Stuh Truh II: The Muh of Ruh!

(Prologue: I just wrote 6,000 words. I should not be writing more words. And yet, I am. My sanity is barely intact, and my brain has turned into a clayey smear, so take my words here with a giant salt lick. Don’t judge me, monkey.)

(Prologue II, The Wrath of Epilogue: Just in case anybody doesn’t really grok this, what I say here is purely subjective. It’s a soapbox upon which I stand and rant about stupid shit. I’m not right. I’m just opinionated and critical-minded, because I feel that to be a successful creator, it helps to constantly think critically. It helps me be critical about my own work. So in case anybody gets their back up about anything I’m tippity-typing here on this bloggyspace, just simmer down. Give me two days, and I probably won’t even agree with me anymore, okay? Okay.)

(Now, onto the show!)

Holy Shit, Internets. Man, a new Star Trek movie hits theaters, and the web ‘asplodes with Nerd Spooge and Geek Rage. It’s fucking bananas. I keep getting drawn to new Trek-themed blog postings, and it’s like, full-on Dork War. One blog posits that J.J. Abrams is somehow the ascendant superior to the newly-defeated Joss Whedon. Some people love the flick. Others loathe it. They hate the lens flare! They love the Red Matter! Nero sucks! Nero is an awesome blue-collar villain! If anyone ever tells you that geeks don’t separate themselves into tribes, they’re lying through their goddamn braces. Geek tribes will go to war. They will stab other geeks in the eyes. It’s nice to have passion, you know?

The cool thing here is, I came out of Star Trek with a numb contentedness, a happy popcorn-munching attitude that had little substance or thought to it. I liked the movie. I had very little to say about it that was meaningful.

But, sweet crap! Not anymore! The Internets have fueled my own Dork Tanks! I’m ready to roll, motherfuckers! Engines, on!

But I’ll hold back. I don’t know that I have the mental energy to go hip-deep into my thought processes right now, but I will call out this one point: Star Trek is a stellar example of how Story can trump Plot.

Okay, follow me.

The Plot of Star Trek (09) is goddamn ludicrous. Initially, I had said that the script was ludicrous, but that’s not entirely fair — a script is as much dialogue as it is plotting, and the dialogue is pretty solid.

The Plot is not solid. The Plot is a floor made of tapioca. The Plot is a trembling house of cards.

I don’t mean this subjectively, either. Subjectively, you may have liked the Plot, and more power to you. But objectively, the Plot is a mess. I mean, if you diagram what happens, and you try to describe it aloud, you’ll sound like a crazy person. Unless you embellish and invent your own connections that aren’t there on screen, really, you’re going to sound like a 4-year-old trying to tell a story, “And then, and then, there’s another Spock, and he’s on an ice planet, but then Kirk gets chased by a monster who gets eaten by a monster and I think Jar-Jar is driving the sub and all the bigger fish eat the littler fish and they find Scotty fourteen miles away, and then, and then –“

Ah, but here’s why Star Trek is still a success–

Because the Story is good enough that the Plot doesn’t matter.

Now, you want the distinction between Plot and Story, fine, here it is. This is what I believe to be the chief distinction — Plot is the sequence of events, the objective accounting of the narrative. Story is a more general, more subjective capture of what the work is about overall. The story is something amorphous, ambiguous, a heady broth of character and setting and general narrative.

The Story of Star Trek — which is really the story of how two young protagonists come to lead a rag-tag crew of Starfleet newbies — is spot on. It makes it so you don’t care that the Plot is retarded. It makes the film a success. That’s how it succeeds. That’s why people love it, not because they are consumed by the nature of the plot, but because they are compelled by the story of this crew coming together.

Two ideas seem to be going around on various blog arguments (bloguments?). The first is that, because the Plot sucks, the movie sucks. Problem with that is, the Plot isn’t the only element to a film. It’s not an insignificant one, but a film is a machine of many parts — good characters, solid acting, great dialogue, nice effects, fun action, whatever. One weak part doesn’t necessarily drag everything down (though it might lower the film’s “total” score, but just because you get some questions wrong on a test doesn’t mean you can’t still get a solid passing grade). The second idea is that, the film being good proves that the script doesn’t have to be. I guess that’s true, to a point, but the script is still part and parcel of what conveys both dialogue and story. It’s still the skeleton on which hangs the meat of the movie.

All right. That’s it from me. My brain’s shorting out. I need to go eat something. I’m thinking an egg sandwich. Egg sandwiches are fucking awesome. If you don’t like egg sandwiches, you can eat a dick and die! Yeah, Internet rage! Raaar!

8 comments

  • Oh, and just a comment — this blog-energy applies to Terribleminds, too. Yesterday was an all-time-high of views here at the ol’ bloggyspaces. Good times.

    — c.

  • And again I must disagree. The script contains plenty of weak dialog delivered with incredible conviction and verve such that we do not care.

    For example, in the bar-brawl scene (our favorite!), Kirk is given a rote exchange in a pre-fab encounter with cadet thugs and townies — the set up of “Five of us” and wit of “Get some more guys” is Hercules: The Legendary Journeys-worthy stuff — but we do not care because Abrams and the cast knows better than to ask that exchange to carry any real weight. It gets that shit over and done ASAP so that we can get to Pike’s little speech, which I think is actually pretty good (though saying the Federation is an armada is like saying the UN is a navy).

    I’m actually eager to see the movie again, in part to compare dialog against performance. I know this script was interrupted and/or rushed by the strike (I can’t find a link to cite now), but beyond that I can only speculate at where the seams in the drafts are.

    What I think makes the movie work is not the story (what is the story of Star Trek, actually?), it’s simply that every scene is energetic, with pretty clear stakes. Every scene reveals something. The camera won’t sit still, so we always feel like we’re headed somewhere. Something is always just about to happen, even if it gets interrupted, from sex with a green girl to the Enterprise leaving without Kirk. A lot of stuff happens in this movie.

    • I’m beginning to suspect you eat disagreement for breakfast. Me, I eat egg sandwiches.

      Shrug. I liked the dialogue. That’s about as much as I can muster after today’s write-a-palooza.

    • I think it was more the language that was applauded, for better or worse.

      You should enjoy debate less, and like yourself more. There. I’ve given you homework. Go do it.

  • Chuck,

    I really like what you have to say about story and plot … which then causes me to think a bit about Lost. Gods … how do you even explain that.

    I tried the other day, to the security guard who recently caught me watching the show in the apartment gym. (I have no cable.)

    And … I strongly encouraged him to rent season 1.

    To Mr. Will: Life is full of weak dialog. Er, dialogue(?). Personally, with all the potential of painful scientific cabbage head crap filling the movie, Star Trek was purty darn snappy. Witty, I dare say! And funny.

    And I think the script problem you are referring to is seen in some of the lines on Delta Vega.

    (Spoiler Alert, maybe, if that’s possible in this movie. Was it a surprising twist?)

    A trip through a singularity can’t be both accidental and cheating.

    Also, fwiw, the worst plot problem could just be chalked up to: an angry and stupid mining shift-leader failing to see the big picture upside of exactly *when* he is.

    • When I get around to writing another Ranting Post (this one about “origin stories,”) I promise that Lost will show up as a positive example.

    • Oh, and others wiser than I have clearly noted that the Trek script was interrupted by the writer’s strike — hence, it’s potentially a too-early draft. Hasn’t yet finished baking. You can sense the artifacts of different plot elements that have been scrapped still lingering behind like a funky odor.

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