Sunday, June 25, 2006

The Death of Kings and Starship Captains

It is now reported that as part of JJ Abrams misguided notion of actually following through with Harve Bennett's "Kirk and Spock at the Academy" idea, he's entertaining the idea of Matt Damon playing the young Jim Kirk. Supposedly, this idea has Shatner's blessing.

Somebody shoot me now.

And while they're at it, slap Harve Bennett for coming up with the idiotic Academy idea in the first frelling place.

Let's face reality, kids. A story about Kirk and Spock at the Academy is, at best, a story best left to the novels (where it's already been tackled numerous times; how well is up to the individual reader) and at worst, an idea best left to fanfic writers who can't properly read the Chronology (Spock was two to three years ahead of Kirk at the Academy, and not on the Command track, so in all likelihood would have next to no contact with the brash human; by the time Kirk was reprogramming the computer so he could win the Kobayashi Maru scenario, Spock was already assigned to the Enterprise).

Casting Matt Damon, an actor who, at 35, is waaaaaaaaaay too old to be playing an 18 year old Kirk (hell, he's a year older than Shatner was when he first played Kirk in Star Trek's second pilot), he bears no resemblence whatsofreakinever to Bill Shatner, which is kind of a prerequisite to being taken even halfway seriously as someone who can portray Kirk.

"But lots of folks have played James Bond, Batman, and Sherlock Holmes" comes the whine from certain corners.

The key difference is that characters of Bond, Batman, and Holmes did not originate with Sean Connery, Adam West, or Basil Rathbone, or any of the other actors who've played those respective characters. They all originated in other media, in these cases novels and comic books. The actors in these cases were putting their interpretation on an already existing character.

The character of James T. Kirk did not exist in the public consciousness until William Shatner appeared on our television screens in that velour shirt. Likewise with Leonard Nimoy and Spock. Shatner might be okay with Matt Damon playing Kirk, but do you honestly think Nimoy is gonna go along quietly with, say, Ben Affleck playing Spock? A lot of the behind the scenes action during Star Trek's third season consisted of Nimoy having a running battle with Fred Freiberger, et al, just to maintain a certain amount of integrity in the character of Spock, going so far in one instance to taking the writers and producers down to the set to demonstrate why their idea of Spock getting knocked out during a fight was stupid (the scene in question was in "Whom Gods Destroy", with the fight between Kirk and Garth posing as Kirk; Nimoy essentially rewrote that scene, or at least forced the rewriting of that scene, not only making Spock come off much more intelligently, but doing pretty well by Kirk as well).

It doesn't take a degree in marketing to find out that the reaction by the fanbase has been, to be generous, mixed. A small portion are genuinely excited by the idea (pretty much the same segment that woudl line up to see cast members sit on stage and read from the Santa Monica phone book), a somewhat larger portion that are actively hostile to the idea, with the vast majority not terribly enthusiastic one way or the other.

Shakespeare and Roddenberry could come back from the dead themsevles to write the thing and it'd still tank, simply because not enough of the target audience really gives a rip about the premise.

And if Trekkies are a mixed bag on this one, whaddya think the nonfan thinks?

Add it all up, with the addition of Matt Damon, an actor who is both loved and reviled by pretty much equal numbers of people, and we're looking at a flop that'll make Nemesis look like box office gold.

Abrams and his merry band of Alias veterans need to dump this Academy idea like a bad habit, because the path their taking leads to just one place: oblivion for the franchise.