Yes, it’s a terrible pun, but it seemed worth recording.
‘You’ll hear arguments about human scale and intuition and so forth,’ I explained, ‘but the older and coarser characters in space will sum it up in two words: fucking NASA. Most of the space settlements were built with ex-NASA stock or to NASA spec way back in the early days, and ever since then it’s been too much trouble to change. We’re locked into it.’
‘Yeah,’ said Andrea. ‘Which is why we are now two point five seven miles from a hundred thousand metric tons of ice. You’ve just got to love the consistency of it all.’
This Friday saw the release of J.J. Abrams relaunch of the Star Trek movie franchise, to good reviews and better box office. Metacritic rates it as 83, with Universal Acclaim, while it took $80m at the US box office and nearly £6m in the UK. However, I have to buck the trend; I came out of the cinema yesterday evening having more or less enjoyed the film, but still critical of many flaws in it.
Perhaps that just reflects my tastes in cinematography and styling; the predominance of fist-fights (complete with bone-crunching highly-compressed audio and handheld camera, making them almost impossible to follow) along with the abuse of lens flare (more subtle than in Babylon 5, admittedly, but that’s not saying much) and overly closed up shots of faces all left me feeling overwhelmed. Oddly, the minimal soundtrack also contributed: when it decided it needed to parp loudly to herald a large spaceship, it was offputting rather than anything else.
By contrast, the plot mainly worked, with even the use of time travel, so often a badly-thought out deus-ex-machina, logical - and expounded in great depth, just to make clear the reboot nature of the enterprise. While I found the rapid promotion of a bunch of space cadets to their roles a bit of a stretch, it is at least vaguely plausible, given the film’s setup, but I could have done without the ice planet interlude (can nobody in filmed science fiction think for a second about realistic ecologies for such a place?)
I’m pretty sure it works both for those who don’t know the older TV series, while those who do bear the weight of the existing continuity get a bunch of bones thrown to them during the film. However, despite the time-travel conceit, what Star Trek isn’t, really, is science fiction. It is an action adventure movie, just with the backdrop of space. As a fun summer blockbuster, I’m sure it succeeds, but that doesn’t seem to be what I’m looking for.
Subheaded “Satire? No - a genius really has concocted a tax proposal to put our aid budget in the hands of the super-rich”, this is a great read which can’t be quoted from in chunks. Just go and read it.
“I first heard about climate change in the 80s. We called it global warming then and I remember thinking ‘that sounds dangerous’. But I never had a eureka awareness moment. It was a gradual build-up. Then I read zoology at University College London and my thesis was ‘Is the human species suicidal?’ I read it again recently. It was the blueprint for this film.”
They bypassed the banks and went straight to ordinary people for cash, developing the idea of “crowd-funding”. The first £50,000 was raised in a London bar on a single night in December 2004, and the £530,000 raised so far has come from 228 people who have invested between £500 and £35,000 each. There are still seven £10,000 shares available.
A short review of what sounds like an interesting book.
In November 1688, Prince William of Orange, of the Dutch Republic, landed in Devon with an invasion force of 500 ships and thousands of men and marched on London, whereupon King James II fled. William and his wife Mary (James’s daughter) were offered the throne, and London remained under Dutch military occupation until 1690. How did this “invasion” come to be known as the “Glorious Revolution”, a peaceful restoration of order?
A somewhat longer, much more critical, review, of Toby Litt’s new science fiction novel (at least he admits in, unlike some), set on a generation ship (and gives away the plot, if you care about that sort of thing):
Though ship-born, they are obsessed with Earth, with weather-words and landscapes. A younger brother imagines birdsongs in the creaks and squeaks of various mechanisms - a touching thought. But has the ship’s library no recordings of actual birds? No nature films?
The theme of the ship of fools is old and tried, and has provided matter for many a good story; but this is a ship of blockheads. Perhaps it’s a good thing to remind us of the dangerous stupidity of our species, but if there’s no end and no contrast to the stupidity, the story itself sinks into the inane.