Tag Archives: Film

Star Trek Into Darkness (2013) Dir. J.J. Abrams

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I’m not sure how I would categorize myself when it comes to being a Star Trek fan.  I watched all of the Original Series, and admittedly I’m not as huge a fan of it as I am with Next Generation and DS9.  I can’t recite plots for you, I don’t own any of the books with the schematics for how the Enterprise works.  But I know the basic rules of the series.  I know enough of the important things that hold it together.  Simple rules like the Prime Directive.  Or you can’t beam to the surface when shields are up.  When it comes to the Original Series, most of my knowledge about it comes from the first 6 Star Trek features, but I know the characters well enough to understand who they are and what their history is.  When I first saw the Wrath of Khan in 2004, I hadn’t watched all of the original series at that point, but I understood the meaning behind Spock’s death.  I understood that Kirk, Spock, and McCoy had a history that they shared together, over three seasons of televisions and two feature films.  There was also no guarantee at that point that Spock would ever come back.  Even though I knew there was a movie after The Wrath of Khan called The Search For Spock, I was still emotionally caught up in Spock’s death, and the movie was so well written as to make Kirk finally stare death in the face for the first time.  Even if you had no connection to Star Trek at all, you could understand the story well enough to let Spocks death have some sort of impact on you.  It’s that well written.  Everything about that story had built up to that moment, and it was just as beautiful, wonderful and as sad as any other pinnacle moment in motion picture history.

It seems almost idiotic and unbelievably stupid that anyone would try to redo that famous moment in film, but that’s what Star Into Darkness tries to do.  From the moment John Harrison is revealed to be Khan, I had a feeling the movie was getting itself into serious trouble.  This is like retelling the story of the Wrath of Khan from the perspective of Back To The Future 2, seeing the events unfold from another side.  But instead of being worked into the structure of good storytelling, it’s about nothing more than serving the fans of the original movie.  It takes advantage of the audiences naivety when it comes to storytelling by letting their emotions from another film influence them instead of the story we’re watching being able to hold its own.  The film also couldn’t let go of holding hands with the original series and walk on its own once Leonard Nimoy made a useless cameo appearance.  Elder Spock should have been smarter and not told anything about what happened in his timeline, because all he did was allow young Spocks emotions to get caught up about Kirk in a timeline that has nothing to do with him.  Elder Spock should have known this and not said anything.  But the moment has nothing to do with plot.  It’s all about giving fans another reappearance from Spock.  It just goes to show how unwilling J.J. Abrams is willing to detach himself from the Original series, and from that point on the movie falls into disaster.  The moment I saw that Kirk was going in to save the warp drive of the failing ship, I knew what they were doing and what was coming.  I let out an audible “Jesus Christ” starring in disbelief that the film had completely lost its own sense of meaning and purpose to itself.  It couldn’t allow itself to be it’s own thing.  It had to take the easy path, keeping fans of the show unaware that there was no real story here to begin with..  For one thing, the fact that John Harrison is Khan, to Kirk and crew that doesn’t mean squat.  They don’t know who he is.  There is no relationship between them yet.  As of this moment, there even still isn’t enough of a relationship between Kirk and Spock for Spock to shed any tears over Kirk’s “death”.  On an emotional level, the scene makes absolutely no sense.  The people who are getting caught up in the scene emotionally are getting caught up in their emotions from the Original Series.  J.J. Abrams is letting somebody else’s movie drive his film.  In the two Star Trek films Abrams has directed so far, I don’t see how Kirk and Spock could have established any sort of real relationship to make Spock shed tears over his death.  Spocks emotions are based on what Elder Spock told him about the other timeline.  To follow such emotions from somebody elses timeline is…er…illogical.

In fact, I think the new series has failed to establish the primary relationship that does matter: the trio of Kirk, Spock, and McCoy.  It’s these three men who are at the heart of Star Trek.  The new films so far have failed to build up their relationship together.  McCoy is rarely there when the three of them are a group.  As far as the two main characters go, Kirk spends more time cutting off Spock any time he has something important to say.  It made more sense from the first film when the two men were at odds with one another.  I still haven’t seen them go through enough for their relationship to mean anything.

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First, the opening sequence makes no logical sense.  It’s pure action drivel with very little development put on the characters.  It’s not just the fact that Kirk revealed the starship to a race of primitive aliens, the entire mission is a violation of the prime directive.  If the volcano is going to wipe out their civilization, then the Federation can’t interfere with the evolution of the planet or the destruction of a species.  Kirk from the series was known for violating the Prime Directive, but at least his reasons made sense, and he wasn’t about to start impacting an entire ecosystem.  Second…why was the ship underwater again?  I couldn’t understand why they couldn’t keep the ship in space, except for the reason to have a “hey wouldn’t it be cool to see the Enterprise burst out of the ocean” moment.  Third…why could they not beam Spock through water?  In The Wrath of Khan, they could beam through the center of planet.  In Star Trek TNG, there were cities on Earth built underwater where people could be beamed in and out.  If they can beam through rock, why should beaming through water be any different?

The next thing that happened bugged me even more.  The story presents a plot issue that Kirk has his command taken away from him, which we think is going to be a driving story point.  After making a big mistake, Kirk has to prove himself to regain command of the Enterprise.  But all it takes is the death of Captain Pike in the next scene before Kirk is given his ship back.  So any sense of drama that might have related to Kirk losing the captains chair and fighting his way back to it are completely extinguished.  I also can’t relate to Kirk feeling emotionally lost about losing the Captains chair because quite frankly he deserves it.  And he just turns into a whimpering baby over it.  Also, as far as Khan killing Captain Pike goes, I just don’t think there’s enough of relationship between Kirk and Pike to justify Kirk’s need for revenge.  We have to be reminded of Pike giving command to Kirk in the first place from the first film, taking him under his wing and acting like a surrogate father to him.  But it’s not enough to drive an entire emotional arc of a film.  I sometimes think Kirk has the emotional stability of a high school kid, and one would think they would put a person with some ounce of maturity in the Captain’s chair.  It made a little more sense in the first film, which established Kirk as being somewhat of a prodigy, even if he was unruly.  But with his maturity level here, he seems undeserving of command, and I wish the film had spent more time forcing him to see this side of himself instead of instantly giving him back the Enterprise.

And then there’s the completely messed up logic in the build up to Kirk’s death, which is the Wrath of Khan moment in the story.  The Enterprise is falling out of orbit and Kirk has to realign the warp core to power the main thrusters.  Umm…I don’t read Enterprise technical manuals, but I know that’s not how the Enterprise works.  The warp core powers the warp drive.  NOT the Thrusters.  That’s why in any Star Trek series, when the warp core gets knocked offline, the ship can still run on impulse (i.e. THRUSTERS).  It’s one of these imbecilic design flaws where all the ships power is connected to one circuit breaker.   It worked in Wrath of Khan because Spock had to fix the Warp Drive and send the ship into warp to get away from the Genesis explosion.  As far as Spock screaming Khan and turning into the Vulcan terminator, they try to turn Spock into a badass, but without any of the buildup to it.  It made me think like they were trying to do an Iron Giant moment, like when the Giant loses himself and turns into a killing machine.  We don’t see Spock struggling to control his emotions except for getting into whiny high school banter with his girlfriend Uhura.  The fight presumably being that Spock showed no feeling towards Uhura about how she would feel if the Enterprise would have left him to die in the volcano.  Umm…Uhura…that’s part of service in a military operation when it comes to giving your life for service.  If she’s that emotionally impaired, what is she doing in a military operation like Starfleet?  It just tells me even more that this crew is not ready to be piloting starships around the galaxy.

STID2And about Carol Marcus, another layover from Wrath of Khan…she serves absolutely no purpose to the film.  She could be taken out of the film and have almost no effect on the outcome of the story.  She’s that forgettable.  Also, why is her father piloting a starship bigger than the Enterprise?  The Enterprise is supposed to be the most advanced ship in Starfleet.  Why is there a ship out there that looks like a Star Destroyer?

Once again we have another summer film that builds on everything that was familiar and had come before.  This film gives more power to The Wrath of Khan than it does to itself.  I think this is by far the worst Star Trek film ever made, because it never allows itself to be it’s own thing.  It goes against the promise of the first Star Trek that we would see the crew go on new adventures, and I thought the very idea of separating itself by having the characters in a separate timeline was done so it would NOT INSULT the fans of the original series or Star Trek in general.  For people who say they still prefer this film over Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, I say this…as bad as that film was, at least it was an original story and at least it had the guts to be its own thing.  This film never follows through on any of it’s consequences.  Unlike Wrath of Khan, we know Kirk isn’t going to die, and that by the end of the film he’ll be back.  And also, what the hell was that moment where we hear Khan crushing Scotty’s head…and then a few minutes later when they transport back Scotty is fine?  I thought they were implying Khan had killed Scotty.  The rest of the crew as well just doesn’t have any solid, memorable moments like they did in the first film.  There are absolutely no serious stakes or consequences that are followed through.  Khan is nowhere near the murderer he was in Wrath of Khan.  In that film, he killed and slaughtered everyone in the orbiting science station.  Also, the fact that Kirk has a brief alliance with Khan doesn’t do anything to build up the hero/villain relationship.  They are not mortal enemies yet.  They don’t know what either person is capable of.  Everything about this film gives more power to The Wrath of Khan than it does to itself, and it denies us any chance of getting invested in this new crew and their mission.  I don’t think I have any reason to continue watching the next Star Trek.  J.J. Abrams and his team of writers have no understanding or willingness to make their own mark on the Star Trek universe, or allow themselves to take chances and mark their own course in the series.  If he can’t let himself go there with Star Trek, what makes anyone think he’s going to make a difference with Star Wars?

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A Good Story Well Told

0HollywoodI thought I’d take some time to talk about what I look for when writing about movies, and where my thinking goes as a result.  I have always been a fan of great movies, but more importantly I am more attracted to good storytelling in cinema.  Looking back on the films I liked and disliked as a kid, I’ve found it rare that I would revisit a film I liked growing up only to find that the movie wasn’t in fact good at all.  A lot of times there are movies that do end up being absolute crap, but our nostalgic love for the film is what allows us to enjoy it even as adults.  To be honest, there’s nothing wrong with enjoying crap.  The movie may be terrible, but there are elements to the main characters journey, or sometimes there are particular elements to the film that draw us in, even if it was a terribly executed idea.

As a kid I was pretty lucky when it came to seeing movies.  I saw everything, and my parents were pretty liberal about the movies they took me to see.  I saw everything from G to R rated features.  The only movies my parents didn’t take me to were hard R rated films that featured an over abundance of language or we’re overly violent and scary.  I was never really big into slasher horror flicks or anything like that.  But other than that, I was exposed to a wide variety of storytelling.  This is where my own emotional intuition would kick in about whether I thought a movie was good or not.  It depended on how much a movie would captivate me and I would be along for the adventure.  Even if I didn’t fully understand the story, there would be some part of the film that would captivate me, like a problem the main character was having that I could identify with and the problem leads them on a personal quest.  I remember seeing a movie like Field of Dreams for instance and being drawn in by the haunting voice coming from the cornfields.  At the same time that child-like wonder and curiosity the main character would feel took hold of me.  I wanted to see where building this baseball field would take him and discover along the way the problems that would get in the way (for instance, the danger of losing all his money and his farm to find out where the voice was leading him).

My point being that great storytelling can captivate us on all levels.  You don’t need to be an adult to understand all aspects of a story.  But as a kid, even if I didn’t understand all the stuff that was over my head, I could tell whether a story was working or not simply by how much I engaged with the main character.  For all of us who knew movies that were great when we were young, such as the films of Steven Spielberg, these were films that never catered to children.  But as kids we were drawn in by the powerful, emotional journey of its main characters.  The kids that were in these movies acted like real kids and were believable.  A story in my opinion doesn’t have to be perfect plot wise.  I don’t always pay attention to the structure of the film.  But my main concern is if the main character has a problem I can identify with, and if the film challenges the character enough so they can find balance again by the end of the story.  Often times, I will watch a movie and see a character presented with a problem, but then the problem gets put on hold several times during the film while the action takes over.  In essence, if the conflict is not in support of the main characters problem, my feeling is that the story gets put on hold while the main character fights a bunch of bad guys.  Sometimes the story doesn’t take itself seriously enough for us to believe in what the characters are trying to accomplish.  I was terribly annoyed after seeing Iron Man 3, because the story kept reducing Tony’s problems into a joke, never giving us a chance to take seriously his panic attacks and PTSD.  None of these crippling problems ever plays a part when Tony is off fighting bad guys.  It never seems to stop him from getting the job done.  If we’re not going to see his personal problems affecting him on the job, how are we expected to care about what he’s going through?  Even the main villain that was advertised for the film as a serious threat is reduced to a comic buffoon.  It’s not the movie it was promised to be.

GQ When a film sets itself up for one thing and then takes us off course in a completely different direction, it looses me.  It’s not that I don’t appreciate spoilers or surprises that take the story in a new direction, but the surprise should be in support of the arc of the main character.  I find that spoiler “surprise” moments in big summer movies now are actually red herrings just to make the story appear more compelling than it actually is.  It has nothing to do with what the audience is going through, it’s a formulaic throwing a wrench in the machine, giving the film a bunch of twists and turns that just distract us from the fact that the story has nothing to say to begin with.  I can tell on an instinctive level whether or not a story is drawing me in, or if the main character has a compelling problem that I will want to see resolved (or even fails) in achieving their internal goals.

The other thing that is really important to me is that I like to see stories that end.  I’m not a fan of franchises because they are not written with the goal in mind to resolve the characters issues, but to keep the story going and going like a soap opera, where one aspect of the adventure might get resolved, and suddenly a new problem takes its place.  In this manner, the character loses his or her ability to find balance when their lives are written to always be out of balance.  I’m not speaking of the format of a TV series, where we are accustomed to this sort of writing, but even in a series, by the end of the show we hope the characters will find some sort of peace within themselves.  The same goes for movies.  A characters life can fall even more out of balance by the end of the story, or reach a dead end, but if we are not compelled by the journey they are taking, then we are simply watching characters go through the motions without an engaging driving force that makes us want to see them succeed.

When I am riding this emotional wave, it lets me know when a movie is going strong.  There is an honest sincerity to the character’s journey that enables me to connect with them.  In other words, it’s just good storytelling.  It’s also what keeps us coming back for more when we feel we can learn new things from re-experiencing the characters journey.  As a storyteller, these are not just the things I look for when watching a movie, it’s what I strive to accomplish in my own work.  A good story is one that’s well told.  Not one that is hampered by distractions.

Star Trek: Nemesis (2002) Dir. Stuart Baird

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I know they can’t all be winners, but it’s too bad Star Trek: Nemesis wound up being my least favorite of all the Star Trek films.  It might be a stretch to say its the worst Star Trek film, but for me it’s the most dark and depressing out of all them.  Patrick Stewart really shows his age here, as does the rest of the TNG crew.  The thing that disappointed me most out of this film was that Worf (my favorite TNG character) was completely useless.  Most of the cast members in fact blend into the background and aren’t terribly noticeable.  The big trio, Picard, Riker, and Data get all the best action scenes and story material, but everyone just seems old and tired.  I almost wish they had just left the series with Insurrection and let that be the end of it.  It wasn’t a great film, but it was far more enjoyable and lighthearted than this.

I’m going to keep this review short because there’s not a whole lot I want to discuss about this movie.  But it’s just a disappointment from the get go.  Even when we’re introduced to the crew at Riker and Troi’s wedding, the humor is off and a little hard to sit through.  Sadly, it’s the only light moment in the film.  The thing with Patrick Stewart showing his age also has an effect on his character.  He just seems out of touch with Picard in this film.  It’s supposed to be a jarring moment that he faces the cloned younger version of himself.  But he doesn’t seem to care that much, and his younger self from his perspective could probably use a good whipping to straighten him out.  Stewart as Picard just doesn’t seem like he’s all there, which is surprising because I’ve seen him put far more energy into performances after this film was released.  Michael Dorn as Worf has also noticeably slowed down and just doesn’t have his aggressive fighting energy that we’re so accustomed to.  I wish the script could have done more to play up their age a bit.

Data’s story is also a disappointment.  I know he’s a popular character, but I never really liked that all the attention was put on him, and that the feature films catered to him for bigger story lines.  This is where I wish these films had allowed themselves to focus on other characters.  If any character deserved a terrific death scene, it’s Worf, who has lived his whole life for battle.  To give him a powerful death scene and have him go down fighting would have been much more impactful (at least for me it would!)  I’m amazed that when Data is seeing Geordi for the last time, the two of them don’t speak.  I think Geordi knows Data is on a suicide mission.  To have him not react to his friend leaving or fighting to understand what he’s doing seems out of place.  I never cared for it.

The rest of the crew just sort of fades into the background.  Troi is given some extra stuff, such as a sexual “mind rape” scene.  But not enough is done to show this having a bigger impact on her.  None of the other characters are really given anything interesting to do.  It’s just a weak film.

Blah.  I don’t like this film.  It depresses me that TNG had to end on such a sour note.  I don’t even care for the visual effects.  I mentioned that I also found Star Trek: The Motion Picture to also be a disappointment, but the model work in that film is pure eye candy.  They did an incredible job.  Here with the advent of digital effects, everything being CG just takes away the craftsmanship and beauty of those models.

Okay, I’m done talking about this movie.  It’s bad.  If you’ve seen it once, I don’t think you need a reason to revisit it again.  What a waste.

Star Trek: Insurrection (1998) Dir. Jonathan Frakes

 

STI1Much like The Search For Spock was to The Wrath of Khan, Star Trek: Insurrection is a tough act to follow after the marvelous First Contact.  I have to say though, I like Insurrection better than Generations, and it’s probably my 2nd favorite of the TNG Trek films.  But it’s not great.  It plays more like an extended episode of the TV show as opposed to owning itself as a feature.  Some interesting ideas play out, and thankfully the storyline of Data’s emotion chip is discontinued in this feature.  But the stakes just aren’t as high as they were in First Contact.

I think part of the problem is that Picard is just plain normal Picard here.  He’s not facing any life altering problems.  The first film he was dealing with the loss of the heir to his family after his young nephew Rene is killed in a fire.  In First Contact he confronts one of the most traumatic events of his life, being assimilated by the Borg and losing his identity.  After that, what’s really left?  I think this film would have been better suited if they took the opportunity to focus on the problems of another character.  Riker is a character that comes to mind.  For so long he’s denied the captains chair, it would be nice to see a film where the cast is supporting him.  It doesn’t have to be Riker though, it could be any one of the Enterprise crew.  The reason it feels like a normal episode of the TV show is that none of the crew members are facing any bigger challenges to themselves.  Even Data is more scaled down.  The film starts off interestingly enough with him sabotaging a covert operation on an alien planet.  Picard and Worf then have to work together to recalibrate his systems, but after that his character just blends in with the rest of the cast.

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I think my other problem with this movie is that it doesn’t feel like they really go anywhere.  The main problem of the movie takes place on a standard Alpha Quadrant planet.  There’s no journey to find this place and no real sense of adventure.  The actual adventuring part takes place on the alien planet below where Picard has to help a race of aliens called the Baku travel safely to hide from So’na who want to conquer their planet for the use of it’s orbiting rings that give eternal youth and longevity to its inhabitants.  But there’s no strange encounters or alien creatures.  They’re just hiding in caves to keep the So’na from transporting them to the bad guys ships.  The story plays out okay, but it’s just not that compelling as we have no deeper connection with the characters, and nobody to root for.  Picard’s love interest, Anij really did nothing for me.  And because this is no longer the TV series, I had no reason to invest in their romance since I knew she wouldn’t be returning after this.  Picard talks about seeing her again, but we’re never going to see that played out again since there’s only one more Star Trek feature after this, and by then she’s out of the picture.  Data’s storyline about learning to play more and be like a child is too much on the cutesy side to be engaging or entertaining.  It’s also a little didactic and not very compelling in its message about seeing the world as children see it.  The only story that seems to be infused with some life is the Riker/ Troi relationship, where after so long the two of them finally rekindle their romance.  But not much time is really spent to engage us more in their relationship.

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The film isn’t bad though, and there’s some decent performances.  F. Murray Abraham is good in just about anything, and he’s somewhat effective as the villain Ru’afo.  There’s a few amusing “lighter” moments, but most of the humor is a little overly silly.  The Riker/Troi flirting scenes are a little obnoxious.  And Klingon zits?  If you say so.  Anything to lower Worfs standards as a warrior.  Though I prefer it when he gets to keep his bad-assary like he did in First Contact.  Thankfully though nobody is made to look to foolish, such as when Data put in his emotion chip in Generations, and he just became grating and unbearable to watch.  Sight gags are all well and good, but humor in service to the story is better than having it arbitrarily placed in there.  It’s forcing something in the story when it may not be needed in certain places.  Some of it is amusing like Data and Picard singing Gilbert and Sullivan, but it plays off as just cute more than an engaging story point.  In other words, its an excuse to have Data, Worf, and Picard sing a silly song. I did however like the Picard/Worf exchange:  Picard:  “Mr. Worf, do you know Gilbert and Sullivan?” Worf: “No sir, I have not yet had a chance to meet the new crew members.”

Like I said, Star Trek: Insurrection is not a great film.  But it’s decent and fairly tolerable.  It lacks focus more than anything, and doesn’t give enough of a reason to make it’s main characters more compelling.  It’s not bad, but it could have definitely been better.

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Star Trek: First Contact (1996) Dir. Jonathan Frakes

STFC1At last we come to my favorite of all the Star Trek films, Star Trek: First Contact.  I think this is an extraordinary movie.  It’s got a great story, great character development (every cast member from the series is given their due), a memorable villain, and something I never expected from a Star Trek movie, moments of tension and horror.  I remember my experience seeing this movie in the theater.  The Borg in this film are truly scary…the stuff of nightmares.  The elements are all interwoven and blended together to create a unique and believable storytelling experience.  From comedy, to drama, suspense, action, and adventure, this movie works on all levels.

STFC3The best element of any movie is when the protagonist has an issue he/she is dealing with and the rest of the movie is there to help support it.  In this case, it’s Jean Luc Picard having to fight with his trauma of being assimilated to the Borg six years prior to the events in the film.  Here, Picard’s trauma reflects the majority of his decisions, including telling his crew men to wipe out any other crew members that have been assimilated by the Borg, saying they will be doing them a favor.  Of course this reflects his true desire, which is to see all of the Borg wiped out, erasing them from his existence like the terminator.  Picard has often been in denial over many things based on his code of Starfleet ethics.  He believes that his sense of humanity has grown past the desire for revenge, but he’s very wrong as pointed out by Lily (Alfre Woodard).  In comparison to Ahab and Moby Dick, his fighting desire to stay and fight off the Borg leads to one of my favorite scenes in the movie, where Picard has the brass to call Worf a coward, and Worf’s retaliation, “If you were any other man I would kill you where you stand!”  You know something is wrong when even Worf knows a mission is suicide, and the Klingon whose blood lives for battle understands when it’s time to walk away.  It’s a great scene.  I even love Picard’s apology scene later.  Picard: “Mr. Worf, I regret some of the things I said to you earlier.”  Worf: (annoyed) SOME.

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Picard’s story about getting through and surviving his trauma is successful for the same reasons that Kirk’s story about his fear of death in Wrath of Khan resonate with us to the day.  We are able to witness in First Contact how the adventure brings out the best (and worst) in Picard and helps him find balance again in his life.  The story never forgets that, and all the other plots of the film come together to support the main arc of Picard’s journey.  This is the first Next Generation film where the cast is finally allowed to come into their own.  Each of them has a memorable moment.  Crusher calling the EMH Doctor to block the door from the Borg.  Troi doing Tequila shots.  Riker and LaForge helping Zephram Cochrine carry out his warp flight.  And my personal favorite is Worf who just kicks ass in this movie.  Data is also much more tolerable in this film, as is his story regarding his emotion chip.  I suppose the only thing I was left wondering by the end is whether or not Data really learned anything about the worthiness of his quest to be more human.  The Borg Queen (while using a manipulation tactic) tries to get him to embrace his machine side by doing the exact opposite…giving him what he wants and making him more human, grafting skin on his body.  While it’s tolorable, it’s still probably the only aspect of the movie I don’t care for because I don’t find anything really interesting about Data’s desire to be human.  I have several problems in this which I talked about in my Star Trek: Generations Review.  The Borg Queen’s tactic is clever, but we know in the end Data isn’t going to force himself to really think about what happened to him, and as a result, nothing really changes about his character by the end of the film.  The android is just too stubborn to really think about what he could be capable of in his machine side.

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One of the lighter comical highlights of the film is James Cromwell’s portrayal of Zephrem Cochrine, the man who invents warp drive.  He’s given a wonderful arc in the story, as a man who doesn’t care about the future or making history, and just wants to find a peaceful place where he can be left alone.  That all changes when the Enterprise crew comes in to convince him to carry out his mission so they can go back to their own future.  One of the sequences that makes me laugh is when Lt. Barclay (Dwight Schultz) can’t contain his fandom at getting to work with their history’s greatest legend.  It’s funny because it makes Cochrine even more resistant to his destiny, when he just wants everyone to leave him alone.

Also shining in this film is Alfre Woodard’s Lilly, who develops a great relationship with Picard.  She is not just the lone outsider, but the one keeping both her men (Picard and Cochrine) grounded.  I have two favorite scenes with her.  The first is when Picard opens the bay door with the view of Earth, showing her that she’s “not in Kansas anymore”.  The second is when she fights with Picard to blow up the ship, telling him he’s become Captain Ahab on a quest to destroy the whale.  The most endearing part of the scene is near the end when Picard quotes Moby Dick.  “Actually”, she says, “I never read it.”

I do have to say that out of all the Star Trek films, Wrath of Khan is the best story.  But this film will always be my personal favorite.  It’s just a wonderful, exciting, and action packed adventure.  I’ve always been more partial to TNG because it’s what I grew up with.  But this is the only feature they made where everyone really gets to shine.  It’s a good, well told story, and it’s too bad that we never got another film like it after this.  STFC4

Moviecappa One Year Anniversary!!

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Hot damn!  Moviecappa is One year old!  I missed it by two days, it was actually on May 10th, 2012 that I first started this site.  I for one am very grateful that I have kept this site going for that long.  I started this site because I have always had running commentary in my head when I go to the movies as well as when I see what goes on in the industry.  It’s a place for me to talk about why I think the movies are important, and what we can do to see them get better.  It’s also been my vision that this could be a place for filmmakers to come and talk about movies, and discuss the thing we want most out of them:  good storytelling.  This site was created out of passion, and I hope to see more discussion and bigger things to come for this site in the future.  If you have been an ongoing reader of the site, thank you so much for coming back and for your support!  Greater things are yet to come!  So stay tuned!

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Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (1991) Dir. Nicholas Meyer

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So now the Captain Kirk era of Star Trek comes to a close with Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country.  And for the crews swan song, I will say it’s an enjoyable outing.  I take back my remarks in my Star Trek V review where I said the cast members stopped giving a shit.  This film holds some of the better performances from crew members Chekov, Uhura, Scotty, and Sulu.  Sulu especially is given a meatier role as the captain of the Excelsior and probably for the first time ever in Star Trek, George Takei actually gets to display his acting chops!  Too bad it happens in the final Star Trek outing, but I was glad to see him given his due.

This Star Trek plays more as a political thriller than a space adventure, but one of the reasons I like this film is that for the first time it shows the seedier underbelly of the Federation…it’s dark side if you will.  This is something that would eventually be explored further in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.  But a few characters who were upstanding officers in Star Trek IV, such as Admiral Cartwright (Brock Peters) become corrupted here by refusing to allow peace with the Klingons and bring them into the Federation.  The real villain here isn’t just one man, but several individuals on both sides in a corrupt scandal between the Klingons and the Federation.  I also enjoyed the presence of Rene Auberjonous as Col. West, and later revealing him as an assassin disguised as a Klingon to assassinate the Federation president.  Auberjonous as most of you Trekkies know would later go on the play security officer Odo in DS9.  I also enjoyed the presence of General Chang (Christopher Plummer), and no, his obsession with Shakespeare never bothered me.  Here he is an effective villain, although I would have liked a little more explanation as to why he disagrees with the two sides uniting.  It would have given him a little more grey area than just making him outright villainous.

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Occasionally some of the humor is a little forced, such as the somewhat unnecessary scene where the crew is frantic to translate Klingon to an unsuspecting ship in the area, claiming that the universal translator would be detected if they spoke English.  That was never a problem when characters on other shows had to fake being a freighter ship of the same species.   The other thing that surprised me with this film is that the frame up attack on the Klingon ship was the result of a prototype Klingon ship that could fire torpedoes while it was still cloaked.  Why was this technology not developed in later series like Star Trek TNG or DS9?  Being able to fire while cloaked seems like important technology to have not developed after all this time.  My argument is that it’s a bit of a stretch here, because this sort of technology has not been worked into the mythology of Star Trek.

The visual effects in this film however are a definite step up over the last few Star Trek films.  I still find the morphing CG effects used in this film to be impressive.  This is during the age when morphing effects were developed more at ILM, as two years prior we had the water creature from The Abyss, and the same year as this film we had the T-1000 from Terminator 2: Judgement Day.  The plasma explosion from the Klingon moon in the opening of the film is also a pretty impressive effect.  The production design and sets are a step up from previous Star Trek films as well.

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This isn’t one of my favorite Trek films, but I still like it quite a bit.  I admire the political aspect more in that it makes it a different kind of story from all the previous Trek films.  This one actually stands on its own and does so pretty well.  It’s a fairly decent story, and it’s got a few fun surprise cameos in it, including Christian Slater, who appears briefly waking up Sulu for a communication report.  Michael Dorn also makes an appearance as an ancestor of Worf, defending Kirk and McCoy during the trial scene.  Kirk, Spock, and McCoy, sadly don’t have as much of a dynamic in this film, but it’s not too big of a deal.  I didn’t find McCoy to be terribly useful during the scenes where he and Kirk were exiled on the planet, apart from giving Kirk somebody to talk to.  I think it would have been a little more interesting if Kirk were alone, which coincides more with his fear of dying alone, and especially his worst nightmare, being killed at the hands of the Klingons.  The same fate he would receive as his son.

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This concludes my reviews of the films featuring the original series crew.  Coming up are the films of Star Trek: The Next Generation. To conclude the TOS section of my reviews, I’d like to know what you think is the most Underrated of all the Star Trek Features (Not your favorite!) Give it some thought and check below!