notes anymore, but neither can the majority of men in their 20's. He sounds great, honestly. I feel like his voice gets stronger during the show. The opening number, "Good Times Bad Times," worried me a bit, just because Jason Bonham was laying in a LOT of backing vocals (much more obviously than the recorded version). By the time they got to "Kashmir," near the end of the set, Plant was on fire.

Page is clearly VERY happy throughout the show, which makes sense, because I think he wanted this for a very long time. I'm sure he wanted more of it, too, but it wasn't to be (I'll get to that). His playing is solid, much better than the footage of the "heroin years" I've seen. That said...Page is a little sloppy. Not a criticism, at all, that's part of who Jimmy Page is, and how he plays the guitar. He's not Steve Vai, and never will be. He plays with feel, and the feeling you get is absolute joy to be on stage with Zeppelin again.

John Paul Jones, what can you say? "The quiet one." Here's were you really find the precision. I've heard reviews that comment that he looks "nervous." Yeah, guys, he always looked that way. Concentration, that's what I see. His playing is really immaculate, "Trampled Under Foot" is an absolute highlight, and undeniably driven by Jonesy. The guy is the secret weapon of the band's whole sound.

Young Mr. Bonham (a laugh in itself, the guy's 5 years older than me) acquits himself very well. I have read that he was very embarrassed by his performance at the Atlantic 40th Anniversary show, and had something to prove. He proved it, as far as I'm concerned.

It's just, hands down, a great two hours of rock on an epic scale. Maybe you don't like that. I do, so I'm kind of in heaven with it. There's nothing embarrassing about this performance, or the package

Really, my only question is; why did it take them five years to release it?

I have the four-disk CD/CD/Blu-Ray/DVD set. The audio version is on the two CDs. The concert film is on the Blu-Ray, and the special features are on the DVD. I have to admit, I felt the special features a bit lackluster. Basically it's a vintage news report (used in the intro of the concert), and then a collection of BBC reports about the concert. In addition we get rehearsal footage, which is essentially the whole show played on a soundstage somewhere for management and roadies, I'd guess. It's interesting, if not revelatory, in making clear how hard these guys worked to make sure this would not be another misfire.

*I will note that I stopped watching the rehearsal footage after a couple of songs, and have not revisited it yet. Maybe something cool and very different happens, but I would guess no.

As to criticisms? There are some songs I would've liked to hear, say, "Immigrant Song," but apparently Plant put the kibosh on anything that was too "metal." The rumor was that he didn't even want to play "Stairway to Heaven," but was talked into it. I think part of the real joy here is knowing that Plant was so reticent, and seeing how great he is. How engaged he is in the performance, and how engaging he is. I know he's past his prime, but he is a magnetic frontman.

As to the aftermath. I think that Plant was right to walk away from any further touring/recording. I know it was difficult for the other three, who apparently auditioned the likes of Myles Kennedy and Steven Tyler to step in. Still, I think Plant knew they had achieved something that night in the O2, and that it would be difficult, if not impossible, to make it happen over and over again. That it was better to go out in triumph than to risk a slide into mediocrity, or worse. Plus, I just don't think his heart's in this kind of music anymore, what with his more folk-and-roots influenced recent work. God bless the man for sticking to his convictions and not taking the cash for something he, deep down, would've had to fake.

Honestly, the show happened, and I have this record of it, and that's enough.


Favorite Tracks:
  • For Your Life
  • Nobody's Fault But Mine
  • Kashmir
  • Whole Lotta' Love

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The Thing About Star Trek

I am a HUGE Star Trek fan. I have loved it for years, from rushing home from school every afternoon to catch reruns at 4:00 PM from Channel 2 in Denver, to the whoops of excitement when The Next Generation premiered. I drifted away during the runs of Voyager and Enterprise, as far as appointment viewing, but I never lost interest. The movies were big events growing up. My (few) High School friends and I would make pilgrimages to the multiplex to see if Spock was really coming back to life, or how the crew was going to atone for their mutiny.

Star Wars was defining, but Star Trek was pervasive. There was so much of it, and it seemed able to embrace everything. Comedy episodes, high drama, full-out action spectacle. I guess I never expected it to be any one thing, because it seemed able to be anything. It seemed almost the ultimate example of the Vulcan IDIC, "Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations." The fact that, by some luck, the casts of the different versions have been more impressive than not helps, of course. How many franchises can sport top notch work from William Shatner AND Patrick Stewart?

I guess it was in 2007 sometime when I first heard that J.J. Abrams was going to make a new Trek film. It didn't take long for the word to get out that this would be a "reboot" of the franchise, with new actors in the iconic roles from the Original Series. It seemed so strange...James T. Kirk played by someone other than Shatner? A Spock who wasn't Leonard Nimoy? A difficult task at best, and impossible at worse.

When the film came out in 2009, after a delay, no less (always a bad sign), I was excited, but also somewhat worried. How could these actors, no matter how good they were, manage to replicate the chemistry of the original cast? Even if history had proven that group of actors to be just as fallible, and susceptible to bickering and jealousy, as any other group of actors working together.

When I saw it...I loved it.

Yes, it was slicker and faster. The cast was younger, although not by much, Pine was only 6 years younger than Shatner was when he fist played Kirk, and Quinto only 3 years younger than Nimoy. Maybe you could even say "prettier," which has become some sort of problem (like the original cast wasn't attractive). Yet, they began to interact, and I saw the characters, and the relationships I was familiar with. To a fault, the new cast were able to take the elements of the original performances, make them their own, and re-emerge with something I could truly enjoy.

I also loved that, by using time-travel, Abrams, and his writers, Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman, found a way to honor EVERYTHING that had come before, while at the same time cutting themselves free of all continuity. By setting their film, their Star Trek franchise, in an explicitly alternate timeline they could change anything without "destroying" the continuity that is, frankly, probably too damn important to many fans. Even their most vocal critics would have to admit it's a pretty damn elegant screenwriting solution to a thorny issue.(Compare it to the ham-handed Prometheus script, for example, trying to build a direct connection to Alien, but also trying to distance itself so as not to impede creative freedom at the same time. What a mess.)

Not everyone felt that way. Claiming that Abrams "dumbed down" Trek. Was not respectful to Gene Roddenberry's original vision. Was working to turn Trek into a wiz-bang Star Wars clone. The endless griping about lens flares. That one seemed so silly. Never in my life have I heard so many fanboys focus on something so meaningless in the grand scheme. Griping about an off-the-cuff comment like "not your father's Star Trek" (which I don't think was even in an official document), as being disrespectful and insulting.

All of this has been re-awoken recently as trailers for the sequel, Star Trek Into Darkness (not my favorite title - too puny) has hit screens, and the endless arguments over what villain Benedict Cumberbatch is playing. Honestly, I hope he's not Khan. I'd be OK if he's Gary Mitchell. I'm intrigued as hell if he's Robert April. Ultimately, however, I just want another go-around with these actors in these roles, in a compelling story. I've actually come to the point where I don't care. I'm content to wait for the film to open

Oh, I'll still read the speculation and reports, of course, but if we don't get any more solid info...I'm OK with that.

From where I'm sitting, Abrams' Star Trek was more faithful to the original series than any of the following Star Trek television efforts. The movies fared better, with one major exception, but I'll get to that. I think that the reason for that can be traced back to "The Great Bird" himself, Gene Roddenberry. I think Gene came up with a tremendous idea, and with a bunch of other people, notably producer Gene L. Coon, he crafted a sci-fi adventure series that managed to touch on deeper issues in a allegorical way. The emphasis however, was always on the adventure. You knew, week-in, week-out, Kirk was going to end up punching somebody, and usually bedding a leggy blonde guest star.

The idea was to create something exciting, and stick in some depth at the edges and in the subtext. Yes, yes, the original pilot, "The Cage," with Jeffrey Hunter as Captain Christopher Pike, was much more "cerebral" (but still ended with Pike threatening to break an alien's neck with his bare hands), and the network requested a "do-over" with more action. Giving us "Where No Man Has Gone Before," and Captain James T. Kirk.

Was the show about a better future society? A society with no war, no hunger and no racism? Of course it was. Abrams' version still is. A near-utopian society that turns to the stars for challenge since they've overcome all their internal societal problems? Yep. So is Abrams version.

However, something happened over the years between when the original series went off the air in 69, and when Roddenberry guided Star Trek: The Motion Picture to cinemas. This utopian vision of society became more and more of a selling point for Trekkers, and Roddenberry himself. When that vaguely snide local TV news reporter showed up and Star*Con '86 to do the inevitable interview with the overweight guy in the ill-fitting Kirk uniform, fandom (and Roddenberry) didn't want to say that they like the show because Jim Kirk kicks ass and bags all the chicks, or because Spock's cool logic is fairly erotic.

That makes us sound like the maturity-challenged mouth-breathers that reporter is expecting to see. No, it's a positive vision of the future, and a blueprint for a working future society of universal equality, respect and peace. A show that is about allegory to expose the ills of society that we grapple with now. Ills our heroes are beyond, but can help others struggle through.

Now, I am not, in any way, saying that those messages aren't there. They most certainly are, and that's what makes the show more than what, say, Lost in Space was (great show, to be sure, but it's goals were much more simplistic). That said, if we're all honest, that's not why we started tuning in. It's not why we love the characters.

The most glaring example of what I'm talking about is Star Trek: The Motion Picture, itself. The film has it's charms, and a few nice character beats. However, it's abundantly clear that, rather than the two-fisted sci-fi adventure the series was, Roddenberry was trying to reach for 2001: A Space Odyssey territory. I remember seeing the film for the first time, and being absolutely thrilled by the introduction of the Enterprise, herself. The rest of the film sort of just happened. Wonderful concepts and ideas, but I was not very engaged by the story itself.

Let me ask you, should the introduction of the Enterprise be the MOST exciting and emotional moment in a Star Trek film? A highlight of the film, especially after all that time? Of course. THE highlight? No.

Roddenberry, from that film forward, had lost the plot on his creation. One need only look to his (largely ignored) memos to filmmakers regarding the sequels. Claiming that Starfleet wasn't a military organization? Are you kidding? I am not claiming that Gene didn't continue to have good ideas, but one need only look to The Next Generation to see that his thoughts on what Star Trek was had swung hard away from the "boy's own adventure" trappings of the original series.

Is that bad? not inherently. Next Generation is terrific in large chunks, and has it's weak, even abysmal, episodes, like any series. It's also, in many ways "my" Star Trek. The one I was there for at the beginning, and that means a lot to me. It's special to me, but anybody can see that something changed, dramatically, between Roddenberry creating the original series, and creating The Next Generation.

It all comes back to the idea of this future world Gene imagined, and he, along with others, executed. I believe that because of primary importance to Gene, and it does fundamentally change what those later series are. The original series production team seemed intent that the crew would be us, and immediately identifiable as modern humanity, living in a world that encouraged and allowed our best natures to thrive. The crew of The Next Generation lose that, to lesser or greater extent, by becoming the "enlightened" version of humanity. Instead of showing us how the best of humanity would react in dramatic situations, with Kirk reacting as a modern man with the best intentions (often, admittedly, making questionable choices in the process), quite often Picard would be framed as a teacher, lecturing some less-evolved species in "how we used to be."

There was never any discernible friction among the crew of the Enterprise-D. This change was pretty obvious, so much so that every following Trek Series, Deep Space Nine, Voyager, and Enterprise, tried varying ways to bring conflict back into the main cast relationships.The creatives understood that part of what made the original series so beloved was that the cast were identifiably "modern man," rather than some ultra-enlightened future humanity. Heck, the attempt was made on Next Generation, itself, ejecting Gates McFadden's Dr. Crusher for one season, and bringing in Diana Muldaur's McCoy-clone (yeah, I said it)  Dr. Pulaski.

The entire thrust of Next Generation pushed toward non-violent, diplomatic and intellectual problem solving, rather than the tried and true Kirk solution of blowing something up. That's neither good, no bad, as I've said, I have a love of Picard and crew, but it did change something at the core of what Trek was. I referred to Next Generation as "my soap opera," whereas the original series was a full-out action-adventure show.

This is where I can't go with the critics who claim Abrams and his team "dumbed-down" Star Trek. In hindsight, I can critique the film for many things, but that's not one of them. There was a "big idea" being explored, much as Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan was about "how we face death/age?" Abrams film was about "how do we embrace life/destiny/adulthood?" The "big idea" doesn't have to be racism, or war-mongering, or overpopulation, or any number of other social ills. It can be a "big idea" about the nature of being human. I'll freely admit that the Joseph Campbell/hero myth angle isn't terribly original, in fact it isn't at all.

One of my friends has put forth that Trek always works better as a TV show than movies. I can't argue with that. There's always more room to play with more philosophical ideas when you have 23-to-25 hours of episodes to play with, whereas a 2-hour movie, especially when the expectation is for an action-adventure, needs to be pretty propulsive.

Yes, it doesn't make a lot of sense for the Enterprise to have been built on the ground. Yes, "red matter" is ludicrous (but so is the Genesis device, or any number of other technologies the franchise has presented, honestly). I'm no fan of the bridge of the Enterprise looking like something bought at the Apple Store. Like pretty much any film, you can accept the elements it presents, or not.

But the movie is fun to watch, and identifiable as Star Trek. Identifiable as Star Trek was originally, an action-adventure with characters who feel immediate and we can relate to, and embracing a positive vision of the future of humanity among the stars. I think Drew McWeeny puts it best on page two of this report on visiting the production offices of Star Trek Into Darkness, talking about his son's immediate embracing of Trek after watching Abrams' original film:
 And when he and I talk about the Mars rover or go to the Planetarium or play with the star maps app on my phone sitting outside in our front yard, the enthusiasm he has for the idea of space and what it could contain is fueled in no small part by his belief in "Star Trek."  He sees a time in our future where we have gotten our shit together and we have shaken loose of the planet in a very real way.  We're not there yet, and we'll never get there if we don't re-inspire kids to want to go.  We need a next generation of astronauts, and if you talk to people who really did work in or around the space program, there are a whooooole lot of "Star Trek" fans in there.  It helps, but only if that's part of the equation.  I know that my first fascination with the show came from that notion of exploring the larger universe and meeting new races every week. Anything that encourages that sort of dreaming about exploration and expansion is okay by me.
That, right there is the best of what Star Trek can do, and has done, from the beginning, and that is unchanged. Honestly, I think a good chunk of these reactions are based on fear and nostalgia. The idea that Shatner IS Kirk, that the original Enterprise should always look like what Bob Justman designed in the 60's, inside and out. Much like many Star Wars fans won't accept that, to kids today, it's more about Ewan McGregor's Obi-Wan than Harrison Ford's Han Solo, Trek fans need to accept that things change. To be happy that the franchise is still identifiable, and, in my humble opinion, more energized, fun, and unpredictable than it has been in a long time.