Spring Cleaning

Instead of doing a thorough Spring cleaning of my house, which I probably should be trying to accomplish, I instead am going to spend today decluttering my brain of a couple of the pop culture items that caught my attention this week.

First, (And probably for the last time.) I go to Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.  Based on the box office forecasts, BvS is probably going to end the weekend in fourth place, and, while it isn’t going to make the $1 billion worldwide that it needs to be truly profitable for Warner Brothers, the $800 million is probably will bring in is nothing to scoff at.  Warner Brothers is also talking about releasing an R rated cut to theaters as well in hopes of bolstering the box office a bit.  That seems like a bit of a desperation move to me, particularly in the face of the issues many viewers have had with the film, one of which is its unrelenting darkness.  I’ve seen several people online calling the DC movie universe the DC murder-verse already, and I can’t imagine that an R rated cut with even more violence is going to improve people’s opinions.  Also, if as rumored the R rated cut is almost an hour longer, I don’t know who is going to want to sit through it.  Again many viewers have said that the first couple of hours of the film are incredibly dull.  The restored footage may make sense of the convoluted and choppy plot in those early hours, but lots of additional scenes of people explaining the story is not going to help the film’s ability to hold the audience’s attention.

Really, though, the interesting item for me this week in relation to BvS was the move Marvel Studios made.  Before BvS was released Warner Brothers instituted a review embargo until almost the last minute, presumably in hopes of muffling the overwhelmingly negative critic responses (BvS currently sits at 28% Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes), a move that seems to have worked considering the amount of money the film made in advanced ticket sales.  Meanwhile, this week Marvel Studios began screening Captain America: Civil War for critics.  This is a movie that doesn’t come out for three weeks, but Marvel, apparently feeling very confident about it, decided to show it and not put an embargo in place.  As of this writing, their confidence has been warranted, at least critically.  The film has a 100% Fresh rating.  Granted, this is with only 17 reviews counted.  There’s a long way to go on that front.  BvS has 227 reviews making up its 28% rating. 

With this move, Marvel Studios has taken quite a swipe at Warner Brothers, and, while they may win on the critical front, the only test that matters comes when the movie is actually released and the money does or does not start rolling in.  My guess is that it will. 

Secondly, let’s move to Star Trek.  There hasn’t been much to report on the movie front, which I actually find surprising.  The first trailer for Star Trek Beyond, which I discussed in THIS POST, came out in December and did not go over well with the fans, me included, or even Simon Pegg, who co-wrote and co-stars in the movie.  The film is scheduled for released on July 22nd, but other than word of some reshoots, which aren’t uncommon, there hasn’t been anything more coming out of Paramount about the movie.  It’s still three months away, so there’s plenty of time.  Still I thought that Paramount might get another trailer out quickly in order to do some damage control.

Instead most of the news has been about the upcoming television series to be produced by Bryan Fuller.  I expressed my happiness that he will be running the show before, but since then it’s been a matter of waiting for actual solid news about what the show will be like.  This week’s report was far from solid.  Actually, it’s pretty much just rumors, but they are (and excuse me for using this word) fascinating rumors.  THIS ARTICLE states that the new series will be set in the original (Or Prime) Star Trek universe.  In case you don’t know what that means, we’re talking about the universe in which all of the previous television series and movies were set up until 2009’s Star Trek movie directed by JJ Abrams.  The Abrams Star Trek films as well as this year’s Star Trek Beyond are set in a different timeline.  The movies are welcome to keep the new timeline.  I am very happy that on television we will be further exploring the universe that was developed from the original series through Enterprise (Or chronologically from Enterprise through Star Trek: Nemesis.  There’s a vast history there to take advantage of, but I do hope that Fuller is able to touch lightly upon it without getting so bogged down in previous continuity that the show becomes incomprehensible to new viewers.

The rumor goes on to state that the first season of the new show will be set between the events of Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country and the beginning of Star Trek: The Next Generation.  That’s about a 75 year swath of time (No, that number is not exact) that has been relatively unexplored, leaving Fuller and company free reign to do as they please (within reason).  Hopefully they can avoid shoehorning in the Borg when there’s no reason for them to be there (I’m looking at you, Enterprise, even if you did come up with a half-workable explanation). 

More interesting to me, if also more unbelievable, is that the rumor claims the series will be an anthology.  The first season will use this particular setting and characters, but the subsequent seasons could be set any time or anywhere in the Star Trek universe.  On the one hand, that would be a fantastic way to allow actors from the previous shows and films to reprise their roles.  But on the other (and this is why I don’t believe this part of the rumor), building new ship sets and recruiting a new cast every season sounds ridiculously expensive.  One of the major costs of starting a new television series is building the show’s standing sets.  That cost is amortized out across the run of the show, since, as standing sets, they are used over and over again in each episode.  The original Star Trek set many of its episodes almost entirely on the Enterprise as a cost saving measure. 

When you factor in building a bridge, corridors, transporter room, engine room, sickbay, quarters, and so on, establishing the starship sets is no small task.   Look at the Promenade set for Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.  It is immense!  And certainly not something the studio would want to throw away after 13 episodes. 

Now I could be completely off-base here, and maybe CBS really does plan to allow Fuller to build brand new sets every season.  I would be thrilled if the anthology format was really the plan.  Creating the future isn’t cheap, though.  I know CBS is wants to use this new Star Trek to help drive subscriptions to their CBS All Access online service, but how much money are they willing to spend toward that goal?  

- Alan Decker

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