Tag: StarTrek

MOVIE REVIEW | ***TREK WEEK*** Star Trek: Into Darkness (2013)

into darkenss
I know old school Trek fans may think this is blasphemy, but JJ Abram’s 2009 reboot of the series was the only one that made me genuinely psyched to see what comes next.  Sure, Wrath of Kahn got me a little curious about what would happen after Spock’s death, but ‘a little curious’ was about the extent of it.  But when I pressed play on Star Trek: Into Darkness, I was actually excited to see where these incarnations of the Starship Enterprise crew would take the story.

In a great opening that does the job of any opening in a sequel, we get a fun set piece that reminds us who’s who and what they’re all about.  Chris Pine’s Capt. Kirk is the impulsive loose cannon who never thinks things through.  Zachary Quinto’s Spock is the epitome of Vulcan logic who can’t understand the wacky humans and their even wackier emotions.  Simon Pegg’s Scotty is the comic relief, Zoe Saldana is as hot and as no bullshit as ever as Uhura, and Karl Urban is Bones.  With John Cho and Anton Yelchin as Sulu and Chekoc respectively falling victim to character overlard and not getting very much to do.  The additions this time around include Alice Eve, the too-hot-to-be-a-scientist scientist and potential Kirk love interest.  The ludicrously Britishly named Benedict Cumberbatch as bad guy (but is he bad?), Kahn.  And Peter Weller as Starfleet Commander Marcus, an ally (but is he an ally?).

Early on in Star Trek: Into Darkness, there’s a terrorist attack on Starfleet perpetrated by Kahn.  Kirk and his crew are sent after him with the orders to kill on site.  When they catch up with him, Kirk decides to take Kahn alive so he can be tried for his crimes.  This is where we get Kahn’s back story and learn his motivations are fuelled by being abandoned by Starfleet  This is one area where the remake doesn’t quite have the impact if the original.  In Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kahn, Kirk and his crew had history with Kahn and were personally responsible for what he became.  This time around, the links are a little more manufactured and a little less effective.

Kahn’s capture unveils a greater threat from within Starfleet, leading to Kirk reluctantly teaming up with Kahn to defeat a greater evil.  It all gets a little convoluted and overblown at this stage, but none of that matters, because Abrams knows when to push the story aside for a cool action set piece.  The final sequence being especially great.  Even if the ‘super blood’ and its plot device purpose were telegraphed a mile away.

There are only two things that kind of bugged me about Star Trek: Into Darkness.  The original series built a really strong dynamic between Kirk, Spock and Bones, but I don’t think the reboot has really figured out how to use Bones yet.  It’s almost like once the writers figure out how to shoehorn in a use of, “Damn it, I’m a doctor, not a (insert punch line here)”, they think they’ve done all they need to with the character.  The other problem I had was Alice Eve as a scientist.  I’m not saying good looking people are never smart, but Alice Eve is a kind of pretty that’s too perfect.  She almost looks more like a doll than a real person.

To me, as a casual viewer at best, I’d have to say the Trek franchise seems stronger than ever.  And for the first time, I’m excited enough about what comes next that I’ll probably even pay a few bucks opt see it in a cinema.

Star Trek: Into Darkness
Directed By – JJ Abrams
Written By – Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman, Damon Lindelof

MOVIE REVIEW | ***TREK WEEK*** Star Trek (2009)

227 - Star Trek
I’ll say this much for the JJ Abrams’ reboot of the Trek series, it does not mess around.  Opening in the middle of a space battle and child birth happening simultaneously, Star Trek gets stuck right in from the get go and never really lets up until the end credits roll.

The space battle involves the father of Capt. James T. Kirk, sacrificing himself and his ship in a battle against Nero, an evil Romulan played by Eric Banner.  The childbirth is that of Capt. James T. Krik, who’ll grow up to be Chris Pine, a loose cannon who plays by his own rules.  When he joins Starfleet at the urging of his father’s friend Pike (Bruce Greenwood) he meets and immediately befriends Dr ‘Bones’ McCoy.  He also meets and immediately clashes with Zachary Quinto’s Spock, so of course they’ll never become best friends.

Soon, they’re all aboard the brand spanking new Starship Enterprise with Pike in the captain’s chair and Kirk a stowaway.  They answer a distress call form Spock’s home planet of Vulkan and get there to discover it’s Nero, the same Romulan who dispatched Kirk’s old man in the opening scene.  A lot of exposition goes down to explain who Nero is, there’s a little bit if time travel and Leonard Nimoy pops up as old Spock.  It’s the perfect level of convolutedness to make time travel and its effects seem somehow plausible, while never being hard to keep track of what’s going on.

The actors playing the core crew give their performance just enough homage to the originals without ever resorting to hammy impressions.  Pine has the cockiness of Shatner covered, and even throws in one or two stilted line readings.   Quinto handles the measured contemplation of Spock in true Nimoy style and Pegg as Scotty unashamedly jumps head first into the job of comic relief.  Zoe Saldana gets a lot more to do as Uhura than Nichelle Nichols ever did and John Cho’s Sulu is more of an ass kicker than the old movies ever allowed George Takai to be.  The odd man out is Karl Urban as Bones McCoy.  I’m not sure if I loved his scenery chewing take on Deforest Kelly the most, or if he would be more at home on a Saturday Night Live sketch parodying this movie.  Either way, his performance is interesting and stayed with me.

Of course, all the flash of modern technology and CGI means Star Trek loses a little of the charm of the original films, but there are signs of Abrams doing his best to keep a little of that hokey simplicity in tact.  In an era when he could easily fill this world with amazing CGI aliens, Abrams chooses to stick mainly with human actors in makeup and masks. And almost every recognisable sound effect from the old school series is still evident in the reboot.

This movie should be used as example of how to reboot a franchise, how to bring fresh eyes to old characters and how to make people rethink preconceptions about an old property.  I’m no Trek fanatic, so maybe there were plenty of things for hard core fans to hate, but I think Abrams’ nod to the old incarnations were great, and everything new he added was necessary for a 21st century audience.  Chris Pine also shows that if anything terrible ever happens to Channing Tatum, it’s not that bad, because we a have a spare.

Star Trek
Directed By – JJ Abrams
Written By – Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman

MOVIE REVIEW | ***TREK WEEK*** Star Trek: Nemesis (2002)

So it all comes down to this.  After 6 movies with the cast of the original series, 4 with the Next Generation cast and the big JJ Abram’s reboot 7 years away, this version of the series limps to a pretty lame ending.  While there’s a nice send off for Picard, the death of a major character and some real attempts at closure, Star Trek: Nemesis is just too much of what’s come before, trotted out one last time, delivering diminishing returns.

The movie opens with a wedding between Riker (Jonthan Frakes) and one of the female characters who all look, act and sound the same.  Of course, with such a happy beginning, you know things will quickly go south.  When they do, it’s due to a conflict with the Romulans.  Over the course of these movies, ‘Romulans’ is a word I’ve heard a bit, but I think this might the first time they’re kind of central to the story.  Long standing enemies, they want to make a truce with the Federation, but when the Enterprise gets there, there’s a double cross and we meet Shonzon, a clone of Patrick Stewart’s Capt. Picard, played by a very young Tom Hardy in one of his first major roles.  Even young and fresh faced, Hardy makes a menacing and effective bad guy.

He’s hooked up with another group of baddies called the Remans.  Picard and his mates find a robot, identical to their own resident android, Data (Brent Spiner).  Again, his robotness and desire to become more human results in more of the same crap we’ve seen from Data before, and it doesn’t get any more entertaining the more times we see it.

For me, a sign of a boring movie is how quick I resort to reading its Trivia section on IMDB.  For Star Trek: Nemesis, I reckon that took all of about 10 minutes.  It also proved more interesting than the movie itself.  This entry in particular explains a lot about the finished product…

“The film’s cast… have levelled fierce criticism at director Stuart Baird over his direction of the film, claiming the director hated the Star Trek universe and knew nothing about it.  Baird…  Expresses his frustration in the DVD commentary at having to tell a story in an established universe with pre-existing design and character relationships, hated having to utilize recycled sets and props and has trouble remembering the names of the main cast.”

When you’re dealing with a beloved, cult franchise who’s fans are possibly the most dedicated and obsessive of any fan sub culture out there, maybe get a director who knows the characters and at least a little about the world he’s working with

The second piece of Star Trek: Nemesis trivia that I found way more interesting than the movie ?…

“Jonathan Frakes refused to shave his back for the love scene, turned rape with Troi. The hair on his back was digitally removed by an effects house.”

Yep, that’s the kind of movie you’re dealing with if you decide to watch Star Trek: Nemesis.

Star Trek: Nemesis
Directed By – Stuart Baird
Written By – John Logan

MOVIE REVIEW | ***TREK WEEK*** Star Trek: Insurrection (1998)

So, it turns out Starfleet has a goal.  As someone one who’s only seen the movies, and not a single second of the original series, it came as some surprise to know that the various crews of the various Starships Enterprise are explorers, and that they are supposed to observe less advanced civilizations, but not interfere with their development and evolution.  So it only took me nine movies to learn something pretty integral to the entire series.  For that I say, thank you, Star Trek: Insurrection.  For everything else this movie does, I say, why bother?

Star Trek: Insurrection isn’t a terrible movie, it just has nothing new to say that we haven’t already seen or heard several times over in the series by this point.  I don’t mind the new crew, but I also don’t know them.  Three films into their tenure and I can only name Capt. Picard, First Officer Riker, the blind dude LaForge, Klingon Worf and the robot, Data.   There are a lot of other characters, mainly women, who keep popping up, but never leave any sort of lasting impression.  After promising results in First Contact, it seems this series can’t quite figure out how to use its entire ensemble.  Which is a shame, because if they did, they might not fall back on the same old chestnut of the inciting incident being Data malfunctioning.  Seriously, at this stage, I wonder why he still exists.  That robot goes on the fritz and causes chaos way too often to not be a write off by this stage.

So, there’s a Starfleet outpost, covertly observing an idealic, old fashioned human colony.  Covertly, that is, until Data runs amuck and blows their cover.  But it’s OK, because it turns out these people aren’t so primitive after all, they have discovered and developed awesome technology years ago, they’ve also just decided not to use it.  It’s also OK, because now that they’re there, the crew of the Enterprise discover a plot to kidnap this race and move them elsewhere.  This plot is being perpetrated by a race of saggy faced weirdos who want youth. Or some old bollocks.   Really, at this stage, I have less and less interest in who the bad guys are and what they want.  It’s all the same.

Watching Star Trek: Insurrection did make me realise one thing about this series.  As I watched machinery within the Enterprise explode and nameless crew members fly through the air, I thought it would be awesome if the closing credits of each Trek movie started with a body count of how many crew members bit the dust in each movie.  For every blown gasket, exploding pipe and piece of space shrapnel that flies through the air in every altercation the ships have, there must be a dozen dead dudes who’s bodies get crammed into overhead compartments until the Enterprise gets back to space port.  Something to think about.

Star Trek: Insurrection
Directed By – Jonathan Frakes
Written By – Michael Piller 

MOVE REVIEW | ***TREK WEEK*** Star Trek: First Contact (1996)

When I wrote about Star Trek: Generations, I compared its conservative, low budget look, feel and ambition to Star Trek: The Motion Picture.  Well it turns out the follow up to the follow up to Generations also runs in a pretty tight parallel to the originals follow up.  Because Star Trek: First Contact has more than few things in common with what a lot of people consider the series’ pinnacle, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kahn.

Firstly, they both follow a debut that must have performed a little better at the box office than anyone expected, because both are bigger, better and shinier in every way than their predecessor.  Secondly, they both build their story around bad guys already established in the TV series that preceded the film, and I have to assume both bad guys are fan favourites.  In the case of First Contact, it’s The Borg, a race of scary space zombies who can “assimilate” anyone through touch (like a zombie bite).  Once assimilated, the victim becomes a part of The Borg’s collective consciousness.  I think.  I’ve never seen the show, this is just what I got from the movie.  And even if I’m wrong, it doesn’t really matter, because I found them really entertaining and threatening as far as enemies go.

There’s a space battle between The Borg and a heap of Federation ships, somehow The Borg and the Enterprise travel back in time to Earth, April 4, 2063.  I don’t know how they travelled back in time, but that’s not the movie’s fault, it’s mine. I just don’t care about those sorts of details when I watch a movie like this and my brain switches off when they start to explain.  It turns out the date they arrive at is very important, it’s the day before a man named Zefram Cochrane (James Cromwell) will be the first man to fly faster than the speed of light.  This will alert the Vulcans to the fact that there’s this kind of intelligent life on Earth, the Vulcans will make first contact (see what they did there?) and begin mankind’s ascent into the futuristic utopia of the Trek universe.

This is where Frist Contact gets really good, as the crew splits off into a few different groups and missions.  Picard (Patrick Stewart) and Worf (Michael Dom) stay on board the enterprise, which is being slowly taken over by The Borg who travelled back in time.  It turns out they’re using the ship to build a beacon that will alert the 2063 Borg of their presence so they can easily conquer this primitive version of Earth.  Data (Brent Spiner) is also on board the enterprise and is soon taken by the Borg Queen.  This is one part of First Contact that really fell flat for me.  Do we really need another scifi story about an advanced robot who wants to be human?

On earth, Riker (Jonathan Franks) and Geordi (LaVar Burton) are trying to help the 2063 humans recover from an attack by The Borg, and ensure Cochrane’s flight goes as planned the next day.  A lot of this story is comic relief, with Cochrane alternating between being blown away by their future knowledge, to freaking out over the pressure of knowing so much depends in his upcoming flight.

I put Star Trek: First Contact right up there with the best if this franchise.  The Borg make a terrifying antagonist, the time travel story is entertaining and never gets bogged down in annoying questions about its logic and, best of all, the story finds a way to use almost every member of its large, ensemble cast.   It can’t be easy to find interesting stories and arcs for so many characters in one movie, but they somehow manage it.

Star Trek: First Contact
Directed By – Jonathan Frakes
Written By – Ronald D Moore, Brannon Braga

MOVIE REVIEW | ***TREK WEEK*** Star Trek: Generations (1994)

So, the original crew of the Starship Enterprise finally flew their last mission and made two really good movies (parts 2 and 4), one that was kind of OK (part 6) and three absolute clunkers (parts 1, 3 and 5).  But before they can all really say goodbye, a few of the old faces are back to hand the franchise over to the cast of the follow up TV series with the first in the follow up film franchise, Star Trek: Generations.

Almost immediately, this reminded me of the original Star Trek: The Motion Picture.  The dinky sets and cheap special effects give the same testing-the-waters kind of look of the 1979 outing.  Almost like the studio didn’t want to fully commit to a full on, balls out feature film built around these characters without just dipping their toes in first.

Generations starts the same way I feel most of the preceding movies do, Capt. Kirk and his crew are the old, past their prime dinosaurs, on some new version of the Enterprise that is now crewed by younger, book smart officers who have none of the life experience or street smarts of the oldies.  This time, the oldies are represented by Kirk, Checkov and Scotty.  The head of the youngens, and new captain of the Enterprise is Cameron from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.

A weird space ribbon shows up, the new crew freaks out, the old crew takes command and Capt. James Tiberius Kirk dies, saving them all.  Cut to 70 years later and the crew of the Next Generation is having a pirate party on the holodeck (even goofier than it sounds).  I was surprised how familiar I was with this crew, it turns out they made a bit more of a pop culture impact than I’ve been giving them credit for.  Patrick Stewart is Capt. Jean Luc Pickard, Jonathan Frakes is his second in command Riker / Number 1, Brent Spiner is the golden makeup covered robot Data, LeVar Burton is Geordi La Forge (the dude with the space glasses) and Michal Dorn is Worf, the Klingon.  There are some chicks too, but the movie never bothers to flesh them out as real characters, so I won’t bother either.

So it’s 70 years in the future and the space ribbon shows up again.  So does a Klingon warship that is helping Malcom McDowell’s bad guy, Soran.  You see, going inside the space ribbon leads you to some imaginary nirvana.  Nothing is real, but all your fantasies and dreams come true.  Soran used to hang out there, now he doesn’t and really and wants to get back.  So much so, it turns out he was the reason Kirk and his crew got mixed up in this mess all those years earlier.  So he does some convoluted crap, delivers some awkward exposition and ends up in the fantasy nirvana world closely followed by Picard.  And you’ll never guess who else has been hanging out there since copping a space ribbon spanking 70 years go?…  It’s only bloody Bill Shatner himself, Capt .Kirk!  So now Picard and Kirk get to team up against Soran and there is much nerd rejoicing.

Star Trek: Generations is nowhere near the bad end of the Trek quality meter, but it’s not that close to the good one either.  It just feels to reeled in, too cautious, too unambitious.  It’s promising though to have a whole new set of characters that I already kind of like.  It’s also promising that the next instalment, Star Trek: First Contact, is the only other movie in the franchise I’d seen bits of (along with a The Voyage Home) before embarking on this current Trek binge.  And from what I remember, I really enjoyed the next outing of the Next Generation crew.

Star Trek: Generations
Directed By – David Carson
Written By – Ronald D Moore, Brannon Braga

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 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)

“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