Month: June 2017

Star Trek Generations

Year: 1994
Directed By: David Carson
Written By: Rick Berman, Ronald D. Moore, and Brannon Braga. Gene Roddenberry (Star Trek)

RYAN’S REVIEW

It was finally time for a changing of the guard on Star Trek and luckily they found a story that would allow a little of both worlds. I remember this as being the first Star Trek film I saw in the theater. I was ten and probably went to see the movie with my mom, who I grew up watching The Next Generation TV series with. I haven’t been a viewer of Star Trek in more than twenty years but when I was a kid I loved the show and loved this crew. Yeah the originals had cultural diversity with a Vulcan to boot, but the Next Generation had so much more. They had a robot, a Klingon, Geordi with the cool visor, and they had Patrick freaking Stewart as Captain.

As a little kid, before I graduated to He-man and then G.I. Joes, my action figure play consisted of Star Trek. I had action figures for all of the Next Generation crew and probably countless other Star Trek toys I can’t remember. I would watch the show with my Mom and play out the scenarios I saw on TV with my toys. I think my favorite character back then was Commander Riker, I don’t know why but I remember him as being the one that survived in my games.

One of the coolest crew members in the Next Gen is Data and this movie made a big change to the character giving him an emotion chip. There are so many situations where a robot comes in handy, but that chip gave him a weakness in this one. He’s still a cool character but I hate to see him cowering in the corner because he’s feeling fear for the first time. His subplot makes for an interesting story in the film and is a good example of why the Next Gen is better than the originals. There are subplots in this film, stories within the story. It’s just grander than any of those that came before it.

This film echoes The Search for Spock when the Enterprise was destroyed by a Klingon Bird of Prey. It was supposed to be a huge deal when it happened in the third movie and I’m sure it was to fans of the original series. This was the one that hit me though. When the Enterprise started to crash I was shocked and I still remember how blown away I was as a kid. This is better not only because of the difference ten years of advancement in special effects can have but because it is just a more exciting scene. There’s an entire ship to account for and a lot more people to get to safety. It’s cool how the top of the ship disengages from the engines, I remember having no idea such a thing could even happen. Then they crash land on a planet which was awesome.

Following the incredibly dramatic crash landing where everyone gets tossed around is a fist fight between Captain Picard and Soren. Having watched all these Star Trek films back to back I have got to say Picard would beat the shit out of Kirk in a fight. Kirk’s efforts at hand to hand combat were so laughable while Picard holds his own facing off against an evil space Alex. When you need an actor to play the villain in your movie you can’t go wrong with picking Malcolm McDowell. He is great facing off and acting along side Patrick Stewart. It isn’t fair that they only made four movies featuring the Next Generation when the original cast got six movies. We could have used two or three more movies featuring Patrick Stewart as Captain Picard.

So much happens in this movie before that fateful meeting between Captain Picard and Captain Kirk. I was really too young to get the full effect but I imagine it was quite an interesting moment for long time Star Trek fans. They get this awesome scene together before the climax is back on and the whole movie hangs in the balance. It’s an exciting end to see two generations of Captains work together and one pass the torch to the other. Captain Kirk looks much better fighting in this movie than in any of the films before. I wonder where in the time line it became practical to bring in some kind of fight choreographer.

I like this movie and it did a good job of getting me pumped for the rest of the series. Time will tell if that is a realistic anticipation or not. It was great to finally see the Next Generation cast on the big screen and they crash the Enterprise into a planet for their introduction into the series. Shatner does a fine job in this movie and saves face a little bit from earlier weak performances. He goes out well and dies a heroes death, it was a great way to close out the character.

It would have been nice to have had a little bit of Spock in the movie but Leonard Nimoy wasn’t interested after reading the script. He felt like Spock’s lines were indistinguishable from what any other character might have said and that proved to be true as he was simply replaced by Scotty. DeForest Kelley may have been more open to a cameo but his health prevented him from participating.

This movie ushers in a new generation of Star Trek characters and I for one was really happy with the change. Having sat through six movies featuring the original cast I must say it was time. I thought the Next Generation crew transitioned to the big screen well and this is an odd Star Trek film that I enjoyed. As far as Star Trek movies go this one isn’t bad and I’d say it was worth your time to see.

NEXT MOVIE: Star Trek: First Contact (1996)

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Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country

Year: 1991
Directed By: Nicholas Meyer
Written By: six different people including Leonard Nimoy, and Nicholas Meyer. Gene Roddenberry (Star Trek)

RYAN’S REVIEW

After suffering through the last two miserable films it’s nice to see they finally took one of their movies seriously again. They finally put together a movie with a good story and made the best Star Trek movie since The Wrath of Khan.  It would have been really unfortunate had they not put together a good film for the final go round with the original crew. They finally got around to resolving that conflict with the Klingons and did so in great fashion.

You can instantly see in this film that it benefited from having Nicholas Meyer back at the helm as director. The whole tone is different from the last three films. They brought back Nicholas Meyer in order to avoid any problem with Nimoy and Shatner because Nimoy was considered to direct. There was some contractual clause that said anything one of them got to do the other got to do as well and Nimoy had already directed two films. I’d argue that all three directed by Nimoy and Shatner were weak but the fifth film by Shatner was far and away the worst. It was a good idea to put this movie back in the hands of a real director who had already had success with the franchise.

Image result for kurtwood smith star trek

Kurtwood Smith as a Klingon!!! Didn’t even have to look him up on IMDB, I recognized him even through the Klingon make-up. This movie is as good as it gets with the original crew but having Kurtwood Smith as the Federation President only makes it better. I am a bit confused because he looks like a Klingon but that can’t be right. It wouldn’t make sense for a Klingon to be President of the Federation. He must be some other type of alien that just looks Klingon like. I don’t really know what they were going for in the make-up department if he wasn’t a Klingon because otherwise it was a little ridiculous.

One problem I notice in this movie is that far too often the characters reference Earth in the 20th century. The Klingons are quoting Shakespeare for crying out loud. Why would they be quoting a four hundred year old Earth writer when they are from a different planet on the other side of the universe? They don’t just quote him once either but several times, it’s like the Klingon General’s thing. It doesn’t make any sense but that’s a small problem in an otherwise really good movie.

It’s really cool that they were able to get Michael Dorn into the movie for a Klingon cameo. I have always been a big fan of the Next Generation’s Worf and it’s fun to see him making his first appearance in one of the films. It’s not mentioned in the movie but he is supposed to be playing Worf’s grandfather in the film. There was apparently a story pitched at one point that would have had Captain Kirk meeting Jean Luc Picard and there being a passing of the torch for the films. There was some reason they couldn’t do that though because the show was still ongoing.

This is my second favorite film featuring the original crew. It’s an interesting movie that can stand on its own and that makes it exceptional in this franchise. I love that they finally went back to the Klingons as the villains and I love the conspiracy story of unknown perpetrators trying to destroy the lingering peace between the Federation and Klingons.  It’s an interesting and exciting plot with a terrific climax. I have had to force myself to pay attention for like the last three films but this space battle at the end sucks me in. It follows with an equally exciting assassination attempt. This movie is just head and shoulders above its three predecessors.

I like how the signatures of the original crew actors come across the screen before the credits role. It really…… signifies (hold for applause) their farewell to the series and was a cool way to cap off the movie.

This was a perfect way to close out the original crew and I’m glad they were able to do that gracefully. The next film serves as a cool transition between crews. This is a rare Star Trek film that stands on its own and has the potential to draw new fans. Having gone through all six of these films quickly I’d say The Wrath of Khan was the best, followed by this one as the two best films in the franchise. The Search for Spock was OK but not spectacular and a continuation of the second film, which makes it a tad cooler. I think the first, fourth, and fifth films in the franchise are all pretty lame and I don’t vouch for them. This movie however, is easily worth your time to see because it’s not just a Star Trek film, it’s a good movie all by itself.

NEXT MOVIE: Star Trek: Generations (1994)

 

Star Trek V: The Final Frontier

Year: 1989
Directed By: William Shatner
Written By: William Shatner, Harve Bennett (story), Michael Loughery (screenwriter), Gene Roddenberry (Star Trek)

RYAN’S REVIEW

What’s interesting about this time around is that William Shatner himself got behind camera. There he could really make sure he looked good, even giving himself a Stallone-esque Cliffhanger moment to start the film. Kirk flirting with death while he scales the mountain is really the most interesting thing going on in the beginning. Up until the Klingons show up in that awesome Bird of Prey the movie is kind of lame. The whole camping scene is just silly, and boring.

I was being wildly optimistic when I started this film. As it continues I can see that it is really disappointing. I’ve seen this movie before but it’s probably been fifteen years at least. Not that I really expected it to be good but this level of bad has really caught me off guard.

I hate to criticize William Shatner too much but this one is a really weak movie. I’d call it the weakest but I really didn’t like The Voyage Home. The story that he conceived was horrible plain and simple. Shatner was inspired by a fascination with televangelist who could so easily manipulate the public and for what it’s worth that is an interesting aspect of society. Still, it’s a stretch for one of these men, who also happens to be Spock’s brother, to manipulate the entire crew of the Enterprise away from Kirk.

Glad to see all of Shatner’s rock climbing comes in handy later in the film as he is climbing ladders, that is until Spock comes and carries him the rest of the way. These boots Spock is wearing, whose idea was that? His Superman moment in the beginning of the film was ridiculous but here he is now squeezed between Kirk and McCoy with more boot shenanigans.

There’s too much time left in this movie, this one is even harder than The Voyage Home.

The whole scene with God is crazy. It’s a good thing Kirk and Spock are OK after God lasers them, and it’s comical how McCoy rushes to both of them on the ground and simply holds them as if he is treating them. The afterthought Klingons show up near the end to play their wild card only for that threat to be neutralized instantly with a resolution that leads to everybody being friends. They’re literally all having a party together moments after trying to kill each other and everybody is just all hunky dory.

I was wrong before. The fourth film is not the worse, this one is. At least this one has conflict but I just can’t say anything nice about it. It’s amazing the franchise continued beyond this film. It’s definitely not worth your time, you gotta be a serious Trekkie to like this movie. I mean they go back to Row Row Row Your Boat at the end, who thought this was a good idea?

NEXT MOVIE: Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (1991)

 

Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home

Year: 1986
Directed By: Leonard Nimoy
Written By: Leonard Nimoy (story) Harve Bennett and Nicholas Meyer (screenplay) Gene Roddenberry (Star Trek)

RYAN’S REVIEW

I’ve never understood this film as a conclusion to the two preceding films. There was so much potential here to create a story that could have brought culmination to the Klingon conflict but they went in a drastically different direction. The movie begins with the Klingon outrage over Captain Kirk and Genesis only for a new obscure threat to break in and take precedent. It all seemed like an excuse to put the crew back in modern times like it was just for fun. It also served as an excuse to get all political about the environment. This movie has always been my least favorite Star Trek film, because it isn’t Star Trek.

Maybe if they didn’t have this great build up to a conflict between the Federation and Klingons I could accept this story. There is all this background talk over the last two films about a treaty between the two and this movie starts with those talks falling apart because of Captain Kirk. That’s a great story set up and it should have led to a climactic conflict between the two. That would have been really cool, but instead this other story got in the way. A probe threatens to destroy Earth because it can’t communicate with an extinct species of whale. The actions of man have led to grave consequences in the future and that’s this movie in a nutshell.

How would Spock be able to identify the sound the probe was making as the songs of humpback whales? Not only is he talking about a long since extinct species on Earth but he just got reborn and can’t even remember his relationship with Kirk. It’s just silly and I don’t know what Nimoy or the producers were thinking when they pitched this story. They just completely ignore the most obvious direction the film should have taken.

The fish out of water scenario that the crew find themselves in during present day San Francisco is quite funny. You have Spock mind melding the punk rocker, Russian Chekov walking around asking about nuclear wessels, Kirk trying to explain Spock as having done too much LDS in the 60s and so on. All really funny stuff but Star Trek has never been about comedy. Yeah you get a zinger here and there but there is no need to make an entire film for that purpose. Nevertheless, all the crew members get a moment to shine in this one and that is worth something.

I don’t subscribe to the odd and even theory of Star Trek films specifically because of this movie. This is an even numbered sequel so should be considered one of the better films but I just don’t think that’s the case. I think the movie could have been great had it gone in the right direction but it went a different, much sillier, way. I don’t care for the time travel or the political message about whaling.

Yeah whaling is awful, but it’s ridiculous for Star Trek to take a stance against it. I mean come on, Khan quoted Captain Ahab like nonstop in The Wrath of Khan. You can’t go from putting the most famous whale hunter of all time in the limelight to sending a message about how wrong it all is.

I’m not entirely sure of the status of humpback whales today. To the best of my knowledge whaling is no longer a thing and there are still plenty of them in the ocean. Amber and I found ourselves at a wonderful west coast paradise in January of 16 and we saw plenty of them in the ocean from the resort pool. They would lunge out of the water and splash down into the sea, it was a really breathtaking sight. Do I have this film to thank for that possibility?

Somehow I doubt Star Trek had anything to do with the presence of humpbacks in our current ecosystem but I hope someone out there still feels like he/she accomplished something. I know a fact about humpback whales that I picked up in college and kept along my journey through life. Humpbacks have hip bones, they are vestigial body parts. They aren’t attached to anything but they are there and prove that at one point whales had legs and walked the Earth. That makes sense given they are mammals but it’s a tidbit of information I throw out there anytime evolution comes up. I don’t pretend to know anything about anything, but that’s an interesting piece of information.

This movie has no villain, no space battles, and no real danger for our characters. It’s more like an episode for the show and less like a movie. I just don’t like it and I find it disappointing. It ends without even touching on the Klingon problem it was building up to in the previous film and in the beginning. I think this is one of the weakest Star Trek films and I’ll leave it up to you if it’s worth your time or not.

NEXT MOVIE: Star Trek: The Final Frontier (1989)

Star Trek III: The Search for Spock

Year: 1984
Directed By: Leonard Nimoy
Written By: Harve Bennett, Gene Roddenberry (Star Trek)

RYAN’S REVIEW

I have always felt this third movie fell into the odd and even theory of Star Trek films but only because there are significant problems with the story. This movie is deeply tied into Star Trek roots being made by one of the cast members and there is plenty to like about it. Nevertheless, watching this movie is simply waiting for the inevitable to happen. You know it’s only a matter of time before Kirk is back in the captain’s chair and it’s only a matter of time before Spock returns. The Klingons are the wild card in the film and they do keep things interesting. It’s a totally OK movie but it is far from great.

This movie got back to the basics and used the Klingons as the villains, and I think that was awesome. I thought Christopher Lloyd‘s performance was a little over the top, but these Klingons are ruthless. It’s totally lame when Doc Brown chokes that snakelike thing to death but when he gives the order to kill one of the hostages he’s just cold blooded. I do like that Kruge and Kirk have a fight to the death as the planet destroys itself around them. I also love the last Klingon that is really disappointed that he isn’t going to be killed. The Klingon would rather be put to death than face defeat. You just can’t go wrong with Kingons as the villains in a Star Trek film.

This is the first appearance of the Klingon Bird of Prey ship and it is by far the coolest ship to date. It really sucks that Kirk has to destroy the Enterprise but at least he got a bitchin new ship in the process. This movie is the middle of a three film arc and they get to fly around in the Bird of Prey for the fourth film too.

Star Trek is better with Spock and what this whole movie boils down to is a Star Trek movie with practically no Spock. You have Spock’s dad but what a poor substitute. I thought Leonard Nimoy did a good job behind camera and had an obvious influence on the very Star Trekkie feel to certain parts of the movie. The scenes on Earth when McCoy goes to the bar and sees a wide variety of aliens, including those fur ball things I can’t remember the name of, specifically come to mind as an example of what I’m talking about.

William Shatner really tries to pull out the acting big guns when his son is killed. Falling to his knees and getting choked up as he screams at the Klingon bastard. I think that moment in the film could have been much more dramatic. When Doc Brown gives the order to kill one of the prisoners, he doesn’t care which one, the scene wasn’t drawn out enough. You have Saavik, David, or Spock to choose from and one of these important characters is going to be killed. While Saavik is the one chosen David steps up to defend her with a really weak fight before getting stabbed to death. It’s interesting that Kirk’s sacrifice of his son and his ship counter balances the sacrifice of Spock in the preceding film.

There is a lot to like about this movie but nothing that really sets it apart from the others. I think the story is the main problem because it is all a build up to the return of Spock and we all know that one way or another he will return and be alright. This movie works for the Trekkies but I don’t think the average person would ever sit down to this film and enjoy it.

If you’re a Trekkie you don’t need my opinion about this film because you out rank me in fandom. However, if you aren’t a Star Trek fan then frankly I’m shocked you’d still be reading this. This is a good enough Star Trek film but it’s not going to make any new fans. I’d say it’s easily worth the time of Trekkies everywhere but not for anybody who isn’t into it.

NEXT MOVIE: Star Trek III: The Voyage Home (1986)

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan

Year: 1982
Directed By: Nicholas Meyer
Written By: Harve Bennett and Jack B Sowards, Gene Roddenberry (Star Trek)

RYAN’S REVIEW

It’s always been said that the even numbered Star Trek films are the good ones while the odd numbered films are not. I don’t think this is true but these first two films certainly hold up the theory. The first film wasn’t very well received and it was impossibly boring. Then this even numbered sequel came along and blew everybody away. This one had excitement, revenge, and tragedy all rolled into one. It’s the foundation of the entire series because another slow moving Star Trek movie would have effectively killed the franchise.

Gene Roddenberry immediately started work on the sequel following the release of the first film. It turned out that the studio had a different idea in mind as they blamed Roddenberry for the failure of the first film. Not only was the first film poorly received but it went way over budget too. Roddenberry’s idea was scrapped along with Roddenberry himself who was relegated to the role of “Executive Consultant” for the film. With Roddenberry out of the way the film was put in the hands of a producer who had never seen the show before, Harve Bennett. He proceeded to watch all Star Trek episodes and centered on the episode featuring Khan as a the direction for the next film.

I have never seen the original episode that featured Khan but I think it was one of the best ideas that any of the films have had for a story. Most of the films are independent stories with no connection to the television series they are based on beyond the characters. I think the best films in the entire series are the ones that tie to the show. Those movies of course being this one and the eighth installment featuring the Borg. I didn’t really care for the reboot sequel going back to this story line instead of coming up with something new but I’ll get to that in time.

I’m always a sucker for a good bad guy and Khan really fits the bill. He’s intelligent, powerful, and really pissed off. He has languished away in a wasteland for decades with nothing but misfortune to spurn him on. He is so full of anger and out for revenge. In all his bare chested prowess Ricardo Montalban gave an incredible performance. I love how he is always quoting Moby Dick as it is one of the most famous revenge stories in literature, and in this case it makes sense. I am unfamiliar with any of Montalban’s other work but this performance alone has always left an impression on me. I love how intimidating he is as an opponent to Captain Kirk. There is no single villain throughout this entire series that can even come close to Khan, and he’s one of the biggest reasons this movie is such a fan favorite.

This movie is also a fan favorite because it features some of the best space battles of any of the films. When Khan initially ambushes the Enterprise he delivers such a crippling blow. It puts Kirk in the very situation he was overseeing with Saavik in the beginning of the film. When she was in the Kobayashi Maru training protocol facing a no win scenario. One of my favorite lines comes after this first attack when Khan makes demands to Kirk. Captain Kirk asks how he knows Khan will keep his word to which he replies, “Oh, I’ve given you no word to keep, Admiral. In my judgment, you simply have no alternative.” Such a great bad guy. The second battle between Kirk and Khan was even better but came at the greatest of costs.

Much like the first film it was difficult to get Leonard Nimoy on board for a second film. He agreed to the part after being promised he would be killed off in a blaze of glory. What a glorious death it was too. Spock’s selfless sacrifice saved everyone else and made for a very emotionally compelling scene. Spock and Kirk’s final conversation as Spock dies is some of the finest dialogue written in the entire series. It was a bold move to kill off the most popular character. They didn’t just kill him off either but they did so in such dramatic fashion. Nimoy was so impressed with the final product that he didn’t just agree to return but wanted to get behind camera himself and direct it.

Nobody really has to die when science fiction is involved, you just have to be clever about it. Spock didn’t stay dead for long with the studio announcing before this movie was even released that he would be back. This film marks the beginning of a three film story line and the next film picks up directly where this one left off. Even beginning with footage of the ending of this film.

There aren’t many Star Trek films you can point to and say “that’s what it’s all about.” Not many glowing examples that can explain the more than fifty year fascination with Star Trek. This movie is one of the few you can have someone watch and maybe they’ll understand. It’s the undisputed best movie featuring the original cast. I think this movie is worth the time of not only Trekkies but the wider audience out there. This isn’t just a cool Star Trek movie, this is a cool movie plain and simple.

NEXT MOVIE: Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (1984)

 

 

Star Trek: The Motion Picture

Year: 1979
Directed By: Robert Wise
Written By: Harold Livingston (screenplay) Alan Dean Foster (story) Gene Roddenberry (Star Trek)

RYAN’S REVIEW

It’s time to admit it and own up to the truth. There’s no denying it now as we’ve reached this point in the collection. I’ve been a closet Trekkie for my entire life and own twelve of these movies. It’s not my fault. I was born into a Star Trek family and grew up watching these movies and the television show. I don’t know any Klingon or anything like that but I have a greater knowledge than the average person. I tell people all the time that Amber is the one who loves Star Trek but that’s not true. It’s me, and I have dragged her along this journey before.

It was about eight years ago when Amber and I were really young parents. We had some kind of petty argument that all young couples have but in this one I managed to win and she wanted to make it up to me. She had always refused to watch Star Trek and with this newfound marital leverage I insisted she watch the entire series with me. I’ll never forget because it was around Christmas time when I went to a Best Buy and bought a box set of the first eight movies. I stood in line holding this box set of Star Trek movies literally trying to hide it as people walked by. Like I said, I’m totally a fan but I don’t just admit that to people. I keep it in the closet as a guilty pleasure and deny knowing anything about it when it comes up. I stood in that line for what felt like forever, switching that box set from arm to arm in an effort to hide it from people. When I finally got to the register I laid it down in front of the lady and said “my Christmas shopping is done.”  Eight movies later and Amber still hated Star Trek, but I like to think I enriched her life in an interesting way.

I grew up watching the Next Generation series of Star Trek and it’s those characters I have always been a real fan of. I still appreciate the original crew and like these movies but some of the excitement in this first film has always been lost on me because of it. Half of the fun in this movie for Star Trek fans must have been seeing the gang get back together for a film. The show had finished its three year run in 1969 and ten years had passed by the time this movie came out. Star Trek had proved to be very popular airing in syndication and the movie spent a long time in production. Eventually it was scrapped in favor of doing a new television show before again minds were changed and the movie was back on the docket. This film was adapted from the pilot episode of what would have been the new television show.

The return of Spock is probably the coolest part of this movie, which doesn’t have all that many cool parts to begin with. It’s cooler because there was a big chance Spock didn’t appear in the movie at all. Leonard Nimoy had become angry over his image as Spock being used without him receiving any royalties and was initially not going to reprise his role for the film. He agreed to appear in the film only after he was paid before hand for the use of his image. It’s hard to imagine what would have happened to this franchise and Star Trek in general had they not been able to persuade Nimoy to take the role.

This movie reminds me of 2001: A Space Odessey in that everything moves really slowly. 2001 was a great movie that is incredibly influential in the movie business but I’d hardly call it watchable. I own the movie and have tried to watch it at least five times but have somehow still never seen the end. This movie too feels unwatchable at times as it takes forever for anything to happen. It’s like they figured out these new special effects and had to draw them out as long as possible.

This is a long and slow moving movie that I have never really been a fan of. I found myself sucked in more than I ever have before with this viewing but still, it is what it is. It’s impressive that the franchise was even able to continue after this film, given it wasn’t really well received. William Shatner has even been reported to have walked out of the screening and thought that Star Trek was officially over, and he wasn’t the only one. Gene Roddenberry was blamed for the failure of the film and was forced out for the sequel. That’s a cold way to treat the creator but it worked as the sequel was, for a long time, the franchise’s crowning achievement.

I think there was a time and place for this movie and that was 1979. Watching it now comes without all the anticipation that fans felt back then. It was probably really cool to see the band get back together for the big screen after ten years but that does little to satisfy a viewer today. I think this movie is for the die hard Star Trek fans out there. While I may have outed myself as a fan in this post it is still something I intend to keep quiet and I don’t qualify. I don’t think this movie is worth your time but may it live long and prosper with the true Trekkies out there.

NEXT MOVIE: Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982)