Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Star Trek Movie Reviews: Part I

As many of you now know, this is Part 2 of a 4-Part anthology looking deeply into the mythology and story development of the Star Trek movie series, with the original crew, of course. This first part takes a look at the creation and characters of the Star Trek galaxy, found here at the Solar Sentinel. For Parts 2 and 3, Alan Trehern and Ben Pearson will give co-op reviews of the seven movies involving Captain James Kirk and his crew. Finally, for the fourth installment, it’s back to the Sentinel for some multiversal surfing as we explore the unknown “Shatnerverse”.

For now, enjoy the movie magic of Star Trek.

Star Trek: The Motion Picture
Although there are very slow points in this film (i.e. vast camera angles around the ship and sweeping orchestral movements), it is warming to see the crew together again years after their missions together (Star Trek: The Original Series) and a must see if you intend to watch the entire series of movies.

This motion picture is unique among the other films for many reasons. First, when it was in its writing stages, it was originally suppose to be the first two episodes of a new Star Trek: Phase II television series. Called “In Thy Image”, written by Alan Dean Foster, this story explores the possibilities of a computer taking on consciousness and yearning for the next level of intellect. Of course, this “next level” is human emotion.
The film begins with Spock’s obtainment of the Kolinahr (pure logic), but he refuses it and chooses to help Kirk and crew stop a massive cloud of destruction from coming to Earth. This cloud of destruction calls out to Spock’s consciousness, but his logical Vulcan side keeps friends like Kirk and McCoy at a distance. The Enterprise decides to enter the cloud and explore instead of trying to destroy, and they find that it is a living machine, sent out hundreds of years ago by NASA, and it has now returned to Earth to “touch the creator”.

I really enjoy this movie because it doesn’t fit that Star Trek feel you get from the later movies. Spock weeps for the living machine, named V’Ger, because it cries out, like most of us, for recognition from God (or “the Creator”), and to realize why we exist and what life means. Not only does V’Ger finally realize that love and friendship are the answers it was looking for (with the union of Will Decker and Lieutenant Ilia), but also Spock realizes that his answers lay in the human friendship for James Kirk. There is the moving scene where Spock refers to Kirk as “Jim” instead of “Captain”, and finds that the simple feeling of friendship is beyond V’Ger’s comprehension.

I would suggest this movie to anyone who wants to contemplate the mysteries of life, and anyone who enjoys a throw-back tale of science fiction.

Ben’s Comments:
Trehern’s description of this film is right on the money, down to the religious undertones and the quest for human interaction. This was my first interaction with the Star Trek universe in 10 or so years, so I was a little apprehensive but decided to go for it anyway. I was surprised to find such fundamental questions raised by a movie; it’s pleasingly sophisticated for a series movie that has such a “nerd” following. The action was pretty nonexistent, but I was mostly using this film as an introduction to the characters and their relationships with each other and biding my time until I got to the legendary sequel involving that famous Shatner roar, “KHAN!!!” I suggest you do the same…

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
Where could the Star Trek story go from here? Kirk and the Enterprise have just solved one of the greatest mysteries of all time. But while they may have laid the road to the future in STI, little does the Enterprise crew know that the past can’t be easily forgotten. Captain Terrell and Lt. Pavel Checkov of the U.S.S. Relient have accidentily found Khan, a superhuman ruler from Earth during the Eugenics Wars of the 1990s. Enraged by his treatment by Captain Kirk*, Khan swears swift death to his enemy.

Meanwhile, Project: Genesis plays a crucial role in the plans of Khan. But what is Project: Genesis? What does Khan have in mind for Kirk? Watch it and find out.

However, the themes in this film transcend its initial sci-fi storytelling. The Wrath of Khan deals with Kirk’s loss of the Enterprise and his desire to feel young again, as well as the theme of life and death. Although Khan is the great danger, the Genesis Project is an even greater one, for it gives life where there is none, but it can also take it away. In the final battle against Khan in the Nebula, Spock finds it necessary to help the needs of the many at the sacrifice of the few, or in this case the one. He throws himself into the extremely radioactive confines of the engine room to repair the warp drive and help the Enterprise escape from the detonating Genesis bomb. As he succeeds, Kirk manages to speak with his friend one last time:

The sweeping soundtrack and character interaction, as well as the life themes we all must learn and understand, no matter what century we live in, burn on in the Star Trek series. The first two movies contain the magic, myth and teachings that motion pictures are suppose to realize. Although the moviemakers didn’t plan on having a sequel, they opened up for one. With the death of Spock, new life was born with the Genesis Planet…

*The previous encounter of Kirk and Khan is summarized here.

Ben’s Comments:
Before you watch this movie, read the summary that Trehern mentioned about the previous encounters of Kirk and Khan; it makes their meeting in this film all the more epic. I’m glad I knew the back-story before I jumped into Wrath of Khan. Anyway, I liked this movie a lot more than the first one. It still had some of the grandeur and exploration themes of the previous installment, but it concentrated more on Kirk, which I always think is a good thing. (Shatner’s performance was something to behold.) The Project: Genesis subplot served its purpose as well, adding to a story arc that lasts through the next two movies (III and IV), forming a sort of mini-series inside the overall sequence of films. Spock’s conversion from the pure logic of the first film to giving up his life for his shipmates at the end of this movie is a poignant moment in film history. Interestingly enough, the whole “needs of the many outweigh the needs of the one” concept is one that I studied in ethics class last semester; it’s called utilitarianism. All fans of Star Trek, old and new alike should get a kick out of this one.

“There are always…possibilities.”

Star Trek III: The Search for Spock

“I chose danger…hell of a time to ask.”

After the philosophical adventures of the first two movies, it’s hard to top them with more spiritually moving scenes and overtures that could make Eastwood cry. STIII, in my opinion, breaks barrier from moving philosophy to good storytelling. In this film, we see the Genesis Planet go awry, and the destruction of the USS Enterprise, as well as the rebirth of the body of Spock. Kirk puts his career on the line to save Spock, and sacrifices his son and ship for his Vulcan friendship. Even Dr. McCoy’s selflessness for Spock’s survival, despite their differences, makes this film a great addition to the series.
All in all, the themes of this movie are mentioned above: friendship, sacrifice and hope. Not only that, but the movie ties together the vast storytelling that would span Star Trek IIStar Trek IV. A very good cinematic event, and II, III and IV must be watched as a trilogy, or there’s no point.

“The needs of the one outweigh the needs of the many…”

Ben’s Comments:
As Trehern suggested, the storytelling is the key component of this installment in the Star Trek franchise. Christopher Lloyd’s performance (as Cmdr. Kruge) was ridiculous at best, and knowing that’s him in that Klingon makeup makes it nearly impossible to take him seriously as a villain. That being said, the loyalty and friendship of the Enterprise crew is at a peak in this edition, with each member playing a role in rescuing their newly resurrected companion and kicking utilitarianism in the butt in the process. We learn a little more about the Genesis project, which allowed the filmmakers (Nimoy directed this one!) to replay a pretty cool graphic explaining what Genesis does that they played in Wrath of Khan and would play again in Star Trek IV. Overall, this was a solid addition to a steadily growing franchise that was about to go into warp speed in the next couple years.

1 comment:

tee breezy said...

well...I enjoyed it.