Director Justin Lin has started leaking images of the new Star Trek movie, entitled Star Trek Beyond. Let’s hope it’s not another Star Trek Into Darkness. Sure, it was a good summer action flick, but it strayed a bit too far from the original version than it should have.
Beyond will mark the 13th Trek movie since 1979’s Star Trek: The Motion Picture. There were the classics (The Wrath of Khan, First Contact), the good (The Undiscovered Country, The Voyage Home), and the… um… those that were among the rest (The Final Frontier, Nemesis). So would I rank them?
Does a mugato shit in the woods? (All photos originally Paramount Pictures)
Why not Star Trek V or Nemesis? Because this movie is one big snore fest. The uniforms, the Enterprise, the acting… Just the story is colorless.
A giant alien ship comes to Earth threatening to wipe out humanity if it is not united with its Creator. Punchline?
V’Ger, the almost Borg-like machine, is an old NASA probe that fell into a black hole.
Oh, and Will Decker gets what he always wanted: To be a beam of light.
11: Star Trek: Nemesis
This was the first movie since The Motion Picture that I did not see in the theater or on HBO. I watched it on DVD.
I should have demanded my money back from Netflix, but they also sent me a couple of DVDs of Homicide: Life on the Streets.
Picard has a clone who has taken over the Romulan Star Empire. Data also has a clone. And director Stuart Baird has his own vision of Star Trek. And that, my friends, is why they shut down the franchise for a few years and why Stuart Baird hasn’t directed a movie in more than a decade.
Yes, it’s bad. As in Mystery Science Theater 3000 bad. MST3K spin-0ff Riff Traxx made it an early offering.
But it ranks higher than the bloated Motion Picture and the inexcusably bad Nemesis because at least it doesn’t take itself seriously. Shatner may not be the greatest director or screen writer, but he does have a flair for comedy. Perhaps JJ Abrams can hire Justin Halpern to pen a script for Shatner to play an aged George Kirk in Star Trek: S*** My Captain Says. The tragedy here is that Lawrence Luckinbill’s brilliant performance is wasted in this turkey. Disagree? Share your pain with me and gain strength from it.
Now we get into the “Meh” Treks. You know it’s “Meh” because Insurrection is a movie you have trouble remembering five minutes after you watch it. The Enterprise takes on aliens with a fetish for face lifts and Picard dates a 300-year-old woman. That’s about it. And Riker’s line, “We’re through running from these bastards!” Beautifully photographed under Jonathan Frakes’s direction, Insurrection is a script shy of a good movie. It’s not even an interesting episode. During The Next Generation‘s run, this one would have filler for any given season.
Methinks JJ Abrams should have waited until he had a few more Treks under his belt, maybe even finished the Star Wars sequels, before remaking The Wrath of Khan in his own image. Kirk is supposed to be “the only genius-level offender in the Midwest,” but he comes off as an idiot here. He only grows up when Admiral Marcus threatens to kill his crew as a sacrifice to get the war with the Klingons he’s always wanted. This movie had potential, but they went a little too far: “John Harrison” could have been a great villain in his own right without invoking Khan. Spock lets his Vulcan discipline slip too easily, all for a gratuitous “Khaaaaaaaannnnnnn!” The crash of the Vengenance was a bit too Roland Emmerich for my tastes. Cut us a break, JJ. Show us why we loved the original so much. Stop making Chris Pine play an idiot.
The Next Generation takes the baton from the original crew. And it’s the end of Captain Kirk, who, after years on the bridge, (Spoiler alert) dies with a bridge on him. Malcolm McDowell plays a man obsessed with returning to the Nexus, a place where time does not really exist. Picard, on the other hand, is dealing with thoughts of mortality as his brother and nephew are killed in a fire. And Data finally gets emotions, becoming really annoying. For some reason, this murky story was filmed in low light, making the Enterprise look like it’s suffering a brown-out. This one is okay as a long episode, but the Kirk-Picard meeting is contrived, and the story is muddled. Not Insurrection muddled, but muddled.
This one tops the meh movies for its questionable premise: Spock is resurrected by the Genesis project. But it flirts with the top 5 for being one of the Nimoy-Nicholas Meyer movies. And it’s Leonard Nimoy’s debut as a director. Where this one succeeds is in getting the chemistry between the crew. The original cast is famous for both its friendships and its hostilities, and that always carries over into their acting. These actors know each other, letting them play a crew that is more a family. Plus the death of Kirk’s son and the destruction of the original Starship Enterprise are emotional jolts that pump life into this movie, struggles that the crew overcomes by pulling together.
We’re into the great Treks now. The Undiscovered Country could rank higher, but it rides roughshod over its own plot. However, more than Generations, this movie sets up the future history that leads into The Next Generation. The Klingons are in trouble and need the Federation’s help, which means the end of their 70-year rivalry. For some, it’s a dream come true and the fulfillment of a prophecy from the original series, which predicted the Federation and the Klingon Empire would become “fast friends.” But Kirk is among the doubters. Chancellor Gorkon echoes what Gorbachev and Reagan must have felt as they negotiated an end to the Cold War during. “You don’t trust me, do you, Kirk? I don’t blame you. If there is to be a brave new world, our generation is going to have the hardest time living in it.” When Gorkon is murdered, it becomes a cat-and-mouse game to find traitors in both the Federation and the Klingon Empire. Christopher Plummer is terrific as the grandiose, Shakespeare-quoting General Chang. George Takei steps up as Sulu becomes captain of the Excelsior.
Trek goes comedic. And unlike Star Trek V, it’s on purpose. A V’Ger-like probe arrives looking for humpback whales. And when it doesn’t find them, it decides to wipe out life on Earth to reseed the planet. The Earth’s only hope? The exiled crew of the Enterprise, who go back in time in a stolen Klingon warship to get some humpbacks. Written and directed by Leonard Nimoy, this does what the whole Meyer-Nimoy trilogy does, which is let the cast use their chemistry. Bringing the crew to present-day San Francisco provides a lot of fish-out-of-water moments. Chekov, Russian accent thick as ever, trying to ask a Cold War-era cop where the “nuclear wessels” are. Scotty, who makes the Enterprise dance to his tune, mystified by the mouse on a Macintosh (at the time, cutting edge technology.) Kirk’s ham-handed swearing. Spock passed off as a victim of too much “LDS” in the 1960s. (Syd Barrett must have howled with laughter at that one.)
After letting the field lay fallow, JJ Abrams reboots Star Trek by simply grafting a new timeline onto the old. Spock in “our” timeline is sent careening back to before we met the original crew. But a large Romulan ship chasing him is tossed back further, causing a new timeline to form. Instead of the disciplined, confident James T. Kirk, Chris Pine plays a cocky bastard with a chip on his shoulder. Zachary Quinto plays a Nimoy-like Spock. Sulu and Uhura are given first names and more to do. Simon Pegg and Karl Urban are pitch perfect as Scotty and McCoy respectively. It’s a new Star Trek, and we hope this crew will mature into the one we know from the Shatner-Nimoy days.
It’s the dawn of Star Trek, where we see the invention of warp drive. But the Borg want to stop it, since that pesky Federation keeps thwarting their plans to assimilate everything. Picard becomes an apt Captain Ahab character, chasing his cybernetic white whale. Jonathan Frakes makes his debut as director and does what Leonard Nimoy and Nicholas Meyer before him have done: Exploit the chemistry within the cast. Alice Kriege is both sensual and repulsive as the Borg Queen, the embodiment of the Borg’s hive mind. First Contact is the closest the Next Generation comes to the original cast movies.
In a cinematic sequel to the episode “Space Seed,” Khan Noonien Singh, played by Ricardo Montalban, escapes his isolated prison of a planet and comes looking for revenge on Kirk. If the Borg were Picard’s great white whale, both Kirk and Khan play whale to each other’s Captain Ahab. This action-oriented movie shows an older, wearier crew of the Starship Enterprise wanting desperately to pass the baton to a younger generation. Shatner’s performance shows the gravitas behind the persona most people now lampoon. The Wrath of Khan is a science fiction classic in its own right and considered by most to be the greatest of the Star Trek movies.