A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Movie 326 – Star Trek V: The Final Frontier

Star Trek V: The Final Frontier – January 20th, 2011

Why yes, we do indeed own the fifth movie. Oh, we didn’t before this project, but then there were quite a few odd holes in our collection before the project started. There still are, though we’re filling them in as we go. This, however, was an intentional hole. We knew damn well that this would be painful to watch and so we’d never bought it. We never meant to put it in our collection. We never meant to intentionally own or watch it. And yet here we are, with the passionate Vulcan and the three-breasted cat woman and the fan dance and the Row Row Row Your Boat oh my god stop singing. We decided that if we were going to watch all of the others, original series and next generation, documentaries and reboot, then, well. We had to buy it.

Around when they started singing I knew this was going to be a trial. It’s been ages since I last saw this movie and as with the second Star Wars prequel, I’ve blocked out a lot. For instance, I’d blocked out that the singing actually bookended the movie. That’s a tidbit that one might think would stay with me, but no. And so when Andy said “well, at least it’s over” at the beginning I believed him. And oh, oh was I sad when he was wrong. I get that it’s meant to be a sweet little moment between the super close trio of Kirk, Spock and McCoy, and I get that it’s supposed to make us feel like even though they’re all futuristic they can still do the things we do or something like that. It’s supposed to speak to connections, both between the characters and the audience. And it doesn’t. It doesn’t at all. It misses the mark by miles. And indeed this is the way it goes for much of the movie.

I keep trying to find something salvageable in this movie and failing to find anything aside from DeForest Kelley’s scene where he’s imagining the death of his father. The plot is nothing super special at its core. Dude shows up with a bunch of fanatical followers and takes over the Enterprise, using her to go somewhere he otherwise wouldn’t be able to go. But in this case the dude is Spock’s half brother, Sybok (and oh, I will get to him in a moment) and the somewhere he’s going is the center of the universe where he believes God is hanging out past a “barrier” that seems pretty weak when all’s said and done. And he doesn’t take over the ship with force so much as he converts everyone on it into his little cult. It’s creepy, to be honest, and I think that was the point? I think. I’m not sure. But if it was the point, well, that’s one thing it did right.

Sybok, as a character, bugs me. He’s this utterly ridiculous figure. He’s Spock’s half-brother, son of Sarek and a Vulcan princess. He’s rejected the logic and repression of his people and embraced emotion, becoming passionate and totally un-Vulcan (soooo, Romulan?) and somehow he’s also got this super special magical cult leader power. He can see the ‘pain’ others are carrying, which seems to mean emotional baggage of some sort, and somehow bring it to the fore, cleansing them and allowing them freedom. And that’s just grand, isn’t it! Watching him with Bones all I could think of was faith healers. But I think that’s how he’s supposed to come off. The thing is, he just doesn’t fit. Maybe if he wasn’t Spock’s half-brother or Vulcan I’d find it easier to accept him. How about a rogue Betazoid? Then the powers would make sense and we’ve met slimy Betazoids in TNG, so it’s certainly possible for them to use their extra senses for less than honorable purposes. But no. He’s this super unique Vulcan, son of a princess. He’s a Gary Stu, only in bad guy form. Sort of. And I say sort of because he’s not shown as evil. Utterly single-minded and determined, yes. Totally short-sighted and naive about the reactions of the people he’s dealing with, yes. But not evil. Misguided, more. So we spend the movie with a bad guy who’s not so much bad as overzealous.

It’s just so messy. Really, really messy. Nimbus III, with its Human, Klingon and Romulan consulates? Sybok’s utter ignorance about things like the Federation’s reaction to taking hostages? Really? Did he truly think he could claim to have hostages and the Klingons wouldn’t show up shooting? Did he really think no one would try and get the hostages out? He seems completely shocked when weapons get fired, and shocked again when Kirk points out that they can’t get the shuttlecraft back onto the Enterprise while the shields are up. He’s kind of not bright and it makes his whole plan seem ill-thought out. Sort of like this movie. I mean, look at some of the things in it. Uhura’s fan dance? According to the trivia, this was written in as a joke! And they kept it! I feel so bad for Nichelle Nichols. She’s better than that. And don’t even get me started on the evil not!God. Apparently there was supposed to be a pit full of the ten levels of Hell and rock monsters that I can only assume were maybe a step up from Hercules Against the Moon Men. So. It could have been worse? I think I’m going to stop now and just let it go. Move on to the next one and hope this one recedes back into the dim corners of my mind.

January 20, 2011 Posted by | daily reviews | , , , , | Leave a comment

Star Trek V: The Final Frontier

January 20, 2011

Star Trek V: The Final Frontier

Oh, but this is painful. Amanda and I did not own Star Trek V before we set out on our movie-a-day project. We agonised about whether or not we should buy this simply for the sake of being complete. We knew we were going to review every other Star Trek movie, but did that mean that we should add this one to our collection and review it as well? We didn’t particularly want to see this movie again, but it seemed silly to have all the other Star Trek movies but not this one. Ultimately we decided that it simply made sense to own this movie as well. As I’m watching it now, however, I’m beginning to regret that decision.

As I said yesterday I haven’t watched this entire movie since opening night. I went to see it with my high school AV crew , as we did for many an opening night movie experience. There’s a great feeling to an opening night crowd – the anticipation and wonder. But even that could not disguise the fact that this movie is not only the worst Star Trek movie – it is a strong contender for worst overall movie. I’d argue it’s in the same league with Star Wars II: Attack of the Clones and Battlefield Earth. Indeed it may be worse than those.

Plotwise the movie combines a couple of less than wonderful episodes of the classic show. As in The Way to Eden a group of religious zealots capture the Enterprise in an attempt to fly to Eden. Then the end of the movie takes a page from Who Mourns for Adonis. In tone and level however it reminds me most of Spock’s Brain, the most universally derided of Star Trek episodes. It is filled with wince inducing attempts at humor. The plot is uninspired and sad. There are a couple climactic moments where nothing happens. And most damning of all the usually captivating dynamic between Shatner, Nimoy and Kelly which has been the heart of the series since the very beginning feels forced and strained.

I know that a lot of people level the blame on William Shatner because he acted as director on this project, but I don’t think that’s the real problem. Or maybe I just don’t want to believe that it is. There just seems to be more concentrated suck here than one man, no matter how egotistical and ill suited for the director’s chair, could be responsible for. The script was apparently hampered by the ongoing writer’s strike from that time, for example. And the special effects budget seems to have been mightily curtailed from the days of Star Trek II through IV. In short – Shatner didn’t have the resources at his command that Nimoy had with the previous two films. Or so it seems.

After not having seen the movie in a couple decades I had forgotten just how awful some parts of it are. I remembered, of course, Uhura’s infamous fan dance, but I had blocked out how embarrassing and dreadful it was. How did they convince Nichelle Nichols to do that to her iconic character? It’s demeaning just to watch it. Then there’s the scene with Bones and Kirk trying to get Spock to sing around the camp fire. Which is not only almost unbearably painful to watch but is also reprised at the end of the movie! There’s a climactic scene where the Enterprise has to fly through an impenetrable barrier at the heart of the galaxy which is the very definition of anticlimax. They reach the barrier, talk a whole lot about how deadly it is and how no probe or ship has ever returned from attempting to cross it, then just… fly right through it completely unharmed and unscathed. I’m left wondering if there was supposed to be a sequence there that got cut out for budgetary reasons or if the writers just kind of decided not to write a conclusion for that particular plot point. Really it’s indicative of the whole film. Nothing happens and it takes an awful lot of time for it to do so. And people keep making “jokes” which fall completely flat. Even the Enterprise itself is a cobbled together and laughable piece of junk in this movie – reflecting the state of the film itself.

There are a few things I actually found interesting buried in all this garbage. There are heavy handed hints at a relationship between Scotty and Uhura, which intrigues me. The notion of a peaceful cohabitation between Klingons, Romulans and Humans on a planet in the neutral zone is actually something I would have liked to see expanded upon. (Except that it’s realized in the film as a sort of combination of The Hills have Eyes and Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome – but on a smaller budget.) The notion of a Vulcan exiled for giving in to his emotional side is pretty cool as well. Hell, if handled right (read: without singing) there’s potential in seeing what the crew do with themselves when given shore leave.

On the plus side this movie is a stand-alone work that is not really connected in any way with the continuity of the film series. Whereas Khan leads directly into Search for Spock and Voyage Home picks up with the crew still on Vulcan with their stolen ship this movie seems to have almost nothing to do with those. The only connection is an establishing shot of the Enterprise lifted from the fourth movie. So now that we have watched and reviewed this we can put it aside never to be watched again. Except perhaps with the help of the riff-track. Tomorrow’s movie uses footage from Search for Spock to make it part of the series, so we can in future skip this movie and pretend it doesn’t exist – like the non-existent movie between Highlander and Highlander III.

January 20, 2011 Posted by | daily reviews | , , , , | 1 Comment