Friday, November 30, 2007

Trekdom Review: "The Menagerie" Movie Screening

by NyackJohn

So, I've been meaning to post for a while regarding the Movie Event showing of "The Menagerie" on the big screen.

My group attended the evening of November 13. Interestingly, most of the group consisted of a bunch of us who went to see each of the re-released "Star Wars" films at the giant Zeigfield Theater in NYC when Lucas re-did the effects some years ago. We thought remastered Star Trek was a perfect thing for this group.

There were six of us - a Diva who sings "Carmen" at the Metropolitan Opera and elsewhere; an Exec Marketing VP for a TV network; a 2 time award winner for "Best Jazz Singer in New York"; an Artisan Carpenter (who Acts on the side); a simultaneous interpretor from Bosnia; and me. I say this because some Emo kid who was waiting on line for the latest slasher flick said very loudly "Look at those loosers going to see "Star Trek"...". I admit curiosity to exactly what his definition of "loser" means...

We met for dinner at Dallas BBQ on 42nd Street, directly across from the theater. If you've never been to NYC, Dallas BBQ is a football field sized restaurant that caters mostly to tourists, but has the best damn Barbequed Chicken within about a 150 mile radius. Our Bosnian interpreter was "fascinated".

Our showing was sold out. We thought being a half hour early would get us good seats and we were very incorrect. In this enormous 4 story theater we were up near the very top (we also wanted to sit together, so...). Looking out at the audience, there were lots of business suits, and a number of people were actually extremely well dressed (though they could have been coming from work). There were a few "Star Trek" T-Shirts in evidence, but not much more than that. One poor soul was dressed as an Andorian, but sat in the very back and would not let me take their picture. Most of the audience did appear to be in "our" age group (30's and 40's) with more people in their 50's and 60's than younger (or so it appeared to us). The audience was equally divided between male and female (which seems to be more of a TOS thing than the later series, which seem skewed towards the male viewer).

The Movie finally began, and there was a prologue by Rod Roddenberry. It really seemed to be a commercial for the remastereds on DVD, but still, it kept the interest of the audience, and you could see his genuine affection for his father's work.

The Menagerie was shown in it's entirety - including both sets of credits. Many viewers around the country later complained it was too dark - there were moments when I did think it a trifle dim, but it never really bothered any of us. Interestingly, when the Enterprise is NOT in a star system, they do show it with running lights, and looking rather dark - it makes sense, really. The cleaned up video is truly wonderful - the colors are not at all garish, for instance, Uhura and Scotty's uniforms glow with a deep regal red rather than the more orangey-red that always showed up on our TVs. The Bridge looks spectacular. The CGI in this showing did not appear cartoonish, though I hear in some of the other episodes it can do so.

What I found particularly wonderful were the cleaned up Matte Paintings - the Citadel on Rigel VII was magnificent, as was the cleaned up Talos IV horizon. Very Wonderful! I liked the changes done to the mattes on Starbase 11 - the adding of more detail, more lights, even moving ships. Some complained they weren't "exciting" enough - Hello! In theatre we call that "upstaging" - you don't have a background be so interesting that it fights with the drama down front. I thought the changes were just right.

Except for the slight "jarringness" of having ending and second beginning credits in the middle of the presentation, "The Menagerie" actually holds it own extremely well as a cinematic presentation. Afterwards, many people remarked on how they'd fogotten how well written it was and wished there was more good writing like it around.

Interestingly, Kirk really does come across as a total womanizer on the big screen moreso than he does on TV. And even the two straight guys in our group agreed that Jeffrey Hunter was probably the handsomest actor in all the Trek incarnations. Our Bosnia remarked on how odd it was to finally see it without it being dubbed into her language!

"The Women!", Spock's empassioned cry, actually garnered huge laughs. Seems no matter how "canon hounds" try to explain that one, it just sticks out like a sore thumb.

Once "The Menagerie" was over, there was another "commercial" for the DVDs, previewing the Second Season of remastered episodes. It was well-received by the audience, and the whole place erupted into cheers with the line "after 40 years you will finally see a Gorn blink...".

There was no mention of the upcoming film, and I think that was probably a good idea. This was NOT the crowd to tout the "re-boot" to - these were, for the most part, old die-hard fans of the original series who are tentative about the new project. It was as if the HD-DVD's were sort of a present and apology to them - a loyal fanbase which basically kept much of Paramount alive over the years and has been a great boon to their new parent company, CBS. It appeared to me that this was CBS/Paramount's way of "having their cake and eating it too" - a new "reboot" movie for younger fans and some of the older fans that can handle it, and a dusting and polishing of the original series for the older fans who like Shatner/Nimoy/Kelley/Nichols just fine thanks.

I mentioned the TV exec who was with us. When he was leaving the office to go to the movie he mentioned where he was going to a VERY senior exec there - a man who had been with NBC in his younger days during the 1960s, who said "cancelling that show was quite possibly the stupidest thing done in that entire network's history..."