Discussion in 'Star Trek Movies I-X' started by Warped9, Jun 1, 2012.
Fair enough, that's true. After all, the whole middle part of TVH is hilariously dated!
Star Trek IV – The Voyage Home (1986) ***
Kirk and crew travel back in time to save Earth from an alien probe in the future.
If I thought the main title themes of the previous two films didn’t sound like Star Trek the main theme for TVH is even less so. It’s simply too light in tone even if it’s not a bad tune in itself.
One thing I have to say: I really don’t like the look of Starfleet in these films. In general I don’t like how many of the Starfleet personnel we see are depicted. It seems like every command officer we see has to “phone home” for instructions. I will allow that the ones seen in this film don’t come across as bad as Esteban in TSFS, but still I’m not impressed. None of these characters come across with same fibre that was more apparent of the Starfleet officers we got to see in TOS.
The first part of this film is very much similar in tone as TWOK and TSFS. The change in the main cast’s appearances isn’t nearly as obvious as it was in TSFS. But what the hell did they do to the Klingon ship? The bridge looks nothing like the bridge we saw in TSFS. I find it hard to believe that Kirk, Scott and company would have bothered making such extensive modifications just to fly the ship home. Indeed it really doesn’t make any sense at all. Vulcan didn’t have a more suitable ship to transport them? And if they were so wanted by Starfleet you’d think they’d make a point of transporting Kirk and company themselves. No, it’s really a contrived excuse to use the Klingon ship for the story.
I also really doubt the Klingons would have designed their rather small ship to have such a cavernous empty interior seeing as how they usually seem to like cramped accommodations. But here it is conveniently sized just enough to hold two humpbacked whales.
What’s with the dreamlike sequence when they engage their time-warp slingshot around the sun? It’s something that doesn’t connect with anything else in the film before or after. And we don’t see anything like it on the return trip.
The 23rd century has no means to reenergize dilitium crystals yet Spock thinks of a way just off the top of his head using elements found “only” in the late 20th century… Uh, yeah…
It’s at this point the film takes on a distinct change in tone---it veers from generally serious minded to generally comedic. It’s also where the film really loses me despite some genuine smirks along the way (and some of the humour is really lame). Time travel in Trek is nothing new, but it was done much better before in “Tomorrow Is Yesterday,” “Assignment—Earth,” “Yesteryear” and at its best in “The City On The Edge Of Forever.”
Catherine Hicks makes for an appealing marine biologist. She also comes across as quite natural and genuine. And it is a nice (though coincidental) touch that the U.S. naval carrier Enterprise makes something of a cameo appearance. I also quite like some scenes at the end, namely the scene where Kirk is reduced in rank and the parting scene between Spock and Sarek.
Despite my criticisms this movie isn’t as bad as I remember it. Overall it’s basically on par with the previous two films. I don’t care for the story in general, buts it’s not horrible even as it’s just okay.
TVH essentially completes a trilogy begun with TWOK. Over these three films we get to see a Starfleet that doesn't seem to bear much resemblance to the one depicted in TOS. It feels more fainthearted, more wussy and it looks monochromatic with really silly looking uniforms. There are some good moments throughout the films, but overall it doesn't really resonate as the Star Trek I really enjoyed before---something is missing.
And although I've ranked TWOK, TSFS and TVH all basically the same I feel it gradually loses its identity from TWOK (C+) through TSFS (C) and sliding into TVH (C-)
For me Star Trek was, "Space, the final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. To explore strange new worlds. To seek out new life and new civilizations. To bold go where no man has gone before." TMP, even with its missteps, felt like that. TWOK-TSFS-TVH seemed to lose that feeling.
The three-star ratings for those three films seem fair then because of your mixed impressions of them for different reasons.
On the other hand, whenever someone says "show me something new!" I think of Voyager and Insurrection as examples of how that doesn't always guarantee that'll work. No one really cares about the Baku and VOY isn't exactly everyone's favorite series.
Since we're talking about TWOK, TSFS, and TVH; I think it has to do with Harve Bennett. As an outsider to Star Trek, he based his first movie (TWOK) on a pre-existing episode. Then, in his next movie, he went back to the most-used enemies of the series. Finally, he took it back to Earth. Very methodical.
TSFS, is text book methodical, mechanical writing. It's also the one Star Trek film where Harve Bennett has sole writing credit. They have to go back to Genesis. The Enterprise is damaged. It's too easy for Starfleet to say "go ahead!" so have Kirk butt heads with Starfleet; who then becomes an obstacle. McCoy is out of it because of the mind-meld, adding to the urgency. Who can Kirk fight? Why not the Klingons? What can up the drama and make Kirk really hate them? Kill David! But the Enterprise is undermanned and badly damaged. There's no way out! What to do? Add more drama! Blow up the Enterprise! "Kirk and crew hijack the Klingon ship!" Then they show up on Vulcan, Spock's body and spirit are re-united and everything's back to normal (minus the Enterprise being blown up) or is it? "To be continued!"
TWOK, on the other hand, is a combination of several different pitches and several different versions of the story, so it comes off as more dynamic and spontaneous.
TVH, whatever one would think of it, was an inspired idea. "What if the crew goes back in time and saves an endangered species to solve a problem in the future. Well we're at it, we can contrast Star Trek with the 20th Century!" And they ran with it.
Too bad it's the U.S.S. Ranger.
You're right. It did feel mechanical.
My essential point was about a feeling TOS had. A sense of going outwards rather than hang in' around the neighbourhood. A sense early TNG seemed to have even as it felt somewhat different than TOS.
These last three films have much of the warmth of the familiar characters primarily because of the cast's long familiarity with them, but most everything else around them is lacking. For me anyway. There is a lack of seeing something new. The dynamic of TWOK helps overcome some of my ambivalence, but then it becomes a slide because it all becomes evermore about seeing the familiar and overused. The basic story of each film is viable, but the energy and interest level drops off as the trilogy unfolds.
It really doesn't matter what rating one gives these films, which are favourites and which not, because it boils down to all of it has been done before and done better in TOS.
The ideas in TMP aren't bad, but the film generally lacks the dynamic energy and drama of similar stories told before. They overlooked part of what made those stories work.
The ideas in TWOK aren't bad (although TOS never did a story revolving around revenge), but the naval brinksmanship story was done better in TOS ("Balance Of Terror"). TSFS is really about what these friends will do for each yet we've already seen it played out numerous times in TOS. "The Empath" might be the most complete example of such as a story.
Time travel in itself has been used before, but TVH just isn't as well done as when time travel was done before in "Tomorrow Is Yesterday" and "The City On The Edge Of Forever."
It's all very much been-there-done-that as well as a lot of it not feeling as creative as what came before.
Yeah, but it's the bought that counts.
What about "Court-Martial" (Ben Finney fakes his own death to get revenge on Kirk), "Conscience of the King" (Kirk and Riley both wrestle with their desires for revenge), "Turnabout Intruder" (Janet Wallace is settling an old grudge against Kirk), "The Doomsday Machine" (Decker wants revenge against the planet-killer), and, arguably, "Obsession?
Although I suppose the latter is more about guilt than revenge.
I stand corrected. I hadn't thought of it that way, but you're right.
TVH (potentially) brings us right back to the situation at the end of TMP: our heroes have a new ship and are set for new adventures "out there." Alas, this is part of what bugs me because they had already hit the reset switch at the beginning of TWOK and now were back at the same place we left at TMP.
Several years ago I sat down and worked out outlines for the four films TWOK-TFF that addressed all my gripes. The essential stories remainded the same as well as key moments, but a lot of the silliness and blatant logic flaws were addressed. I also had it set only a couple of years after TMP (and TWOK did come along only three years after TMP). The initial setting was the refit Enterprise was a couple years into its second five-year mission and the events of the four films were within that context.
I really wish I knew what happened to those outlines because at the time they were quite well received. Hmm, maybe I could do them again in abbreviated form. The original versions came about because I was dared to show the stories could be improved rather than me just criticizing them.
I wonder if Harve Bennett was ever approached to produce a second Star Trek series before they went to Gene Roddenberry?
What allegedly got Gene Roddenberry involved was that he didn't want the series to be about a crew full of kids. This also happened to be around the time Harve Bennett came up with the Starfleet Academy idea while William Shatner was playing hardball with contracts.
I thought Roddenberry was, like, their 5th or 6th choice to produce TNG?
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.
Oh, one other plus. Shatner's hair looked much better in this film.
What bugged me about ST V (on the exactly two occasions I've watched it) is just how muddled and unfocused the narrative is. The movie makes a big deal about those three ambassadors, then pretty much forgets about them until the end of the movie, when it suddenly remembers that, hey, isn't David Warner in this film? Sybok is kinda, sorta of a bad guy, who kinda, sorta brainwashes the crew, except when he doesn't (and the idea that Sulu and Uhura and the rest would actually choose Sybok over Kirk of their own quasi-free will is beyond the pale right there). And Kirk wants to stop Sybok's insane quest, except when he doesn't. The whole thing is such a muddle of confused, ambiguous motives that the story struggles to acquire any sort of urgency or momentum.
I get that, with Sybok, they were deliberately trying to make him morally ambiguous, instead of just a two-dimensional black hat, but they didn't pull it off. There's a fine line between ambiguous and unfocused and ST V crossed it . . . which, as I recall, is an even bigger problem than some ill-advised attempts at humor.
And, yeah, I cringed at "row, row, row your boat," too. Thank God they made another film so the TOS saga didn't end on that note . . . .
The way it looks on the surface, most of the crew committed mutiny by siding with Sybok. I rationalize it as mind control but I shouldn't have to rationalize it.
I feel bad for Spock. His brother was essentially a televangelist. "I've been healed from my pain!" says the miner. Then Sybok exclaims, "Praiseth thy Loooord!!! Amen." Hallelujah!
I agree. The best dealing with of religion in a science-fiction film that I've seen is Contact.
And very out of place. This was the wrong type of story to try emulating what made TVH successful.
I like the slogan on Kirk's T-shirt though.
The condition of the Enterprise-A must've been Starfleet's revenge for Kirk's crew sabotaging the Excelsior.
Very true, and it's why I wouldn't have bothered with the Klingons at all or the Romulan representative or the David Warner character. The crew's behaviour only makes sense if it's some sort of mind control. But because it isn't depicted as outright mind control then their behaviour is bullshit.
Part of the problem with Trek films, and sci-fi movies in general, is this mindset that the story always has to be huge, and consequently some interpret that as there has to be a lot of different things going on. Sure that can work, but unless you're adept at juggle a lot of elements then you're best to stick to something more straightforward and tell it the very best you can.
Exactly. The movie can't seem to make up its mind if the crew is being mind-controlled or not, but, seriously, Kirk's crew is not going to mutiny unless they're heavily under the influence of alien spores or whatever. Period.
And I'm amused to see that nobody has even mentioned the WTF moment with Scotty and Uhura . . . .
I remember lots of commentary about that when the film was new. Up to a point you can interpret their behaviour a just really good friends after so many years, but then it becomes apparent something else is being suggested and it doesn't work.
Of course the whole idea that these people would still be together after so many years in a real organization beggars credibility. As fans we turn a blind eye to that, but it doesn't really make much sense.
Spock's behaviour throughout TFF is also rather WTF. He's basically the comedic straight man. Far too often he didn't even sound like Spock. It was almost as if Nimoy were reading some other character's lines.
You can't just throw something like that at audiences out of the blue, not after literally decades of Uhura and Scotty not showing the slightest romantic interest in each other. In theory, you could make it work if you actually laid some groundwork in advance, but without any sort of set-up? No way.
By contrast, the Spock/Uhura thing in the new movie worked (IMHO) because:
1) it's an alternate timeline.
2) the characters are still young, so the relationships aren't set in stone yet.
3) the original show occasionally flirted with the notion, at least in the first season.
But Scotty/Uhura came out of nowhere . . . .
Star Trek VI – The Undiscovered Country (1991) ***
A peace initiative between the Federation and the Klingon Empire is threatened by conspirators on both sides.
I’m sure I’m going to annoy someone, but this film has some real stupidity in it.
Firstly, like pretty much all the previous films, there’s a genuinely decent story to be told here. Yet like all the previous films problems arise due to lazy thinking and/or poor choices. The biggest flaw with TUC is its generally ham-fisted approach. There really isn’t much subtlety in it.
Cliff Eidelman’s score is certainly evocative and parts of it throughout really set a mood. But as a main them it again felt out of place. It’s another example of trying to make Star Trek feel like it’s something other than what it is.
The first WTF moment is the opening scene where Praxis explodes. Any minor bit of reflection on how it’s done shows how silly it is. If something explodes in such a way that the effects are significantly felt light years away (and I think it’s safe to assume the Excelsior was light years distant outside of Klingon territory) then it’s not going to just damage the Klingon homeworld---it’s going to obliterate said homeworld. Secondly, natural effects cannot travel faster-than-light and so the effects of the Praxis explosion would take freakin’ years to cross light-years to reach the Excelsior and not mere minutes or hours. This is poor writing we probably wouldn’t accept from a comic book. But since it’s live-action and done in a generally serious tone they figure probably no one will notice. Wrong.
We know Nicholas Meyer has returned because he again puts his stamp on the Trek universe where Starfleet’s existence is primarily military defense and the Enterprise is comparable to a warship or submarine. He goes so far as to redress sets and shrink corridors and crews quarters to reinforce the idea of a cramped naval vessel. This is totally inconsistent with the Enterprise having long been established as a ship of exploration and peace that also happens to be able to defend itself. The design of the ship, inside and out, was always meant to convey that idea. But not in Meyer’s take on Trek. He reinforces this idiocy by suggesting that if peace with the Klingons is achieved then Starfleet could well dismantle large parts of its defensive structure. How stupid is this? The Klingons certainly aren’t the only ones out there ready to take on the Federation. In TOS the Enterprise ran into a lot of folks that could be just as dangerous as the Klingons. Indeed in TOS the Klingons aren’t seen all that often at all. But, of course, in the movies they’re everywhere.
Meyer also doesn’t get the characters. I made a point of watching some of the special features before watching the film. In it William Shatner expressed his disagreement with Kirk’s blatant racism in the film. His take is that while Kirk may indeed have certain feelings he wouldn’t wear them on his sleeve. And if he did inadvertently blurt something out he would immediately regret it. He therefore asked Meyer to allow Kirk to show some regret and distaste after blurting out they should just let the Klingons die. Meyer initially agreed and then later cut the scene where Kirk expresses regret and embarrassment over saying something so distasteful aloud. Shatner wasn’t happy. And this sentiment carries over into the other characters as well. In TOS the episode “Day Of The Dove” touched on the issue of race hatred between humans and Klingons and yet also showed the Enterprise crew could wrestle with and control those feelings. This was a powerful message throughout the series. But Meyer’s intent was to deconstruct all of that. His version of Kirk was little better than some of the nutjobs in the ‘60’s era film Doctor Strangelove (Or How I Learned To Love The Bomb). Nichelle Nichols was also one who objected to the blatant racism shown by the Enterprise crew. Her take also was “this is not who these characters are.”
Nuance and subtlety are obviously not Meyer’s forte. Mind you Meyer isn’t the only one at fault here. Leonard Nimoy was involved in this story and he doesn’t seem to have objected to Meyer’s ideas.
In TFF Kirk says, “I miss my old chair.” Amen to that, Captain. I miss the Enterprise we saw in TOS, TMP and even TWOK. I miss that beautiful yet powerful starship of the far future. I don’t care at all for the worn and cramped and darkened starfaring submarine Meyer puts on the screen. He also reinforces that idea by injecting nautical references that have absolutely no relevance whatsoever to operating a starship. This is a big issue with me throughout the films TWOK-TUC. Whatever one’s issues with TMP the depiction of Starfleet and the Enterprise is conceptually consistent with what had been established in TOS. That overall approach would return in TNG. But in the films II-VI that idea is just thrown away and it really pisses me off.
How come on one makes a stink of the fact General Chang somehow managed to get hold of an excerpt of Kirk’s personal log? That moment was like getting hit over the head with a hammer and yet no one onscreen raises a finger over it.
How convenient that Kirk and McCoy get to keep their uniforms as prisoners sent to Rura Penthe and that they’re not searched and no one notices the viridum patch on Kirk’s shoulder? And how convenient that tiny patch can be detected two sectors away. And how monumentally stupid was the scene where the Enterprise crew are clumsily trying to use old-style books to communicate in Klingon? Here was a perfect opportunity to flesh out an established character more and they totally ignore it. Uhura is the ship’s Communications Officer with decades of experience. Wouldn’t it have been a nice tough if she knew at least just enough Klingon language to communicate when needed? It would have been a simple and elegant solution as well as a nice extra dimension to her character. But yet again they choose the ham-fisted approach just to get a cheap laugh.
Spock’s telepathic assault on Valeris is REALLY out of character. And just how did Spock know Sulu aboard the Excelsior would know the location of the Khitomer conference, particularly when the location is supposed to be secret from anyone not directly involved in the conference? Doesn’t the Enterprise have any shields? How else to explain the holes in the hull? Again with all the sparking and exploding consoles when under attack (same in TWOK). And why is Spock asking McCoy (of all people who should actually be in sickbay) to assist him in in modifying a torpedo? Aren’t there any number of technicians or engineers aboard who could do that particularly in an emergency?
One damned stupid thing after another to kick me out of the story.
I also found the ending scenes both on Khitomer and the Enterprise bridge to be awkward and over staged.
The film does have some positives to it. It has energy and good pacing. The f/x are competent. The music works for a lot of scenes. There are some good character moments. The essential story is a respectable one. Unfortunately the positives aren’t enough to elevate the film to anything more than just an okay effort. It’s a better and more polished effort than TFF, but not by a great margin.
I’m ready to be burned at the stake now.
Better save some space for me at the top of that log pile. I liked TUC when I first saw it, but now I really hate it. It's my least favourite original cast movie, and of all of them, I hate only Nemesis more.
And it's for all the reasons you state, it's a case of the plot dictating the characters and not the character driving the plot. It's the biggest wholesale character assassination I have ever seen, with none of the original cast coming out of it well. Swan song? You have to be kidding. Instead we get Valeris Mary Sueing it for the duration, while everyone else is made to look like an idiot, while the movie spits on continuity.
At the end of TFF, Kirk is saluting Captain Klaa and inviting the Klingons over for drinks.
in TUC, he's never been so close?
In TMP Chekov is head of security on the Enterprise, in TUC, he doesn't know how phasers work on a starship and has to have Valeris explain it to him!
Uhura has no experience with languages, McCoy doesn't know Klingon anatomy, Scotty's reduced to manually counting torpedoes...
The Undiscovered Country is a nasty, exploitative piece of work that leaves a foul taste in my mouth the more often I see it, and the only redeeming features are its production values and its pace. It would have worked much better as a stand alone piece, an original sci-fi creation with all new characters and in a different universe.
Don't get me started on the Scooby Doo ending on the Home Video release, and the whole Colonel West subplot. Discussing a secret rescue plan in Klingon territory in front of the Romulan ambassador. Yeah, real smart!
From memory, there was a line at the start of TUC said somthing like.
"Sub-space shockwave orignated at ...." Subspace is TFL. Might be contrived somewhat unbelivable. But at least they tried to address why a ship light years away would feel it.
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