Star Trek

‘things that annoy me in film’

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This post has been a long time coming. Mostly coming out at parties over a particularly intense bout of drunken geekery, it’s a point that has niggled with me about Star Trek ever since I first saw it that day back in May.

The. Best. Film. I. Have. Ever. Seen.

Thing is, I’m a bit of a film buff. I’ve loved film for as long as I can remember. My Dad taking me to see Superman IV at the cinema when I was kid. Holding hands, walking around in the dark. THAT theme tune. It was amazing. Better yet, it was believable.

Years passed. Burton’s Batman came and went. The older I the more adventurous my taste in film became; I remember one afternoon after college I bought Romper Stomper, Scum, Mean Streets and Taxi Driver (all on VHS – thank you very much Mr Light), in a rather awesome four for Β£20 bargain.

“You need to lighten up mate.” said the chap behind the counter. I laughed, said it was research for a new project (I was studying performing arts, specialising in directing for that particular term – I was soaking up everything I could get my hands on), he looked at me funny and it was only when walking away did I realise what I’d said.

The Matrix arrived. I remember thinking ‘THIS is the Star Wars of our generation.” Up to this point, in the history of film, no one had ever achieved anything like it. Neo and his acolytes were about to tear up the sci-fi genre and hand it back to Hollywood; “Thanks, we’re done.” But they didn’t. They went and released Matrix: Reloaded. While I’m a big fan of The Animatrix (the nine animated shorts released before the first sequel), the next two parts of the trilogy left me a bit empty. The effects are good, the story isn’t that bad. They just aren’t as good as the original. It happens.

However, Matrix Reloaded sticks out for me for one thing and one thing only. What am I talking about? The first 20 seconds of this…

See it? That bike stunt? Right. Stay with me on this one.

In a world that is governed by rules, how is it that this street bike is able to drive off the top of that truck, from a standing start, land and continue – at top speed – without the truck catching up and crumpling the rider(s) under its wheels?! It’s an impossibility defined by the laws of physics. Yes, the laws of the Matrix can be bent, even broken, but by people. NOT by machines. A bike is as much a bike in the Matrix as it is a bike out on the streets right now. When this happened on screen I snapped back into reality and was suddenly more concerned about my next helping of popcorn than I was about Trinity and her high-speed escape.

Illusion, shattered.

Which brings us back to Star Trek.

In the film (and if you’ve not seen it, you may as well stop reading right now), Spock jettisons Kirk off the Enterprise for insubordination and he finds himself wound up on an ice planet not too dissimilar from Hoth. The landing pod tells him to remain where he is (his escort will arrive shortly), but naturally, being James T. Kirk, he decides to get out and find his own way.

This being Star Trek, of course things don’t run smoothly. Within a few minutes Kirk’s being chased by a snowy-white sabretooth tiger-esque creature [UPDATE: turns out this is a ‘Drakoulias‘] who clearly fancies him for lunch. Kirk runs. The ground rumbles and said feline bear gets picked and hurled into a nearby mountain…Β  by something much bigger.

This thing –

A bright red, prolapsed rectum-basedHengrauggi‘. The design story behind this particular creature is pretty awesome; the way chief concept designer Neville Page finds inspiration from animals that already live and breathe in our world today is quite extraordinary. Everything from the way the jaws work, the positioning of its joints, all the way through to which way the cameras will be pointing when ‘Big Red’ finally erupts onto our screens.

The work of a truly talented artist.

But there’s just one issue I have with it – Evolution.

In what universe would evolution create such a creature? And I’m not talking about the size of the Hengrauggi or in fact the scarily fast oral appendages that it uses to capture its food (completely unlike anything I’ve ever seen before).

No. I’m talking about the colour of the damn thing.

This is an ICE planet. How would a huge creature such as the above get away with being BRIGHT RED on a planet that seems to spend the majority of its time covered in a blanket of white snow? You can’t be a hard-ass predator if your prey can see you coming from bloody miles away!

Case in point; sharks.

Dark on top, white underneath. Why? They’re predators. One of nature’s oldest and most perfect of killing machines. Swim above and look down, you’ll struggle to see it. Swim underneath and look up? The same. Not being seen (until it’s too late at least), is a defining feature of any decent-sized hunter. Yes the Hengrauggi starts off underground, perhaps burrowed under the surface awaiting its prey in the same vein as a trapdoor spider. Even so, surely then this would create a darker, more naturally-coloured creature. One that blends in with its surroundings, not stick out like a sore thumb.

Sigh.

Look, I know this isn’t a massive point and overall Star Trek was by far and away one of the best (and most successful) films of 2009, but still. If you’re intent on keeping the world and universe that your characters exist in believable, then being mindful of the rules that you’ve created (or those that already exist) will go a long way to keeping it real.

From the IMAX I was transported into the Star Trek universe and there I stayed. Until Delta Vega. From there I was thrown back to my seat with a bump. Damn you Hengrauggi. Damn you to hell.

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48 thoughts on “Star Trek”

  1. The fact that it was bright red always kinda bugged the crap out of me, too, actually.

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    whatleydude Reply:

    1. I’m glad someone else agrees with me.
    2. You’ve said in 17 words what I tried to do in just under one thousand. Good job.

    πŸ˜‰

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  2. No. Sometimes animals are colored to simply be damn scary. To scare the pants of their prey. Just look at the garish colors of ann widdecombe’s pant suits, if you need example.

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    Charles Reply:

    @gretal – prey are coloured, sometimes, to scare predators, but predators aren’t – because it’s difficult being a predator in nature. That’s why you don’t find garish predators, because it’s the natural equivalent of going around saying “WHO WANTS TO GET EATEN TODAY???”

    @whatleydude – this point in the film did annoy me too, but not to the extent that I dropped out of it. I just thought “oh, the usual thing where Hollywood can’t deal with nature as it is.” Then again, we’re arguing about this in a film with “red matter”, time travel, “core mining”… hmm.

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    gretal Reply:

    if u think anne widdecombe is walking aroung with a sign inviting people to eat her… You must be thinking of the wrong anne widdecombe.

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  3. It works the other way too. When I saw The Descent (kinda an average horror film in parts) the thing that gripped me was the *look* of the creatures. They looked like people that had been living in caves for hundreds of years and had evolved into creepy nasties. That’s what chills me about the film.

    Following some kind of evolution rule mean that they’re convincing, despite being other worldly, and they scare the crap out of me.

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    whatleydude Reply:

    I frickin’ loved the Descent. Although made the mistake of watching it in a very dark cinema which subsequently made it very, very uncomfortable watching indeed.

    One of Neil Marshall’s best film and a suitable ‘sister’ to Dog Soldiers.

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  4. What’s absolutely crucial in any good sci-fi/fantasy is that the writers stick to the rules they create; if they start making stuff up, it isn’t credible and it loses your attention.

    I’ve always enjoyed the different Star Trek series for many reasons, one being that they generally obey the same rules. It puzzles me that the various ST film writers over the years feel that for a film to be a success at the box office they have to start making random stuff up.

    The whole red dragon scene was pathetic. From what I’ve read, the planet was originally going to be a desert planet which would be why it was bright angry red, but the planet was changed to an ice planet at a later stage… possibly after the digital work started?

    Was this really your biggest problem with the film? What about at the end when they fire the warp core to create a large explosion (that should have destroyed the ship based on the explosive power of the red stuff) to escape the black hole, instead of using engines designed to go fast than the speed of light.

    I hope they do better next time; there are surely harder films to write than a one off for a hugely popular franchise.

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    whatleydude Reply:

    Evolution aside, kudos for the most spot on explanation of *why* the creature might actually be red.

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  5. TO be picky, the bike on top of the truck is only stationary RELATIVE to the truck. Relative to the road it’s going the same speed as the truck. So how much extra speed does it need ON THE ROAD to outpace the truck. For arguments sake 1mph (or more) is sufficient – and the’re plenty of room on the roof of the truck to build up a speed differential relative to the truck. Bike accelerates, is doing 1mph more than the truck, pop the clutch in as the tyres hit the road and get up to speed, away you go, you are faster than the truck.

    (Just like wheels on a plane landing on a runway, the equivalent of 0 to 160mph in a second or two).

    That bike, imo, follows the rules of physics.

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    whatleydude Reply:

    The key part of your explanation is ‘get up to speed’. The bike lands right in front of the truck and, unless it managed to get its wheels turning at a speed faster (or the same as) the road then the bike WILL (or should at least) experience slow down. It’s at this point that the truck would hit. That’s before you even start thinking about things like suspension etc..

    Trust me – I did my research: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/motoring/motorbikes/2728922/Matrix-tricks.html

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    Dom Whitehurst Reply:

    James, I agree with you to an extent but whilst the bike was in mid-air and the wheels, axles and other moving parts weren’t experiencing the friction of the road then there would have been time to accelerate these up to and beyond the speed of truck. Nevermind that the acceleration began before the bike left the truck, as the wheels were already spinning. Obviously this super acceleration would be easier with automatic gears but if Trinity has the capability to use her super quick fighting skills in this arena then it’d be fine.

    Additional to this, as Ewan points out, the momentum of the bike having left a truck travelling at whatever speed would mean that when it lands the bike’s wheels will naturally reach a speed close to that of the truck or faster upon landing, even with the engine disengaged.

    To be honest IMHO the argument is moot because it also is dependent on variables that we have no knowledge of, including the speed of the truck, the addition – or not – of a headwind, the friction coefficient of the road and the tires and the weight of the bike and rider. This is excluding all of the other thousands of little elements that also can’t be accounted for.

    Most films coming out of Hollywood, fictional or not, include examples of bad science and this is the least bad of a big list. This didn’t make me hate the Matrix, the endless and pointless fight scenes between Neo and Agent Smith and the pseudo-philosophical messaging did that.

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  6. Your happy that a man can fly at the end of matrix1 but not happy that a woman cann ride a motorcylce without it crumpling. Neo freaking flew off in Matrix 1 and that didnt bug you then ? okay let move on…

    Big Red on the Ice planet, yeah uhm case in point … Seals, Penguins, KillerWhales all dont blend in. The Creature could be red because its at a stage in its mating cycle, it could be the male of the species …. uhm the point being again its just fantasy and making it red means it stands out cleanly on the screen.

    My point is this … if your looking for reality in your fantasy then your living in a fantasy land already.

    one final point, rarely considered by many … Star Trek teleportation requires the instantaneous destruction and execution of the source target before recreation and revitalisation of the subject at the target location. Anyone using a teleporter is always a copy and never an original ( where the hell is creations DRM on that one ? )

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    whatleydude Reply:

    I’m totally fine with Neo flying at the end of the first Matrix film as Neo is a person. As above, people can break the rules, not machines.
    Re” ‘Big Red’ I think Rob’s comment above is probably closest to the truth (last minute design changes) as opposed to mating cycles etc…

    Finally. DRM on teleoportation? Amazing. πŸ˜€

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  7. You may have a point on the biology, but your physics is wrong.

    The bike will have the velocity of the truck, plus whatever velocity it gains by accelerating along the top. Thus it is faster than the truck when it jumps off; when it hits the ground it continues accelerating (it’s a bike; notice how they beat trucks off the lights?)

    The truck driver has only the time the bike is in the air to try to catch up with it. Not much chance as it is a multi-ton machine, and the bike will be in the air for under a second.

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    whatleydude Reply:

    1. The bike doesn’t accelerate along the top. As above, from a standing start she drives off the front of the truck.
    2. See reply to Ewan’s comment.

    πŸ˜‰

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  8. The bike accelerates for 2 seconds before leaving the front of the truck. Clearly it is going faster than the truck, or it would fall vertically down and hit the windscreen.
    time in the air is derived from s= .5 gt^2; s is about 3m, so t=√3/5 or under .75s

    You’re saying a truck can accelerate faster in .75s than a Ducati can in 2s?

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    whatleydude Reply:

    No. What I’m saying is that – in tests (see link to Ewan) – they had to rev the back wheel of the bike on a stand first to get it up to a decent speed. Also, according to the research, you’d have to do the stunt/jump using an off-road bike with decent suspension. A roadbike (like the Ducati for instance) would just crumple…

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    Dom Whitehurst Reply:

    Right, I didn’t see this before posting my response. But in the video she does rev the back wheel first.

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  9. Got to agree with Kevin and Ewan on this one, the jumping off the top of the lorry is mostly believable.
    There was a short run-up, from what i saw, and the description of how the stunt was done, it is entirely possible in the mad world of Matrix physics (not even bending the rules that far!)

    What was a *WHOLE* lot less believable in that sequence was that a Ducatti could not straight line out accelerate standard American cop cars!

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    whatleydude Reply:

    That’s it, I’m going to have to watch the whole film again πŸ˜‰

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  10. Interesting, the bit with the big gnarly dude sits in the middle of a bigger, gnarlier lump of exposition over the course of which Kirk is thrown off the Enterprise, crash lands, gets chased by a thing, gets chased by a bigger thing, meets Spock, meets Scotty, figures out how to do something incredibly complicated with a silly name, and ends up back on the Enterprise, all on the space of about ten minutes. The fact that the big gnarly dude is red is, by comparison, a minor issue (albeit one that raises some fascinating points and counterpoints about colouration in predators, all of which I have enjoyed.)

    The bike thing I’m staying away from, except to say that I just watched that clip, and it reminded me that there are acouple of great individual sequences in that movie, even if the wider film does descend into confused pseudo-intellectual psycho-babble. (Interesting paradigm, that the physics of machines need to remain intact, even if men do not. Where does Robocop fit into that?)

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    whatleydude Reply:

    Hey Dan, thanks for dropping by. You’re right about the individual aspects of Reloaded, I guess that’s why I wasn’t as super-critical as my friends.

    Re: physics, I’m just talking about the laws of physics *within* the Matrix. Morpheus tells Neo that he can bend (and even break) these rules. Hence, the machine limitations.

    Basically, if he’s not in the Matrix, Robocop can bugger off.

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  11. Complaining that the prolapsed rectum monster being red in an ice planet is predicated on one massive assumption – that the drakoulias it preys on, or anything that preys on it (scary thought), has sight organs sensitive to what we call the visible spectrum. If on the other hand they use ultraviolet or (most plausibly, it is an ice planet after all) infra-red (it may even forego light and use echolocation or something even more exotic like electroreception), then the colour we see in the spectrum we puny humans use is pretty much irrelevant.

    I’m more irked that an animal with no fur and an excessive surface area relative to its mass could survive in the cold like that. But then you never know, the prolapsed rectum monster could just be an evolutionary outlier like the platypus is here, or the victim of sudden climate change that had evolved in very different conditions, like lots of animals that were killed off in the Ice Age. For all we know, it could have been the last of its kind…

    [Reply]

    Dom Whitehurst Reply:

    For the record, I’m loving this response. More for the surface area comment than anything else. Though could it not also be true that the creature has evolved sufficiently for its life process chemical reactions to be able to take place within a much colder temperature range, negating the need for fur.

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    whatleydude Reply:

    “I’m more irked that an animal with no fur and an excessive surface area relative to its mass could survive in the cold like that.”

    Possibly my favourite comment so far πŸ˜‰

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  12. I’m on the George Lucas and muppets side of the sci-fi divide, but in terms of the Matrix:

    The U.S speed limits for trucks is about 65mph (from Wikipedia), and I’m imagine speed limiters are used the same as in the UK.

    The Ducati 996 used should do 0-60 in 2.7 seconds (ignoring accelerating on a metal surface).

    So aside from the fact that the drop itself would kill the suspension and frame (as mentioned in the article), in terms of speed, it’d be fine, as within 3 seconds, it’d be faster than the truck.

    And in midair, the wheels would actually speed up (No resistance to rotation from the road surface), hence why you need to pull the clutch in…

    For the true suspension of disbelief, try the likes of Biker Boyz, Torque or indeed Mission Impossible 2, when a Triumph Speed Triple is able to switch from road tyres to dirt tyres automatically when it goes off-road…

    [Reply]

    Dan Light Reply:

    Or indeed, the spontaneous transformation of Marcus Tandy’s Renault Alpine into an older cheaper Triumph TR7 just seconds before it explodes, at the dΓ©nouement of risible BBC sitcom, Eldorado. As seen here – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RIP4QeIkXfw – about 40 seconds in.

    [Reply]

    Dan Light Reply:

    I meant soap, not sitcom. I think.

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    whatleydude Reply:

    You meant sitcom.

    Also, I’ve never seen that clip before. Actual lol.

    Documentally Reply:

    Had to chip in at the dissing of a Triumph.. Any Triumph.. πŸ˜‰
    Joking aside. I remember seeing a prototype car tyre (on the interwebs not in the flesh) that had an inverted offroad tread which at the flick of a switch could protrude from the tyre. Something to do with a gas pump adding pressure forcing to the tread to ‘pop out’. A reduction in the pressure and it popped back in. Adjustable tyre tread is something that should have been invented a long time back.

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    whatleydude Reply:

    Now I’m going to have to watch MI:2 again. Well, the (superior) third act at least.

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    Phill price Reply:

    Look out for the neatly damaged windscreen and the headlight’s miraculous recovery in mi2

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  13. this is, without a doubt, the single most fascinating comment thread I’ve ever read on the internet.

    And yes, @Nik, the whole Neo-flying-thing really killed it for me, but more out of principle than anything else (he’s not freakin Superman).

    [Reply]

    whatleydude Reply:

    I think the Superman thing would’ve been better IF the effects used in the Matrix were at least equal to those used in the 1979 Christopher Reeve flick. Alas, they were not.

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  14. I cant let it go …..

    There is no spoon.

    Therefore trinity can affect the reality of the bike within the margin of her control on the matrix.

    Anyway the matrix and its sequels are really all just Inception 1.0 its about dreaming within dreaming within dreaming . no one was ever awake so everything they experienced could be influenced by their control over it.

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  15. Yes, that big red thing did bother me, but what bothers me more are the little things that they make IMO unrealistic for the sake of speeding up a scene. The one that bugged me in Star Trek was him getting out of the pod after it crashed (not landed). How did it turn sideways before it crashed, and if we ignore that, what are the chances of it making that crater and ending up in the PERFECT orientation to be able to just open the door and climb out?

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  16. I know I’m late, but I’m watching the DVD for the 30somethingth time. This bothered me so much I had to find somewhere on the net to vent. The red monster. RIDICULOUS!!! It’s like a giant, red, lizard/reptile type creature. Reptiles are cold blooded and DON’T LIVE IN COLD CLIMATES! It has NO fins, so it’s not like a water creature that can also survive on land. It has skinny legs (no blubber for warmth), no fur for warmth… It’s just plain ridiculous to create such a creature for an ice planet. Worst part of the movie, in my humble opinion.

    [Reply]

    James Whatley Reply:

    Hahaha! I love that you found this post while looking for somewhere to rant about this! Amazing πŸ™‚

    AND I AGREE WITH YOU! RAGE!

    [Reply]

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