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Captain Jon
Sun, Jan 21, 2018, 11:00pm (UTC -5)
Re: DSC S1: Vaulting Ambition

I really enjoyed this episode. I'm kind of disappointed that Lorca turned out to be from the MU, but I don't think he'll be gone from the series. There's still a clip from one of the trailers for the series that hasn't aired in any episode yet; him and Burnham walking through the Discovery, she says something and he answers "That's the spirit" or something to that effect. Anyone else remember this?

As for Culber and the network, someone mentioned it's like Guinan in the Nexus. What if this network IS the Nexus??? Just a thought....
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Captain Jon
Sun, Nov 22, 2015, 1:19am (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S5: Call to Arms

BTW...I LOVED this episode! In fact, this is one of Trek's best seasons, behind only TNG Season 3. This is season 5's ELEVENTH FOUR-STAR RATED EPISODE for me, which is HUGE!

I also say Season 3 is the only one to top it because I believe not only are the episodes top-notch but it lays the groundwork for a much richer universe. TOS and TNG Seasons 1-2 were Westerns in Space, but TNG Season 3 made the galaxy a bigger, richer place filled with politics between species. The Romulans became an opponent with plenty of moves and countermoves. The Klingons were given depth and political intrigue. This set the standard for the rest of TNG. If not for TNG-3, there couldn't have been DS9 because the Star Trek universe wouldn't have been so rich.

I could say more but that's for another day somewhere else!

Incredible episode! 4/4!!!
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Captain Jon
Sun, Nov 22, 2015, 1:15am (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S5: Call to Arms

@DLPB

"24. Destroying the controls of Deep Space Nine. What kind of plan is that anyway? It doesn't make any sense at all, other than to give some fake "bad-ass" status to Wonder Woman Kira."

I'm not sure if this has been said or not, but it makes perfect sense. Why leave the station operational for your enemy? What sense does THAT make? The Cardassians abandoned Terok Nor as a busted up station where nothing worked when they left at the start of the series. Why? Because then it forces the new station occupant to take time and resources to make repairs. They can't just plant their flag and start with the business of the day. They need to spend their time fixing things and getting everything up and running again.

Look how long it took O'Brien to get the station working at the start of the series! It took a couple years! Now for the Cardassians it won't take as much time because they're the ones who built the station and they have the technology to easily repair it. O'Brien and Starfleet at their own incompatible technology so it took a long time to get the station working right. Even then, they weren't sure if it would work. Even in "Way of the Warrior" they weren't sure if their new weapon systems would work or blow up the station!

It makes perfect tactical and strategic sense for Sisko to leave a ruined station for the Cardassians. Dukat and his people have to fix things. My own problem with this strategy (and it's not with this episode but with "Sacrifice of Angels") is that the Dominion didn't do the same thing once again when they left the station. Sisko and his people walked right back into a fully operational station, one that probably worked better than before they left it because the Cardassians fixed it for them! They should've done as much damage as possible on their way out the door to set Starfleet back months on making repairs.

Just my two cents...
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Captain Jon
Wed, Jul 8, 2015, 11:38pm (UTC -5)
Re: Interstellar

Jack: Cooper didn't choose to go to Mann's planet because Hathaway's character had a relationship with Edmunds. He chose to go to Mann's planet because Mann was sending a signal telling them to come to his planet. Cooper's argument against Hathaway was that she was choosing Edmunds's planet because of her feelings for him, which in his opinion clouded her judgment. He didn't do it to spite her, he simply said she was being emotional, not logical.
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Captain Jon
Wed, Apr 8, 2015, 11:53pm (UTC -5)
Re: Star Trek: Generations

Synopsis
Seventy-eight years after the apparent death of James T. Kirk during the maiden voyage of the Starship Enterprise-B, Captain Picard and the crew of the Enterprise-D must stop an El Aurian scientist named Soran from destroying an entire solar system in his quest to enter the paradise known as the Nexus.

Review
While 1991's Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country revitalized the franchise's movie series, it also so the retirement of the original Star Trek cast. It was then assumed that the cast of Star Trek: The Next Generation would eventually make the transition to the big screen to take over the film series. At the time, Star Trek: The Next Generation was still going strong in it's fifth season, proving to be a hit both critically and with it's ratings. Series producer Rick Berman wasn't yet prepared to end the show. By late 1992, however, spin-off series Star Trek: Deep Space Nine was set to premiere in January 1993, ensuring the franchise's continuation on television. Thus Paramount approached Berman to produce the seventh installment in the series with the intent of featuring the Next Generation cast.

Berman asked series writers Ronald D. Moore and Brannon Braga to write a script, while also encouraging former-TNG writer Maurice Hurley to develop another. Series executive producer Michael Piller was approached as well but disagreed with the competitive nature of the assignment. Both scripts would feature members of the original series crossing over to meet the cast of The Next Generation to "pass the baton". Ultimately, the Moore/Braga script was chosen, though the studio made a "wish list" of things they wanted to see, as well as restricting the using of the original cast members to both an opening prologue and the film's climax.

The decision was made to make several big changes to the status quo that was normally maintained during the series. Data was finally allowed to install his emotion chip, Worf was promoted, Picard's brother and nephew were killed (off-screen), the Enterprise-D met her end, and William Shatner's Captain Kirk was to be killed. The writers wanted to "aim high" and go big due to the opportunity presented on the big screen. Leonard Nimoy was approached to direct but was denied the chance to make changes to the script by Berman, ultimately leading to Nimoy turning down both the opportunity to appear in and direct the film. Series director David Carson (best known for the TNG classic episode Yesterday's Enterprise as well as the DS9 premiere Emissary) was selected to direct. The cast and crew of The Next Generation wrapped up filming of the series finale All Good Things... in early-1994 and after a ten day break dove right into their first feature film.

Star Trek Generations is certainly ambitious. There are lots of big ideas found throughout that show the effort that was made to transition The Next Generation to the big screen. Many of these ideas are good. In fact, there are no shortage of good ideas in Generations. What's lacking, however, is the execution. Things just don't completely mesh and come together as they should and much of that begins with the Moore and Braga's screenplay.

The tone right away is established as being more akin to The Next Generation then the original Star Trek series. Though not necessarily a bad thing dramatically, the script does contain what would become a major flaw in Star Trek of the mid- to late-1990s: technobabble. The dialogue is laced with technobabble and science jargon that has little mean and humor that feels more forced than natural. Even the opening prologue featuring Kirk, Scotty and Chekov aboard the Enterprise-B suffers from this problem. Where the original series humor flowed from the cast's natural chemistry, here the humor comes through contrived gags that are hit or miss.

Having said that, however, Moore and Braga have managed to conceive a story that is not only original but also moves along plausibly for the first two-thirds of Generations's running time. The idea of destroying stars to alter the course of the Nexus energy ribbon works both on a scientific level and dramatically. The scene with Picard and Data uncovering Soran's plot in the Stellar Cartography lab not only works on a character level but successfully moves the plot along as well. It's easily the movie's best written scene. Soran's use of destroying stars follows the mold of the writers attempting to think bigger than the constraints of television to move The Next Generation onto the cinematic front. The ultimate destruction of Veridian III is chillingly realized and something that could never occurred on the TV series.

Though The Next Generation was a heavily ensemble show, such a dynamic is difficult to capture on the big screen especially with so many characters are in play. It's only natural for some characters to be favored over others. For Generations, the primary character arcs focused on Picard, Data and Kirk. Of the three character stories, Kirk's is the most successful. The prologue establishes that Kirk, who retired at the end of Star Trek VI, is struggling with said retirement. During the sequence's emergency, he's itching to jump in and help. Retirement doesn't suit Kirk well who is used to being in the thick of things and has discovered that life without Starfleet is empty and meaningless. He struggles with what bothers him most; having an empty house to return to upon retiring or having left the Enterprise bridge. Ultimately, Kirk realizes that it was a mistake to retire because his life has been about making a difference. Though Kirk's arc mirrors that found for him in The Wrath of Khan and isn't as successful, it still works here and is effective.

Less successful is Picard's arc. Early on in the Next Generation storyline, Picard receives the devastating news that his brother and nephew were killed in a fire. This leads to him grappling with the fact that he is the last in the Picard family and begins to regret the decisions he's made to focus his life on being in Starfleet instead of having a wife and children. On paper this should work. But something about seeing Picard crying in the dark doesn't sit well. Patrick Stewart's delivers but the scene itself doesn't feel right.

The least successful of the three characters arcs is that of Data. The idea of allowing Data to install his emotion chip is huge character development and definitely something worthy of exploring since it was never done in the series. The scene in Stellar Cartography works well because it shows Data learning to cope with his emotions. Unfortunately, every other scene that deals with Data and his emotions is pretty obnoxious and tedious to sit through. He laughs non-stop during a serious investigation, irking not only Geordi but the audience as well. The problem is, there probably weren't too many other ways to handle this development within the context of this story since there are already so many pieces at play. It's a perfect example of aiming high conceptually but missing the mark with the execution.

Placing so much focus on these three character arcs as well as the big picture story would naturally leave the rest of the characters to play supporting roles. Unfortunately, many of these characters end up filling up the background to the point of almost being non-existent within the context of the story. The presence of Scotty and Chekov in the opening prologue adds very little to the sequence and the lines their characters are saddled with don't sound like them either. Of The Next Generation characters, Riker gets some nice scenes both in action and in command while Troi gets some time counseling Picard during his grief. Geordi spends a good bit of time on the sidelines as a hostage for the Klingons, though their use of his VISOR in bringing down the Enterprise-D is creative. Worf gets promoted and gets to take part in the investigation and a scene of action, but little else. And poor Doctor Crusher receives the worst of any of the regular characters from either series as she's given only a handful of scenes and lines and contributes very little to the story. Surely another rewrite or two could've given a few of these roles more impact to the overall story, especially since just about all of them disappear for Generations's final half hour.

Generations features a trio of villains. Returning from The Next Generation are the Duras sister, Lursa and B'Etor. Their parts are underwritten, however, and they're not given much to do besides stare in frustration at the viewscreen before they finally get to pound away at the Enterprise. Outside of their stated intentions to reconquer the Klingon Empire using Soran's trilithium weapon, it's never really clear how they intend to go about doing so and no drama or weight is given to such a prospect. The idea of these two having such a powerful weapon at their disposal is intriguing and a missed opportunity. Their demise is unfortunate and feels premature in the context of the franchise as a whole.

Malcolm McDowell gives a solid performance as primary villain Soran. Though he's described as a mad man, it's a welcome change to see a mad man who isn't interested in weapons or power. Instead, he's obsessed with returning to the Nexus and will do anything to get there. It's unfortunate that the part is underwritten because there's plenty of potential here to have made Soran more sympathetic and tragic. He has some intriguing dialogue with Picard about time and mortality that's in the true spirit of Star Trek and it's his one truly good scene that still could've gone further. Soran isn't a terrible villain nor is he a great one either; he's just forgettable.

The film's visceral peak occurs with the destruction of the Enterprise-D. The obligatory battle scene between the Enterprise and the Klingons is decent, though awkwardly paced. What makes it work is getting the rare opportunity (at the time, anyway) to see the Enterprise sets blown apart and crewmen flying through the air. The resolution relies too heavily on contrived technobabble rather than tactics and the destruction of the Klingon ship works so hard to earn the cheers of Chang's demise in Star Trek VI that the same footage is used to depict said destruction. As a result, it falls flat. The battle leads into the subsequent evacuation of the Enterprise star drive section as the ship's warp core is headed towards overload. The sequence builds suspense well as people rush through the corridors, though the presence of the children and families shows one of the flaws in Roddenberry's premise of families aboard starships. The saucer crash sequence is thrilling with special effects that wonderfully depict the ship's destruction. It's loud, entertaining and and director David Carson does a great job with his execution of the sequence to make it the high point of Generations.

Despite it's flaws, Generations to this point is a solid entertaining movie. From there things start to misfire as the story enters the Nexus. The Nexus is Generations's greatest strength and weakness. On a visual level, the energy ribbon is one of the most unique and beautiful things we've ever seen on Star Trek and inspired awe. One of my favorite shots in the entire franchise that captures the true scale of the cinema is when Soran is standing on a platform and the energy ribbon flies towards him. It's a wonderful shot!

Conceptually, however, the Nexus begins to fall apart and drags the third act with it. The Nexus is described as being a place of such joy that not only does Soran want to do anything to return to it, but Guinan also warns Picard that if he were to go into the Nexus he'll never want to come back. This presents the problem of representing a place of that wonderful joy without going over-the-top. Generations doesn't go over-the-top in representing Picard's ultimate fantasy life, but it is pretty intolerable. Playing into Picard's doubts about the choices he made in his life, we're presented with a sequence featuring the Picard family at Christmas. Everything is so perfect, the children so prim and proper and loving that it's hard to hear. The sequence is too cloying. Truthfully, however, just as one is hard pressed to think of a better way to handle Data's arc, there probably weren't too many ways of executing the Nexus in a believable way. Braga and Moore overwrote the concept of the Nexus to the point where nothing could live up to it. When Picard does realize he's in the Nexus, he comes about his decision to leave to stop Soran a little too easily. Of course, after Christmas with the Picards, it's somewhat understandable. Though I jest, the Nexus doesn't seem tempting enough.

Which leads to the next problem with the Nexus that provides Generations's biggest plot hole; if Picard can go anywhere at anytime, why doesn't he go back further in time and just throw Soran in the brig? This is something that could have easily been solved if the writers had just set some rules and boundaries for the Nexus. A single line saying that Picard could only leave to a place where the Nexus has traveled would've sufficed. Instead, we question Picard's choice of the Veridian III mountaintop.

The most highly anticipated aspect of Star Trek Generations also proves to be it's biggest disappointment; the meeting of William Shatner's Captain Kirk and Patrick Stewart's Captain Picard. Their meeting feels very underwhelming, with most of it with Kirk relishing in awe at the power of the Nexus as he seeks to relive aspects of his personal life differently. Picard is left to follow Kirk around, touting his duty as a Starfleet officer. Patrick Stewart may be the finest actor to ever wear a Starfleet uniform, but here he seems small compared to Shatner. Shatner's natural charisma and presence handily eclipse Stewart who has the weaker part of the two. Perhaps if Stewart had been given meatier material to dive into, things would've worked out better. As a result, the meeting of these two captains is very underwhelming.

The film's final climax sees Kirk and Picard working together to stop Soran from destroying the Veridian star. Something about the proceedings doesn't sit right, though. Having the end of a Star Trek film boil down to three men fist fighting on a mountain doesn't sit right and doesn't work. When Kirk makes his final sacrifice, not only does it feel like an after-thought but it also feels like it deserves a shoulder shrug. Kirk's death to save millions of faceless people is definitely noble, but after nearly 30 years, James T. Kirk deserves a more heroic death than the one he receives in Generations.

Generations achieves a technical proficiency unmatched by any of it's predecessors. The visual effects are top notch and the Enterprise-D looks wonderful on the silver screen. The sets from The Next Generation are given an upgrade with new lighting. The bridge set gets the most significant upgrade and has never looked better. As mentioned above, the Nexus energy ribbon is an awe-inspiring marvel and one of Star Trek's most unique phenomena. The film's sound mix is rich, breathing life and depth into the Enterprise in a way never seen on the series.

Having scored The Next Generation since it premiered, composer Dennis McCarthy was brought on board to provide the score for Star Trek Generations. His music doesn't quite live up to the standard set by Jerry Goldsmith. In similar fashion to what he did with composing for episodes of the series, much of McCarthy's music fades into the background and is very underwhelming. When he does unleash, his score is fun and energetic. His main theme soars and is uplifting, but in addition to being very reminiscent of his theme for Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, one can't help but wonder how appropriate his theme suits Generations. Considering the deaths of both Kirk and the Enterprise-D, perhaps a more somber theme would've been appropriate. Still, McCarthy's score is effective.

Nowhere near the disaster of Star Trek V but not close to the excellence of Star Trek II either, Star Trek Generations falls into the middle of the pack in the Star Trek film series. It proficiently serves as the torch-passing film it needs to be but fails to be as good as it should or could have been. It's entertaining and has potential because there are plenty of good and big ideas present within its concept, but hit-and-miss execution and a very underwhelming third act keep Star Trek Generations from achieving it's pull potential.

Writing: 1.25 / 2.0
Characters: 1.0 / 2.0
Acting: 1.5 / 2.0
Entertainment: 1.5 / 2.0
Music: .75 / 1.0
Visuals: 1.0 / 1.0

TOTAL: 7.0 / 10
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Captain Jon
Wed, Apr 8, 2015, 11:48pm (UTC -5)
Re: Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country

FULL EXPERIENCE REVIEW at captainjonreviews.blogspot.com

Summary
When a key Klingon energy production facility explodes, leaving the Empire with only 50 years of life, the Klingons pursuit peace negotiations with the Federation. The U.S.S. Enterprise and crew, only three months from retirement, are grudgingly assigned to escort the Klingon Chancellor to Earth for the negotiations. But when the Klingon flagship is attacked and the chancellor assassinated, Kirk and McCoy are arrested as the only two suspects, leaving Spock and the Enterprise crew to prove their innocence while discovering who is behind the plot to begin an interstellar war.

Review
Following the commercial and critical failure of Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, the future for the Star Trek cinematic universe appeared uncertain. Though Star Trek: The Next Generation was a hit on television, the producers weren't prepared to end their show to move that cast to the big screen just yet. With Star Trek's 25th anniversary on the horizon, Paramount sought ways of having a feature film ready in time. Harvey Bennett, who had produced every film since Star Trek II, wanted to revisit Ralph Winter's original idea for the fourth film; a prequel that recast the characters with younger actors meeting at Starfleet Academy.With Star Trek V writer David Loughery, Bennett wrote a script entitled The Academy Years. However, Paramount rejected the script and Bennett opted to leave the franchise.

Walter Koenig approached Paramount with a script that featured the Federation and Romulans going to war with the Klingons in which all the principal characters, except Spock and McCoy, would ultimately be killed. Paramount rejected the idea. Thus, Paramount chief Frank Mancuso turned to Leonard Nimoy to come up with a swan song for the original cast. Nimoy approached Star Trek II director Nicholas Meyer to come up with an idea. Gradually, the two originated what would become The Undiscovered Country, a story that would serve as an allegory for the collapse of the Soviet Union. Because of the failure of Star Trek V, Paramount wanted to produce Star Trek VI cheaply, thus the producers spent two months battling the studio over the budget. Adding to the complications was Gene Roddenberry's dissatisfaction with the script, particularly the use of the character Saavik as well as the portrayal of his characters as being flawed and bigoted. Ultimately, however, Star Trek VI went into production with just about all of Roddenberry's concerns left unmet.

With the help of cinematographer Hiro Narita, director Nicholas Meyer set out to create a darker, moodier and more dramatic setting for The Undiscovered Country. The results succeed, creating a film that is far different from any of it's predecessors. Even with a limited budget, Meyer manages to make Star Trek VI feel larger and more epic in scope. There are numerous characters scattered across multiple planets and ships with galactic peace at stake. Sprinkled throughout the screenplay by Meyer and Denny Martin-Flinn are numerous literary classics, especially Shakespeare, which give a sense of style to the whole affair. Meyer's direction keeps the story moving at a fairly brisk pace and successfully juggles the various plot points. The pace drags slightly during the Rura'Penthe scenes but immediately picks up once Kirk and McCoy execute their escape.

Despite the dramatic mood, the returning cast members seem to be having a blast. They slip so easily into the characters they've played for 25 years that their performances seem natural and comfortable. They allow that comfort to infuse plenty of humor throughout that's neither forced nor out of place. Walter Koenig, in particular, gets several good moments of humor.

William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy and DeForest Kelley are at the top of their game, giving performances that are more reserved than what we're accustom to but remain at the heart of the film. Nimoy allows more of Spock's dry humor to come forward than before while Shatner and Kelley (who spend most of the film's run time isolated from the rest of the cast) display their strong chemistry. They part with the roles in a very dignified fashion.

The cast is filled with strong actors giving good performances. Having been wasted in a thankless role in Star Trek V, David Warner is put to much better use as Klingon Chancellor Gorkon. Though he doesn't get much time before being killed off, Warner succeeds at making Gorkon sympathetic while at the same time leaving the question hanging as to whether or not he can be trusted. Kurtwood Smith and Rosanna DeSoto both make the most of their limited screen time. Iman does well in portraying a shape-shifting prisoner who uses her good looks at charms to try to seduce Kirk.

Of course, the biggest additions to the cast are in Christopher Plummer's General Chang and Kim Cattrall's Lieutenant Valeris. Plummer hams it up with every chance he gets, chewing the scenery in a court room scene that's sold solely upon it's atmosphere and his performance. He's at the top of his game as he spouts Shakespeare to taunt Kirk while his cloaked bird-of-prey blasts away at the Enterprise in a heart-pounding climax. It could've been over-the-top but Plummer keeps his performance reigned in just enough that it doesn't go too far. He's by far one of Star Trek's most entertaining villains.

Kim Cattrall gets saddled with a role that's pretty transparent once the story's mystery begins to unfold. Cattrall brings sass and a certain arrogance to Valeris that's entertaining but the ultimate revelation of her true intentions false flat. Had Meyer been successful in using Saavik it's most likely that the character's betrayal would not only have been shocking but tragic as well. But with Valeris it's neither of those things as her role is pretty obvious and predictable early on. Cattrall does well nonetheless though she's no Kirstie Alley.

Thus brings our attention to the story. Due to the presence of Valeris, the crew's search for a traitor is fairly obvious though still entertaining and well-executed. The dinner scene between the Enterprise crew and Klingons successfully conveys the tensions between the two sides but feels like it's missing something. The scene tries to say something yet doesn't go quite far enough. The court room scene, too, is good but not great as far as trials go. What makes the scene is the wonderful atmosphere established by Meyer and Plummer's performance. There are some pretty big conveniences that take place to get the plot into the third act. It's pretty hard to believe that the Enterprise could travel so deep into Klingon space to rescue Kirk and McCoy from a prison planet without encountering any Klingons. I also find it to be a stretch that the one Klingon who does discover the Enterprise doesn't have the equipment to tell him it's not a Klingon ship.

Those points aside, the story is still strong and very appropriate for when the movie debuted. The characters are challenged to accept peace after decades of conflict and their private introspections are well written. Though the Enterprise crew had never shown such signs of bigotry or prejudices in the past, there's no reason for Kirk to not hate Klingons after the death of his son. Meyer again portrays these characters as imperfect and human. It's also nice to see events from past entries acknowledged, including the death of Kirk's son, Kirk being demoted for disobeying orders and a humorous reference to Spock's death. Once again, these references make Star Trek VI feel like another piece in a bigger picture.

Visually The Undiscovered Country is a big improvement on The Final Frontier. Most notable is the clever assassination scene where Klingons float without gravity and the floating Klingon blood is well-realized. The shots of the Rura'Penthe planet as Kirk and McCoy escape are also beautiful and enhanced by Cliff Eidelman's score. The climactic space battle is tense and thrilling as the Enterprise is shot up again and again while frequently intercutting with the assassin's preparations. It's a great climax with the destruction of Chang's bird-of-prey at the hands of the Enterprise and Excelsior a very cheer worthy moment.

Cliff Eidelman's score is also stellar and amongst the frenchise's best. It's brooding and dramatic yet sweeping with moments of romance and brilliance. Eidelman sets his score apart from his predecessors by making it different. It's very engaging and one of my personal favorites.

The Undiscovered Country's closing moments are both touching and bittersweet as the Enterprise crew bid farewell after 25 years. The final scene is very effective and incorporates a nice bit of humor. It's a good instance of less is more.

Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country not only serves as a great celebration for the franchise's 25th anniversary but also as a swan song for the original Star Trek cast. The crew receives a well-earned round of applause as the Starship Enterprise sails into the sunset.

Writing: 1.5 / 2.0
Characters: 1.75 / 2.0
Acting: 1.75 / 2.0
Entertainment: 1.75 / 2.0
Music: 1.0 / 1.0
Visuals: 1.0 / 1.0


TOTAL: 8.75 / 10
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Captain Jon
Wed, Apr 8, 2015, 11:46pm (UTC -5)
Re: Star Trek V: The Final Frontier

Again, my "FULL EXPERIENCE" review can be found at captainjonreviews.blogspot.com

Summary
The Enterprise is dispatched to Nimbus III, "the planet of Galactic Peace", where a radical group has taken hostage the representatives of the Federation, Klingon and Romulan Empires. But the hostages are only bait, and the Enterprise is captured by its leader, Sybok, who turns out to not only be Spock's brother, but is on a quest to the center of the galaxy where he hopes to find the planet Sha Ka Ree and God.

Review
Ah, yes...Star Trek V: The Final Frontier. I remember as a 5-year-old boy the excitement I had as my parents picked me up from preschool one Friday afternoon to drive to the local theater to see my first Star Trek film in theater. I was a budding Star Trek fan, having watched all of the previous entries in the series on VHS and loving Star Trek: The Next Generation which had just wrapped up its second season on television. At the tender age of 5, I left the theater thrilled by my experience.

If only that ignorance stayed with me as I grew older to prevent me from realizing how wrong I was.

When William Shatner agreed to return to Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, he was promised that he would get the opportunity to direct Star Trek V, taking over from fellow cast member Leonard Nimoy who had directed both Star Trek III and Star Trek IV. From the get-go Shatner had envisioned an epic that would not only be a thrilling adventure but be thought-provoking as well. His idea would see Kirk standing alone as the Enterprise crew became enthralled with a mad man's claims of divinity, taking them on a journey to a planet to meet God in person. Shatner and producer Harve Bennett worked on the story and wished for Nicholas Meyer to return to write the screenplay. Meyer was unavailable at the time, thus writer David Loughery was hired instead.

Loughery's work was interrupted by the Writers Guild of America strike in 1988, but he returned to work at the strike's conclusion why Shatner went overseas to Asia for another job. Shatner returned to find that Loughery had made significant changes to his story with which he disagreed. The character of Sybok's search for God was changed to a mystical planet where ultimate knowledge could be found. Though Shatner was able to convince Bennett and Loughery to make changes to his script, the planet Sha Ka Ree (a play on Sean Connery, who was originally approached to play Sybok) remained. After making changes that pleased the studio and both Leonard Nimoy and DeForest Kelley, a troubled production began under studio pressure to release the film by summer 1989 so as to not lose Star Trek IV's tremendous momentum. Shatner's original cut was over two hours but he was forced to cut it down to a one hour forty-five minute runtime. Harvey Bennett's cut horrified Shatner and the two fought over what should stay and what could be cut.

If one thing can be said for William Shatner's turn as director, it's that he sure went for it. You can't hold him at fault for having big ideas and shooting for them. Unfortunately, the execution is where Star Trek V falls apart. The story feels like three separate and disjointed ideas brought into one uneven movie. The first third of The Final Frontier deals with a hostage situation. The crew of the Enterprise is on Earth on shore leave after it's discovered that their new starship is riddled with glitches. Kirk, Spock and McCoy go camping together. Kirk goes mountain climbing in an opening sequence that's beautifully filmed but ill-conceived.

Right away with this opening sequence, The Final Frontier disregards all the character work that's been done in the previous three movies. The smartest thing that Nicholas Meyer did in The Wrath of Khan was to give Kirk glasses to show that the character is aging. The aging of these characters was acknowledged in the two follow-up films. But here, the characters are returned to a state of "eternal youth", any and all acknowledgment of them having aged in the 20 years since Star Trek ended dismissed. A perfect example is the painful-to-watch naked fan dance of Uhura in the desert. Sure this would've worked on an episode of the series (had censors allowed such things at the time) but 23 years after first hitting the air, these people aren't exactly spring chicks anymore yet the characters are treated as such. It feels like a big step backwards.

The three friends sit around a campfire having discussions about death, family and friendship. The bond that's depicted between each of the characters is touching and noteworthy, unfortunately the scene finishes with a very ill-advised sing-along.

Once the crew is reunited, it's off to Nimbus III to resolve the hostage situation. The crew races to save the hostages as the Klingons have also sent their own ship, led by Captain Klaa (Todd Bryant in a thankless role). This leads to Uhura in a naked fan dance with a big moon behind her in the desert before a shoot-out in a city taken right out of a western. The action is poorly paced and unimaginative. The ultimate revelation: the hostages are now on Sybok's side.

So much time reassembling the Enterprise crew from shore leave to embark on their adventure that by the time the hostage situation is resolved halfway through, we realize that it's only purpose was to launch us into the "main adventure". The hostage situation is nothing more than a setup plot to get the main thrust of the plot going. The hostages themselves are mere cardboard characters with no purpose, no personality and no impact on the rest of the movie whatsoever. The talented David Warner is utterly wasted while Cynthia Gouw is painfully wooden as the Romulan ambassador.

The second portion of the story deals with Sybok's takeover of the Enterprise. Using his ability to "remove people's pain", Sybok is able to convert Uhura, Chekov and Sulu to his cause. How Sybok is able to do this is never explained and the ease with which these three characters fall victim to his manipulations only demeans the characters. As Sybok hijacks the Enterprise to take it to the center of the galaxy, Kirk, Spock and McCoy work with Scotty to try to call for help while avoiding capture by Sybok and the Enterprise crew. This leads to a slapstick moment where Scotty knocks himself out by walking into a low ceiling.

Which leads to another criticism of The Final Frontier. The humor isn't very humorous. The Final Frontier tries to emulate The Voyage Home's success by mixing lighthearted fun with drama but it doesn't work here. Campfire sing-alongs, mispronunciations of the word "marshmallow" and chairs that rock aren't funny. The humor is forced and doesn't take full advantage of the cast's natural chemistry. At times, it's painful to watch.

Sybok manages to catch up to Kirk, Spock and McCoy and tries to convince them that Sha Ka Ree exists. Sybok offers to take away their pain. This leads to a good scene where McCoy must relive his father's death. DeForest Kelley nails the scene. Less effective is Spock reliving his birth. I find it unlikely that Spock would be able to remember the first seconds of his life. In true Kirk fashion, Kirk refuses to allow Sybok to take his pain away claiming that our pain is what makes us who we are. The line is one of the few in the movie that strikes true yet also calls into question Sybok's ability to remove someone's pain.

The final portion of the film revolves around the Enterprise's arrival at the center of the galaxy. The Great Barrier is a disappointingly realized. Intended to be impenetrable, it looks like nothing more than swirling ink in a jar through which the Enterprise easily passes in a matter of seconds. Any suspense is quickly removed. The planet of Sha Ka Ree is also a disappointment, looking similar to the desert used for Nimbus III only through a purple filter. Sybok's quest is to ultimately meet God from whom he's been receiving visions.

This leads to the ultimate bind for not only the film but the franchise as a whole. What will they find at Sha Ka Ree? Will they really meet God? If so, this is truly the final frontier and what's the point of trying to go further? Once you've found God, what else needs to be explored? If it's not God, however, what do you find instead? Obviously, God will not be found and instead find an evil alien that wants to use the Enterprise to get off Sha Ka Ree, a planet which it claims Sybok created. This is never fully explained and the ultimate climax involves the alien creature chasing Kirk and the Klingons attacking the Enterprise. Reportedly, Shatner had different plans for the climax that didn't come to fruition, thus leading to the ending being salvaged in the editing room. It sure seems like it because the ending is a muddled mess.

The resolution with the Klingons is also a little too easy. Of the three rescued ambassdors, Charles Cooper as the Klingon Korrd is the only one who manages to have a role in the film's finale. Unfortunately, the peace that's brokered with the Klingons not only takes place off-screen but isn't justified. Korrd is supposedly a drunken has-been in the Klingon Empire who's been put out to pasture. If so, how does he have enough sway to talk Klaa out of his attack on the Enterprise? It doesn't add up. The Klingons are also demeaned to being cocktail party guests aboard the Enterprise. How unfortunate.

The closing moment is nice, though, as Kirk, Spock and McCoy contemplate on whether or not God is really out there. Kirk's line that "Maybe God's in the human heart" is thoughtful and seems to grasp the idea that Shatner had originally intended. The Final Frontier tackles theology and religion in a way that Star Trek hadn't done before and it's a noble endeavor. Too bad the movie itself is pretty bad and never achieves the greatness that Shatner sought.

On a visual level, The Final Frontier is pretty bad. Though the Enterprise bridge is probably one of the best looking bridge sets in the franchise, the rest of the movie's visuals are bad. The special effects are pretty awful and unconvincing, especially the Enterprise's escape from an incoming Klingon torpedo and the aforementioned "Great" Barrier.

The performances of the cast are decent. Shatner, Nimoy and Kelley are reliable as always, as is the rest of the supporting cast. There are actual attempts to develop the supporting characters more, particularly a supposed budding romance between Scotty and Uhura. Unfortunately, no matter how noteworthy this attempt still falls flat. And as mentioned before, the crew succumbing so easily to Sybok only diminishes them.

Laurence Luckinbill gives a good performance as Sybok, a Vulcan who puts his emotions on full display. However, the actual character is underwritten and not very threatening. Anyone who knows that Sybok is intended to be Spock's half-brother will not that I'm only now mentioning that little plot point. The reason for that is that it's so inconsequential that Sybok that it's a needless inclusion into the story. Luckinbill gives it his all and compensates for the character's underdevelopment but he doesn't save the character.

Ten years after writing his Academy Award-nominated score for Star Trek: The Motion Picture, Jerry Goldsmith returns to provide a fantastic score that stands out as The Final Frontier's strongest aspect. Goldsmith reprises both his main march (that was currently being used as the main title for Star Trek: The Next Generation) and his Klingon theme, putting both to good use. His new themes that accompany the friendship scenes as well as the journey to meet God are great. It's a shame such a great score accompanies such a bad movie.

William Shatner gives it his all, striving to think big and think epic. Unfortunately, he falls far short of his intended vision for a thought-provoking epic adventure. Instead, Star Trek V: The Final Frontier is an uneven, disjointed, sometimes painful movie to watch that provides little excitement and easily ranks as the worst entry in the series.

Writing: .5 / 2.0
Characters: .5 / 2.0
Acting: .75 / 2.0
Entertainment: .5 / 2.0
Music: 1.0 / 1.0
Visuals: .25 / 1.0


TOTAL: 3.5 / 10
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Captain Jon
Wed, Apr 1, 2015, 11:45pm (UTC -5)
Re: Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home

My FULL EXPERIENCE review can be found at captainjonreviews.blogspot.com. Enjoy!

Summary
The crew of the Enterprise make their way home in their captured Klingon ship to face the consequences of their actions in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock. But when an alien probe sends destructive signals to Earth, causing critical damage to the planet, Admiral Kirk, Spock and crew discover that the only way to save Earth is to travel back in time to acquire a pair of humpback whales to bring them back to the 23rd century to communicate with the probe.

Review
Before the release of Star Trek III, Paramount approached Leonard Nimoy to direct a sequel with Harvey Bennett continuing to serve as producer. Having been held under certain constraints for his directorial debut, Nimoy would be allowed greater creative freedom for Star Trek IV. According to Nimoy, Paramount wanted "his vision". After three heavy-drama, space opera-esque films, Nimoy and Bennett wanted to go in a different direction, choosing a story that was much more lighthearted. With lead William Shatner at first unwilling to return, they began to explore a prequel concept pitched by executive producer Ralph Winter that would feature the cast at Starfleet Academy. But with Shatner signing on, that concept was discarded. Shatner's growing salary would lead Paramount to turn to Gene Roddenberry to develop a new TV series to feature a young, cheaper and lesser-known cast; Star Trek: The Next Generation.

The first draft of The Voyage Home by writers Steve Meerson and Peter Krikes was intended to include a big role for Eddie Murphy as a professor who liked whale songs. Murphy disliked the part, wanting instead to play a Starfleet office, and thus turned down the opportunity to be in the movie -- he later recalled it was a big mistake on his part. The part was combined with that of a female reporter in the role of Gillian Taylor, played by Catherine Hicks whom Nimoy cast because of her chemistry with Shatner. The script, however, was poorly received by Paramount so Star Trek II director Nicholas Meyer was approached to salvage the script. Meyer was tasked with writing the 20th century portions of the script while Bennett would handle the 23rd century parts. The humor introduced by Meyer not only had the humor Nimoy and Bennett desired but also the environmental message for which they searching. The result was an unconventional and comedic affair that would not only distinguish The Voyage Home from the rest of the franchise but would also go on to be the most financially successful entry for 23 years.

Just as The Search for Spock continued from the events of The Wrath of Khan, so does The Voyage Home continue from TSFS, thus creating an unofficial trilogy within the Star Trek film series. Connecting the three stories into a trilogy brings a sense of scope to the three films and The Voyage Home serves nicely as a finale to the trilogy. Though its tone is substantially different from each of its predecessors, it's that change of tone that makes it so successful. Though its environmental message may be a little too obvious and its story is a little flimsy, Nimoy keeps the focus on the cast and their experience in the 20th century. Despite the unusual story (just reading the summary makes one question how this could be such a good film) the script's cleverness comes in it's snappy and witty dialogue which takes off even more once the crew is in the last. Watching the normally poised crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise stumbling about in 1986 San Francisco without a clue in the world of what's going on or what to do to fit in is what makes The Voyage Home work so well and accessible to general audiences. It works wonderfully as a (no pun intended) fish-out-of-water story.

The acting of each cast member is fantastic as each actor relishes in the opportunity to venture into comedic territory. Each of the supporting cast is given wonderful moments to shine, especially James Doohan as he tries to work a 20th century computer and Walter Koenig who's search for "nuc-le-ar wessels" is quite amusing. It's nice to see everyone not only get an enlarged part of the plot but to enjoy themselves as well. Unfortunately, it's George Takei who gets a bit of the short end of the stick here as he receives the least material out of anyone.

Character development takes a backseat, however, as they're not given as much depth here as they were in the previous two entries. The only significant attempt is with Spock, who's mind is still being retrained following his death and reintegration of his katra with his body. At the film's outset, a strong scene with his mother, Amanda (Jane Wyatt reprising her role from the 60's series), successfully establishes Spock choosing the logical Vulcan way over his emotional Human side. Throughout the film, Kirk and McCoy frequently try to get Spock to embrace his Human half and to not always choose the logical course of action. By film's end, Spock stands with his shipmates because they're his friends. It's a simple yet effective journey for Spock as he rejoins the cast.

Newcomer Catherine Hicks is great as Dr. Gillian Taylor who works the whales Kirk and Spock seek. Her chemistry with Shatner is really good and you get the sense that this is a relationship that could go somewhere if given the opportunity.

Of course, ultimately the best parts go to Shatner and Nimoy. After being separated until the end of The Search for Spock, this iconic duo is given as much time together as possible and they both make the most of it. Their witty banter is great and never have the two seemed so comfortable in the roles, especially Nimoy. Shatner's performance is a step back from The Search for Spock, mostly because the material is much more lightweight. He seems to be playing William Shatner more than James T. Kirk but that's okay because, within the context of The Voyage Home, it works. The most entertaining element of their banter is as Kirk tries to teach Spock to use "colorful metaphors," with a running gag that features Spock struggling on more than one occasion to appropriately use profanity. It's great to see the Kirk/Spock dynamic return after being absent during The Search for Spock.

Don Peterman's cinematography is beautiful, especially when diving underwater to film the whales. ILM's visual effects also work extremely well, a step up from their work in the previous films. Most notable are the shots of the Klingon ship over the whaling ship and the Klingon ship flying under the Golden Gate Bridge. These shots are well conceptualized and well executed. The design of the alien probe is unique and original, it's mysteriousness upped further by the strong sound mix found in the film.

Though lively and entertaining at points, Leonard Rosenman's score is a step back from the previous entries in the series. There are some definite highlights, especially with the main theme and the cue accompanying the hospital chase is brilliant, but the music that accompanies the scenes surrounding the probe isn't very interesting. While it works within the context of the film, it's a definite departure from the scores in the rest of the series. There's nothing wrong with taking the music in a different direction, but Rosenman's score, though effective at points, doesn't always work.

The Voyage Home's closing scenes not only provide an appropriate closing to the film itself but serve as a coda to the entire trilogy that began with The Wrath of Khan. Though the ultimate resolution involving the consequences Kirk must face for his actions is a little too easy, it's still satisfying. The closing moments as the crew sees and departs aboard their new U.S.S. Enterprise (NCC-1701-A) is very appropriate and promises further adventures to come.

Despite a wacky plot, good humor mixed with great cast chemistry, strong acting and wonderful visuals make Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home the funniest and most lighthearted entry into the Star Trek movie series. It's one of the film series's strongest outings.

Writing: 1.5 / 2.0
Characters: 1.75 / 2.0
Acting: 2.0 / 2.0
Entertainment: 2.0 / 2.0
Music: .75 / 1.0
Visuals: 1.0 / 1.0

TOTAL: 9.0 / 10
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Captain Jon
Mon, Mar 30, 2015, 11:41pm (UTC -5)
Re: Star Trek III: The Search For Spock

Here's my review. The full experience (including pictures) can be found at my review blog "captainjonreviews.blogspot.com"

Summary
The U.S.S. Enterprise heads home, damaged from its battle with Khan, and still mourning the death of Spock. When Ambassador Sarek informs Kirk that Spock's soul is being carried by Dr. McCoy and can be restored to his body, Kirk and his crew steal the Enterprise to return to Genesis to save their friend. But when a Klingon bird-of-prey learns of the Genesis planet, its commander sets out to capture the secret of Genesis for the Klingon Empire.

Review
Following the critical and commercial success of The Wrath of Khan, Paramount Pictures was eager to quickly release a sequel and turned to producer Harvey Bennett to make it happen. Though he'd wanted his character to be killed off, Leonard Nimoy's experience making Star Trek II had been extremely positive prompting him to ask to not only return for Star Trek III but to direct as well. Paramount head Michael Eisner agreed, making Nimoy the first Star Trek cast member to serve as director.

Harvey Bennett began work on the script with the intent of bringing Spock back to life using a little opening that had been slipped in at the end of The Wrath of Khan. Bennett started with the end of the movie and worked his way forward. The smartest thing that Bennett did was to not write off Spock's death with a first act resurrection, but instead center the film's entire plot around bringing him back. More importantly, the film's story centers not just on the actions of the Enterprise crew (Kirk especially) but also the price that must be paid to bring back Spock. It grounds The Search for Spock on an emotional level and delivers some of the movie franchise's best performances.

From its opening moments, Nimoy successfully establishes the somber tone that would hold throughout the rest of the movie. Spock may not be there physically but his presence is always felt. It's this tone that sets The Search for Spock apart from the rest of the franchise and adds to the emotional drama that takes place.

The strongest element is the work that's done with Kirk and McCoy and the performances subsequently brought forth by William Shatner and DeForest Kelley. Kirk is not only agonizing over the loss of his best friend but at the early revelation that he is about to lose his "greatest love", the Enterprise, which is set to be decommissioned. McCoy, meanwhile, is not himself. He's behaving strangely and going to bars in an effort to book illegal passage to the Genesis planet. In one of the movie's most amusing scenes, McCoy angrily spouts logic to a Federation security officer before attempting a Vulcan neck pinch. It turns out that Spock's mind-meld at the end of The Wrath of Khan transferred his katra, or soul, to McCoy. This "Vulcan mystism" is a departure for Star Trek from Science-Fiction based storytelling into a borderline straddling of Fantasy elements, yet it's a necessary component of the story in order to bring back Spock that mostly succeeds. Kelley is fantastic in his depiction of a tormented McCoy but his best scene comes at the end as he opens up to an unconscious Spock and admits how much he's missed his friend. It's a touching standout scene.

Once Spock's father, Sarek (a nearly emotional Mark Lenard in his best performance) reveals what's going on, all bets are off for Kirk as he sets out to return Spock and McCoy to Vulcan in order for the katra to be returned. To do so, Kirk tries to get a starship to take him to Genesis to retrieve Spock's body. His request is denied as Genesis is a galactic controversy which with the Federation is grappling. Despite warnings from Starfleet, Kirk jeopardizes his career by both breaking McCoy out of jail, stealing the Enterprise and sabotaging the state-of-the-art Excelsior with the help of his crew in a sequence that mixes humor and suspense. Each character gets a great moment in the sequence, especially George Takei as Sulu and Nichelle Nichols as Uhura, who both relish their rare moment in the spotlight and make the most of it. Mixed with a great cue from James Horner, the sequence is a highlight for the entire franchise.

Offsetting the crew's actions at Earth are the less-successful scenes on Genesis where Saavik (a rather dull and uninteresting Robin Curtis) and David Marcus are exploring the new planet with the Starship Grissom. They discover that the planet is unstable because a David "cheated" in designing the Genesis Device by using an unstable element known as protomatter. Thus, the planet is on it's way to it's own destruction. They also discover a Vulcan child on the planet, a young Spock who has been resurrected by the Genesis Wave and is aging rapidly with the planet. In addition to Curtis's stiff and unconvincing performance, the crew of the Grissom are rather lame. The captain goes purely by the book and can't make his own decision without consulting Starfleet first. Thus, when the Grissom falls at the hands of a Klingon bird-of-prey, it's a rather welcome moment. Saavik, David and Spock must flee the Klingons, led by Kruge who want the secret of Genesis so that they can manipulate it into a weapon. This storyline is not as engrossing and drags down the pace as it frequently cuts back and forth with the superior story involving the Enterprise crew.

These scenes play out in a rather pedestrian and businesslike manner without much inspiration. They're also diminished by a Genesis planet that looks a lot like a soundstage at Paramount Studios. The scenes set in a snowy climate are especially unconvincing. Genesis fails to provide a sense of wonder because it seems to be anything more than indoor sets. It's rather disappointing.

Christopher Lloyd is great a Kruge, bringing a sense of theatricality to a role that's not very well-written and a step back from Khan. Still, Lloyd gives it his all and is a worthy adversary for Kirk as the plot has the two parallel storylines come together in a head on collision. The Enterprise is only manned by a crew of five and is no match for the Klingons, leading to a short exchange of fire between the two ships which leaves the Enterprise crippled and helpless. The standoff between Kirk and Kruge is good, but Kruge has the upper-hand as he holds Saavik, David and Spock hostage. In the first of two of The Search for Spock's big surprises, David is killed by the Klingons in an attempt to prevent them from executing Saavik. In a bit of wonderful acting by William Shatner, Kirk breaks down.

This leads to the next big surprise of the movie; in order to save Saavik and Spock from execution, Kirk surrenders the Enterprise. But, in true Kirk fashion, he sets the auto-destruct. While he and his crew beam down to Genesis, the Klingons beam to the Enterprise and are killed as the starship, in the film's best example of special effects, blows up. The conflict with the Klingons then culminates in a hand-to-hand battle between Kirk and Kruge as the Genesis planet goes up in flames around them. The old-fashioned fist fight is a nice throwback to Kirk's regular brawls on the 60's series and is enhanced by good pyrotechnic work on the collapsing set.

The film's emotional climax comes with the return to Vulcan where Spock's katra is returned to him as Leonard Nimoy reprises his iconic role for the film's final scene. The closing conversation between Kirk and Spock is simple yet powerful and the perfect way to cap Star Trek's most emotional entry.

All of this wouldn't work, however, if not for the pitch perfect performance of William Shatner. The Search for Spock belongs to him from beginning to end and he delivers the goods. He's never over-the-top or too sentimental, giving a very somber and tortured turn as Kirk. His portrayal of Kirk's sacrifice is touching. In order to regain his friend, he must sacrifice everything. Not only does he sacrifice his career but ultimately the Enterprise and his son. When the price paid is questioned by Sarek who just regained his own son, Kirk replies that if he hadn't done what he did, the price would've been his own soul. The writing successfully tackles the emotional consequences and Shatner doesn't miss a beat. It's definitely his best performance as Kirk.

The visuals are mixed. Though the look of the Klingon ship is great and the space shots are all well executed, especially those involving the space dock at Earth, the planet sets are far less convincing. The exception to this is the scenes taking place on Vulcan. If the Genesis sets were as vast and open as the Vulcan scenes, perhaps The Search for Spock would've felt a little more epic in scope.

James Horner's score is a strong entry, using many of his themes from The Wrath of Khan with the melodic "Spock theme" taking the forefront here. His Klingon theme doesn't match that of Jerry Goldsmith and is a little obnoxious at points but still entertaining.

Star Trek III: The Search for Spock doesn't try to outdo The Wrath of Khan, nor does it succeed at doing so, but instead proves itself as a strong companion. Though there are some flaws, particularly with the Genesis storyline, the emotional side of the story delivers and makes The Search for Spock an admirable space opera journey.

Writing: 1.25 / 2.0
Characters: 1.5 / 2.0
Acting: 1.75 / 2.0
Entertainment: 1.25 / 2.0
Music: .75 / 1.0
Visuals: .75 / 1.0


TOTAL: 7.25 / 10
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Captain Jon
Sun, Mar 29, 2015, 12:37am (UTC -5)
Re: Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan

I am posting my review for TWoK here just as I did for TMP. Please feel free to check out my "full experience" review (pictures) on my blog captainjonreviews.blogspot.com. I'm currently in the process of writing a review for TSFS and hope to post that in the coming days with a review for each film coming as I review them. Enjoy!

Synopsis
Admiral James T. Kirk returns to the U.S.S. Enterprise, which has been turned into a training ship for a group of Starfleet cadets. Unhappy in his new post and not in command of a starship, Kirk struggles with aging and death when an old nemesis, Khan, escapes after fifteen years of imprisonment on a desolate world and seeks revenge on Kirk for the death of his wife.


Review
Despite it's mixed critical reception, the highly anticipated of Gene Roddenberry's most popular creation returned in 1979's Star Trek: The Motion Picture with a global box office haul of over $130 million. Happy with the movie's success, Paramount Pictures gave the green-light to a sequel. Their biggest stipulation, however, was that it be made for significantly less than the $46 million price tag of the first film. Feeling that his constant request for rewrites added to TMP's soaring budget, Gene Roddenberry was removed from any direct involvement in the sequel. The script he had written in which the Enterprise crew follows a group of Klingons into the past to alter Earth's future by preventing the assassination of John F. Kennedy was rejected and Roddenberry was "promoted" to being an executive consultant. With Roddenberry out of the way, Paramount turned to TV producer Harvey Bennett to make Star Trek II despite having never seen an episode of the series. In preparing for the project, Bennett watched all 79 episodes and selected Space Seed as the basis for their story bringing back Ricardo Montalban's Khan in as the villain.

Bennett hired multiple writers who each drafted various versions of the story which involved the return of Khan. Yet, they couldn't settle on a script with which everyone was happy. Thus Bennett turned to writer/director Nicholas Meyer for help. Meyer took the best elements of each script and cobbled them together in his own draft, writing the screenplay for free and uncredited in less than 12 days. Meyer envisioned his film as "Hornblower in space" and highlighted the nautical qualities of the Star Trek series and, more importantly, realized the characters as human.

To accomplish this, Meyer acknowledged the passage of time and allowed the crew of the Enterprise to grow. No longer are our heroes "gallavanting around the cosmos" but are now instructing the next generation of explorers. James T. Kirk, once again an admiral, somberly celebrates his birthday in which Dr. McCoy presents him with a pair of glasses to help him read as he gets older. This little tidbit may seem small but is incredibly significant for the character of Kirk who has always been portrayed as invulnerable. Also introduced is David, Kirk's son with the scientist Carol Marcus. In David, Kirk sees the life he could have had and makes him feel much older. William Shatner's performance is strong and mellow. His confidence is rocky as he grapples with aging but as the story progresses he gradually regains it as he recognizes that with age comes wisdom and experience. Kirk's growth across The Wrath of Khan may not seem very groundbreaking nowadays but in 1982 when many TV characters were static and unchanging, this was incredibly remarkable.

The script not only packs in more characterization than The Motion Picture but adds more action as well. Featuring two of Star Trek's finest space battles, The Wrath of Khan boosts action similar to old sailing ships on the high seas with an emphasis placed on tactical strategy over brute force. This approach is quite fitting with Kirk's character growth as it's through his acceptance of aging and wisdom that he's able to defeat Khan. Though many of the visual effects are reused in much of the film's early scenes, the climactic battle features great FX in the purple-blue clouds of the Mutara Nebula. The action is packed with suspense and thrills that make it quite memorable. Accompanying The Wrath of Khan is a fantastic score by future-Oscar Winner James Horner who captures the beauty and dangers of space in a way that distinguishes the music from Jerry Goldsmith's classic soundtrack without departing too far from that successful template.

Acting-wise The Wrath of Khan is spot on across the board. DeForest Kelley's Dr. McCoy is given a much more prominent role and does well, at his best when sharing the screen with Shatner. James Doohan's Scotty doesn't get much screen time but he makes the most of it, even managing to display more emotion than what we're used to from the miracle worker engineer. Even though some of the supporting characters such as Chekov, Sulu and Uhura don't have much to do, the performances from Koenig, Takei and Nichols are more energetic and a big improvement over The Motion Picture. The additions to the cast are also perfect. Merritt Buttrick not only looks like he could be the offspring of Shatner and Bisch, he also carries his part well. Bibi Besch is also perfect in her limited screen time as Carol Marcus. When Nicholas Meyer cast the role, he wanted someone who could not only convey the brains of a scientist but also someone beautiful enough for the audience to buy that she could once old the heart of James T. Kirk. In Besch, Meyers succeeds. Paul Winfield is good as Captain Terrell, portraying cool and confidence. Considering most "other captains" would later be portrayed as weak to show how much better our captains our, Winfield's performance is welcome.

The two biggest additions to the cast are Kirstie Alley as Saavik and Ricardo Montalban as Khan. Despite portraying a Vulcan, Alley is never stiff and gives the impression that beneath the surface is plenty of sass and wit waiting to bubble to the surface. Alley's Saavik is instantly loveable and fits right in with the series cast. Of course, The Wrath of Khan probably wouldn't be anywhere near as successful as it is without Montalban. He chews the scenery from the moment he appears and never lets up. Though the role is entirely fueled by hate and vengeance, Montalban gives anything but a one-note performance, adding plenty of charm and menace in a role infused with undertones of Captain Ahab. To this day, Ricardo Montalban's Khan is still Star Trek's most memorable villain.


Just as The Wrath of Khan wouldn't be the same without Khan, not would it be without Leonard Nimoy's Spock and the emotional payoff in the movie's climax. In The Motion Picture, Nimoy seemed uninterested in his performance. Wishing to be done with the role of Spock, Nimoy requested his character be killed off. Early drafts featured the death as a surprising twist in the opening act. But here Nimoy features it as the film's emotional climax to great effect, making it not only Star Trek's best character deaths but likely one of the best in all feature films. Nimoy's performance is much more engaged and more along the lines of his portrayal of the character that made him so loved in the 60's series. Spock's death serves not only the plot but also the ultimate character growth of Kirk as he's forced to face death in a way he never has before. Always has Kirk cheated his way out of facing death. But not here as he has to learn a lesson that he tried to teach Saavik early on in the movie; that how you face death is as important as how you face life. It's this deep and insightful exploration of challenging themes that has always been a crucial part of Star Trek and The Wrath of Khan tackles the theme of death like the franchise never had before. Both Shatner and Nimoy are excellent in Spock's death scene in which he makes the ultimate sacrifice to save the ship and crew. Neither is over-the-top, their performances subtle yet powerful. It's a great and emotional scene that is just as powerful today as it was in 1982.


After 33 years, The Wrath of Khan remains the standard which all Star Trek films have strived to achieve, each with their varying levels of success. It's this attempt to emulate what worked in The Wrath of Khan which solidifies it's status as a great movie. Packed with thrilling actions, incredible performances and mature storytelling, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan remains a timeless classic.


Writing: 2.0 / 2.0
Characters: 2.0 / 2.0
Acting: 2.0 / 2.0
Entertainment: 2.0 / 2.0
Music: 1.0 / 1.0
Visuals: .75 / 1.0

TOTAL: 9.75 / 10
Set Bookmark
Captain Jon
Wed, Mar 18, 2015, 11:51pm (UTC -5)
Re: Star Trek: The Motion Picture

Here's my review. The full experience (including pictures) can be found at my review blog "captainjonreviews.blogspot.com"

Synopsis
When Earth is threatened by a mysterious cloud that destroys everything in its way, Admiral James T. Kirk retakes command of the newly-refitted U.S.S. Enterprise. His mission is to explore what's in the heart of the cloud and, if possible, attempt to reason with any intelligence that's inside before Earth is destroyed.


Review
When Star Trek went off the air in 1969, one newspaper columnist addressed disappointed fans who had waged a letter-writing campaign to keep the show alive with an article that read:

"You Star Trek fans have fought the 'good fight,' but the show has been cancelled and there's nothing to be done now."
Thanks to a little thing called syndication, Star Trek gained second life and developed a cult following. What originally was intended as an attempt by Paramount executives to recoup loses from the show led to the studio giving serious consideration to bring life to a Star Trek feature film. In 1975, Paramount hired Roddenberry to begin development on the feature.

Getting the production off the ground proved to be quite challenging and the studio would decide to return the Star Trek to television with Star Trek: Phase II. But thanks to the one-two punch of Star Wars and Close Encounters of the Third Kind in 1977, Paramount exec Michael Eisner decided to make the project a feature film.

Instead of trying to emulate the formula that had worked for Star Wars, Roddenberry and director Robert Wise decided to make Star Trek first venture onto the big screen more along the lines of 2001: A Space Odyssey. With a troubled production that began filming with an incomplete script and post-production woes in the visual effects department, Star Trek: The Motion Picture barely made it on schedule to its December 1979 premiere. Much like 2001, The Motion Picture debuted to mixed reviews that criticized its slow pace and lack of characterization. Unlike 2001, however, which has gone on to become a Science-Fiction classic, The Motion Picture would be overshadowed by its eventual sequel only three years later. One can't help but wonder how The Motion Picture would be regarded if not for the franchise that had been born due to its financial success. In recent a recent viewing I was amazed at how much more I enjoyed the film than I had in the past. In an age where movies move at breakneck speed, TMP is actually a somewhat refreshing change. That's not to say that it should now be considered a classic like 2001. After all, The Motion Picture is still flawed and lacks adequate characterizations or even the heart that was found even in the original 60's TV series. But it was nice to watch a movie that took its time to tell a story, even if that story was rather thin.

One can't help but wonder if there were better ideas floating about during development that could've been used since the story is largely a rehash of a couple of episodes of the 60's TV show, a frustrating decision as something more original should've been told. The thin plot feels as though it's meant to service the visual spectacle instead of being the other way around. On a visual level, The Motion Picture is quite impressive with effects that still hold up today. But much of the film's running time is spent indulging in lengthy establishing shots of space stations and starships. Time that was spent on lengthy establishing shots could've been more effectively used for characterization. Instead we get long stretches of cutting back and forth between visual effects and the characters reacting rather unconvincingly and sometimes comically to things they're supposed to be witnessing on the viewscreen. Most guilty of this is George Takei with his wide-eyed attempt at awe.

One such character seed that's planted but never adequately developed is that which follows Kirk, portrayed in a fairly somber and serious performance by William Shatner that is a striking departure from the show. Kirk is now an admiral at Starfleet Command who hasn't been on a starship in over two years. As the mysterious intruder threatens Earth, Kirk coerces his way back into command of the Enterprise, bumping Will Decker (Stephen Collins in one of the film's better performances) out of the captain's chair. Collins brings confidence and passion to the role and plays well against Shatner's Kirk making the tension between the two of them believable. Though Decker has enough reason to be upset with Kirk, he fears that his new captain's actions are not only against the best interests of the ship but the mission as well. The Enterprise has been completely redesign and it's a design with which Kirk is not familiar and he doesn't hide those concerns from Kirk. To Kirk'a surprise, not only does McCoy side with Decker but goes one step further by saying that Kirk is obsessed with the Enterprise and that he intends to keep the starship. This has the beginnings of interesting character work that dates back to the original series but goes nowhere after McCoy calls Kirk out on his actions. Unfortunately, the film's ultimate resolution leaves the pieces in a place where Kirk doesn't need to be held accountable nor be put in the position of having to return the Enterprise.

Also planted early on but not developed nearly enough is the love story between Decker and Ilia (Persis Khambatta), a precursor for the Riker/Troi dynamic in Star Trek: The Next Generation. Most frustrating about this character arc is that it's the most important one in the movie and yet very little is done to develop it. Outside of one conversation between Decker and Ilia, nothing is done to establish the connection between these two characters and make us feel for their relationship. Thus there's no impact when Ilia is taken by the V'Ger probe. Nor do Decker's attempts to rekindle any feelings buried within the Ilia probe carry any resonance because there was nothing there for us to believe in anyway. While Collins works well as a foil for Shatner, he's less effective with Khambatta as the two of them have no chemistry. Khambatta, especially, is stiff and rather uninteresting. Had more time been spent developing the relationship, perhaps Decker's actions in the film's climax would've carried more emotional weight. Instead it's a visual marvel that emotionally feels hollow and falls flat.

The third character thread is that of Spock. At the film's outset, Spock is on Vulcan having left Starfleet in order to go through a Vulcan ritual to purge all emotion. Midway through the ritual, Spock feels a powerful presence from space that stirs his human blood. Spock (in a stiff and uninvolved performance by Leonard Nimoy) returns to the Enterprise to explore the V'Ger spaceship for his own personal interests, perhaps the most intriguing of all the setup character threads. Just like he did with Kirk, McCoy questions Spock's motives and whether the Vulcan officer will sacrifice the safety of the ship for his own personal needs. Unlike with Kirk, more time and development is put into Spock's arc but mainly because it helps us to learn more about V'Ger. However, it's never really clear for what Spock is searching nor do we get a clear understanding what he supposedly finds that helps him to find resolution. Perhaps the finale would've carried more power and meaning had it been Spock who had merged with V'Ger instead of Decker. Of course, that would've removed any hope of bringing the character back for the subsequent sequels but it certainly would've been an interesting conclusion here.

The rest of the cast and characters are sadly nothing more than cardboard cutouts left to provide lines of exposition here and there while having no life or personality of their own. This sadly includes DeForest Kelley's Dr. McCoy, who wanders on and off the bridge at random as though he's walking about trying to have any reason to be there. Though he provides a few lines here and there that question the motives of both Kirk and Spock in a half-baked attempt to keep them accountable for their actions, McCoy has little else to do in the rest of the movie.

That's not to say The Motion Picture is all bad. There's plenty to admire. Robert Wise is an excellent director with an impressive filmography (The Sound of Music and The Day the Earth Stood Still) and he manages to craft a visually magnificent film. Before 2009's reboot, Star Trek: The Motion Picture was easily the most epic film in the movie franchise. While the first half manages to capture the romance and beauty of space and starships, Wise brings a sense of mystery and intrigue in the second half as the crew explores the secrets of V'Ger. The ultimate revelation that V'Ger is the lost NASA probe "Voyager 6" is interesting and the resolution also had promise. As mentioned before, however, the resolution would've been better had more depth existed in the characters of Decker and Ilia as well as their relationship.

The Enterprise gets a new but familiar makeover that works well and Wise fills the sets with plenty of extras to give the ship life. The uniforms are a bit on the drab, colorless side which is a big departure from the series but they're serviceable.

Easily the most noteworthy piece of The Motion Picture's production, however, is Jerry Goldsmith's Academy Award-nominated score. From its opening notes all the way to the final seconds of the closing reel, Goldsmith's score is rich and romantic filled with themes and motifs that carry the movie. The long sequences of visual effects work as well as they do because of Goldsmith's score which is not only probably the finest music in the franchise but also some of the best movie music ever written.

The most frustrating aspect is that there is plenty of potential to be found in Star Trek: The Motion Picture. It's performances are stiff and characterizations are lacking despite magnificent visuals and a story that has mystery and wonder. Perhaps if more time had been spent fleshing out more of the ideas that are found here, The Motion Picture could have been brilliant. Instead we get a movie that's somewhat enjoyable as its flaws drag down its strengths.


Writing: 1.0 / 2
Characters: 1.0 / 2
Acting: 1.0 / 2
Entertainment: 1.0 / 2
Music: 1 / 1
Visuals: 1 / 1


TOTAL: 6.0 / 10
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Captain Jon
Sun, Jun 8, 2014, 1:04am (UTC -5)
Re: Star Trek Into Darkness

@Dom

I agree with you on the filmmakers being torn between the kind of storytelling they should tell. I wrote in my review (posted somewhere above) that Nimoy's appearance is nice but seems like an unnecessary tie to Old Trek. Star Trek was always meant to be bold and challenging in its storytelling and tackling of today's issues and I think that's the direction it should be taken. You can have a dark, compelling story that stays true to the optimistic spirit of Trek. DS9 did that incredibly well, in my opinion.

I know some people have complained about the 9/11 allegory, saying it's inappropriate or doesn't belong in Trek. I disagree: I THINK IT DOES BELONG! Why? Because Star Trek tackles the issues whether it's sexism or racism or individuality. They dealt with the natural urge to seek revenge when something horrible happens but showed that the better, more optimistic way is to seek out justice and be the better people. I think it's very appropriate in our post-9/11 era.

I want them to be bold and take risks because that's what makes Star Trek great!
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Captain Jon
Sun, May 25, 2014, 12:27am (UTC -5)
Re: Star Trek Into Darkness

@ Joseph B:

I'm not saying it won't be relevant...I'm actually eager to see what he has to say since I've followed his reviews for years. All I'm saying is that I think his review will be more controversial than most of his reviews, whether it's negative or positive. That's not his fault. STID is probably the most controversial Trek film ever made because fans are divided over whether or not to accept it.

The only review he can write that will be well-received at this point is a 2.5 because anything else will be ripped apart.

I posted by own review much further up on this page and I really liked it. Yes, I believe it's Star Trek just for a new age. Do I want a shift back towards drama and characters? Absolutely, but I think you can combine the old with the new. Why not? Have the fun and adventure of the new films mixed the smarts of the older films.
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Captain Jon
Fri, May 23, 2014, 11:33pm (UTC -5)
Re: Star Trek Into Darkness

You know, I don't think Jammer's gonna post a review and I wouldn't blame him. If he rates it 3 or above or 2 or below, I think his review will be ripped apart by those who disagree with him. The only "safe" rating he can give is 2.5 and even then I think he'll face being criticized for either being "too generous" or "too critical". It's been over a year...why bother now?
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Captain Jon
Sat, Apr 5, 2014, 11:16pm (UTC -5)
Re: Star Trek Into Darkness

Dom, while I agree that it's sad people are claiming Roddenberry would have liked STID, I think it's sad that people say he wouldn't. No one can really speak for Gene Roddenberry except Gene himself. Are there aspects of these new movies he probably would've disagreed with? Absolutely! But there are probably also aspects he would've enjoyed. The truth will never be known.

I'd like to point out that Roddenberry objected to aspects of TWoK and we all know how highly that's considered by everyone.
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Captain Jon
Mon, Oct 14, 2013, 10:27pm (UTC -5)
Re: Star Trek Into Darkness

@ Brandon

I agree with you. While I really enjoyed both ST09 and STID, I do think that some of the character development ideas that Orci and co. have would work better on TV when they're allowed the time to flesh it out. Example: I think the Spock/Uhura relationship would sit better with fans if it was given the time to develop on TV when you're able to follow week to week. It doesn't work with feature films unless you devote the ENTIRE plotline to that relationship. It's like what Jammer said about Riker/Deanna in Insurrection how it would be worthwhile to explore the idea in a TV series but not when you visit these people every 2 to 4 years. I think Orci has some good ideas for the characters but he needs the freedom of a weekly television series to properly flesh them out.
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Captain Jon
Sun, Sep 8, 2013, 12:27am (UTC -5)
Re: Star Trek Into Darkness

Oops! Some of those lines are actually the captions for screencaps I included in my blog! Guess I should've done a better job of proofreading when I copy and paste!
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Captain Jon
Sun, Sep 8, 2013, 12:25am (UTC -5)
Re: Star Trek Into Darkness

Here's my review of STID, soon to be posted on my own blog. You guys get the first look! Can't wait for Jammer's review!


With its opening scene, Star Trek Into Darkness takes off running and never lets up. With a chase that plays tribute to Raiders of the Lost Ark, we find Kirk (Chris Pine) and McCoy (Karl Urban) fleeing a tribe of primitive aliens after stealing a religious relic so they can lure them away from their village. Said village is in the destructive path of a volcano about ready to erupt unless Spock (Zachary Quinto) can stop it by dropping inside and detonating a "super ice cube". The entire sequence is top notch with colors that harken back to the original series and shows the crew working together to save an alien race.


The Enterprise rising from the ocean
Kirk is ultimately put in a position to choose between violating revealing the Enterprise to the primitive natives and thereby violating the Prime Directive, or allow Spock to die for "the needs of the many". Since we're only ten minutes into the movie, Kirk's choice is rather obvious yet the dilemma is classic Trek. The Enterprise rising from its hiding place underwater right in front of the natives, forever reshaping their society as they begin to worship the mysterious ship. Why is the Enterprise hiding underwater instead of orbiting safely in space? It doesn't make sense but the visual effects mixed with Michael Giacchino's rousing score is most thrilling!
result is a magnificent shot of the


Pike scolds Kirk and Spock for violating the Prime Directive
There's no time to take a breath before Abrams throws us into the plot of Benedict Cumberbatch's mysterious John Harrison. It's clear throughout the film that this villain's manipulations are constantly at play and one can't help but wonder what he has in store next. As Harrison unleashes his first attack on Starfleet, we find Kirk facing the consequences of his actions from the opening sequence. Kirk is swiftly demoted, though this turns out to be rather pointless as he returns to command barely five minutes later. However, it's still a delight to watch Bruce Greenwood's Admiral Pike chewing out Kirk and Spock, especially when Spock lands a couple of straight-man comic barbs during the exchange.

The plot hits full throttle as Harrison attacks Starfleet Headquarters, killing Pike in the process. Admiral Marcus (Peter Weller) sends Kirk and the Enterprise into Klingon space armed with long-range warheads to kill Harrison in retaliation. Kirk, wanting revenge for Pike's death, is eager to comply without question. Yet Spock and Scotty (Simon Pegg) argue the moral implications of their mission; follow orders and kill Harrison or capture him and allow him to face a fair trial. What's intriguing about this question is the parallel that it draws (maybe a little too obviously) to the manhunt for Osama bin Laden. Star Trek has always been about making social commentary and it's nice to have such an issue raised here. The drawback, however, is that Into Darkness's brisk pace doesn't allow much time for the question to be debated; Kirk quickly decides to go against Marcus's orders and bring Harrison to justice.


Khan is back and this time he's here to help...or is he?
Following a rather lackluster action sequence on the Klingon homeworld, Harrison surrenders and his mind games begin as he calls upon Kirk to question the motives behind his orders. Cumberbatch is truly Trek fans very familiar with franchise history, newcomers with no prior knowledge will undoubtedly find the moment a little flat. The writers kind of assume that Khan's history is common knowledge, his backstory left rather vague; a little more detail would've been nice. Still, the team of writers bring a new interpretation of Khan and avoid retreading what was done with the character in TOS's Space Seed and Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. Throughout the movie, you're left questioning if Khan can be trusted as he cooperates with Kirk (even helping him) or if he's got some other hidden motive at work. I'd like to point out, however, that it's Kirk who eventually betrays Khan. Just saying...
mesmerizing and despite his atrocious actions you can't help but wonder if he was justified. The eventual reveal of Harrison's true identity (Khan) is a little overplayed, completely with ominous music the moment his name is mentioned. While it's obviously being played up for

Despite Khan's presence, he is not the primary villain. With Khan's guidance, Kirk and crew eventually uncover a conspiracy to start a war between the Federation and Klingon Empire. In a nice twist and a frightening reveal, the mastermind is revealed to be Admiral Marcus commanding a Starfleet warship he and Khan built in secret. Marcus's plan; use Khan's warrior ingenuity to use the secretive Section 31 (a nice nod to Deep Space 9) to build up Starfleet's weapons in order to engage the Klingons in open war. Marcus's motives are fueled by fear following the events of 2009's Star Trek that saw the destruction of Vulcan and the near-destruction of Earth. Marcus wants to ward off any further threats to the Federation head on, even if it means compromising the Federation's peaceful mission in order to protect their way of life. Peter Weller is excellent, strongly conveying Marcus's convictions and he stands out as one of Star Trek's better villains.

Peter Weller is excellent as Admiral Marcus
This presents an allegory to the dilemma presented in today's post-9/11 world. With all the debates surrounding secret surveillance, torture in interrogation and the preemptive war in Iraq, our world has been presented with the question of how far we should go in order to protect our way of life. Into Darkness presents us with two different reactions to the problem. With Kirk we find a character who, at first, is willing to compromise his values to avenge the death of Admiral Pike. Kirk, however, choses to hold true to his values. Marcus, on the other hand, has succumbed to his fear following the destruction of Vulcan and is willing to go into darkness (hence the title) to protect his way of life, regardless the cause. It's an intriguing debate raised by a film that proves itself to be more than your typical summer popcorn fare.

Unfortunately, it's also at this point as the conspiracy ultimately unfolds where the plot becomes a little too convoluted and credibility is strained in order for the pieces to fall into place. Khan's role is a bit of a stretch, something that even Kirk points out as he questions why a Starfleet admiral would seek out the help of a 20th century relic.

Having said that, the script from Alex Kurtzman, Robert Orci and Damon Lindelof is mostly solid. Like its 2009 predecessor, Into Darkness's dialogue is sharp and witty with plenty of jokes to go around. Abrams gives the same conviction and energy in his direction that he did in his previous outing, though there isn't the same sense of urgency as there was in Star Trek, probably because this isn't about assembling the crew. Still, the action is well-handled with most of the sequences quite thrilling. A couple, however, don't work as well as others. The aforementioned Klingon sequence, as well as the final chase between Spock and Khan through San Francisco, which drags out the runtime a few minutes too long. The space dive from one ship to another is thrilling yet derivative of the space jump done in Star Trek.

Acting-wise the cast is solid, though some of the characters do suffer from diminished roles. Pine continues to prove himself excellent as Kirk, though I must admit that I'm ready to see the smooth, confident Captain Kirk of the television series. Quinto and Pegg handle the comic aspects of their roles with aplomb, yet still manage to execute the serious moments as well. Pegg especially is given an expanded role and handles it well. McCoy, sadly, has a more diminished role though Urban makes the most of his time and John Cho as Sulu has a couple strong scenes. Zoe Saldana is given less to do as well, with the majority of her role now to serve as Spock's angry girlfriend. Chekov's role is greatly diminished, suffering the most of everybody. However, the cast is one again excellent, each member sliding easily back into their roles and showing more confidence.

Alice Eve is decent as Carol Marcus and I'm interested in seeing what more can be done with the character. Unfortunately so much time is spent on the plot that very little is done with her. The underwear scene from the promos? Just as pointless here as it was there.

As far as Leonard Nimoy's cameo is concerned, I'm honestly torn. On one hand, it's nice to see the original Spock back. On the other hand, it's rather unnecessary since Quinto's Spock could easily have looked upon Khan's past in the computer, just as the original Spock did in Space Seed. Nimoy's presence also represents the filmmakers' hesitance at completely cutting the umbilical cord to the original universe. It's as though they want to reassure fans that everything that happened from 1966 to 2005 still exist and hasn't been erased. For these new films to truly succeed, Abrams and company must dare to push forward without leaning on the past. You can respect the past without being beholden to it.



The film's most frightening sight: the U.S.S. Vengeance
chases down and attacks the Enterprise at warp
Visually Into Darkness is the best looking Star Trek film to date. The effects are top-notch, by far surpassing the work done four years ago. I wasn't as put-off by the use of lens flare this time around as I was last, though it would be nice if Abrams cut back a little more. One of the best sequences (and most chilling) was the sight of the Vengeance bearing down upon the Enterprise and attack it mid-warp, knocking the ship to a halt near Earth's moon. It's a fantastic sequence and even tops, in my opinion, the two starships falling to Earth at the end of the film. Though the crash of the Vengeance into San Francisco isn't as spectacular as the Enterprise-D crash in Star Trek: Generations (I still point to that as how to crash a starship), it's still quite incredible.

Michael Giacchino returns in his second outing as composer, bringing back some of his themes from his previous work. His theme for Khan is simple yet suspenseful. His score here is stronger than Star Trek because it brings a much more mature sound than before. Giacchino has grown as a composer over the last four years and it's great to hear the maturity come across here.


Powerless, the Enterprise falls to Earth
At the end of the day, however, the focus of Into Darkness is the growing relationship between Kirk and Spock. Pine and Quinto continue to display their excellent chemistry and their work is solid, bringing back fond memories of William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy. Because we can believe in their friendship and the two work so well together, it makes the film's ending work. I have intentionally saved this aspect of my review for last as I'm about to dive into what's easily the most controversial aspect of the entire movie. In order to save the Enterprise from its fall to Earth, Kirk must realign the warp core; to do so would mean a lethal dose of radiation.

Yes, this is The Wrath of Khan but with a twist. It's easy to see how many Star Trek fans would be upset with some lines directly lifted from the 1982 movie. Some will attribute this to laziness, however I find it to be a nice homage and it provides a different emotional value from The Wrath of Khan. In The Wrath of Khan, Spock's death was the culmination of years of friendship between Kirk and Spock. Kirk's Into Darkness death is the solidification of their friendship. It works so well because Pine and Quinto sell it. In the hands of less-capable actors, it would've fallen flat and been a travesty. Yet, they make it work. The only aspect of the scene that doesn't work (I even chuckled) is Quinto's scream of "Khaaaannn!" It was a little too over-the-top.

The Wrath of Khan with a twist; Kirk mets his end to save
the Enterprise and her crew
Kirk's death, however, is more than just the beginning of his friendship with Spock. It also marks him becoming the captain he's always been meant to be and follows through on the theme established in Star Trek, whether intentionally or not. When Kirk and Spock first met, Spock challenged Kirk to realize that a captain cannot cheat death. Here, Kirk is presented with the no-win scenario he cheated his way through in the Academy and realizes that in order to save his crew, he must die. It's nice to see Kirk come full circle and grow from being brash and arrogant to being humble and selfless.

Of course, we can't have the next film be Star Trek The Search for Kirk, so we're presented with Khan's superhuman blood that has magical healing properties. Kirk is thereby revived and is ready for his next adventure. Khan's super-blood is a little too contrived and a bit of a cheat, but it isn't enough to scuttle the movie.

Overall, Into Darkness is another solid entry into the Star Trek film franchise. It's not as fresh as its predecessor, yet it's one of the better films. I'm ready for Abrams and company to cut the cord to the original universe and do their own thing with this new universe, but Into Darkness is a fine tribute to Star Trek's past. There's plenty of heart and spirit and a good allegorical message to make us look at what's going on in our world today, something which holds true to the very spirit of Star Trek that Gene Roddenberry envisioned nearly fifty years ago.

The Enterprise boldly goes onto its next adventure
Bring on the fiftieth anniversary!

Writing: 1.25
Character: 1.5
Acting: 2.0
Entertainment: 2.0
Music: 1.0
Visuals: 1.0

TOTAL: 8.75 / 10
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