Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Star Trek: The Official Reviews Part 2

By Guest Sci-Fi Loser Alan Trehern

Well, I'm back, and you're probably SICK and TIRED of me writing long series reviews of some of my favorite movies. You may not enjoy these movies as much as I do, but that's too bad, because the reviews are here, and you really have nothing else to do, so sit back, flip off the tele, and enjoy the third installment of the Star Trek Ominbus of Posts: The Official Reviews: Part 2!

For those of you who are eager to get caught up (let me see those hands, class) here are the previous posts, as well as the link to the final installment of the series: The Shatnerverse...

Star Trek IV: The One With the Whales…wait, sorry
Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home
Leaving the serious themes of the previous movies, STIV attempts to get an even more important message across while simultaneously making a good movie. This one has to be, hands down, my favorite film in the series. I said this strongly the first time I saw it, but after a second viewing, my opinion was only further fueled. Nimoy directs again, and in this installment he attacks the issue of global conservation and protection with a tale of time travel, illegal whaling and terran armageddon. After returning Spock’s katra from McCoy’s mind to the Genesis-revived body of the science officer, we find the crew months later coming back to earth from the planet Vulcan. Following the destruction of the USS-Enterprise, Kirk must captain the bucket of bolts Christopher Lloyd drove around in the previous movie.

Traveling back into our solar system, our heroes are unknowingly met with a destructive probe bent on speaking with the inhabitants of Earth, or destroying the entire planet. But is it us it wishes to speak to?

This violence-free film is a great addition to the three-movie storyline the creators had established over the series, and it also focuses on a lot of the minor crewmembers, including Chekov, Scotty and Sulu. There could have been more Dr. “Bones” McCoy, but the next two films are chock full of the good doctor, so I wasn’t too worried about it.

If you enjoy things like humpback whales, the mom from 7th Heaven (HOT!), whipping around the sun in time warp, Italian food, and whales, then this movie is for you. I’m even bold enough to say that if you are going to watch one Star Trek movie, it SHOULD be this one. Yeah, I like it that much.

Ben’s Notes:
Utterly contrary to Trehern’s opinion, this was by far my least favorite of the series (although the first one was pretty boring). The complete disregard for cohesive plot in Star Trek IV made the entire thing laughable, and the concept of the crew time traveling to our present just didn’t work for me. Haven’t they ever heard of the space-time continuum? Just the fact that the crew of the Enterprise was actually back in our time walking around and interacting with people (especially giving them technology – Scotty, I’m lookin’ at you) would have altered our world in ways unimaginable to the human brain. Plus, the inclusion of humpback whales being the only way to communicate with a species in the 23rd century is outside my realm of personal believability, even for science fiction films. Shatner was his usual cool self in this one, and it was good to have Spock back after the recent carnage wreaked on him in the previous two movies, but I thought Star Trek IV was a disaster.

Star Trek V: The Final Frontier
I love the feeling you get when jumping off a really awesome trilogy and just hoping right back into the action. Thankfully, we watched all of these movies consecutively, not having to wait 2 years for the next one to premiere (suck it late 80s!). In any case, STV picks up months after the events of STIV. The U.S.S. Enterprise-A is still in the beta stages, and the crew is on shore leave on Earth. Meanwhile, however, on a planet called Nimbus III, a renegade Vulcan named Sybok (half-brother of Spock) has planned to steal a Federation cruiser to cross the Great Barrier (my idea!) to a place where creation began: Sha Ka Ree. The overall movie is really good (if your disc isn’t scratched to hell) because the storyline and direction came straight from Kirk (i.e. it was directed by William Shatner). He attempts to revolve the story around seeking God and Eden, or the perfection and divine in all of us, while at the same time, giving us more laser-gun and riproaring (I think that’s one word) action than we’ve seen in this series.

Interestingly, we also see the inner workings of Dr. McCoy, who plays a fairly large role in this movie, hating Spock because of his lack of passion for humanity, and hating Jim Kirk because of his complete disregard for his own life. Probably being my favorite character of the Enterprise trifecta (Kirk, Spock, McCoy), McCoy comes from a troubled past, which is revealed to us in the form of a personal realization. He comes face to face with his greatest fear, which happened to be a moment in Time. His father, ill with an incurable disease, lays crying out for pain to a grieving McCoy. All the knowledge he has amassed as a doctor and he has nothing to alleviate his father’s agony, lest one thing. McCoy Sr. asks for his son to kill him, setting him free, and McCoy reluctantly obeys. Not a week later, a cure is found, and McCoy is haunted by his father’s ghost, which he carries willingly for the rest of his life. Intense.

I can’t say this is the best of the series, but you have to watch it if you’ve gotten this far. And just think: this storyline was given life by William Shatner, which mean it’s only a few more years until that mythical “Shatnerverse” experiences its Big Bang. More on that later…

For now, here are Ben’s Notes on the film:
Brilliant. I don’t know how this franchise could have produced a movie so bad (Star Trek IV) and then followed it up with something so awesome. I really liked this one a lot; so much so that it competes with ST2: The Wrath of Khan for my favorite in the series. The themes explored in this movie came across as particularly heartfelt and poignant to me, and the idea of searching for a higher meaning in life is something we can all relate to. Shatner was surprisingly as competent behind the camera as he is in front of it, and the cast turned in some solid performances. All this contributed to not making the movie TOO cheesy, instead giving it a personal, quiet humility that places it highly in my rankings of Star Trek lore.

Star Trek IV: The Undiscovered Country
What is “The Undiscovered Country”? This question crossed my mind as I slipped the last and final voyage of our heroes into our modern DVD player, not knowing how emotionally attached I would become to the adventures and evolution of these characters and their 23rd century world.

As we soon find out, the undiscovered country is the future…intergalactic peace seems almost within reach when a travesty occurs in the Klingon sector. Their empire stands on the verge of extinction, so they are forced to lower their defenses and allow help from outside nations (i.e. the United Federation of Planets). I didn’t realize this at the time, but after further research (e.g. the Disc 2 documentaries) this movie parallels our world and its strive to change. Star Trek was created in a cold war world, and Kirk and his crew had always considered the Klingons the enemies, just as the Soviets had been enemies of the U.S. for decades. The universe of our heroes was changing, just as ours was during the fall of the Berlin and the U.S.S.R., and many of Americans and crewmembers of the Enterprise feared what this future may hold.

I won’t go into details of the storyline, cause I think this is a movie you should see, especially after you experience the entire series in order. Captain Kirk, who breaks character in this film, has a perpetual hatred for the Klingons, blaming them for the death of his son (see Star Trek III). This racism, however wrong, can be seen in everyone present. People have trouble dealing with change; many respond with disgust, while only the strong can embrace it and learn to live with it. Kirk learns this through the movie.

Jim Kirk and his crew then open the doorway to the young generations to come; even though they are relics of a war soon to be over, they have set the groundwork for others to live peacefully and without fear in this…undiscovered country.

Ben’s Notes
I didn’t even see that connection with the Klingons and the Russians, but that makes perfect sense now. Director Nicholas Meyer (Star Trek II) returned for this film, tackling some heavier subject matter and doing it with style. Kirk and McCoy imprisoned in a working camp was a personal highlight for me, and this movie places pretty well with the others in this series, keeping a lighthearted tone when needed and trading back and forth with serious issues. A nice addition to the franchise, and a sad ending to the original crew of the most famous spaceship the Federation has ever known.

We also see an emotional farewell to this original crew, for this was their last voyage together. Weep not, my children, and keep your hope alive for I know that they will meet again. And they do indeed, but alas we’ve not the time for it. Tune in next time, though, for it’s back to The Solar Sentinel for the last thoughts on The Evolution of Science Fiction and a map of this…”Shatnerverse”.


Anonymous said...

Not going to review SATC?

Ben Pearson said...

All right, anonymous:

I'm not sure if that question was directed toward me or Branz, but I'll answer for both of us.

For the record, I had to Google "SATC" just to see what the F you were talking about. I'm sure Branz wouldn't be down with that lingo either. Sex and the City? On a Star Trek post? Get that weak stuff outta here.

To answer your question, I've never seen an episode, and I have no intention of ever seeing the film. I will certainly not contribute to its surprising theatrical success, and that's all you're going to get out of me on the subject.

Alan Trehern said...

I can only assume that Boomer or one of his lackies posted this...I condone Ben's response to the fullest, and if there were a way to nuke the success of "SATC", you'd be damn sure Branz and Pearson would be turning the keys...

Anonymous, you frickin' nuked the fridge on this one.