Saturday, March 14, 2015

More on Patrick Stuart's Ships-Only Analysis of the Star Trek Feature Films

In an earlier links post, I noted that Patrick Stuart has given a systematic analysis of the first ten Star Trek feature films based solely on shots containing spaceships. (He covers the fifth through the tenth films in part two, here.)

On a certain social network which shall not be named, my dear childhood friend Mike Spasoff rankled at the following claim made by Stuart towards the beginning of his two-part analysis:
It was interesting to see the seismic effect that CGI had on the storytelling of the series. 
Short version - it fucked it up.
I agree with Mike that it is foolish to criticize all CGI as inferior to all practical effects (for such I take to be the substance of his cavil). However, there are three qualifications which Stuart makes to his claim about CGI, which considerably limit the scope of his claim, but which also make his claim more interesting thereby: (1) He says this is the "short version." :) (2) He is talking about the effect of CGI on "storytelling" specifically. (3) He is talking about the effect of CGI on storytelling "in this series" specifically.

On the other hand, after reading through the rest of Stuart's two-part review, it does seem that his main critique of the CGI versions of the space ships is that they simply don't look as real or convincing as the practical models (for example, he refers to the CGI renderings as having a "plastic" look to them). And he's right. But in his in-depth analysis, Stuart doesn't really explicitly clarify the effect that the shoddy CGI had on the storytelling. Still, I think he is on to something.

In general, I especially appreciated Stuart's discussion of (1) the difference between the scale of the space shots in "Star Trek: The Motion Picture" and the later films, and (2) the use of "azteking" (a kind of techno-patina) in the shots of the Enterprise in the later films. Regarding (1), his point is that the later films go for a less accurate and "lazier" medium scale, rather than for shots in which things are far away and small or close up and huge, which (he argues) is more representative of what things would actually be like given interstellar travel (ahem).
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