Tag: Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan

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

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)

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 II: The Wrath of Kahn (1982)

“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)


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