SCOTT’S FILM GEEK JOURNAL #40: Shatner. Accept No Substitutes (Part 2 of 2)

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Continuing on from Part 1 of the Journal yesterday, I now take a look at the latter STAR TREK films – STAR TREK V: THE FINAL FRONTIER and STAR TREK VI: THE UNDISCOVERED COUNTRY. I also check out J.J. Abrams’ 2009 reboot of the series and tease my review of the sequel. Sorry, Next Gen fans. Right now, we’re focusing on the old school.

SCOTT’S FILM GEEK JOURNAL: ENTRY 40

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star_trek_v_ver1_xlgSTAR TREK V: THE FINAL FRONTIER (1989) – Nimbus III is known as “the planet of galactic peace,” because it contains human, Klingon and Romulan settlers. A strange mystic named Sybok has taken the three ambassadors from each race hostage on Nimbus III. Stranger still, this mystic is a Vulcan who claims to be able to alleviate people’s pain. Even stranger, this mystic turns out to be Spock’s estranged half-brother. Sybok takes the Enterprise captive and puts most of the crew in his thrall. He guides the ship through the Great Barrier, a strange anomaly at the center of the galaxy that no one has ever returned from. The idea is to meet up with God, who Sybok believes is on a planet in the heart of the Great Barrier.

If STAR TREK III contained wasted potential, that’s nothing compared to what is found in STAR TREK V. The easy route is to blame first-time director William Shatner for the film’s failings. A cursory look at the history of the film however proves that this is not the case. STAR TREK V was plagued by drastic budget cuts and numerous strikes by writers and other Hollywood workers. As a result, the script is not as fleshed out as it should be. The ending which was to be an epic excursion through Hell itself is instead Shatner ducking rocks and energy blasts. Even Shatner has admitted that the film was never able to be what he wanted it to be. His request to finish the film for the DVD release, much like Robert Wise did with STAR TREK: THE MOTION PICTURE, was denied.

However, I cannot bring myself to hate the film as many do. The spirit of this film is closer to the TOS episodes than any other film in the series. It manages to touches on a lot of interesting character points, even if it can’t explore them in depth. Far from perfect, but far from the so-called travesty fanboys thought it was.  ★★1/2 (out of ★★★★)

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star_trek_vi_ver2_xlgSTAR TREK VI: THE UNDISCOVERED COUNTRY (1991) – An explosion has occurred on the Klingon moon of Praxis, crippling the Empire and basically insuring its extinction within the next fifty years unless something drastic occurs. To this end, Ambassador Spock has been negotiating a peace treaty to eliminate the Neutral Zone and welcome the Klingons into the Federation. This does not sit well with many prejudiced sides, Klingon and human alike. Among these is Kirk, who still has a hatred of the Klingon Empire, particularly since the death of his son.

When the Enterprise begrudgingly hosts a diplomatic function between the two sides, there is clearly much work that needs to be done before relations will be friendly. But any peace is threatened when the Klingon ambassador is assassinated and the blame shifts to Kirk and McCoy. The crew of the Enterprise meanwhile tries to discover the true culprits and the instigators of this conspiracy.

STAR TREK II’s Nicholas Meyer returned to direct this final installment in the original series of films. And next to that great film, it’s the best in the series. Everything seems nearly perfect here. Lots of great character depth and a message consistent with the utopian vision of STAR TREK – having to overcome one’s own prejudices for the good for the future. It’s an entertaining film and a poignant finish for the crew of the Enterprise.  The characters are at their best and Christopher Plummer gives an excellent performance as the duplicitous General Chang.

If there are any sore spots, it’s that the film doesn’t go as far as it should in exploring the differences between humans and Klingons. The character of Valeris is also never explored adequately and seems to new in invest in completely (In fact, the idea was originally to have Cattrall play Saavik, which would have been a better choice.).  ★★★1/2 (out of ★★★★)

Film Title: "Star Trek" directed by JJ Abrams

star_trek_xi_ver19_xlgSTAR TREK (2009) – A Romulan named Nero (Eric Bana) appears, killing thousands of people, including the father of the just-born James T. Kirk. This effects the timeline of James T. Kirk, who nonetheless joins Starfleet years later as an undisciplined outsider. The Academy trainees are dispatched to Vulcan only to find Nero ready to decimate the planet. The following events will alter the destinies of everyone even further as we look at not just how the crew of the Enterprise met, but how they function in this alternate timeline.

Say this for J.J. Abrams, the guy’s got balls. Altering what many perceived as canon allowed him to play with characters and events as he saw fit, at least according to him. However, he also does not seem to have a grasp on the characters themselves, even apart from the altered timeline. Kirk’s cockiness and rebellious streak instead comes off as arrogant and obnoxious here. He appears to be a know-it-all, which shouldn’t be the case even if he is in fact in the right. The film is also saddled with a rather brain dead villain in Nero.

In order to make the concept work, Abrams constructs a series of coincidences that are simply too much to believe, even in a world with infinite possibilities. (SPOILER ALERT) We are expected to believe that Spock would not simply lock Kirk up, but jettison him from the ship, on a barren and dangerous planet. We are then expected to believe that he just happens to drop him right in front of where an older Spock has taken refuge. Then, we are expected to believe that both of them meet a young Montgomery Scott who just happens to be stationed nearby. Then, they beam back onto the ship where it takes Kirk all of thirty seconds to antagonize Spock into a blind rage. COME ON! (SPOILERS END) This combo makes for the most problematic adventure of Kirk and Company since the 1979 theatrical edition of STAR TREK: THE MOTION PICTURE.

What the film does right is offer a fun popcorn film and it allows us to get our grievances out of the way as it makes way for a film that might not be the STAR TREK we know and love, but is at least an entertaining space adventure. The actors are all likable in their parts, particularly Zachary Quinto and Karl Urban. It’s hard to watch the film and not feel a little bit of a thrill every time a ship goes to warp speed.  ★★1/2 (out of ★★★★)

star_trek_into_darkness_ver4_xlgSTAR TREK: INTO DARKNESS (2013) – After violating the Prime Directive, Kirk has the Enterprise taken away from him. Soon after, a mysterious figure named John Harrison (Benedict Cumberbatch) stages a terrorist attack on Starfleet. The ensuing events force Kirk, Spock and the rest of the group to reunite once again and seek out Harrison, who is hiding on the Klingon homeworld. What they aren’t aware of is that there may be a deeper conspiracy at work.

This film has already been reviewed by Austin. My full review of this film will be posted shortly.

Number of films covered in the Journal so far: 189

Miss any of the previous Journal entries? Check them out here!

And tune into my new web series, Moviocrity!



Categories: Scott W. Davis, Scott's Film Geek Journal

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