Monday, May 11, 2009

Star Trek: The Motion Picture

The novelization for the new movie (which I enjoyed a lot) isn't out yet. So until I get it, let's go back in time to 1979...

That's right, this book was written by Gene Roddenberry, the creator of Star Trek. And unlike "George Lucas's" Star Wars novelization, this one was apparently actually written by the person it says it was written by! Incidentally, I think it's weird that the original story for the screenplay was from Alan Dean Foster. Not that Mr. Foster isn't a talented writer; it's just that he's written so many movie novelizations himself (including Star Wars, actually), it's weird to see him at the other end of the chain.

Now, the book opens with a preface from Admiral James T. Kirk:

My name is James Tiberius Kirk. Kirk because my father and his male forebears followed the old custon of passing along a family identity name. I received James because it was both the name of my father's beloved brother as well as that of my mother's first love instructor. Tiberius, as I am forever tired of explaining, was the Roman emperor whose life for some unfathomable reason fascinated my grandfather Samuel.

This is interesting for three reasons. First, I like that the first thing on Roddenberry's mind was to clarify exactly what Kirk's middle name was. Second, this directly contradicts the new movie, which is kind of neat. Third, "love instructor"? What's going on here?

After Kirk's preface, there's something labeled "Author's Preface", and it's pretty weird:

Considering Admiral James Kirk's comments is his own preface, it may seem strange that he chose me as the one to write this book. I was, after all, a key figure among those who chronicled his original five-year mission in a way which the admiral has criticized as inaccurately "larger than life."

So... this book's "author" is in the Star Trek world, and was responsible for a television show about the Enterprise at some point in the past. An in-character Gene Roddenberry, in other words. Later in the preface, he even says "Why STAR TREK again? I supposes the real truth is that I have always looked upon the Enterprise and its crew as my own private view of Earth and humanity in microcosm." It really is an author's message, but it's pretending to be from within the Star Trek universe. It's complicated.

There are other fascinating things about this book, both from a deleted-scene standpoint (the character "Decker" of the movie was supposed to be the son of the "Decker" from an episode of the series) and from a transliteration standpoint ("V'ger" is spelled "Vejur" everywhere in the book. Weird). There's also a little digression revealing that McCoy prefers homeopathic treatments. But the things which stands out is the spot where Gene Roddenberry decides to comment directly on the canonicity of Kirk/Spock Slashfic. On page 22, there's this line:

Jim! Good-bye my . . . my t'hy'la.* This is the last time I will permit myself to think of you or even your name again.

Those are Spock's thoughts, and they go to a legendary footnote:

* Editor's note: The human concept of friend is most nearly duplicated in Vulcan thought by the term t'hy'la, which can also mean brother and lover. Spock's recollection (from which this chapter has drawn) is that it was a most difficult moment for him since he did indeed consider Kirk to have become his brother. However, because t'hy'la can be used to mean love, and since Kirk's and Spock's friendship was unsually close, this has led to some speculation over whether they had actually indeed become lovers. At our request, Admiral Kirk supplied the following comment on this subject:

"I was never aware of this lovers rumor, although I have been told that Spock encountered it several time. Apparently he had always dismissed it with his characteristic lifting of his right eyebrow, which usually connoted some combination of surprise, disbelief, and/or annoyance. As for myself, although I have no moral or other objections to physical love in any of its many Earthly, alien, and mixed forms, I had always found my best gratification in that creature woman. Also, I would dislike being thought of as so foolish that I would select a love partner who came into sexual heat only once every seven years."

Ha! Although I can't help but notice that all this really says is that Kirk wasn't monogamous. And who ever said he was? Plus, if this section is to be taken as canon, it means that Kirk definitely has experimented with something other than "that creature woman."

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Last Action Hero

I actually kind of enjoyed Last Action Hero, even though it's now a legendary flop. It helps that I watched it as a projectionist, so I was all alone in the theater the night before opening night, watching it mostly to make sure I had attached the reels correctly, and didn't accidentally play a reel backwards or something.

This played well with the plot of the movie, which involves a kid getting to see the new big action movie all alone in the middle of an empty movie theater. And this was very much the New Big Action Movie. They were going to have an advertisement on the side of the space shuttle, but the launch got scrubbed or there was a public outcry or something. The point is that they got lots of press coverage even though they didn't end up buying the ad space. Nice job!

This copy of the book came with a movie ticket being used as a bookmark. Tragically, it is not for Last Action Hero but Jurassic Park. What fun is that?

Oh, and the novelization is okay, I guess. It plays up the wacky aspects of the movie more than the action scenes, but that's what the movie did too. That's why everyone hated it.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Star Wars

This isn't the oldest movie novelization in my collection, but I'm pretty sure it's the first novelization I personally read. Let's go back to the time when Star Wars was fun!

Before I get into the book, I would like to point out that it doesn't say "Episode IV" or "A New Hope" anywhere on it. This is just "Star Wars", which is "From the Adventures of Luke Skywalker". However, don't get the idea that this breaks the continuity put forth by the prequels:

Aided and abetted by restless, power-hungry individuals within the government, and the massive organ of commerce, the ambitious Senator Palpatine caused himself to be elected President of the Republic.

Yeah, that's pretty much what happens in the prequel movies. But I'm more interested in this line at the end of the prologue:

"They were in the wrong place at the wrong time. Naturally they became heroes."
-Leia Organa of Alderaan, Senator

Man oh man, I must have read this book a million times when I was a kid, because I remember that line like it's tattooed on the inside of my eyelids. Which brings us to the thing that this book always reminds me of: this is what made me aware of the question of what's canon. You know the attack on the Death Star, right? Sure you do. Here's how it's described in the book:

"This is Blue Five," Luke announced to his mike as he nose dived his ship in a radical attempt to confuse any electronic predictors below. The gray surface of the battle station streaked past his ports. "I'm going in."

"I'm right behind you, Blue Five," a voice recognizable as Biggs's sounded in his ears.

Wait, what? Blue Five? But in the movie, he's Red Five! This was very confusing to Young Monty. I watched the movie, loved it, read the book, and loved that too. And then I saw the movie again, and something bothered me about it. Eventually I realized that Luke's callsign in the book was different from the one in the movies. Is he Blue Five or Red Five? Which one is right?

The other exciting thing about the book is that it was my first introduction to the idea of deleted scenes. This wasn't just before DVDs, it was before home video. And there are scenes in the book with Luke's childhood friend Biggs Darklighter. Special added backstory!

Oh, and if you're curious, not only does Han shoot first, but Greedo doesn't even appear to get a shot off:

"Over my dead body," Solo said unamiably.

The alien was not impressed. "If you insist. Will you come outside with me, or must I finish it here?"

"I don't think they'd like another killing in here," Solo pointed out.

Something which might have been a laugh came from the creature's translator. "They'd hardly notice. Get up, Solo. I've been looking forward to this for a long time. You've embarrassed me in front of Jabba with your pious excuses for the last time."

"I think you're right."

Light and noise filled the little corner of the cantina, and when it had faded, all that remained of the unctuous alien was a smoking, slimy spot on the stone floor.

Solo brought his hand and the smoking weapon it held out from beneath the table, drawing bemused stares from several of the cantina's patrons and clucking sounds from its more knowledgeable ones. They had known the creature had committed its fatal mistake in allowing Solo to get his hands under cover.

Oh yeah. That's the stuff. Frankly, the book resonates with me almost as much as the movie does.