Wk30: Live Forever – Sequels, Reunions, Franchises and the never ending story.

Superman returns...again...and again

Disturbing numbers coming out of Hollywood. There will be a record for sequels this year – a whopping 28. It’s a figure that has rising steadily in the past few years. More disturbingly, things like Harry Potter 7b (essentially an 8), Fast Five, X-Men First Class (essentially another 5), etc makes the average sequel number 3.7.

How did we get here? Franchises seem to live forever these days. And maybe it has to do with digital technology making everything available. It’s never been easier to catch up one something.

Take reunions. With a band like Pulp in the CD era, people would have put away their CD copies of Different Class, occasionally bringing it out for nostalgia. In the era of iPods, many lapsed Pulp fans can carry around Pulp songs in their pockets every single day.

Every band in history is on equal footing. Every album ever made might as well be a new release. They are all equally easy to find. No wonder there is so much money in reunion shows. I’m not sure if bands can even break up anymore. Looks at artists like Pavement or the Pixies. Despite disappearing, their popularity never waned. They reunited to equal, if not bigger, audiences than ever.

Stock issues are disappearing. The idea that a record can fall out of print is outdated. In the 90s and the 00s, it was kinda hard to get Pixies albums in Australia (compared to say Britney).

There are a bunch of golden albums that used to never go out of print, and would be discovered by every generation. Be it Tapestry for thoughtful young women, or the first Violent Femmes album for nerdy young boys. And even the smallest CD store would stock them. Now there is no such thing. Every album is a golden album ripe for rediscovery.

I used to carry CDs in my school bag. I’d fill it with anything I might want to listen to. But no school bag can fit as much as an iPod. And soon those iPods will be streaming from an infinite harddrive in a cloudy sky.

The same used to apply to old movies. From hoping something would be re-run on TV to searching for a DVD at a shop. There was always limits. But no more. There is an infinite database of films online.

Which is why sequels work better than ever. I have friends who have just caught up on all seven Harry Potter films in just the weeks leading up to the 8th. It is the reason films like Fast Five can exist. Because Fast One to Four are so easy to get.

It goes on. Look at reboots. The first Scream movie never fell into an oldies film. Freddie Krueger never died. Even Wall Street was given a sequel 23 years later. Why invent a new brand to discuss the financial crisis? Just use the one that everyone still talks about.

Then there’s good old “nerdstalgia”. Transformers used to be so 80s. Now it’s the biggest franchise there is today. This year, both the Muppets and the Smurfs are back on the big screen. Nothing ever dies.

TV Shows of course fall into the same category. Although huge gaps exist, so many TV shows live online. Most are at unreasonable prices, but hey, that’s how you give birth to a piracy market.

You can always catch up to the story. Season 4 of Breaking Bad is out and you’ve not seen the first 3? It’s really not a problem anymore. Hell, you could have been waiting to be born when the first Harry Potter film came out and you’re probably the target audience for the new one.

Slightly ironic that the very first physical format – print – is the last to drag itself into the digital world. But you can see it going the same way as it’s louder and brighter cousins. Books will never go out of print. They will be instantly accessible to anyone who wants them. The stories will never get old.

This new world brings with it some new concerns. Making something that’s timeless pays off. Flash in the pan also never dies, but who’s going to be looking for it? You don’t need to go back at watch some shit network sitcom because they still make those. But the Sopranos will remain timeless.

What happens to plot twists. I don’t know how it would feel to try and watch Lost now. I think it’s widely known that the ending was a let down. With a show so structured towards an ending, does it lose something?

Then there is the big fight over copyright issues, and when things fall into the public domain. When the UK write copyright rules that allowed people to own their music for 50 years, no one thought Paul McCartney would be one year away from losing the rights to Love Me Do. Or, indeed that ANYTHING 50 years old would have any value.

Public Domain is a funny thing. And I think, on the whole, if something falls into Public Domain, it is terrible for that thing. Because the old arguments about it being free and easy to access are gone. We have solved the access issue. And it just means anyone can make money off someone’s work. No one is going to give it to you for free.

(One of my favourite movies ever – Charade – is one of the more interesting copyright cases around. Many cheap DVDs are no better than people filming shaky cameras in a theatre. But it’s legal to sell that. Proper prints with decent quality are hard to find because they are hard for anyone to sell any.)

The UK are seeking an extension to be in line with the US – 100 years (or so). There needs to be a worldwide consensus because we are dealing with the worldwide web. There is an argument that those rules need to be more lax (in regards to thing like sampling). But really – do they not imagine another Muppets movie in 50 years time? Maybe 100 is not enough.

Are we ever going to forget anything again?

Reboots have become part of our popular culture now. I think the idea was perfected in the comic book world. Bit reboots are getting sooner and sooner. Including the upcoming Avengers film, there will be three Hulks in ten years. Each one a reboot to some degree.

I find it interesting that people can just decide that OK, we are now starting again. Forget the past. This is a new Star Trek. This is a new Spiderman. Is anything sacred?

Franchises are worth more and more. Bands reform to take advantage of it. What happens when HBO realises that another generation has discovered the Sopranos? Will they remake that too?

It’s all up for grabs. Nothing ever dies. The idea that they could recast Star Trek means that they can recast anything. Imagine Star Wars movies picking up after Return Of the Jedi. Why not? We are getting new Spidermen, Supermen and Hulks. The next Batman movie is not even out and they have already announced a reboot to follow. Anything to keep the brand alive.

Try to imagine a situation where they would cancel the Simpsons. They could replace the voices. Get in a whole team of new young writers and producers. Reinvent the show for a new current audience. Use technology to make it cheaper to make. Really, maybe that show will outlive me. And all of us.

With so much information out there, the problem is not finding entertainment. It’s finding something you like. Filters will be the next big thing.

What do my friends recommend. What lists tell me what the greatest movies are. What the hell should I watch next?

It is the next big question in our cultural lives.

http://www.npr.org/2011/07/01/137502459/hollywoods-got-a-bad-case-of-sequelitis-this-year

Advertisements

30 for 30: Star Trek

30 for 30 – as I reach my fourth decade of being, I’m writing about some of the things that made the three that came before what they were. 30 – mostly trivial – things that have been a part of 30 – mostly trivial – years.

10. STAR TREK

The cast of the original series of Star Trek

I watched and loved a lot of Star Trek. It’s not my favourite show ever, but has been with me for over half my life.

I’m a nerd! And not even the cool type of nerd that’s become hip. Fuck those pussies. I’m an actual nerd. And with that, comes Star Trek.

But the world conspired against me. It used to be on 4 nights a week when I was a teenager, and I usually slept in front of the TV anyway. It was, for several years, Star Trek followed by Letterman. This was how I grew up.

From age 12 or so, up until now. There’s simply no other show that has lasted this long. There are 725 episodes (across 29 seasons) and 11 films. So one and half times the Simpsons, and Star Trek were hour long episodes. Once I got in, how could I not be affected? It’s almost 800 hours of television!

I bring up Star Trek to stop people who I am bored with talking to me.

It’s pretty awful for anyone involved in the making of Star Trek, but I have often, very often, used Star Trek as a conversation killer. And sometimes a date killer.

OK, not so much a date killer. But sometimes you are talking to someone to see where they are at. And sometimes I come across cooler than I am – blame the job and the love of jokes. And when I realise I’ve wasted a drink or two talking to some girl I have no interest in, I bring up Star Trek.

It is pretty amazing how quickly the conversation stops. To most women, you’ve just turned into a slug or something.

It is even quite easy to do.

ALL you have to do is, when you’ve already started talking about stuff, say “Hey, you don’t watch Star Trek do you?”

It’s a beautiful line.

Because it looks like I am interested in furthering this connection. And the way I want to get to know you better is through Star Trek.

There are, as far as I’ve been able to determine, 3 reactions.

1) A quick dismissal. Maybe 3 or 4 more minutes of chatting, then next toilet, smoke or weak excuse break, our seats will be gone and we wont talk again.

2) A feigned (or genuine) interest. Basically the girl tries to engage in this conversation. This is a BOLD move on her part. She is going where no women drinking at this bar has gone before.

Oh, what do I like about it, you ask?

Well, I like the PREMISE. How it’s just a blank page for good writers to hang strong Sci-Fi IDEAS. (That goes down a treat with the ladies).

Oh you know Spock is Vulcan?

Actually, he’s a HALF Vulcan. (His mum was a human). (Girls love that line).

I’m not trying to be obnoxious really. This is just how I speak about nerdy stuff, that includes Trek.

Anyway, that soon ends.

3) The woman I am talking to is actually a Star Trek fan and we talk about Star Trek.

THIS HAS NEVER HAPPENED.

I have used this tactic over 100 times. Yes, part of it was when I discovered it, I tried it out a lot. But god, there are a lot of annoying women out there, and sometimes I just want to talk to my friends.

And never, ever once, have I met a female Star Trek fan in the wild.

I haven’t seen every second of Star Trek. But I’ve seen a lot of it.

The original 60s stuff with William Shatner? Check. Seen them all.

The Jean Luc Picard/Patrick Stewart stuff with the robot? Yup.

Deep Space Nine, the lesser known one with the black guy that everyone compared Obama to, in the comics and sci-fi world anyway? Yup.

Voyager, the one with the woman captain? Say maybe half of that.

Enterprise, the one with the guy from Quantum Leap (and the god awful Diane Warren song). Again about half.

I read some of the original novels. One of my favourite comic book writer – Peter David – wrote some great stories.

I’ve seen all the movies, although I only just saw the 10th one, after the 11th one came out.

But my interests waned. In school, when I watched anything and everything, I caught every episode. When Deep Space Nine was cancelled in 1999, my active interest died there too. Like comics, I took a break, and music took over my life completely.

I don’t know a terrible amount of people who like Star Trek at all.

James likes it because we both grew up with it. Casey likes it, I think for the same reason as me – it was on and we watched a lot of TV as teens. Nigel. Really, I am running out here. You either like it, or you don’t. And then there’s that 3rd level where you loved it.

A girl I liked had a housemate who was really into Trek – she was a girl too. She had Trek stuff in the house – a big stand up cut out of a character from memory. I didn’t know her very well, but I told her I liked Star Trek.

Funny though because she got defensive. A bit dismissive. Oh, that old thing. I wasn’t being patronising – I’m a fan – but I guess for her, she’s had to put up with a lot being a Trek fan. People make fun, patronise and flat out misunderstand.

Not that it really matters, but she was a very attractive girl as well. She would be by no means a social outcast. But she was in the fanclub or something, and hung out with a group where she can express her interest. I just wish that she would have talked to me – not so we could have talked, but that the world has made her hide.

In the UK, I’m not sure I’ve met one Star Trek fan. I know quite a few Americans though – it’s where the show was created, and it’s natural, cultural home. It is a bit of an American view of the future.

Which is all very odd, because so much of Star Trek is in popular culture. Phrases like “where no man has gone before” appear everywhere (like in the end of Almost Famous). “Live long and prosper.” 50% of Futurama is pretty much Trek. Like chess – I don’t understand how you can see this world without knowing the basics of Star Trek. What do you think when someone mentions Warp Speed or something? Do you walk through life like it’s one big joke you don’t get?

I was very excited when the new Star Trek movie came out. I saw Star Trek: First Contact in the cinema, and was pretty excited to revisit this world in a darkened cinema and a big screen.

Above I stated that there are over 750 hours of Star Trek. Well, that new movie would be in the top 20 hours of that 750.

Not a terrible amount happens, but it’s a fun action film with some cool ideas. But what really got me is the tone of the film. I really hated Dark Knight, and that dramatic, emo bullshit. I’m an optimist and the future is bright. And Star Trek, that new movie, was bright.

It is the main reason I love Star Trek. It is so optimistic. There is no drama within the crew. They work on each week’s threat together. People of all races and genders (even the odd robot or hologram) working together. As an immigrant in the country I grew up in, I was drawn to this.

I love the idea that maybe one day we will all get along and live these exciting lives. How can you not be?

So if for some reason you want to wade into this whole mess of Star Trek, the 2009 movie is the perfect place to start.

The single greatest question facing mankind is clearly this:

Which is better – Star Trek or Star Wars?

In the late 90s, Star Trek got very bloated. Movies, two TV series, books, comics, blah and blah. It was too much.

Star Wars however was still 3 perfect movies (and a number of really good books actually).

So Star Trek was easy to bash in the 90s, where Star Wars was a lot like James Dean – it left a pretty corpse, and it didn’t age.

Then Star Trek went away, and Star Wars got bloated. Those prequels are awful. Some of the worse films I’ve ever seen. Now there’s a cartoon and an upcoming live action comedy(?) series. Almost all of it is shit. And it really shows how limited the Star Wars idea was. It really had no more to give.

Star Trek however, came back with a very good movie. The memory of past fiascos are fading. What made Star Trek great in the first place still stands.

But Star Trek has never been great in movies. It’s a great premise (Stage Coach in space) and the perfect set up for a monster-of-the-week. Whereas Star Wars was one epic story, start to finish. We are comparing apples and oranges.

In the end though, I like Star Trek. All those amazing stories. 40 years of great ideas, swash-buckling adventure and cool gadgets. It just can’t be beat.

And Luke Skywalker is a whiny sook and the dude kissed his sister. What the fuck?

(Alex Zane did a poll once on XFM asking this very question. Almost every caller said Star Wars. Zane responded to several callers with “How about that bit in Wrath Of Khan where Kirk screams KHAAAAAAAAN?” and none of the callers had actually seen it. So if you’ve not seen it, your opinion is pretty worthless)

So, I have mainly avoided talking about the actual content of Star Trek. The intricacies of which characters I like, what season was best, etc. I think there is enough of that on the internet.

If for some reason, you are a Star Trek fan, and you came across this, here are my top 20 stories (movies and 2-parters count as one) of Star Trek.

1. Best of Both Worlds (TNG, 1990)
2. The Visitor (DS9, 1995)
3. Past Tense (DS9, 1995)
4. Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan (1982)
5. All Good Things (TNG, 1994)
6. Far Beyond the Star (DS9, 1998)
7. Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986)
8. The City On the Edge Of Forever (TOS, 1967)
9. Star Trek (2009)
10. Shattered Mirror (DS9, 1996)
11. The Doomsday Machine (TOS, 1967)
12. Crossover (DS9, 1994)
13. Mirror, Mirror (TOS, 1967)
14. Space Seed (TOS, 1967)
15. Descent (TNG, 1993)
16. Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (1991)
17. I, Borg (TNG, 1992)
18. Q Who (TNG, 1989)
19. Explorers (DS9, 1995)
20. Endgame (VOY, 2001)

Looking at this list really makes it hit home – I do love this show. So many great stories! So many ideas! Every week was something different. A time bending character study, or an all out action packed dog fight in space. All tied together with this wish of living better lives, working together, and leaving our predjudice and hate behind.