A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

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.

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January 20, 2011 - Posted by | daily reviews | , , , ,

1 Comment »

  1. And for what it’s worth, how long did it ta’e Voyager to cross the galaxy? And how long did it take the Enterprise-A to do it in this movie? Like we needed another reason to howl at this movie.

    Comment by Jeff | January 21, 2011 | Reply


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