Category Archives: Star Trek

Star Trek: The Motion Pictures, Part 3

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“Star Trek” (2009)
I had some serious reservations when it came to new cast portraying the iconic crew of TOS, but the teaser trailers eventually had me excited. I assumed I’d take umbrage with Chris Pine as James T. Kirk 2.0, but I was actually more uncomfortable with Spock 2.0. Not that there was anything wrong with Zachary Quinto’s performance, but his romance with Zoe Saldana as Uhura baffled me. Spock had a relationship with one of his cadets at Starfleet Academy? Illogical.

As far as Kirk goes, he got pummeled in every physical altercation, which seemed out of character. I remembered William Shatner always being good in a fight even if his stunt double was noticeable in most wide shots on TOS. Eric Bana was a bit stale as Nero. Romulans just don’t have the same flair as other Star Trek antagonists. Leonard Nimoy appears as Spock for the first time since 1991, when he guest starred on “Star Trek: The Next Generation” and “Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country” was released.

William Shatner was not included in the film, which was probably for the best. Kirk cannot simply return from the grave for a shoehorned cameo. An entire film, “Star Trek III: The Search for Spock,” was dedicated to resurrecting everyone’s favorite Vulcan science officer. A William Shatner cameo could only have been justified with some lazy writing.

This film was well cast, even though seeing Winona Ryder playing a mother made me feel old. It was quite clever of the filmmakers to create an alternate timeline, so this is a reboot that doesn’t discount the history of these characters and also takes them in new creative directions. In my opinion, the “Star Trek” reboots play better than the “Star Wars” prequel trilogy, so the edge may now go to “Star Trek” when comparing and contrasting the two greatest sci-fi franchises. Let’s see if J.J. Abrams can tip the balance of power back in “Star Wars” favor with Episode VII.

“Star Trek Into Darkness” (2013)
Okay, some people were apparently shocked to learn that Benedict Cumberbatch was really playing Khan Noonien Singh, but I fell into the category of those who saw the big reveal coming even before the film was released. I think that Cumberbatch was quite good in the role, even though the character probably should not have been played by a Caucasian actor.

Benedict Cumberbatch was a casting choice which I had initially struggled with. In TOS episode “Space Seed,” Khan was presumed to been of Indian decent, albeit genetically enhanced, and was portrayed Ricardo Montalban, who was Mexican. The reboot crew all (in some way) resemble the original crew, but there’s very little physical resemblance between Montalban and Cumberbatch. I believe that Benicio Del Toro was originally considered to play the part. He was also the first actor attached to play Darth Maul in “Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace.” I’m starting to think that Del Toro will never be a villain in a big summer sci-fi flick. Ultimately, I’ve decided that Cumberbatch captured the true essence of Khan and choose to ignore the alleged “whitewashing” and just appreciate his talent as an actor. Also, Khan’s inclusion in this film confirms that he is greatest villain in the franchise. (I’d rank The Borg Queen second). But, I respect the opinion of anyone who still disagrees with the casting. No one has said that Benedict Cumberbatch wasn’t a terrific antagonist in the film, only that Khan should have been played by someone bearing more of a resemblance to Ricardo Montlaban like Benicio Del Toro.

I’m still not sold on the Spock / Uhura romance, but I’ve learned to cope. At least they introduced a love interest for Kirk. Apparently, having Alice Eve in her underwear set the women’s movement back decades, but I don’t see what the big deal is… and I’ve studied that scene closely. And, more importantly, Kirk didn’t get his ass kicked a bunch of times like he did in first J.J. Abrams flick.

I think that this film was wasting its time by trying to recreate the impactful climax of “Wrath of Khan.” The roles were now reversed, but it was still Kirk and Spock saying farewell to each through a piece of glass. It’s not so easy to recreate the chemistry that William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy had. Also, Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto haven’t been paired together long enough to warrant such drama. So, Captain Kirk has now had two death scenes and neither was worthy of the character.

The future?
The next “Star Trek” film will be released in 2016. Where does the franchise go from here without J.J. Abrams in the director’s chair? Who knows, but I know what I’d like to see…

Some serious cold war tension with The Klingons. Almost justifying Admiral Marcus’ paranoia in the previous film. Also, now would be a good time to reincorporate William Shatner, either in archival footage or a voice-over. More screen time for Karl Urban as Dr. McCoy. Perhaps even a love interest? The romance between Kirk and Dr. Marcus should end in heartache. And how about another Tribble cameo? Some call that “fan service,” but why shouldn’t a film serve its core fan base?

The story should pick up three years into their five year mission because that is how long TOS was on before cancellation. I’d also like to see Simon Pegg grow a mustache, so he could resemble James Doohan more as he ages.

Star Trek: The Motion Pictures, Part 2

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“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.

Star Trek Cinema: Best to Worst

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*My opinion only. I start with the best and work my way down.

“Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan” (1982)
Directed by Nicholas Myer, Starring The Original Crew
The archenemy of Admiral Kirk escapes from a barren planet, looking for vengeance after being exiled for fifteen years. The death of Spock is definitely one of the most iconic moment in science-fiction history. This film saved the franchise. Khan!!!

“Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home” (1986)
Directed by Leonard Nimoy, Starring The Original Crew
Admiral Kirk and the Enterprise crew travel back in time in a Klingon “Bird of Prey” to retrieve two humpback whales. Lighter in tone than it’s predecessors, this film appealed to both Trekkies and casual fans.

“Star Trek: First Contact” (1996)
Directed by Jonathan Frakes, Starring The Next Gen Crew
Captain Picard and the Enterprise crew time warp back to the 21st century, preventing the Borg from assimilating Earth. A cross between zombies and cyborgs, the Borg are just about the coolest antagonists in the universe. The film also proved there would be life after Kirk.

“Star Trek” (2009)
Directed by J.J. Abrams, Starring The Reboot Crew
Young and rebellious James T. Kirk takes command of the USS Enterprise to combat vengeful time-traveling Romulans. At first, it seemed like heresy that a new cast would play the original crew, but the filmmakers proved the skeptics wrong with an exciting summer blockbuster.

“Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country” (1991)
Directed by Nicholas Myer, Starring The Original Crew
On the eve of what was to be universal peace, Captain Kirk and Dr. McCoy are framed for assassinating a Klingon chancellor. The swansong for most of the original crew sans a guest appearance here and there. Their age was showing, but their legacy was intact.

“Star Trek III: The Search for Spock” (1984)
Directed by Leonard Nimoy, Starring The Original Crew
Admiral Kirk and the Enterprise crew must reunite Spock’s body and mind on planet Vulcan while evading the Klingons. The second of a trilogy, this film bridged the gap between two stronger films. The prevailing opinion is that the even numbered films are better than the odd numbered ones.

“Star Trek Into Darkness” (2013)
Directed by J.J. Abrams, Starring The Reboot Crew
Captain Kirk is sent on a mission to execute a terrorist, but is actually being duped by a superior officer. This alternate timeline allows for the return of Kahn Noonien Singh. A mostly successful remake of TOS episode “Space Seed” and “Wrath of Kahn.”

“Star Trek: Generations” (1994)
Directed by Rick Berman, Starring The Next Gen Crew (mostly)
A temporal nexus allows Captain Kirk and Captain Picard to unite and stop an obsessed doctor from destroying a star. The death of Captain Kirk was a letdown for audiences, but the film has many good qualities in retrospect.

“Star Trek: The Motion Picture” (1979)
Directed by Robert Wise, Starring The Original Crew
Admiral Kirk returns to command of the USS Enterprise to intercept an alien cloud on a collision course with Earth. Considered tedious by audiences, the first film in the series failed to capture the adventurous spirit of the TV show.

“Star Trek: Nemesis” (2002)
Directed by Stuart Baird, Starring The Next Gen Crew
The Enterprise crew must stop a Romulan clone of Captain Picard from attacking Earth in an indestructible starship. Even with the death of Data, the film doesn’t resonate. I’m not sure if it was the screenplay or the execution.

“Star Trek V: The Final Frontier” (1989)
Directed by William Shatner, Starring The Original Crew
The half brother of Spock and his band of zealots hijack the Enterprise while searching for the “God of Sha Ka Ree.” An interesting story, but the spiritual message of the film was more than a bit muddled. The special effects are quite lacking as well.

“Star Trek: Insurrection” (1998)
Directed by Jonathan Frakes, Starring The Next Gen Crew
Captain Picard and the Enterprise crew defy Starfleet so to protect a small planet that is a virtual fountain of youth. Such a hokey and hypocritical story with no exciting action sequences to speak of. Lame.