Tuesday, October 1, 2013

These Were the Voyages Part I

Well, we've come to the end of our Star Trek retrospective.  I still, after all the films, cannot call myself a Trekker (which from what I understand, is a middle-class version of a Trekkie).  Once school lets up a bit I hope to travel to the Original Series.  At the moment, I've seen only three O.S. Star Trek episodes: Spock's Brain (the Citizen Kane of Star Trek episodes), City on the Edge of Forever (quite a good story), and Space Seed (the genesis of Khan...the original, not the impostor, but more on that later). 

However, I have learned a few things about Star Trek.  At its heart, the series is more than just adventures in space.  They are about the constant search for hope in the future, to improve man's fate among the stars.  Star Trek seeks out new life, new civilizations, but they are never for conquest.  At the most, it is for trade, but generally the Federation of Planets wishes nothing more than to live in peace with other civilizations.  Any hostility or conflict emerges from alien species (or rogue Federation agents) who do not want peace, but instead want conquest or annihilation of others.  Sometimes it comes from fear and misunderstanding of The Other.  On the whole, however, the U.S.S. Enterprise never goes out to conquer, only explore, make contact, and secure alliances.  I can appreciate that, along with the sense of adventure.  Once school ends or lets up, I hope to watch Original Series episodes, but for now I have finished watching all the Star Trek movies and am ready to make my two individual lists.       

Now, at long last, we have Our Ranking of All the Star Trek films.  Let us start with the Six Worst Star Trek Films.  The very Worst Star Trek Film of All Time Is...

Number 12: Star Trek: The Motion Picture

Scrapping the bottom of the barrel is the first adventure of the U.S.S. EnterpriseStar Trek: The Motion Picture is really a misnomer, because it really doesn't move.  The film treats everything as IMPORTANT, with a very hushed reverence that makes the film slow and ponderous.  Worse, for a film that is the beginning we are never formally introduced to the crew.  Instead, it's assumed we know who these people are.  If it weren't for the fact that the Enterprise crew has entered the general culture I wouldn't know either the cast or their relationships with each other.   The film itself is very slow and boring, but its subtle arrogance in the idea that we know everything about Star Trek itself pushes Star Trek: The Motion Picture down.  It's boring, it's just boring.

Number 11: Star Trek Generations

I know many people loved Star Trek Generations, but having seen it twice I still leave unimpressed.  What is suppose to be this epic meeting of the two Enterprise captains takes up a remarkably small amount of the film's almost two-hour running time.  Truth be told, Captain Kirk's appearance in the film is almost unimportant.  Any generic Next Generation cast member could have filled in for him.  The way they were brought together via the Nexus was silly, and worse, Generations does something I detest in time-travel films: basically going back in time to where they failed and trying again.  I just felt it was a totally wasted opportunity, which in my mind is what condemns Generations

Number 10: Star Trek V: The Final Frontier
Oh, yes, the stories are all true.  The Final Frontier is just shockingly bad.  This quest to find "God" is so embarrassingly laughable, and William Shatner's direction is an exercise in vanity and ego.  The story is nonsensical and when we meet "God", we see it has been a total waste of our time.  Therefore, since The Final Frontier may be one of the worst films ever made, let alone one of the worst Star Trek films, how come it failed to be The Worst?  Well, it has three saving graces.  One, Laurence Luckinbill's performance as Spock's half-brother Sybok is a strong performance that does wonders with an unbearably lousy script.  Two, it didn't waste the meeting of Original and Next Generation characters which genuinely angered me (see Number 11) and in fairness to Final Frontier, it did move and have some sense of action (versus Number 12). 

Number 9: Star Trek Nemesis
What a waste all around.  You waste a potentially good villain in pre-Dark Knight Rises' Tom Hardy's turn as Shizon.  You waste viewer's time by having Data 2.0 (one of the biggest cheats in a hoped-for sequel).  You have bizarre moments (such as poor Marina Sirtis' mental rape by Shizon), and you throw in Will Wheaton's quick cameo at the Troi-Riker wedding (so quick I didn't know he was in the film until the credits), and seeing Data belting out a little Irving Berlin is just dumb.  Throwing in Captain Janeway from Voyager throws in more nonsense that adds nothing to the film.  Nemesis had good ideas rattling around it, but with no follow through and with the entire Data subplot it is no surprise there were no more Next Generation films, or that it all but killed the franchise until the next millennium.

Number 8: Star Trek Insurrection

It looked like Insurrection was a test run for the debacle that was Nemesis.  It isn't that Insurrection DIDN'T start out well: the idea of the generally sweet Data running amok is a fascinating idea.  HOWEVER, once we got Data and Patrick Stewart's Captain Picard doing a little Gilbert & Sullivan you pretty much watched Insurrection go down the drain.  Again, it has a boring story.  Not terrible per se, just boring.  Evil people want to move idiotically docile beings from their resort to open up a Fountain of Youth-type resort of their own.  The Ba'ku people (and I SWEAR they stole that name from the capital of Azerbaijan) are so dull in their long lives one wonders why they didn't go postal or stir crazy, and again the whole 'Data will learn to be human by playing with little boys' thing started getting on my nerves.  There is something to be said about a movie where you not only predict what will happen but actually wouldn't mind if the 'cute kid' met a rather gruesome end.

And now, the Best of the Worst Star Trek Films is...

Number 7: Star Trek Into Darkness

I know many people love Into Darkness and think it among the greatest Star Trek films ever made (or perhaps among the greatest films of all time). I also know that Trekkers voted it the Worst Star Trek Film (and even questioned whether it WAS an actual Star Trek film), but I think it has to do more with the fact that Into Darkness is a remake of Wrath of Khan in all but name.  Let's not pretend that Into Darkness is 'original'.  When I was watching Into Darkness (at a midnight screening no less) when we had Benedict Cumberbatch's 'big reveal', I just took my notebook and starting beating my head with it.  I also said, "No, no, no".  I like watching original films, and while I don't object to remakes, I do object strongly to remakes being passed off as original.  Copying whole scenes and plot points from superior films is an insult to the audience.  In terms of acting and visuals, it certainly is above a lot of other Star Trek films (see all those above) but Into Darkness was a cheat and a fraud plain and simple.  Finally, I'm tiring of Benny...just waiting for the inevitable backlash.           

I write this as someone who has never converted to a Trekker/Trekkie.  I shall stay a Whovian, thank you very much.  However, this isn't to say I can't appreciate the positive qualities Star Trek has.  With the exception of the Top Two Worst Star Trek films (and a very shaky Third), there were things in these films that I did or could enjoy, but on the whole I have no desire to watch any of these Star Trek films again.

Next time, the Six Best Star Trek films. 

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