Monday, May 25, 2009

Star Trek credits not newbie friendly

Despite all the attempts to make the new Star Trek movie as friendly as possible for people unfamiliar with the franchise to follow, the ending credits actually assume a lot of Star Trek knowledge if you want to figure out who played whom.

Winona Ryder is credited as playing "Amanda Grayson," a name never heard in the film (and a last name that's a real piece of trivia, only uttered a single time, in the animated Star Trek). Ben Cross is credited with playing "Sarek," a name never heard in the film. Jennifer Morrison is credited with playing "Winona Kirk," a character whose first name is never heard in the film (but comes from the Star Trek novels). Simon Pegg is credited as playing "Scotty," a nickname heard only obliquely in the film. And Karl Urban is credited as playing "Bones," a nickname only heard in passing near the end of the film.

Easier-to-follow credits would have called the characters "Spock's Mother," "Spock's Father," "Kirk's Mother," "Scott" (or "Montgomery Scott," since the full name is spoken by the older Spock in the film), and "McCoy" (or "Leonard McCoy," since the character does introduce himself by his full name).

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At May 25, 2009 3:26 PM , Blogger Ron Friedman said...

"And Karl Urban is credited as playing "Bones," a nickname only heard in passing near the end of the film."

Actually, at an early stage of the movie, when Kirk and McCoy met for the first time on the shuttle that took them to Starfleet, McCoy told Kirk about his recent divorce, and that he had nothing left but his bones. (He said the word "bones" slowly and clearly)

Not exactly a nickname, but definitely a strong “bones” reference that may be sufficient for the non-Trekkie viewer to associates McCoy with “bones”.

At May 25, 2009 3:34 PM , Blogger RobertJSawyer said...

Hi, Ron. Of course I heard that reference, but I really think it's only funny, or would stick in people's minds, if you ALREADY knew his nickname was going to become "Bones." :D

At May 25, 2009 6:17 PM , Blogger rvcanuck said...

My impression was that J.J. Abrams pretty much meant the movie to lure in the Trekkies, no matter what he said in the interviews. Any newbies who might have been drawn in to see the movie were just the secondary target.

At May 25, 2009 6:19 PM , Blogger Dwight Williams said...

Seems to me as if everyone and their cousin either already know or can find out within an hour of leaving the movie theatre about "Bones".

At May 26, 2009 7:07 AM , Blogger RobertJSawyer said...

rvcanuck, while it's true that the director has a lot of power on a movie, it's NOT true that he gets to decide what the audience targets are for the movie; the studio decides when it approves the budget. JJ Abrams was charged with making a movie that would appeal to a broad audience, not just STAR TREK fans. One doesn't gamble a hundred million dollars on a whim; one adheres to a business plan for how it is being invested.

Dwight, there are many tens of millions of people in the US alone who aren't familiar with the original STAR TREK -- the prime movie-going audience is teenagers, not old farts like us, and the last time the character of "Bones" appeared in something prior to this was 18 years ago, in STAR TREK VI: THE UNDISCOVERED COUNTRY -- in other words, before most of the largest-audience segment for modern movies was born.

At May 26, 2009 5:26 PM , Blogger Dwight Williams said...

I would argue, Rob, that you're possibly running the risk of selling those teenagers short in their willingness to do their own "homework" on a subject that catches their attention in the best ways, assuming they don't already know what we "old farts" are talking about.

At May 26, 2009 5:55 PM , Blogger RobertJSawyer said...

This is getting silly. It's not a question of "doing homework," it's a question of whether in the mere seconds the info is flashed on the screen it communicated what it intended to communicate as readily as it could have, namely which actor played which part. It's just a cute little observation.

At May 27, 2009 11:30 PM , Blogger Kirstin said...

As a communications professional, I too have problems with the credits.

It's the same problem with so much of SF: It assumes the audience has information they don't necessarily have. That sort of thing can frustrate people who are not already part of the community.

Entertainment is not about doing hours of research after watching a movie. It's about enjoying yourself.

And if the franchise is to survive, it must pull in new fans. I do think Abrams succeeded in that regard, even with the cryptic credits.

At May 28, 2009 7:02 PM , Blogger Ron Friedman said...

You’re right Kirstin,

From the entertainment point of view, Abrams did a good job.

I have a co-worker who never saw a single Star-Trek episode in his life, yet he said the movie was awesome. And who reads the credits anyway…

At November 19, 2009 6:59 PM , Blogger Siliconmaster482 said...

I know I'm joining this conversation EXTREMELY late, but I saw it and had to throw my two cents in:

The end credits have absolutely nothing to do with the fans, or what would make the most sense to those watching. The script dictates all of the names- the names on the billing are exactly as they appeared in the script, and all characters have names, even if they aren't used. As for the billing of crew members, those are all dictated by the film unions and guilds they belong to.

I agree that casual fans might not understand who is who, but the end credits are done by such a strict formula that it wouldn't have mattered.

At November 19, 2009 8:07 PM , Blogger RobertJSawyer said...

That's simply not true about the character names being subject to such rules. Job TITLES are strictly negotiated, as is the order in which credits will appear. But character names? Yes, they are by default pulled from the dialog slugs in the script (but no way the slug said "WINONA KIRK," for instance -- it would have said only one name).

At November 19, 2009 8:27 PM , Blogger Siliconmaster482 said...

Hmm. You definitely have a point there- also, my initial post seems a little overconfident at second read. :)

Even so, the first time the character is introduced, wouldn't the full name have been used? I'm actually tempted to go look at other movies and see how they did it. I've never thought about this before.


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