A Great Age For Space Opera Movies

space-opera-movies

So, Rogue One is coming out on December 16th and I am stoked!

The release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens has heralded a new age for space opera in the movies unlike anything I’ve seen in thirty years (yes, I’m old). And even before the Star Wars primer, Marvel decided to get in on the action with Guardians of The Galaxy. Think about it, Marvel owns the rights to so many superhero franchises yet chose to make a film about space jockeys before Dr. Strange or any of a dozen other  caped characters (and yes, we are all still WAITING for that Miss Marvel movie). So why revive a less popular space franchise first? My answer is, they wanted to get on the ground floor of a booming trend.

When Star Wars first came out in 1977, it inspired dozens of imitators. Hollywood saw the money and quickly shifted from a western and detective thriller factory to a rocket ship launching pad. The first notable attempts were frankly well, crap– like Starcrash and The Cat From Outer Space. However, as Hollywood improved its space craft, we got good stuff like Battlestar Galactica, Alien, and Battle Beyond the Stars.

Naturally, Star Trek jumped onto the gravy train, and that’s FINE by me. After the abortive Star Trek: The Emotional Picture, we got Wrath of Kahn, Search For Spock, and, who can forget, Star Trek Saves The Whales. I grew up in this time, and it’s pretty damn obvious I have yet to recover. Stories of spaceships that go “woosh” and laser guns that go “pew” are still my go to entertainment.

So, sure, I’m waiting with bated breath for Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. I am also happy to hear they are planning to make a young Han Solo movie. I think it’s great that they are playing with alternative possibilities and taking risks with the franchise. Star Trek is also doing some good stuff with its re-boot, and I really liked Star Trek: Beyond. But here’s the thing…where is the new space opera stuff?

The last time we got an original space opera franchise of any worth on the screen was Firefly. Granted, Firefly and its movie Serenity were AWESOME, but it’s been over ten years and I want more. When Star Wars made bank back in ’77, we got a slew of other space opera films with original content. Now we have…what? Folks, Guardians of The Galaxy is based on a thirty-year-old comic book; it’s as if risk aversion trumps creativity in Hollywood every time these days (and I can’t stand it when things are “trumped”).

I know that today there are some damn good writers crafting top-notch space opera (Yeah, besides me…but also me…uh, me too? Yes, not just me). I want these guys and gals to get their chance now while the iron is hot. And this is important, not just for our entertainment but for the growth of the genre of space opera.

Think about it, forty years from now, what are they going to bring back if they did nothing new in the early 2000s?

 

Just Saw Star Trek: Beyond

Star Trek Byond

So, I finally went out and saw Star Trek: Beyond. Why did a life long Trekkie like me wait so long…well.

To be honest the first two films in the reboot series left me wanting. I thought JJ Abrams’ first Star Trek was a pretty good ride. And by that, I mean that it was  a roller coaster with a Star Trek theme. There were twists and turns to excite and plenty of action but no real substance in the plot or storytelling. Now, on the plus side, I thought JJ put together an amazing cast of very talented people who captured the characters perfectly. I also liked the production design, special effects, and loved the music.

But like I said, it was only a ride with a Star Trek theme. I hoped Star Trek: Into Darkness would provide a more nourishing meal but was sadly disappointed. The plot was garbage, and I felt the new film did not pay proper respect to the original Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kahn.  So, yes, I was weary of this newest movie.

After reading a lot of positive reviews, however, I decided to give it a chance. And I’m glad I did. As in the last two films, the acting was spot on and the production design, special effects, and music were wonderful. This time, however, somebody decided to give it a decent plot! Although not overly complicated, the plot fit well into the two-hour movie format and remained internally consistent throughout. Also, kudos again to the writer for giving every character several moments to shine (this was not the Kirk and Kirk alone show). I also felt that they did a fine job showing respect to the original Trek, even integrating Lenord Nimoy’s passing in a  tasteful way.

Movies need to tell a story visually and have about two hours to unfold the plot. Star Trek was intended to be a TV show, requiring each episode visually to tell a short story  with a fairly simple plot. Novels, naturally, can take their time and explore a plot in depth but have to work harder to allow the reader to visualize the story. The first Star Trek was a TV episode stretched too long. The second was a novel crammed too short. Star Trek: Beyond…is just right.