Standards – How Do You Measure Them?

02 Jun

I was flipping through the channels on the TV the other night and stumbled across Star Trek V: The Final Frontier.

It got me to thinking about standards.

God that is a terrible movie.  Hands down the worst of the Star Trek movies. (And if you’re thinking to yourself that there’s only one Star Trek movie, go wipe your nose and change your diaper, kiddo, and delve into the ancient history known as the 80s, or even better, the 60s too.)  Now I’m not about to rank the Star Trek movies and then justify those rankings here.  Not what I want to blog about.

(But it’s II, VI (a very close second), IV, III, I, V, in case you were curious.)

I remember seeing that movie in the theater, leaving it pretty steamed, and then reading people’s impressions on the internet (yes, the internet existed back then – we had these awesome things called newsgroups – look them up).  And a comment one chump made has hung with me all these years.  It was something to the effect of:

“As a movie, it was terrible, but as an extended TV episode, it was pretty decent.”

No, no, and no.

What the hell?  It sucked.  Period.  As a movie, as a TV show, as a concept in some fan-fic’ers imagination. It blew multicolored chunks, which in turn squeezed out multicolored turds, which turned around, fed on each other, and blew even more multicolored chunks.

No amount of spin can change that fact.

But this comment raises an interesting question.  Are all Star Trek fans loyal to the franchise to the point of idiocy?  Yes, they are.  Well, some of them, anyway.  And I say this as a huge fanboi, so stop trying to cram me into a red shirt and put those phasers down.

A more interesting question is this: what (differing) standards do we hold our types of entertainment to?  Can a terrible book be a half decent novella?  A burst hemorrhoids of a short story an avant garde poem?  Or, conversely, can a brilliant novel be a horrible movie?

Scratch that last one – it happens all the time.

The thing is, some people seem to have relative standards, which makes no sense to me.

(Pirates of the Caribbean IV fans claiming Jonny Depp made it worth sitting through, I’m talking to you!)

A story is a story, no matter the format.  And it’s awesomesauce, fecal stew, or somewhere in-between.  I don’t see how the presentation of a story to the reader/listener/viewer can change that simple fact.

The plot is tight, clever, and coherent, or it isn’t.  The characters engaging, entertaining, and complex, or flat and uninteresting.  The setting well-crafted, adroitly portrayed, or implausible and phoned in.  How can the format of the story have any impact on the quality?

Seriously?  Am I missing something?  Because in my youth I managed to write a whole bunch of short stories, poems, and novel rough drafts so awful that they could be used in the Cthulhu mythos to summon terrible, ancient evils that would end our tiny, insignificant world.  If switching the format can transform them into awesome, angel-summoning cash machines, I wanna know it.

Also, because in my universe, Star Trek V sucked no matter how you looked at it (unless you were lucky enough NOT to look at it).  As a huge fan, if there is a way to view that movie and not want to gnaw my own leg off as a distraction, I want to know it.  Need to know it.

So do you use different standards depending on the medium of the work in question?


Posted by on 2 June 2011 in Other Blogs, Story


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9 responses to “Standards – How Do You Measure Them?

  1. Dave S.

    2 June 2011 at 8:31 pm

    The ONLY way to get through that movie is to mock it openly as it runs.

    It’s a pity MST3k stopped when it did; I suspect they could’ve gotten some serious mileage out of that turkey.

    • ianmdudley

      2 June 2011 at 10:35 pm

      I wish that were true, Dave, but as someone watching a few moments of it before I passed out from sheer disgust, openly mocking it just isn’t enough. We have to steal a Klingon Bird of Prey, fly a sling-shot course around the sun, and travel back time to STOP THEM FROM MAKING THE MOVIE.

  2. Kit Campbell

    2 June 2011 at 9:18 pm

    But what DOES God need with a starship?

    I know it is blasphemy, but there are some parts of V I like. The camping at the beginning, for example. (Captain Kirk is climbing a mountain, why is he climbing a mountain?)

    (Also I would rank them VI, IV, II, III, and then tie I and V because ick, seriously. Also First Contact wins and if we were including Next Gen movies it would go first and then I would pretend the other ones didn’t exist.)

    I admittedly am not a connoisseur of content. I am fairly easy to entertain. So I don’t judge things by medium but by how much I enjoyed them.

    • ianmdudley

      2 June 2011 at 10:36 pm

      God needs a star ship for the air conditioning. I can totally buy that – it can get really hot in space. Oh wait, can it? With a vacuum? But no shade from stars? Now I’m not so sure…

      By the way, your ranking is wrong. 🙂

      • Antwon

        2 June 2011 at 11:15 pm

        As I understand it, a major way that heat dissipation occurs is by convection, transferring molecular movement from faster-moving molecules to slower-moving ones. In the vacuum of deep space, though, there are very few molecules of any stripe to come by outside of the ship itself… so “dealing with waste heat” becomes a top-tier Thing You Have To Deal With sort of affair. Where unless you start jamming multiple/oversized radiators galore into your craft, you can’t get rid of enough waste heat. No matter how alluring Khan’s assertions of it being “very coooold” might be.

  3. Antwon

    2 June 2011 at 10:08 pm

    Generally speaking, a story is a story, true… but some number of folks are consuming the media for non-story items. (“I’d pay good money to hear Morgan Freeman read the phone book for two hours!” is not a sentiment that arises from thin air.) Breathtaking explosions, titillating cheesecake shots, “this dreck keeps the kids occupied for ninety minutes”: all non-story-based reasons that one might consume a given movie. And other media have their similar enticements: “I just like the heft of a good book!” and “this author’s turns of phrase make the simple act of eating an Egg McMuffin read like captivating epic struggles” and all that.

    Orthogonal to that, I think there’s also something to the concept that some stories are better suited to different media, where a lot of details can be lost (or gained!) jumping from one to the other. Comic books offer a simultaneous depiction of action/dialogue/inner thought other media often handle less crisply; excellently-narrated novels often have some of this depth lost (or feel forced) when translated to the silver screen. I’m not sure a media switch could render and excellent story terrible or vice versa, but I’m sure it can materially affect things at the margins, if nothing else.

    • ianmdudley

      2 June 2011 at 10:41 pm

      Ah, the popcorn movie defense. Classic tactic for those in denial. 😉

      No, you’re right, there is a place for everything, even popcorn movies (heck, I LOVED Jurassic Park III, and who can forget Room With A View…Of Hell, now with Spacemonkeys (apologies to Eddie Izzard)). But if someone tries to tell me that The Last Airbender is the modern-day equivalent of Citizen Kane, IF you considered it an extended TV episode rather than a feature-length movie, I’m gonna shove a wiffle bat so far up their…well, let’s not spoil the surprise.

      • Antwon

        2 June 2011 at 11:02 pm

        Ooh, a cliffhanger! I look forward to hearing more about the wiffle bat’s sojourn in “ianmdudley II: The Hole of Corn: The Ensullying”.

        But yes, I agree that it’s a bit daft to suggest that well, sure, this was a totally lame and shoddily assembled story… but if you just viewed it in a different context, it’s magically awesome! If I’m enjoying a popcorn movie for purely non-story-based reasons, that does not magically make the actual story-based bits good, not by wishful thinking / osmosis / any stretch of the imagination.

    • ianmdudley

      4 June 2011 at 6:26 pm

      I definitely agree about different stories being best suited for different types of media. Can you imagine the latest Justin Bieber album in book format? Or any of his albums in the format? They’re bad enough as audio media!

      However, if you are questioning Khan’s superior intellect about the thermal nature of space, well, don’t be surprised if I pop in some ear plugs and stand well away from you!


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