Monday, September 28, 2009

Star Trek. Greatest Film Franchise Ever? (Part III)

Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country - 1991

This was the first Star Trek movie I got to watch in the theaters when I was a kid. You have nooooo idea how excited I was to see this movie on a huge screen in front of me. My previously mentioned Grandma took me right after school the day it came out. It was incredible. I loved every second of it. It had a shit ton of crazy space action and plot filled with twists and intrigue. I was aware of the press at the time which said it would be the last original cast movie, and even then I thought it was a good farewell. It wasn't until later I came to find that although it was still a great movie and an excellent entry into the Star Trek film series, it was not without it's flaws.
The whole movie is a huge allegory for the Cold War and it's demise. The Klingons (the Russians) are out of financing and a terrible industrial disaster (Chernobyl) requires them to call on the assistance of the Federation (America). What follows is a two hour morality play in which characters have to deal with their own paranoid prejudices in order to work together to achieve a common goal: the end of political fighting and distrust between the two sides (the film was made soon after the fall of the Berlin Wall). That's where the film takes it's surprising turn.
Look, I don't mean to get all "fanboy” about this, but I do have a major quarrel with some character choices in this movie. Specifically in the case of James Kirk. For the sake of the story, he is turned into a highly prejudiced bigot which is literally the exact opposite of everything this character has ever been. Kirk, ever since the original television show, has always been strongly portrayed as a person of empathy, intelligence, and humanitarianism. He fought many times against prejudices and hatreds on the show. Granted, I understand his son was killed by Klingons in the third movie, but Kirk always seemed better than that, more enlightened than to just suddenly take on harsh prejudices. And that's the thing. He doesn't possess this attitude in ANY other episode of the show or movie. He's just suddenly given this view to assist the story. It's kind of weak. Sadly, the movie was released right after the death of Star Trek's creator, Gene Roddenberry, but he was reportedly very displeased with Kirk's sudden latent bigotry, even though he learns the right lesson in the end.
I could complain about minor things here and there, including a few “not so great” performances from new cast members, but all in all: not a bad film. Great suspense, Great action sequences. It simply has a few gaping flaws.

Star Trek: Generations - 1994

The first unnumbered Trek flick, and the first one that focuses on the Star Trek: The Next Generation crew. I loved that show when I was younger, but man. The older I get, the lamer that show seems. Every episode is long and drawn out and there's almost none of the rich social commentary the original series possessed. Its RRREEEAAALY bland. Total "ho hum", an hour at a time. Sure, there are a handful of standout episodes, but blegh. It has nothing on the original. As a bonus, the film starts in the original crew time setting and transitions into the next Generation era. Due to crazy time shenanigans, Kirk manages to make it into a lot of the movie, only to suffer a hero's death. Also, Malcolm McDowell plays the villain so you know you're getting a solid, quality movie.
Not a bad movie at all. Very enjoyable, decent action, and a shitload of Kirk, how can I complain? Parts of it sort of drag on, but the complaints are outweighed by the enjoyment. Not bad at all, for a fucking "Next Generation" movie.

Star Trek: First Contact - 1996

This movie OF COURSE features the ultra popular, way over used Star Trek villainous species, The Borg. The Borg are the “Venom” of Star Trek. Much like Venom, the inexplicably popular Spider-Man villain, The Borg are unnecessarily popular given how lame they are, and this movie is chock full of them.
All in all, it's not terrible, but it is waaaay forgettable. It has more lame ass Borg than you can shake a stick at, and it featured the shitty looking new Enterprise, The NCC 1701-E. James Cromwell is great as always as Zefram Cochrane, the inventor of the warp drive (yea, more time travel shenanigans), and his inclusion in the film is a nice shout out to a great episode of The Original Series, "Metamorphosis", where Cochrane originally appears. Again, it's not a bad movie, but its pretty forgettable as soon as you finish watching it.

Star Trek: Insurrection - 1998

Not enough happens in this movie. It sucks sooooo bad. Skip it. Not even worthy of a neat picture to go with this write up.

Star Trek: Nemesis - 2002

Too much happens in this movie. It sucks sooooo bad. Skip it. Not even worthy of a neat picture to go with this write up.

Star Trek - 2009

Hooooooly shit! Who saw this coming? After how awful the last few Star Trek movies were, Paramount took a shot at rebooting the series with a film set in the Original series time setting. The movie is the supposed story of how Kirk meets Spock and the original crew, and how Kirk becomes Captain of the Enterprise.
The movie ,while staying faithful to the source material, does create a continuity separate from the Original show and film series so at first I was a bit nervous about that. Know why this shit rules? Because it acknowledges the previously established continuity, recognizes that it exists, and then starts a new, similar but different and updated time line. It's brilliant! This way, we get all new exciting Trek, with out any of the “hey, that changes continuity!” hang ups from fanboys like me. It's a perfect solution. They took away my only complaint with the movie, which was just nit-picky problems with the continuity. Having old Spock and Nero from the old continuity create a new time line by traveling back in time was a great way for the movie to create its own Star Trek universe while satisfying scrutinizing die hard fans.
The directing is sharp as well, and the performances? SPECTACULAR! Everyone does a great job of being inspired by their character's original performer, but no one mimics or entirely copies them. Some of the changes made in this department are even for the better, such as the updates made to Captain Christopher Pike, the Captain of the Enterprise before Kirk. Pike was a mopey baby in his only episode of the show, “The Cage” (the show's first pilot episode , most of which was cut into the two part episode “The Menagerie” later in the series).
All in all, what was made here is a perfect Trek film, similar to Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. It's completely accessible for non-Trek fans, and gives plenty to viewers who are fans. It's impressive to look at and action packed, and it never skips a beat or lags. I was hesitant at first, but this truly has become one of the greats of the Star Trek film series, and with everyone signed on for another one, I can only hope they create their very own astounding piece of the film franchise that lasts for a long time.

Until next time!

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