This post of SamuraiFrog’s led me to this article on how fans’ opinions differ from those of the creators, and what happens when fans take over franchises. There isn’t any real clear answer as to which products are the best; the creator should certainly be allowed to tell whatever story he or she wants to, but that doesn’t always bring in the money or please the fans. Obviously fans are never a monolithic group, regardless of what you might think from reading online forums, but I do think there’s often a connection between being an obsessive fan and having a lot of interest in continuity and world-building. If you want to know what the fans want, I think a lot of it is callbacks and cameos. It doesn’t really matter what the plot is as long as some obscure characters from the source material make appearances.
Okay, Howard the Duck isn’t exactly obscure, but you get the point.
I’m exaggerating, but I think there’s some truth to that, and I’m not excluding myself from that group. Also, they want to see the same characters over and over again, which in a way sort of contradicts the continuity thing, because isn’t part of continuity keeping dead or departed characters…well, dead or departed? Still, I can understand it in the sense that people get connected to these characters. Bringing back Spock in Star Trek III might have been a bit of a cheat, but who wants a Trek movie with the original cast sans Spock? Hey, while I like Star Trek, Star Wars, and Middle-Earth pretty well (I’ve actually never seen any of the Alien films), my main fandom is the Oz series, and pretty much nothing ever changes there. Well, that’s not entirely true; things are added, but rarely subtracted, as death is all but impossible. But then, we’ve never gotten a consistent depiction of Oz on film, and I seriously doubt it will ever become the next Marvel Cinematic Universe. And it’s not like I’m always in accord with the fans. It seems like a lot of Star Wars fans wanted the prequels to be six hours of lightsaber battles without any of the political maneuvering that was largely the crux of the story.
I’m not saying those films didn’t have their flaws, just that I’m not sure the emphasis on politics was one of them. I keep meaning to watch the original Star Trek movies again, and I’ll have to look out for whether Gene Roddenberry had a point about their being too militaristic. I wasn’t a huge fan of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, although I think the main reason it wouldn’t hold up today is that it stars a pedophile. Maybe Kirk already knew this, and that’s why he was such an ass to the guy.
Anyway, while the J.J. Abrams Trek films exist in a weird space where the characters are the same but not quite, and it’s different from the original series but still expects you to pick up on references to it, the idea of incorporating time travel was a clever way to split the difference between reboot and prequel. Reboots tend to bug me in the sense that they seem lazy, like someone wants to make a movie in the same universe but wants to ignore everything that came before. I’m not saying it never works, just that it kind of bothers the fan in me. Then again, I also have a degree in history and an interest in mythology, and I know that nothing is figuratively set in stone, even old Egyptian records that are LITERALLY set in stone. There can be multiple valid ways to tell the same basic story, and often the details don’t matter a whole lot. Douglas Adams made numerous changes when adapting The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy to different media, but he generally kept what worked about the story and characters. And in the end, those might be the most important parts of anything set in a familiar fictional universe.