Spock

Star Trek Into Darkness

Year: 2013
Directed By: J.J. Abrams
Written By: Robert Orci, Alex Kurtzman, and David Lindelof. Gene Roddenberry (Star Trek)

RYAN’S REVIEW

Finally, I’ve made it. This is the twelfth and final Star Trek film I will be reviewing. We don’t own Beyond and I have no intention of getting it. This movie never seemed good enough to be part of the collection but I was curious. I ordered a copy when I got Star Trek Insurrection as a closing to this journey through Star Trek. I’ve seen this movie before but only once. I remember I was left a little befuddled and unsure of what to make of it. Now, in order to complete this journey let’s see if my initial reaction was justified.

They start teasing this as a rebooted Wrath of Khan early in the film with Spock putting his life in jeopardy. He even drops his famous line about the needs of the many outweighing the needs of the few. It was cooler when Spock sacrificed himself in the original. That Spock was sacrificing his life to save his friends, not giving up hope for the sake of “protocol.” It’s not worth dying just to follow the rules, a decidedly unbadass Spock move.

I don’t like the idea of trying to redo something that was already done great. Yeah, the first of this rebooted series was awesome because it so drastically improved on the The Motion PictureStar Trek reinvented this franchise but they should have left The Wrath of Khan alone. The Wrath of Khan is a damn near perfect Star Trek film and no matter how good this new version was it would have been better off continuing in its own direction and staying away from Khan altogether. They could have come up with a new villain like they did in the first one and I would have liked this movie better.

Kirk goes full John McClain when Khan attacks HQ. When blasters don’t work he turns to the fire hose and ties his rifle to the end of it to use it as a weapon. Granted he’s not using the hose to bungee down the side of the building but using it at all reminds me of Die Hard. For a second time around Chris Pine makes a great Captain Kirk, dare I say even outshining Shatner himself. His reaction to Pike’s death made an impression on Amber and she’s right, he performed the emotional scene well.

Wasn’t it the ultimate bullet to the head of Star Trek when J J Abrams ditched this franchise to be the man behind the new Star Wars? Not only was he leaving for a different film but to leave in favor of the space rival to the franchise he reinvented was just a slap in the face. No, worse than that, it was a kick to the balls. If the Force Awakens had been the greatest thing of all time then maybe I could get over it, but it wasn’t. He abandoned Star Trek to play with light sabers. It’s all very unfortunate but I wonder if this movie wasn’t as good as its predecessor because he had his eye on a galaxy far far away. Despite how fantastic J J Abrams was with his first Star Trek I have always had a problem with him, but I’ll discuss that when we review Super 8.

The scenes on Kronos are awesome. They have yet to have visited the Klingon home world in the films and it’s really cool that they did so here. Everything from the chase scene to the gunfight is exciting. Khan’s entry into the fray is everything that current special effects and style would have it be. The original Khan was great but this one is jumping around and assassin killing a bunch of Klingons.

I wouldn’t presume to compare Ricardo Montalban and Benedich Cumberbach because they are playing different versions of the character. I wish Cumberbach was playing a different character and not Khan. He steps on the toes of an incredible performance by carrying the same name. I do love how powerful the character is and  how he takes that attempted beating from Kirk. Maybe this is what the character was like in the episode from the original series, I haven’t seen it.

I like Peter Weller but I can’t say I was thrilled when he turned out to be the bad guy. Don’t get me wrong, Robocop makes for a great bad guy, but I don’t care for this role. His whole shtick in this movie is over the top. There’s a war coming and whose gonna lead it blah blah blah. It’s a waste of Peter Weller because I’ve seen him play a good bad guy before, but here he’s not a cool bad guy.

Simon Pegg shines as usual. The whole cast does really. Karl Urban is great, as is Anton Yelchin, with more to do this time around. I was a fan of Anton Yelchin during his Charlie Bartlett days and I was really sad when he died in such a freak accident. He was a talented young actor that died before his time. I have read that they do intend to keep this franchise going but will not recast the role of Chekov.

Leonard Nimoy makes an appearance! I didn’t remember that but it’s pretty cool in this universe that Spock can just call up himself and ask for advice now and again. He passed two years after this film in 2015 and may he rest in peace. Even though it was short it was cool to see him on screen one more time as Spock.

I remember wondering if this movie was brilliant or lazy after watching it for the first time. After making this journey through all the films I don’t think it is either. In fact I think it was awful to flip and recreate the sacrifice that made the original film so compelling. Spock and Kirk don’t have the same relationship in this movie that they had in Wrath of Khan. The characters had a long history of friendship which made the scene hit so much harder. These two guys were fighting one another in the last movie and suddenly their best friends trying to sell this blasphemous story retelling? This Spock crying is no good, the characters just aren’t that close and these guys can’t sell the scene. I think Pine and Quinto are great but they had no business doing this.

I’ve enjoyed this movie but not like I did its predecessor. It’s another cool Star Trek movie but something is missing this time around. I think it’s the story and I have a big problem with how they tried to recreate what was already done before. So much lost potential and with no factual info I blame Star Wars for taking J J Abrams’ eye off the ball. For giving him something bigger to play with and making Star Trek the toy left behind. It reminds me of when Bryan Singer bailed on the X-Men franchise in favor of Superman only to make something that sucked. Star Wars wasn’t terrible but it was more or less the exact same thing as The New Hope. That’s beside the point. This movie is worth your time but I don’t know how I feel about it.

NEXT MOVIE: Stay Tuned (1992)

 

 

 

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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 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)