So I saw the second teaser trailer for the upcoming J.J. Abrams Star Trek movie and -- predictably, I know -- I wasn't much impressed. I'll grant that I liked seeing the old uniforms again, including the skirts for women. I also rather liked the "retro-future" look of the Enterprise's interiors. Other than that, though, I didn't see much that gave me hope that this would be even a passably good SF film, never mind a passably good Star Trek film. That's a shame, because it's been a very long time since we had a passably good Star Trek film and I could go for one right about now.
I actually believe that Star Trek is probably due for a reboot. From what I've seen, though, the upcoming movie doesn't look to be that reboot. Granted, I hold to the heretical belief that a reboot should simply be about paring down a concept to its essentials and starting over. I don't see it as an opportunity to indulge in change for change's sake. The key to a successful reboot, in my opinion, is understanding what it is that makes the thing you're working with so compelling and then running with that -- in new directions if need be, certainly, but also in the same direction as the original if the original direction was in fact a good one.
I think one of the reasons why they have been so few truly successful reboots is that what people forget is that the target audience for any reboot is not, despite wishes to the contrary, some vast, untapped pool of consumers who aren't already familiar with the originals and are just dying to become fans of your new, totally cool, and unspeakably awesome reimagining of a classic. No, your target audience is fans of the original who acknowledge that the old girl could do with a little dressing up. Now, maybe this is the ultimate problem of why reboots almost invariably stink. When you're creating something that's got to appeal to the jaded tastes of the hardcore, who will hate almost any changes you make anyway, you've already conceded defeat. Of course, one might also argue -- not necessarily contradictorily, I might add -- that trying to reach out to that mythical "untapped" consumer is a powerful temptation that all too often leads to a willingness to tinker with core concepts that are the key to the long-term appeal of the thing you're rebooting.
It's a difficult position to be in and I certainly don't envy anyone put in the position of having to make a reboot. But my question is this: why reboot at all? If you have a good idea or a good story, why not just let it be what it is without attaching it to an existing one? I don't actually believe there is nothing new under the sun. Rumors to the contrary notwithstanding, I don't hate every bit of creativity shown since 1983. There have been many, many really great and original ideas over the course of my life and the best of them stand out because they're not just riffing off existing material. They're genuinely original. We need more of that, not less.
Personally, if I were going to do a Star Trek reboot, I wouldn't even use Star Trek. I think the core concepts of the original series are solid even 40 years later. However, so much cruft has accreted to those core concepts over the years that it's hard to dispense with them without doing violence to the Gestalt. So, rather than hamhandedly screwing it up, I'd just do my own Star Trek-like thing and there'd be no worries about canon. I could "update" anything I wished and have the creative freedom necessary to do whatever I felt the story I wanted to tell required. Granted, this approach doesn't give me immediate name recognition or access to an existing fanbase, but neither does it wed me to all the lunacy associated with such things. More to the point, if an idea is good -- genuinely good -- I firmly believe it can stand on its own merits; it doesn't need to be thinly tied to an existing franchise.
I realize I'm crazy in taking the whole "fresh ideas" approach literally. I'd never be able to get a job in Hollywood thinking like this. Or the RPG industry, come to think of it.