Star Trek V – The Final Frontier (1989) **
A renegade Vulcan hijacks the Enterprise in his search for God.
Firstly, let me get the negatives out of the way.
There are indeed some genuine humourous moments throughout this film, but unfortunately there is a lot of unnecessary and overdone humour as well. Star Trek
has always had a sense of humour, but it has usually been with a light touch as well as done contextually. Here it’s just laid on way too heavily. You quickly get the sense you’re not seeing our familiar heroes, but rather a collection of characters that just happen to look like them.
Sadly this film also looks cheap. By 1980’s standards it looked less than impressive. Now it looks shoddy in far too many places. The model work is really disappointing and in some spots rather amateurish. The f/x work looks mostly third-rate. The interior sets are also disappointing. So much of it looks budget conscience. I found the hangar deck miniatures and the full-size set really sad. The Enterprise
bridge was also really disappointing. I much preferred the refit bridge seen in TMP and TWOK. The lighting is also terrible---it’s way too bright. The computer graphics on the bridge also looked cheap. The shuttlecraft interior looks very bare bones as if it’s unfinished, or more like a cargo transport.
I don’t really mind the mountain climbing and campfire scenes, but the gravity boots idea was silly and the “Row, row, row your boat” bit was cringe inducing. Of course that also includes the entire turbolift climbing sequence. Yeah, these men are friends, but it’s laid on too thick. Scotty banging his head on a bulkhead was just plain stupid just to get a cheap laugh.
Of course that leads to yet another point of contention: the whole idea of treating the new Enterprise
as a lemon. First they made the ship a cadet vessel and now it’s a lemon. It pissed me off just to wring out a few more cheap giggles.
And Klingons again. The Klingons serve no good purpose in this story. If General Koord had been written properly he would have been the only Klingon needed for the story…if a Klingon absolutely had to be included.
Surprisingly there are some positives to this film that salvage it from being outright bad. Firstly, it has a fine soundtrack. From the opening credits onward it sounds like a Star Trek
film. The music alone helps the film immeasurably. There is also a respectable story buried under too much sloppy execution. It’s very much like “Spock’s Brain” where there’s a good story waiting to be told if only there’d been a deft rewrite.
As flawed as this film is I can’t fault Shatner’s energy. There is indeed some welcome energy and run-and-jump in this, which also helps to keep things moving along decently. There are also two key scenes that really help to elevate the film. The first is where Sybok reveals the hidden pains of both McCoy and Spock. It’s capped off by Kirk shutting the whole thing down with, “I need my pain!” speech. The second scene is where Kirk challenges the entity with, "What does God need with a starship?" The third scene is where Kirk, Spock and McCoy share “brotherly” thoughts near the end. That scene alone makes the Yosemite Park scenes redundant and extraneous.
In the end this is a noble failure. It has its heart in the right place and it feels like a genuine Star Trek
story. But it needed a bit more smarts in writing and a good dose in polish.
TFF could have been dynamite. Sybok was really a variation of Dr. Severin and his followers from TOS' "The Way To Eden." And the TOS crew had already butted heads with a wannabe god, Apollo, in "Who Mourns For Adonais?" as well as the beings in "Return To Tomorrow."
At its heart TFF was daring to say that rather than God creating us in his own image it's we who create or envision God each in our own image. Thats a pretty strong statement for a "sci-fi" movie to make. It's partly why I see TFF (from what I remember) as a noble failure. It has the core of a freakin' good story to tell. Unfortunately something got lost in the translation. They either didn't realize what a good story this could really be or they simply couldn't figure out how to properly tell the story.
TMP was essentially asking, "What am I? Is this all there is? Why do I feel incomplete?" Spock realizes this and actually says it aloud right there after he returns from his space walk. I could argue that TMP does a better job of telling its story better than TFF, but both films have a noble idea at heart. TFF has the passion and energy that TMP needed more of, but TFF doesn't convey its ideas as clearly as TMP. Basically, Robert Wise could have used a bit more of William Shatner's vitality while Shatner could have used more of Wise's smarts and experience in telling a story.