Tag: Spock

MOVIE REVIEW | ***TREK WEEK*** Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (1991)

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Apparently, not everyone appreciated the feather light touch of subtly and nuance brought to Star Trek V: The Final Frontier by director and co-story originator, William Shatner.   According to my crack research team at Wikipedia it was, “a critical and financial failure”.  So a lot of hope was put on the last outing for the original crew of the Enterprise in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country.  And while it managed to bounce back financially and critically compared to Frontier, I found it a real let down.

Frontier was a bit of a mess, but it was attempting something big.  So at least it was an interesting mess.  Undiscovered Country however, just looks like a tired franchise, out of ideas, trying to finish on an, if not remarkable, at least respectable note.  I felt like I’d heard all these notes before.  An uneasy truce between the Federation and Klingons that not everyone on either side fully aggress with…  Didn’t we see that in The Search for Spock?  An original member of the Enterprise working on another ship that plays an important part in the instigating the action…  Chekov in Kahn, Sulu in Undiscovered Country.  The aging Enterprise and its also aging crew being the only option to save the world through overly convoluted exposition…  That seems to be the starting point for every movie in this franchise.

This outing felt like the biggest slog to get through in the series.  Maybe it fell victim to me mainlining six Trek movies in three days, or maybe it’s just not very good.   The deus ex machina moon destruction that gets the story rolling…  The mystery surrounding the shots fired seemingly by the Enterprise…  The laboured portrayal of Kirk’s hatred for Klingon’s (based on the half assed relationship unsuccessfully established in Kahn and Spock)…  The message of tolerance gently shoved down the audience’s throat like a ball gag…  It all just felt too much of the same old, same old I’d seen over the course of the other movies.  And ultimately, watching Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country felt like work.  Hard work.

By bringing back Kahn director (and writer of a butt load of Trek in various forms) Nicolas Meyer, I’m sure everyone was hoping to recapture some of whatever it was that made Star Trek II the enduring highpoint with fans and critics.  But to me, it just didn’t work.  But there is one major upside to Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country.  According to my afore mentioned crack research team, the 71 year old Deforest Kelley who played “Bones” McCoy, “ was paid US$1 million for the role, assuring a comfortable retirement for the veteran actor.”  So, there’s that.

Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country
Directed By – Nicolas Meyer
Written By – Nicolas Meyer, Denny Martin Finn

MOVIE REVIEW | ***TREK WEEK*** Star Trek V: The Final Frontier (1989)

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Directed by William Shatner…  If those four words don’t lift your skirt, you should probably check that you have a pulse.  Shatner may have become a jokey self-parody in recent years, but you don’t get to do that without first establishing a strong, charismatic persona that people just can’t ignore.  But in 1989, Shatner was yet to shat-ner the bed completely with over saturation of, and over reliance on, his quirks.  So when I saw his name pop up on the opening titles of Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, I was all of a sudden a lot more interest in what this movie might throw my way.

Throughout all the films that preceded this point, Shatner’s enthusiasm and full commitment to even the most outlandish of bullshit has been one of my favourite aspects of this franchise.  Even better, not only did his name appear as the Director, he also gets a “story by” credit.  So the thought of what might happen when this nut job gets control of the story and the helm of the entire movie has me pretty excited.  Success or failure, I was sure it should be glorious.  And as far as his “story by credit” goes, Shatner delivers.

They’re looking for God, people.  Yep, God.  That is the kind of hubris that I want from Shatner.  Similar to every instalment so far, they begin Frontier as the old, almost put out to pasture crew of an antique ship.  Also similar to every other instalment, some contrivance occurs making them the only crew and antique ship up to the mission at hand.   You see, Spock’s half-brother, Sybock has built a ragtag group of apostles and taken some other people hostage so he can hijack the star ship sent to save them.  Once he has a star ship, he’ll use it to fly to the planet where he thinks creation began.  But none of that really matters.  What matters is Shatner, Nimoy and everyone else getting to ham their way through philosophical debates, physical set pieces and general absurdery.

The Final Frontier had a tough job.  Coming off the triple punch of Wrath of Kahn, The Search for Spock and The Voyage Home, it would be a tough ask for any movie to follow that saga.  And unfortunately, this isn’t up to the job.  Shatner definitely brings a sense of fun that I didn’t see in the movies leading up to this, but it just misses the mark in too many ways.  Also, the effects, never a strong suit in the Trek series, may be even more on the nose than usual.  When they finally meet “God”, it looks like the same effects for Oz, before he’s found out behind the curtain.  Impressive in 1939, not so much half a century later.

Five movies in, I really do wonder how necessary the regulars are.  Like all the others before (besides The Voyage Home), The Final Frontier cruises along nicely when concerned with the core trio, Kirk, Spock and McCoy.  Whenever we stop down to give Chekov, Uhura, Sulu or Scotty something to do, it feels like the movie jamming on the brakes.  But I think Star Trek V: The Final Frontier was really summed up perfectly by George “Sulu” Takei, who said the biggest challenge of the film, “was learning to ride horses”.  I think there’s something in that for all of us.  Don’t you?

Star Trek V: The Final Frontier
Directed By – William Shatner
Written By – David Loughery

MOVIE REVIEW | ***TREK WEEK*** Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986)

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Alright, now we’re talking.  A Trek movie that is just straight up good.  Maybe even great.  Further solidifying the rule of odd numbered movies being ordinary, even numbered being good. Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home is the first one I’ve really enjoyed and might actually watch again someday.  The main reason for this, it’s funny.  Out and out, intentionally funny.  Not campy / schlocky funny, or so bad-it’s-funny funny.  But filled with actual jokes that made me laugh the way they way were intended.

OK, first things first, plot.  Picking up directly after The Search for Spock ends, the usual suspects have taken refuge on the planet of Vulcan in their Klingon ship after the old transporter switcheroo they used to escape Christopher Lloyd in the last movie.  Their mission to save the reincarnated Spock has lead to them being court marshalled by their Starfleet bosses.  On their way back to cop it sweet, a weird life form appears in space doing…  something?  I need to admit that in movies like this, I have little interest and pay less attention to the details of this sort of thing.  There’s a bad thing that the good guys need to defeat, you don’t really need to know any more.  But how will they defeat it?  That’s where I start to pay attention.  This “thing” sounds like a whale, so Kirk and is posse figure out they need a hump back whale to communicate with the strange entity so it’ll stop destroying planets…  Or something?  The problem, whales are extinct in the 23rd century, so they need to travel back in time to where whales were (a little more) plentiful and bring one back. So, via a quick lap around the sun, they travel back to 1986.  Coincidentally, the same year that this film was actually made.

Now, I’ll admit, I’m a sucker for movies where someone from the future is confused by our strange, present day, “primitive” customs, so I was predisposed to liking this.  Kirk and Spock learning how to speak late twentieth century style, Scotty trying to talk to an 80s computer, Kirk tuning the mum from 7th Heaven, all absolute comedy gold.  But not none of them compare to Chekov asking people in the street, including a cop, where to find the “nuclear wessels”.  A Ruskie asking for nukes three years before the Berlin Wall came down might not be the most subtle of jokes, but I’ll be buggered if it’s not hilarious.

The Voyage Home also gives Spock his most interesting story of the series so far and some great moments between him, Kirk and McCoy.  Still re-learning how to embrace his human side, the moments of Vulcan logic, highlighted even more by the 1986 surroundings are always entertaining.  This development of Spock is also part of what impressed me most, the continuation and conclusion of one continuous story kicked off with The Wrath of Kahn.  Whether they were planned as a trilogy or fitted it retroactively, the three movies just work well as a whole.

All that, plus a conservation message that’s about as subtle as Leonard Nimoy’s junk when swimming with whales in his white Vulcan undies.  That is to say, top notch all round.

Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home
Directed By – Leonard Nimoy
Written By – Steve Meerson, Peter Krikes, Harve Bennett, Nicolas Meyer

MOVIE REVIEW | ***TREK WEEK*** Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (1984)

Search for Spock
Even for someone with little to no knowledge or history with the series until very recently, I still know the old rule of thumb that even numbered Star Trek movies are good, odds are not so much.  After watching the first two instalments, the rule held up.  As goofy and cheesy as it looks today, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kahn is an enormous improvement on Star Trek the Motion Picture.  Unfortunately, Star Trek III: The Search for Spock also supports the odds versus evens rule.

But I don’t want to dwell on dodginess (not just yet anyway), because there are some genuinely good parts that almost make this work.  For one, this is a genuine sequel, a real continuation of what came before.  It’s not just a quickly slapped together follow up to cash in on Kahn’s success.  It’s a legit and direct continuation of the story, setup when Kahn activated the Genesis Device and Spock sacrificed his life to save his comrades.

The other main reason to watch this movie?  The bad guy is played by Christopher Lloyd!  Ever since the makers of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest found him cowering in the corner of what they thought to be an abandoned mental institution and decided to use him in their movie, no one as committed to crazy more than Lloyd.  Here, he plays rogue Klingon, Kruge, seeking out the Genesis Device that has grown an entirely new planet since being activated by Kahn.  The planet is also the home of Kirk and crew’s main motivation, the reincarnated, quickly aging Spock.

Spock 2.0 feels like a bone thrown to Trek movie watchers unfamiliar with Trek the original series.  It’s understandable that the whole “Spock only comprehends logic, cannot understand irrational humans and their silly emotions” schtick would have been played out over the course of 79 episodes if the character was going to have any development, so the reboot is a good way to give the relatively uninitiated a glimpse at the that Spock, and some awesome lessons in Vulcan biology, puberty and sex rage.  Yeah, I said sex rage.

An upside to the relative absence of Spock is the room it makes for the Kirk / McCoy relationship to breathe a little, instead of “Bones” being the perpetual third wheel to the ongoing Kirk / Spock rom-com.  The lack of Spock also highlights the lack of any real depth to the rest of the regular Enterprise crew.  The decades of parody, sketches and bad impressions have told me as much about Checkov, Sulu, Uhura or Scotty as the actual Star Trek movies have at this point.

The continuation from Kahn also leads to one of the weakest aspects of The Search for Spock, the character of David, Kirk’s son.  I’m still unsure if the mention of David as Kirk’s son in Kahn was supposed to be a late movie revelation, or if it was common knowledge and only seemed like a revelation to me because I paid so little attention to what preceded it.  Either way, the story seems to put a lot of faith in the viewers’ investment in that relationship that I just didn’t feel like it earned.  Which makes the second act climax fall almost completely flat.

All that said, there is enough good to outweigh the bad and make this worth a look.  Especially the direct connection to, and continuation of, Wrath of Kahn.  It also leaves me the most excited for what’s to come next.  Well, “excited” is a strong word.  It makes me think what comes next night not be absolute shit.

Star Trek III: The Search for Spock
Direct By – Leonard Nimoy
Written By – Harve Bennett

MOVIE REVIEW | ***TREK WEEK*** Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kahn (1982)

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“It was a hell of a thing when Spock died”.  Spoiler?  I don’t think so, that’s a quote from an episode of Seinfeld and it’s stuck with me ever since I saw the episode in the 90s.  Over almost a decade and 180 episodes, it’s possibly the only time when any of the core foursome on that show about nothing ever showed any real compassion.   The death of Spock and Capt. Kirk’s iconic “Kaaaaaahhhhhn!” bellow have become pop culture common knowledge and amount to everything I knew before watching Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kahn.

The sequel is a huge leap forward from its predecessor in story and production values.  It’s not quite as easy to guess the religion of the male crew members as the spandex body suits have been replaced by uniforms that look almost credibly militaristic.  And this time around, the writers decided to have an antagonist with an actual history, and, even more surprisingly, personality and motivation.  You see, Kahn is a character from an episode of the original series, a roided up super solider left on a desolate planet by Kirk and the crew of the Enterprise fifteen years earlier.  This history adds an unexpected level of depth than what I thought any Star Trek movie would ever offer.  A hero like Kirk is usually built on action and immediate payoff.  To see the consequences of his actions decades later is a really interesting way to make him a little more complex than I assumed.

Kahn is also more successful in giving the supporting characters a little more to do.  The core trio of Kirk, Spock and McCoy are obviously the focus, but as someone with no previous history with the TV series, it was good to see Chekov get to play a pretty major role moving the plot forward.  Even a small moment, like Scotty tell Kirk that Spock is, “dead already” is a nice piece of genuine emotion from a character usually delegated to pure comic relief.

Star Trek: The Motion Picture seems to be a conservative toe in the water, to see if the diehard fans of the original series would lead to cinematic success.  After it did just that, Kahn shows a definite increase in confidence.  Kahn’s final action, activating the Genesis Device he’s been pursuing all movie is the direct instigation of Star Trek 3: The Search for Spock.  The Wrath of Kahn also introduces Kirk’s adult son, David.  These all combine to make it very obvious that a third film was promisingly inevitable.

Overall, I can see why Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kahn has taken its place as the quintessential and essential entry in the Trek series.  Ricardo Montalban as Kahn is the perfect hammy foil to Shatner’s James T Kirk and the sacrifice of Spock to save the day packs a legitimate punch.  I guess it all comes full circle, it really was a hell of thing when Spock died.

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kahn
Directed By – Nicholas Meyer
Written By – Jack B Sowards, Nicholas Meyer

MOVIE REVIEW | ***TREK WEEK*** Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979)

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When JJ Abrams’ Star Trek: Into Darkness came out, the reviews were generally pretty great.  I didn’t see the new JJ Abrams joint at the time, or his previous stab at the series that has since turned out to be a hugely successful reboot.  I’ve never seen a second of any of the TV iterations of Trek.  In fact, until now, my entire experience with Gene Rodenberry’s creation consisted of seeing bits and pieces of “the Shatner one with whales” and “the Patrick Stewart one where they go back in time”.  But all the positive buzz for Into Darkness made me actually want to watch a Star Trek movie for the first time, ever.  It also made me feel some sort of responsibility to earn watching Into Darkness by doing a little groundwork with the franchise.  Starting with Star Trek: The Motion Picture.

Having no allegiance to the show that came before, is it wrong to categorise this thing as terrible right out of the gate?  For people who did like the original series, was this a bump up in special effects and production values?  At first, I thought I just needed to stop watching it with 2013 eyes.  Maybe the wonky plastic models, overly conspicuous green screen and all but visible fishing line was cutting edge in 1979.  Then I realised, Star Wars came out in 1977.  Sure, Lucas’ film has the odd rough edge and dodgy effect, but it’s smoother than Capt. Picard’s head compared to Trek: The Motion Picture.  Not only did Star Wars do that two years earlier, it did it with a budget of $4million less than Trek.

Enough has been said about (and enough clichéd impressions have been based on) Shatner’s over acting, but I actually found it one of the most enjoyable parts of the movie.  I can let a lot slide in terms of bad dialogue, cheap sets and clichéd stories if the actors look like they’re really enjoying it.  Shatner goes so hard, I assume he’s still picking the scenery out of his teeth almost 35 years later.  And the chemistry between his Capt. Kirk, Leonard Nimoy’s Mr Spock and DeForest Kelley’s Dr “Bones” McCoy is undeniable.  It’s not often you get a love triangle between three straight men, but now I know why these three characters are so iconic.

As for the story, well, they go after some mystical cloud, all the regular’s get to spout their catch phrase at some stage or another, a bald chick talks like a robot who can’t act and the dad from 7th Heaven dies at the end to save the galaxy.  I would give a spoiler alert for that, but if you don’t predict his death the first time he appears on screen, you’ve never seen a movie before.  But you know what, none of that is necessarily a bad thing.  I didn’t expect a great story or great acting, or great film making, or great special effects or anything greatly thought provoking.  I just expected dumb, kitsch fun and this move kind of delivered.  Kind of fun, kind of terrible, kind of delivered…  “Kind of” kind of sums it up, really.

The possible problem moving forward is that the next title in the series, The Wrath of Kahn, comes with a pretty solid reputation, so my expectations are already a little higher.  It was hard for Star Trek: The Motion Picture to disappoint when I expected zero going in.

Star Trek: The Motion Picture
Directed By – Robert Wise
Written By – Harold Livingstone