August 22nd 2009

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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY: Terrorism comes to Sydney

EDITORIAL: Is the financial crisis receding?

INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS: Heavy-handed China shows its true colours

CANBERRA OBSERVED: Rudd Government bid to take over hospitals

QUEENSLAND: Anna Bligh's Labor Government on the skids

NATIONAL AFFAIRS: Regional consultation needed on new Murray-Darling plan

RURAL AFFAIRS: Dairy and irrigation industries hit hard

ENVIRONMENT: Analysis of alarmism: ocean acidification

CLIMATE: Climate change devastation: apocalypse now

HUMAN RIGHTS: Grievance industry shows exponential growth

OPINION: How Australian authors fare in the free market

GOVERNMENT: Public service independence undermined by politicians

OPINION: Forced repatriations from Austria in 1945

AS THE WORLD TURNS: Teenagers rescued from suicide training camps; Demographic time-bomb transforming Europe; Shocking decline of British schools; Bismarck on politics

CINEMA: Portrait of the starship captain as a young hoon - Star Trek


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Portrait of the starship captain as a young hoon - Star Trek

by Len Phillips (reviewer)

News Weekly, August 22, 2009
I've been off and away overseas these past few weeks and not really going to the films. But on the way back, I caught up with a film I had not seen and would not have watched other than in the most extraordinary circumstances, in this case being strapped into a seat, too tired to read and too uncomfortable to sleep.
The young James T. Kirk (Chris Pine)
and Mr Spock (Zachary Quinto).

The movie of which I speak was the latest Star Trek. The Qantas in-flight magazine gives a separate people and critics rating for each film on offer, and in this case it had received four stars out of five from both. So I downloaded the film.

Now I had watched Star Trek from its earliest days but had not been enraptured. I knew all of the characters and had probably watched most if not all of the early episodes. But, unlike with the first Star Wars which I loved, I was not and never had been a devoted "Trekkie". But still, four stars by the critics and four stars by the fans suggested that there was a film of some interest on offer.


As with all such films of this type, it began with a series of action scenes. The opening takes place with a Romulan attack on a Federation spaceship. The captain goes to negotiate with the Romulans and is immediately killed. The second-in-command back on the Federation ship orders a full-scale missile assault even though he knows he is doomed.

Just then, while he is directing the defence of his ship, his wife calls. She is in labour and wants her husband to join her.

So while the battle rages, he is also explaining why he cannot come just at that moment even while she pleads that she needs him. No, no, he says: we must save you and our child. And they go through a discussion, all while the battle rages, about what name to give the child.

The name they choose is "Jim" just as the Federation ship is crashed into the Romulan ship, allowing his wife, infant son and others to escape using some kind of spaceship version of a lifeboat.

Ah, Jim! So this is the birth of Captain James T. Kirk of the starship USS Enterprise. Idiotic in so many ways, including that even 200 years from now, with all of the technology that has by then developed, a woman's experience in giving birth remains identical to the experience of a woman today. But let that go.

The next moment of the film shows a young boy, say 10 or 11, driving a 1950s convertible at more than 150 kilometres-an-hour down some empty desert road. Given that we are in the 23rd century, this car is around 300 years old, a very serious antique! Over the intercom we hear a voice saying to this young driver that if you so much as put a scratch on this car, etc.

So the boy pushes the button that lifts the roof which is then ripped off by the wind as it opens up. A respecter of persons and property this boy is not.

At which moment a cop on an aerial version of a motorcycle comes by and orders the boy to come to a stop, which only has him accelerate and turn down another road where he drives the car over a cliff while rolling out just before the edge. A respecter of authority this boy is also not.

Here again is the future captain of the Starship Enterprise. An undisciplined, insolent, narcissistic, arrogant, disgusting piece of scum though he may be, he is nevertheless a boy clearly to be admired, however, given the four-star rating. Obviously, the role model for the youth of today.

Am I alone in finding the character portrayed abhorrent and revolting? Is this really the modern ideal, the person every young male would wish to be?

I am at a loss to work out whether there is some generational personality change that was being reflected back at us as we watched this film. I try to think of what star character of the past displayed such sociopathic characteristics in a role that was intended to be heroic.

Captain Kirk himself in the original Star Trek series was your normal everyday left-liberal. But he seemed generally sane and in control of himself, without serious mental disorders. Not so this recent portrait of the starship captain as a young man.

There is something going on that this film has shone its light on, but I cannot myself figure out what it is.

If you will forgive this comparison, I see it in the American President in whom I cannot find the positive characteristics that others appear to find.

The President seems glib and superficial, arrogant and narcissistic, empty and shallow - not all that different from the young version of Captain Kirk.

The television version of Captain Kirk was a man of substance. His modern youthful persona is anything but. In its own way, this movie has pointed me in the direction of understanding how Barack Obama became US President. But far from giving me comfort, it has made me even more worried about the future than I already was.

- Star Trek reviewed by Len Phillips

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TRANSGENDER: one shade of grey, 353pp, $39.99

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