Friday, May 15, 2009

The Abrams Syndrome

Well, J. J. Abram's Lost has finished up its season with a breathtaking cliff-hanger. But I can't help feeling a little cheated. That's because this season finale began by introducing two never before seen characters and then retroactively interpolating one of them, Jacob, into the the lives of the major characters using Lost's signature flashback scenes. That seems cheap to me. Several of these scenes are pivotal moments in the characters' lives that we've seen before but there was never any hint of Jacob's presence prior to this episode. It's not as though he's a mysterious individual who we've seen before but whose importance was only now being revealed. Instead he's inserted into the storyline in an abrupt fashion. It gives the show the feeling of being cobbled together and leaves me feeling that the show, while entertaining, is not as deep as some people like to think.

Similar problems plague Abrams' new Star Trek film. While undeniably successful, and fun to watch, it seems to have accomplished this largely by reducing Star Trek to a formulaic action movie. The complex relationship of the original show, in which Kirk, embodying American pragmatism, attempted to strike a balance between the softhearted humanitarianism of McCoy and the calculating realism of Spock, has been expunged in favor of Kirk and Spock acting out Hollywood's stock Buddy cop cliché. Rebellious maverick Kirk and stiff-necked, by-the-book Spock must learn to work together to bring criminal Nero to justice, while both vie for the affections of the beautiful Uhura. Standard movie fare, complete with space chases and pyrotechnic shoot-outs. It all seems a far cry from Roddenberry's belief that "excitement is not made of car chases" and that a show "need not be violent to be exciting."

And why are there pregnant women in every Abrams' production? What's that all about? And destiny. Gotta have talk of destiny (or implications of it, in the case of Fringe.) Not to mention father figures aplenty. He even packed three into Star Trek. And of course there are the airplane crashes, or spaceship crashes, as the case may be. Then there's the gruesome medical procedures, either the surgeries of Lost, the autopsies of Fringe, or that odd scene in Star Trek involving the comically over-sized syringe and the giant drop of Red Matter (blood?). I'm sure there's something too all this, but I'm not sure I want to know what it is.

Whatever the case, I do keep watching.

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