Star Trek: The Motion Pictures, Part 2
“Star Trek: Generations” (1994)
Well, I suppose it was inevitable. The torch needed to be passed. I’ve always preferred the original crew to the next generation, but I still enjoyed the Captain Picard era. “Star Trek: The Next Generation” may have been more representative of Gene Roddenberry’s vision than TOS. Kirk, Scotty, and Chekov appear in opening aboard the Enterprise-B and Kirk is supposedly killed by a mysterious energy ribbon traveling through space and time.
The main storyline has Picard grieving over the death of his nephew and Data struggling with his new emotion chip. Malcolm McDowell played the antagonist, in cahoots with rogue Klingons, and obsessed with returning to the energy ribbon, called The Nexus, where he can be immortal. Immortality makes for a strong MacGuffin.
You cannot enjoy this film if you try to workout the logistics of The Nexus. Time travel as a plot device worked better in “The Voyage Home” and “First Contact” because The Nexus was almost a fantasy world. A naturally occurring holodeck. A common flaw in the next generation films was that the storylines seemed better suited for television and were not sufficiently epic enough for cinematic adventures. Director David Carson is primarily known for his work on the small screen.
Cooking breakfast and horseback riding were odd scenarios for the long awaited meeting of Kirk and Picard, but I thought their dialogue was well written. Was Kirk’s death scene worthy of the character? Not really, but it was almost an impossible task. Spock walked into the ship’s reactor. Kirk needed a human death. Him being shot in the back didn’t resonate, so he was crushed by a bridge in reshoots. Actually, it may have been fitting that a hero like Kirk didn’t have a rewarding swansong. It might be more poignant that he came to woeful end.
“Star Trek: First Contact” (1996)
Okay, I take back everything I’ve ever said about the next generation being less exciting than the original crew because “Star Trek: First Contact” is pretty badass. Taking a cue from Leonard Nimoy, Jonathan Frakes directed his first of two Trek flicks in a row. This was the next generation’s “Wrath of Kahn.” Definitely, their best movie.
The Enterprise-E crew pursues The Borg backwards in time to insure that first contact is still made with the Vulcans. Six years after being partially assimilated, Captain Picard is now as obsessed with destroying The Borg as Khan was with Kirk, so the “Moby Dick” parallels have been reversed. The protagonist is now the Captain Ahab, which is ironic as Patrick Stewart would eventually portray Ahab in a TNT movie. The subplot is also very strong with James Cromwell joining the cast as the man who evented warp drive, Zefram Cochran. He is a selfish drunkard and not the noble visionary they expected him to be based on their history books, yet he is still treated with reverence.
The Borg take over the ship, almost infusing horror movie elements with traditional Star Trek. The Borg Queen was introduced, played by Alice Krige. Does the existence of a queen take away from The Borg’s mystique? Are they scarier without a leader? Hard to say, but since I thoroughly enjoyed Alice Krige’s performance, The Borg Queen is my favorite next generation villain. She does her best seduce Data by grafting human skin onto his face and arm, but Data resists her charms, saving Picard and the Enterprise.
Zefram Cochran’s warp flight goes off without a hitch and first contact is made with the Vulcans, which will one day lead to the formation of the United Federation of Planets. Perhaps “First Contact” was more action oriented than fans of the next generation would have preferred, but one cannot deny its appeal to mainstream audiences.
“Star Trek: Insurrection” (1998)
It took me some time just to muster up the strength to watch this film again, which was only fair that I do before posting this article. If you combine the tedium of “Star Trek: The Motion Picture” with the muddled screenplay of “The Final Frontier” you will get “Insurrection.” I’ve freely admitted that I find the next generation crew a tad dull when compared to the original crew, but even if I was a huge fan of the next generation, I still wouldn’t have enjoyed this outing. This movie actually makes me angry.
Many reviewers have already pointed out the hypocrisy of the screenplay, so I’ll try my best to not be repetitive. It was almost as if “First Contact” was luring me only so that “Insurrection” could slap me in the face and remind why I always thought that the next generation was boring. Jonathan Frakes was not at fault as the director, it was a terribly flawed screenplay. F. Murray Abraham, as the leader of the Son’a, might be the least memorable villain in Star Trek cinematic history. Data malfunctions, but the issue was resolved quickly with a musical number.
As far as the Ba’ku are concerned, they’re a bunch of selfish jerks who are bogarting the fountain of youth. What gives them the right? They are not native to the planet, so the prime directive does not apply!!! Therefor, I cannot support Captain Picard’s decision to defy his orders. I’m usually all for insubordination. That’s why I’m a Captain Kirk fan. He was always rebellious, but the Ba’ku aren’t worth the effort. Of course, that’s just my opinion. I could be wrong, but Kirk was usually consistent. Screenwriters made Picard so inconsistent and thusly a hypocrite (It is impossible to review this film and not use the word hypocrite).
The climax with the holoship rouse was passable, but I had lost interest by that point. Data did learn the value of playtime. Wait… wasn’t that the moral of “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III?” Seriously, the village scenes are similar. I rest my case.
“Star Trek: Nemesis” (2002)
I thought that the even numbered Star Trek films were suppose to be good? This one was only slightly better than “Insurrection.” Here, I think the problem was the direction, not so much the story. A Captain Picard clone antagonist should have worked as a premise whereas “Insurrection” was doomed to failure. I guess that director Stuart Baird is to blame after Jonathan Frakes helmed the two previous films. I’m a screenwriter, not a director, but something seemed lacking to me in the execution of the action sequences.
Kate Mulgrew cameos as Captain Janeway, which was pretty cool. Tom Hardy plays the antagonist, Shinzon, the aforementioned Romulan-made-clone of Captain Picard. I think it’s funny how Shinzon has a similar backstory to Bane, being raised in a prison. I’m convinced that there’s a good movie hidden somewhere in “Nemesis.” Tom Hardy was good in his roll and all of the scenes between he and Patrick Stewart were well done. Though I think Ron Pearlman was wasted. He has spent a lot of time wearing prosthetic makeup in his career, but his character in “Nemesis” was a far cry from Hellboy. The viceroy was a generic villainous henchman.
Not being a “Star Trek: The Next Generation” fanatic, I cannot gage whether or not the death of Data resonated with the Trekkies. Luckily, there just happens to be a spare Data on the Enterprise, B-4, so I’m pretty sure there is fan fiction floating around with Data being resurrected… or rebooted.
This film as all the elements of being a proper finale to the next generation. Peace is (sort of) made with the Romulan empire. Will Riker and Deanna Troi get hitched, Riker his promoted to captain of his own starship, and Data’s quest to become more human ends in self-sacrifice, but “Nemesis” just didn’t appeal to mainstream audiences. There never would have been big screen adventures produced for “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine” or “Star Trek: Voyager” and “Star Trek: Enterprise” was cancelled due poor ratings, so a reboot was inevitable.
Posted on March 13, 2014, in Star Trek and tagged Brent Spiner, Data, James T. Kirk, Jean-Luc Picard, Jonathan Frakes, Malcolm McDowell, Patrick Stewart, William Shatner, William T. Riker. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.