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Beam Me Up, Scotty: Are Sequels an Escape from Adulthood?

In case you haven’t heard, the summer movie season has officially begun. Two weeks ago X-Men Origins: Wolverine opened. And last weekend Star...

In case you haven’t heard, the summer movie season has officially begun.

Two weeks ago X-Men Origins: Wolverine opened. And last weekend Star Trek hit the Cineplexes.

Many of the current releases are either some version of a franchise, a re-make or an adaptation. And, for some, this trend is a veritable assault on adulthood.

Dennis Palumbo of Huffington Post bemoaned the current dearth of movies for adults, urging those of us who go in for more serious cinematic fare to “get off the couch” as it were (he’s also a psychotherapist). His point:  no one’s going to make movies for adults if we don’t actually go see them.

Another blogger, Lorrie Lynch, made a list of the serious Indie films coming out this summer and then wrote “Grown ups, read on.” (True confessions: I bookmarked the page post haste. I mean, c’mon. Atom Egoyan? In the summertime? Sign me up…)

I must say that I’m sympathetic to some of these concerns. The sight of grown men and women parading around theatres in their velour-insigniad Starship Enterprise tunics and Vulcan ears does give one pause. (For a particularly thoughtful review of the entire Star Trek franchise, read this article by Chicago Reader critic J.R. Jones. He argues that the original TV show was actually quite mature in its subject matter – with its mixed-gender, multiracial crew and Cold War overtones. Over time, however, the series – and movies it spawned – were dumbed down considerably to appeal to kids.)

But for me, the most interesting analysis of this trend was an article in the Washington Post by Hank Stuever examining the effect of  extreme fans (of the lightsaber bearing sort) on the making and marketing of these blockbuster-type movies.

The central question he asks – and I paraphrase here –  is why we feel compelled, as a society, to compulsively remake The Dukes of Hazard or our favorite books from fourth grade. Is it a lack of creativity? Nostalgia? Escape?

I don’t have an answer to that question. But as someone who’s quite prone to nostalgia myself, I can say that I, too, find it moving to revisit signature cultural artifacts – books, movies – from my childhood. I don’t necessarily need to don Lieutenant O’hura’s mini-dress in order to do so. But I understand the impulse.

So go ahead and beam me up, Scotty. But be warned: I’ll be looking for the Indie screening room on the Starship Enterprise when I get there.

Image: Trekkies by San Diego Shooter via Flickr under a Creative Commons License.

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  1. Rachel May 17, 2009 at 11:01 am #

    As a child who regularly incurred her mother’s wrath by slipping away from the dinner table to watch the Star Trek re-run du jour (We ate at 6:00, exactly as the Enterprise headed boldly once more where no man had gone before) I am more than sympathetic to the nostalgia crazed fans who apparently haunt the cineplexes (which I can only wish I visited at the right times – clearly I don’t, having never spotted so much as a Vulcan mind meld in progress). Yet I don’t share the impulse to see these re-makes, new Star Trek movies, etc – I think because for me as I suspect for many of us, the nostalgia is reeally for the child we were at the time and we rightly suspect that seeing the movie would only confirm how far gone that younger self is. Sigh. Beam me up, Scotty – if you can.


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