A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Movie 328 – Star Trek Generations

Star Trek Generations – January 22nd, 2011

Ah, the end of an era. And I say that with both regret and good cheer, because I find I am capable of loving both original and next generation flavors of Star Trek, so the passing of the torch is a bit mixed. On one hand, I do so love The Next Generation. On the other hand, there’s something so iconic and fantastic about the original cast and the world they inhabited. But as the finale of TNG says, all good things must come to an end. Which is rather the point of this movie. It’s all about moving on and new beginnings. I only wish they’d made it a little sooner.

I fully understand why this particular storyline was done post-TNG. After all, they destroy the Enterprise. That’s a big fucking deal, you know? But at the same time, according to the trivia for this movie, DeForest Kelley couldn’t join the cast because his failing health made it impossible for him to get on-set insurance. Things like that make me sad that there couldn’t have been a better send off for the whole crew. I realize that having a fully realized plot along with a goodbye to a whole cast would be tricky, but it could have been done. I’m sorry Sulu’s not there (even though the character’s daughter shows up). I’m sorry Leonard Nimoy’s issues with Spock’s lines in the script couldn’t be rectified in time for him to agree to join the cast. I’m sorry Uhura isn’t there. I love Kirk and there are some great lines and moments between him, Chekhov and Scotty, but something just feels missing to me, and I suspect it’s the rest of the original core cast. Still, given the timing and the inevitable focus on the newer cast, it is understandable.

And really, there is some great stuff here for the newer cast. Granted, by the time Generations was released, TNG was over. The last episode aired in May of 1994 and the movie was released the following fall. That’s not too big a gap there, which I liked, because man, did I miss the show. I mentioned in my review of the first movie that I watched TNG in its original run. I only missed episodes when it got pre-empted for things like football (those nights were unhappy ones in my home, with only my brother unfazed by it) and by the time the last episode aired, I’d grown up with it. Seven years is a long time when you’re the age I was and I cried when it ended. So the movie was more than welcome and at the time I was only too pleased to have just a taste of the older cast. After all, they were my parents’ crew. Mine were all on screen (except Wesley) and I loved it. But tonight, coming out of six nights of original cast movies, I’d simply have liked a bit more. One more scene with Sulu. One more exchange between Kirk, Bones and Spock. Ah well.

But enough maundering about my feelings regarding the overall tone. Let’s talk time travel. To be honest, this movie has some glaring holes. Time travel plots are tricky to execute well and hole-less and there are certainly some issues here. If Kirk and Picard, once in the time vortex, can exit whenever they want, why not go back to any point they want? Why not go back to keep the trilithium away from Dr. Soren? Why not save the Enterprise? Unless you put some sort of internal logic on your time travel method, you open yourself up to all sorts of issues. And what about duplicates? That seems like prime material for mucking with! After all, take a look at Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban and the use of two versions of a single person, one version knowing what the other is doing and creating a paradox wherein they influence their own actions. That’s what makes time travel plots fun! And this movie rather ignores it all. It’s not so much a time travel plot as a convenient tool to allow Kirk’s presence and some rather maudlin scenes wherein we learn that Picard wants a family. It’s sloppy, to be honest.

The whole plot revolves around the character of Dr. Soran, an El-Aurian who’s spent decades trying to find a way back into the Nexus, which is a time vortex in which you can do anything. You can relive moments from your past or create the life you always wished you had. A gigantic ribbon of energy seems to be the only way into it and so Soran has made a deal with the Klingon sisters Lursa and B’Etor for their aid in acquiring the right materials to get the ribbon to do whatever he needs it to do to actually get in contact with it. Kirk was lost to the Nexus when the ribbon hit the Enterprise B during her maiden voyage. So sixty-odd years later, when the ribbon shows back up and the Enterprise D goes to investigate an attack on a solar observatory, it’s up to Picard to stop Soran from destroying everything and so on and so forth. I’m feeling rather Men in Black about the whole “the fate of the galaxy is at stake!” here. It’s always at stake. I sort of ignored the details. I’m sure they were excellent sci-fi technobabble. In any case, there’s a big explosion and the Enterprise has to separate the saucer section and crash land it on a planet. Meanwhile, Picard’s having a very Victorian-feeling family Christmas in the Nexus, where he has a bunch of curly-haired moppets and a wife and a small-but-rideable carousel in his living room. Kirk, on the other hand, is having visions of settling down with a woman named Antonia. And they both leave it all behind to go save the day.

Now, I’m not saying I don’t enjoy this movie. I enjoy it a hell of a lot. But I don’t enjoy it for the plot. The plot, to me, feels somewhat incidental. Sure, yeah, the universe is in danger, rogue Klingons want a weapon of horrible power, time ribbon, mad scientist. It’s got holes and I honestly think the series did a better job dealing with Picard’s regrets and life choices than the movie does. So what I enjoy about it is the acting and the character interactions and the visuals, which are nicely done. It is fun to see Kirk and Picard on screen together, even if the means to do so is a little wonky. I like seeing the newer crew get a feature and there’s some fantastic over-acting from Brent Spiner as Data, who uses his new emotion chip and finds it difficult to control. I like the saucer separation and the evacuation scenes, because I love seeing how a ship like the Enterprise D, with all of its civilians and the like, deals with a crisis. I like that the movie exists. It could have been so much better, but it was a bonus taste of TNG when I was missing it and so while it might be nostalgia talking, I like it. Holes and all.

January 22, 2011 Posted by | daily reviews | , , , , | Leave a comment

Star Trek Generations

January 22, 2011

Star Trek Generations

This movie represents not just the first film involving the cast of the next generation but also the first Star Trek movie to give up on using the numbered system. This made for fun times when I was still working at Blockbuster and a customer would want to know the order of the movies. Of course I know it, but most of the time they would not. For the average non Trek fan there’s no way to tell which comes first: Generations or Insurrection. It also means that we’ll never see Star Trek XII: So Very Tired. Even though the next Star Trek movie to come out will be the twelfth.

Now I’ve watched a lot of Star Trek the Next Generation. I’m pretty sure I’ve seen every episode. (Well, I might have tuned out for large parts of Shades of Gray.) When the show first started airing I recorded every episode on VHS and watched them over and over again. That first season was pretty awful at times, but it was the only Star Trek on television and I loved it for that. In college I and a small band of nerds and recluses would emerge from our rooms once a week to watch new episodes in the common room as they aired. Amanda and I own all seven seasons of the next generation on DVD in their entirety. I mention this simply to stress that I think I know pretty well how to recognise an episode of TNG. Which is what this movie is. It may have played in theaters and been filmed in Panavision, but in almost every regard it feels like a long episode of the show.

It features actors and characters from the original series, as in the episode Relics. It has a scene of silliness on the holodeck that brings to mind episodes like A Fistful of Datas. It features plot threads from the TV show such as Data’s ongoing attempts to become more human and the emotion chip his creator Dr. Soong left for him. It even features the Klingon sisters Lursa and B’etor who appeared multiple times in the show trying to take over the Klingon high council and causing trouble for Worf.

In general I would not even say that it is among the better episodes of the series. It doesn’t have the end-of-the-Earth stakes of The Best of Both Worlds or All Good Things. It doesn’t have the emotional heft of The Inner Light. It doesn’t have the mind-bending coolness of Remember Me or Parallels. And the show had done a better job, in my opinion, of bringing Montgomery Scott and Spock into the 24th century world of TNG than this movie does of bringing Kirk to the future.

One problem this movie has is that it is so transparent in its attempts to bring captains Picard and Kirk together for a single epic confrontation with evil. The movie centers around a wandering temporal vortex called the Nexus which back at the end of Kirk’s career slammed into the Enterprise-B and absorbed Kirk in the process and has been floating around the galaxy ever since. Inside the Nexus not only is time immaterial (which means that for Kirk no time at all has passed) but all your deepest desires are granted. Eventually Picard gets absorbed into the Nexus as well while fighting a madman named Soran who has been trying ever since the incident with the Enterprise-B to get back into the Nexus. Picard and Kirk decide to leave the Nexus and fight Soran together, which should be a rousing moment of Star Trek fan wish fulfilment with the two Enterprise captains together, but for me is overshadowed by the many plot holes and inconsistencies created by the Nexus as a plot device.

Let me get this off my chest: the Nexus makes no sense. Inside the Nexus Picard meets an expository “echo” of Guinan, who had also been absorbed by the Nexus at the same time as Dr. Soran. Now I can get past the notion of a part of Guinan being left behind in the Nexus, or even the notion that since time in the Nexus has no meaning that her brief stint in there took place at the same time as Picard and Kirk’s time inside. But the exposition her character spouts (some of which has the feeling of having been recorded in post and not part of the original screenplay) implies that this echo of her that’s left behind in the Nexus somehow knows Picard (whom she will not have met for another eighty years or so after the incident on Enterprise-B) and remembers being on his Enterprise-D. You can kind of explain that away by saying that Guinan has a sort of supernatural sense of the timeline that goes far beyond that of Humans (as established in Yesterday’s Enterprise) but there are other problems with the Nexus too. For one – Guinan tells Picard that he can return to any time when he leaves the Nexus – so why did he choose to return just a few minutes before he went into the nexus instead of going back further and stopping Soran before any of the rest of the damage he and the Klingon sisters caused had happened? Picard doesn’t usually make his choices that poorly. Furthermore, why does Picard have such a sense of urgency about getting Kirk out of the Nexus? If they can re-appear at any time why don’t they live out their fantasies until they’re completely sated before going back? (I kind of think that there is potential in a series depicting the never-ending adventures of the two captains side-by-side in the Nexus defeating every possible enemy they could ever imagine. Some day, when they’re both just tired of that perfect life, they can leave the Nexus and deal with Soran and the real world.) But the thing that irritates me most, of all the plot holes introduced by the Nexus, is that there should be TWO PICARDS at the end of the film! Why, if he has gone back in time and appeared just before his climactic battle with Soran, does the him who was already there battling just disappear? It drives me crazy!

Oh, I’m not saying that I hate this movie. Far from it – it has some cool action set-pieces such as the massive crash of the Enterprise saucer section. It has some humor that I enjoy – mostly from Brent Spiner’s great portrayal of Data trying to cope with his unleashed emotions. There are plenty of lesser episodes of TNG that I like just fine, and this movie kind of sits with them in my mind. It’s not in my top ten, but it’s still perfectly fine TNG fun. I’m really looking forward to watching tomorrow’s movie though – which IS among the best next generation plots.

January 22, 2011 Posted by | daily reviews | , , , | 2 Comments