Star Trek for the Next Generation

OK, I get it. Optimism, team-building, we’re-all-in-this-togetherness. I’ve been wrong before, but even I am looking forward to the new Star Trek flick, which is already getting positive reviews.

It seems a perfect film for the rising generation of Millennials (Generation Y to the unimaginative mainstream media; Generation Un-ironic, if we’re scoring at home), with all its “making optimism cool again” of director J.J. Abrams.

“Not your father’s Star Trek” (to quote the TV ads), indeed.

And even if we’re still far from coming out of the economic woods (or light years away from the utopia of Sixties Star Trek), we could all use a little more hope and optimistic fantasy. I know that might sound strange coming from this cynic, but even I’m ready for some hope in my popcorn movies to go along with the hope in the White House.

I know I’m putting the cart before the horse on this (especially since the movie hasn’t officially come out yet), but it will be interesting to see if this becomes one of the Millennials’ touchstone action/SciFi flicks. That it’s directed by Gen X’er Abrams (born 1966) merely helps it fit the pattern. How many of us Gen X’ers were huge fans of Indiana Jones, E.T., Jaws and so on from the 1970s and ’80s canon of the 1946-born Steven Spielberg, himself the prototypical Boomer? I was a huge Star Wars guy, which was the product of another Baby Boomer, 1944-born (yes, that year counts) George Lucas (never mind that he killed the franchise starting in 1999 with its awful prequels, or that for the last 15 years has resembled — to quote a friend — a big, stoned Ewok).

And of course JFK, the iconic president of the Boomers’ youth, was naturally a member of an earlier generation — the G.I./Greatest Generation — much like the new president, who has been most enthusiastically supported by the Millenials, is our first Gen X president.

Meanwhile, could Star Trek and it’s über-cool optimism (and Apple store-inspired Enterprise bridge) spell the end of the brooding, dour action hero? It might have reached its height (both critically, culturally and commercially) with last year’s The Dark Knight, perhaps the best film this decade. But the days of the brooding superhero may be numbered.

Spider-Man 3 was criticized for its emo side, and angst-ridden Wolverine’s movie also received so-so reviews (even if it opened to great box office numbers last weekend). Perhaps the clearest case in point was the commercial flop of the nihilistic Watchmen earlier this year, which even I (as a fan of the graphic novel) felt was overdone and over-violent.

Strange as it sounds that this cynic may be mellowing, but I’m ready for some optimism in movies and pop culture. Maybe it’s the spring and the start of baseball season (hope springs eternal, on opening day, anyway), maybe it’s raising Icepick Jr. Whatever. I’m ready for optimism to be cool again. A little bit.


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