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Star Trek Movies I-X Discuss the first ten big screen outings in this forum!

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Old June 3 2012, 03:22 PM   #31
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Re: Revisiting the films...

Back in '79 I enjoyed TMP overall even though I (like others) had reservations. However, I wasn't of the mindset that it was a failure. I saw it as a near miss. I thought it was good and wouldn't have required much to be better. But there were others who just wrote it off as a huge disappointment.

This certainly wasn't the only time I'd see this over the years. It seems to be conventional wisdom that Spider-Man 3 and Iron Man 2 are crap. They're actually not bad at all, but they're not as good as their predecessors. But the sentiment seems to be if it's not awesome then it's plain crap, it's a fail.

I see only a few missteps in TMP, and here I'm talking about the film in general and not specific versions. The DE fixes some of the missteps of the previous versions simply because those were easy to fix, things that would have been fixed in post production given sufficient time.

In terms of story there are are two basic missteps: there needed to be more character drama and the ending wasn't big enough. The ending of TMP is similar to the ending of TNG's "The Best Of Both Worlds." Both are logical resolutions in context with the events leading up to them, but each are wanting dramatically.

In TMP's case I think the dramatic missteps could have been fixed with some deft rewriting. The story as is works well enough if we're talking about a novel, a work in prose, but it doesn't fly as well onscreen. It needs more dramatic juice. TMP as is works better if you can pay attention to a lot of other things going on in the film, but if you just sit there passively waiting to be stimulated then it might not make an impression on you.

Visually there is another miscue. I don't mind the TMP uniforms in general, but that said I think they could have done better. I've seen the uniforms up close on display at an exhibit, and in person they're really nice. Unfortunately it didn't translate as well onscreen. Something a little crisper and with a bit more pop would have been better. I think it also would have helped counter the complaint that the film seemed rather monotone. I think they could have found a way to inject a bit more colour into the designs as a nod to TOS without going too bright and the designs could have been crisper.

Just an idea I photoshopped some years ago.


For myself I would have paralleled TOS a little more in concept. Command could have been something of a taupe-ish gold or even a soft greyish brown. Sciences could have been a soft blue. Medical a soft green (as pictured above). Engineering and support services could have been grey and Security could have been a darker grey or grey/blue. You could even retain the concept of the whole uniform being the same colour rather than department colour over black trousers as in TOS. I would have also kept the insignia more consistent with what we saw on TOS. I like the retaining of the rank braiding on the sleeves. Something like what I'm suggesting would have seemed more like evolution rather than confusing wholesale change. In TMP department was denoted by colour in the circle around the insignia. Well thats fine in the real world, but it's too small a detail show up clearly onscreen. Department denoted by uniform colour is a lot easier to see and understand onscreen.
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Old June 3 2012, 08:39 PM   #32
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Re: Revisiting the films...

Star Trek II – The Wrath Of Khan (1982) ***

A genetic superman seeks revenge against Admiral James Kirk.

The real strength of this film is the acting and making the best of the words written for the characters. All the major characters are decent in this and it’s one of Shatner’s best performances (since he’s also done some damn fine work in TOS). It also can’t be denied this film has good pacing and a good dose of energy. It’s the pacing, the performances and some nice visuals that make much of this film work.

But from early on I get one overriding feeling from this film: it feels like they really want you to forget TMP ever happened. There are certainly no references, even indirect ones, to previous events. But there is a pervasive sense of change. Whatever could be changed from TMP was changed. The edict seems to be not that TMP missed a bit in a few places, but that it was a total bust, which it certainly was not. Sometimes change is good and it works, and sometimes it doesn't.

It starts out promisingly with a forceful version of the familiar Star Trek fanfare and then launches into a very nice opening score…befitting a seafaring adventure. Nice bit of music, but it doesn’t convey the idea of “strange new worlds “or “where no man has gone before.” It sounds more like Captain Blood, The Buccaneer, Horatio Hornblower or maybe even Master And Commander. Maybe it would work for an adaptation of some military SF such as Honor Harrington, but it’s not Star Trek.

TMP had a terrific opening sequence with three incredible Klingon ships taking on some alien unknown and getting wiped out in the process. TWOK’s opening scene is...cadets in a training simulation. The whole thing is WTF! as the ship is apparently disabled by one lousy Klingon torpedo that also manages to kill the entire senior staff. Funny, I remember the TOS Enterprise being able to take all kinds of punishment as well as the TMP refit able to withstand a volley from Vger that had already destroyed three Klingon ships. (Of course this is such a cool idea they’ll repeat it in Generations to wreck the Enterprise D).

We next get some decent character moments between Kirk, Spock and McCoy and they’re soon laying it on thick that Kirk is having midlife crises of sorts. He apparently feels old when he’s probably no more than about fifty. Fifty today isn’t old (unless you’re not well) and it shouldn’t even be an issue in the twenty-third century. Hell, Picard will be gallivanting around on the E-D and he could have been pushing sixty.

But the real thing that’s bugging my ass this early in the film is the idea of the Enterprise as a training vessel. Putting clues together from within the film the refit E isn’t more than about ten years old since its refitting in TMP. But then, of course, they’re ignoring everything from TMP. Whereas TMP left us with the promise of new adventures on the final frontier TWOK has everyone and everything just about ready to retire and be scrapped. Yep, a real positive way to start out the story.

Some people complained about the TMP uniforms, and while I can’t agree that they’re bad I can agree a bit more colour and perhaps a crisper design would have been welcomed. TWOK’s answer is to give us Buckingham Palace. Again they’re a design that could work in some other SF property, but it’s totally inconsistent with the general look that had already been established for Starfleet personnel: comfortable everyday services wear. Certainly not retro dress outfits. Again it’s not Star Trek.

At this point what strikes me is that we seem to be seeing a version of Star Trek as filtered through someone’s eyes perhaps not familiar with what had come before and they’re convinced Star Trek has to be something else to be accepted. Hello??? We’re here because Star Trek was successful being what it is and not something else. This is akin to Tim Burton making a couple of movies that are unmistakably his but they also just happen to have Batman in them. This is someone’s idea of a seafaring adventure dressed as sci-fi that just happens to have Kirk, Spock and the Enterprise in it.

The first good thing I get to see in this picture is the starship Reliant. Finally, after decades of waiting, we get to see another Starfleet starship that isn’t identical to the Enterprise and it’s to be a good-looking design at that. The other neat thing is the nice looking Regula One station. The next scenes revealing Khan and the creepy Ceti eels are accompanied by nicely eerie music. It’s a scene that can make your skin crawl. But I am also confused: where did all those kids come from? Khan’s followers were a mixed bag of races all approximately the same age as him. Now they’re all blond California surfer dudes and beach bunnies who’ve had a bad hair day at the mall. And despite being reduced to a bare level existence Khan has still somehow managed to get plastic surgery to enhance his chest. Hoookay… BTW I’m not bothered by Khan recognizing Chekov because just because we hadn’t seen him yet in TOS’ first season it doesn’t mean he couldn’t have been aboard where Khan could have run into him.

Some other little details: what is with all the CRT monitors? In TOS we had futuristic looking flat panel displays for viewscreens, something that certainly would be futuristic in 1982. Hell, in the real world we didn’t get flat panel displays until the early 2000s. But in TWOK tube screens are everywhere. Yet another bit of retro tech.

This film is also something of a deconstruction of what had been established in TOS. Kirk has a son he wasn’t allowed to see and the idea that Kirk has never faced death. What? Kirk has faced death numerous times. He’s faced the prospect of his own death, the death of his closest friends as well as the death of numerous personnel under his command. This is just ridiculous revisionism.

Why is the Enterprise relegated to a training vessel? Why doesn’t the Reliant know what planet they’re orbiting? Why is a nebula depicted like a fog bank when in actuality if you were in a nebula you probably wouldn’t know it? How can a bunch of throwbacks, no matter how smart, able to overcome an entire ship’s complement and then know how to run the ship without any help? They apparently needed help to run the Enterprise in TOS. Why are two highly advanced starships wallowing around like 17th century galleons?

Because Harve Bennet and Nicholas Meyer wanted to do a submarine warfare story that just happened to be some Star Trek in it and yet looks like they never bothered to watch something like TOS’ “Balance Of Terror” or “The Doomsday Machine” or “The Ultimate Computer” or even “Elaan Of Troyius.” “Balance Of Terror” adapted a submarine combat story (“The Enemy Below”) and made it work as science fiction. Bennett and Meyer just thought they’d do the reverse. Worse yet they tried to make Star Trek like an old seafaring tale and throw away as much of the SF element as possible.

One could argue that Robert Wise might have been trying to make too much of a science fiction film out of Star Trek (which is a ridiculous charge when you think about it), but Nicholas Meyer was obviously trying to make Star Trek into as close to 17th century naval warfare as he could get away with. Even as I was trying to enjoy the performances and brisk pacing I kept getting jarred out of it by things that felt really out of place in what should have been a good Star Trek film.

TMP is a really smart film that needed a little more drama and passion. TWOK is an energetic film that is unfortunately dumb as a brick. And so it’s really going to come down to how much you can forgive to be entertained. The only way I can really accept this is as some form of alternate universe or parallel timeline where some characters and references are familiar, but the rest has changed.

The death of Spock is very moving, and candidly if Trek had ended it then and there the TOS era would have had an appropriate sense of finality. Spock’s death was a fitting one---he died saving his friends and shipmates---unlike Kirk’s death in GEN which feels utterly meaningless. Kirk’s death later on is moving because it’s heartbreaking to say goodbye to one of the most cherished and iconic characters of television and film, but his death in context of the story is pointless.

So my final assessment is that while I like the numerous good character moments as well as the good performances and energetic pacing I really dislike the story it’s all founded on, the backstory and everything that plays into it. I can enjoy the film to some extent, but it leaves some unappealing aftertaste.
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Old June 3 2012, 09:01 PM   #33
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Re: Revisiting the films...

Back to TMP, the biggest problem for me was always that there are character arcs and potential character arcs, but, Spock's aside, none of them amount to anything. As I've pointed out in the past, they set up this terrific conflict between Kirk and Decker, and then utterly fail to use it. Decker just gradually becomes Kirk's buddy, even calling him "Jim", but there's no event that causes this shift. I've often felt that a parallel between Spock's story and Kirk's was there, but undeveloped: namely, both men are obsessed with finding their place, and both are taking enormous—perhaps suicidal—risks to get what they need. Kirk's pushing to be the Captain, at the possible risk of his crew and every living thing on Earth. But Kirk's conflict just evaporates. I've often felt Spock's spacewalk should have been Kirk's wake-up moment, wherein he recognizes that his own behavior is as obsessive as Spock's, and he finally starts acting for the mission instead of himself, and, in doing so, rediscovers the person he is. It wouldn't have taken much—mostly dialog tweaks, but the idea obviously didn't occur to the writers. Too bad.
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Old June 3 2012, 09:22 PM   #34
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Re: Revisiting the films...

^^ I can't disagree. It comes back to what I said about the film needing more character drama.
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Old June 3 2012, 09:44 PM   #35
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Re: Revisiting the films...

Maurice wrote: View Post
"That dinner was awful!" is an opinion. "That movie was awful!" is an opinion. It's standard colloquial language, and it's ridiculous to have to preface that with "In my opinion" when that's not the standard usage.

Proceed, Warped9.
Yeah, I'm pretty quick to take the bait when people bash the new movie, but I thought it was clear that Warped9 was just expressing his own personal opinion--in a thread about his own rewatch of the movies. Fair enough.

(What pushes my buttons is when people insist that they're speaking for all "real" Trekkies, or all Trekkies of a certain generation, which is not at all what Warped9 was doing here.)

And if I stand up for Star Trek IV, and insist that it "is" one of the best and most entertaining films in the series, that's just my opinion, too.
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Old June 3 2012, 09:47 PM   #36
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Re: Revisiting the films...

For the record I do a lot of cringing and gagging when I hear praises being sung for a film I have quite a low opinion of. Fortunately no one can see that through my monitor. I also make a point of not having anything to drink beside me while I'm on the computer reading these forums because I don't want to always be cleaning off whatever I might spit all over my display.
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Old June 3 2012, 10:09 PM   #37
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Re: Revisiting the films...

Warped9 wrote: View Post
For the record I do a lot of cringing and gagging when I hear praises being sung for a film I have quite a low opinion of. Fortunately no one can see that through my monitor. I also make a point of not having anything to drink beside me while I'm on the computer reading these forums because I don't want to always be cleaning off whatever I might spit all over my display.
Speaking as someone who once threw up on a keyboard (not because of a movie review), I can testify that it's not good for the hardware!
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Old June 3 2012, 11:52 PM   #38
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Re: Revisiting the films...

The death of Spock was actually a gutsy move no matter what I think of the story itself. If Nimoy had chosen to not return to the Star Trek fold as Spock his death would have retained a real poignancy. His absence would have resonated throughout any future Trek feature films even if a new character (Saavik?) managed to fit in with the rest of the original cast. But since Nimoy had a change of heart and did return Spock's resurrection rather undermines the poignancy of his death in TWOK.

Even the title of the following film, The Search For Spock, pretty much gives away the whole point of the third film. It might have been nice if they could have come up with a title that wouldn't have spelled it out so blatantly before you actually sat down in the theatre.


Some years ago I wrote a rewrite outline for TWOK. I wish I knew what happened to it. Essentially I retained all the major elements present in the existing story, but tweaked it to fix the things the really bugged me. And assuming Spock still dies at the end then it could still work.
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Old June 4 2012, 01:49 AM   #39
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Re: Revisiting the films...

Warped9 wrote: View Post
Some other little details: what is with all the CRT monitors? In TOS we had futuristic looking flat panel displays for viewscreens, something that certainly would be futuristic in 1982. Hell, in the real world we didn’t get flat panel displays until the early 2000s. But in TWOK tube screens are everywhere. Yet another bit of retro tech.
The CRT monitors were an affordable alternative to the 16mm projections used in the previous movie, which didn't fit the far reduced budget of the second feature. I don't think they're really all that jarring; they're mostly in the background here (rather than foregrounded in the way that they are in a film like 2010: The Year We Make Contact).

Doesn't the Genesis tape sequence opt for a more futuristic flat panel look?
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Old June 4 2012, 01:55 AM   #40
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Re: Revisiting the films...

When I consider TMP more I can envision the inclusion of a couple of short scenes that could have down wonders for the film without taking anything away.

Early in the DE version we see the scene on the bridge where one crewman questions Kirk's command by asking about Captain Decker. Uhura replies to it. Now if this could have been followed up in a later scene (perhaps in the rec room) where Sulu and Uhura are faced with a couple of Decker supporters and there is some real heat being generated. When it gets really heated Decker happens to come by and diffuses the situation by reiterating that while he appreciates their support he asserts that Kirk is indeed in command and he won't have anyone questioning it.

Now follow this up with another small scene between Decker and Ilia wherein he faces up to why he really left her behind on Delta. We can then see that Decker is really questioning whether he wants Ilia or a Starfleet career.

The scene in Kirk's quarters where McCoy challenges him could have been expanded a bit. This could have been a good place for McCoy to deliver a little exposition to clue the audience in on things that happened earlier and offscreen. It's a scene that should play out much like the similar scene in "Obsession" when McCoy challenges Kirk's obsession over killing the vampire cloud creature.

"Jim, you've been miserable since Nogura maneuvered you into accepting a promotion. This incident gave you the golden opportunity to turn the tables on him and get your command back, something you should never have given up in the first place. You rammed it down his throat and you'd rather die than lose it again, maybe even if it means taking all of us with you."

"Get out of, Doctor!" Kirk snaps loudly.

"Negative, Admiral. You'd better be sure your priorities are straight or you'll never again be the man you once were. The man you want so desperately to be again."


Something like that and then the rest of the scene could play out pretty much as it did.
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Old June 4 2012, 03:01 AM   #41
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Re: Revisiting the films...

^^^While I agree that that's the right direction, the Bones stuff would have been too on-the-nose that early in the story (as it was anyway). It'd have been better if Bones knew something was up but didn't have the "Answer" ready to dispense at the end of the first act. Kirk needed to recognize this in himself, and make a choice to not follow that path.
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Old June 4 2012, 04:08 AM   #42
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Re: Revisiting the films...

Maurice wrote: View Post
^^^While I agree that that's the right direction, the Bones stuff would have been too on-the-nose that early in the story (as it was anyway). It'd have been better if Bones knew something was up but didn't have the "Answer" ready to dispense at the end of the first act. Kirk needed to recognize this in himself, and make a choice to not follow that path.
Fair enough. It was only a suggestion, but it underlines my original point that it wouldn't have taken much to inject some extra dramatic juice into the story.

The other little thing I'd suggest is to tighten up the Vger flyover a bit more than the DE already has. Fact is these are experienced Starfleet officers who've seen all kinds of weird and BIG weird shit. The ogling over Vger seems just a bit much.
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Old June 4 2012, 01:26 PM   #43
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Re: Revisiting the films...

One of my issues with TMP stems more from the fact that the film is so overtly Spock/Kirk oriented that a lot of what they do in the film could easily have been done by the other crew members.

For example, the scene where the Enterprise comes under attack by V'Ger. I would start it out just as it did in the film with Spock telepathically feeling V'Ger's puzzlement over not getting a reply from it's attempt to communicate with the Enterprise. However, where things play differently is that after the Enterprise survives the first attack, it's UHURA who figures out that Spock was correct and that V'Ger was communicating in a means they didn't pick up immediately. I would than have her be the one who programs her communications computer and transmits the message just in the nick of time.

See what I'm saying? The one area of the film where communications plays a key role in over coming an obstacle in the story, and they don't give it to the one character who's sole job is communications. Watching the Special Longer Edition of the scene where the Enterprise first comes under attack is almost embarrassing since all she does is try in vein to contact Starfleet command. Why? What are they going to say? Good luck?
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Old June 4 2012, 06:51 PM   #44
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Re: Revisiting the films...

Warped9 wrote: View Post
In '79 we didn't mind seeing how all our favourite characters were brought back together. Roddenberry and Wise chose to show the idea that time had passed since the end of the Enterprise's five-year mission and that our heroes had drifted apart and were no longer in sync with each other. Hence we had to see them reunited and rediscovering their place with one another.
I am reminded that another successful movie from around the same time, The Blues Brothers, spent considerable time "reassembling" characters from a story that nobody knew. There seems to be something about the dynamics of that kind of situation that interests people.

Unfortunately just as everyone is beginning to gel again there's nothing of character substance to replace it. Sadly they had an inkling of an idea, but they chose not to explore it: Decker's friction with Kirk. It really comes down to Decker acquiescing to Kirk too easily. The best example I can give of how this could have played out is a 1950's war film called Run Silent, Run Deep. In RSRD Burt Lancaster is a young up-and-coming commander recently granted command of his own submarine. Everything is turned on its head when an older officer (played by Clark Gable) is given command for an important mission and displacing Lancaster. The tangible tension amongst the crew as well as friction and resentment between Lancaster and Gable is exactly the sort of thing that could have worked for ST-TMP.
Good point. While I agree an internal conflict would have been good for drama, it would be a lot harder to pull off in TMP. In RSRD Lancaster is introduced as basically the good guy and underdog and the audience has a lot to identify with in him. Gable is introduced as also a good guy but maybe a little off-balance after having his last boat sunk from under him, and the audience doesn't really know whether his obsessive focus on one mission will pay off, or if he'll go too far and Lancaster will have to bail him out.

Not much chance of that in TMP. Decker basically has the status of a "guest star" to the audience and they're never going to sympathize with him against Kirk, nor really question who'll be right in the end. Even internally, anyone who's anyone in the crew lines up behind Kirk without question; only one whining nobody ensign voices any objection. Unlike RSRD, where the new captain starts with no support from anyone except for his own yeoman whom he brought with him, and Lancaster who is too professional to not back up his CO. A few more dissenting crewmembers may have raised the tension a little, but really Decker's position was a non-starter.

If anyone is interested and has the MGM HD movie channel, Run Silent Run Deep will be shown on June 10, 10 pm Eastern.

ST-TMP struggles with another issue of context. In the '70s and '80s we were getting a variety of SF films. Today there is an expectancy to be something of a roller coaster adventure that overloads the senses and not much time spent on any exposition or introspection. ST-TMP chose not to emulate Star Wars released two years earlier. Whereas SW was a rollicking adventure TMP aimed for something different. I don't think it's too cerebral, but it certainly seems so compared to something like SW. Roddenberry and Wise appear intent to aim for something other than another a shoot-em-up adventure and I don't think they were consciously trying to emulate 2001: A Space Odyssey.
Yes, that context is so important. Expectations of SF films were a lot different then. Star Wars, of course, broke the mold. But a lot of people saw that as a victory for the genre, not the formula. TMP was a big spectacle with mind-blowing effects, like 2001, and 2001 had been very successful. Also, I don't think there were a lot of good action-SF scripts around yet that were not shameless ripoffs of SW. The direction that GR and Wise took was not a clear dead-end then, as some people now seem to think.

Maurice wrote: View Post
Back to TMP, the biggest problem for me was always that there are character arcs and potential character arcs, but, Spock's aside, none of them amount to anything.
I like TMP but definitely have to agree. The framework is there for some really nice character growth, but the audience really has to fill most of the blanks on their own. I give them credit for at least setting it up, which is more than I can say for some of the other films.

Warped9 wrote: View Post
But the real thing that’s bugging my ass this early in the film is the idea of the Enterprise as a training vessel. Putting clues together from within the film the refit E isn’t more than about ten years old since its refitting in TMP.
I don't read too much into that. Historically, serving warships have been used for peacetime training cruises of cadets/midshipmen. In the 1920s and '30s a number of US battleships assigned to the East Coast were used that way. Not exactly the newest front-line units, but certainly combat-worthy and part of wartime plans.

At this point what strikes me is that we seem to be seeing a version of Star Trek as filtered through someone’s eyes perhaps not familiar with what had come before and they’re convinced Star Trek has to be something else to be accepted. Hello??? We’re here because Star Trek was successful being what it is and not something else. This is akin to Tim Burton making a couple of movies that are unmistakably his but they also just happen to have Batman in them. This is someone’s idea of a seafaring adventure dressed as sci-fi that just happens to have Kirk, Spock and the Enterprise in it.
Yes. Despite being a huge success, TMP as a production had run out of control and the studio felt it had dodged a Heaven's Gate-type bullet. GR et al wouldn't be trusted with something that big again. The new team were experienced pros, plugged the existing characters into a clean-slate movie and delivered a fine, marketable and ultimately successful product. It was basically a re-set button situation, though. Why is Kirk fretting about wasting away behind a desk again? Didn't he work all that out in the last movie?

As a standalone film TWOK is pretty strong. As part of something that even then had considerable history behind it, not so much. But that is my devoted-fan-from-childhood perspective, and I have a hard time faulting the movie on that basis alone.

These reviews have been great with a lot of good points to start discussion. In my opinion.

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Old June 4 2012, 08:01 PM   #45
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Re: Revisiting the films...

J.T.B. wrote: View Post
As a standalone film TWOK is pretty strong. As part of something that even then had considerable history behind it, not so much. But that is my devoted-fan-from-childhood perspective, and I have a hard time faulting the movie on that basis alone.
Regarding the standalone thing, I'm not sure why anyone would have expected, especially back in 1979, for Star Trek II to pick up on plot threads from the previous film. The original series had consisted almost entirely of standalone episodes that rarely if ever referred back to previous episodes. And most movies and TV series weren't all that serialized back then. Look at the Bond films, the Pink Panther films, etc.

And it's not like TMP ended on some sort of cliffhanger . . .
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Last edited by Greg Cox; June 4 2012 at 09:47 PM.
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