Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Star Trek: Generations

Cutting to the chase: what went wrong with Star Trek: Generations?

The reasons Star Trek: Generations falls flat are almost unmanageably numerous to list. The best way to sum it up succinctly is to say it tried to copy all the elements of Star Trek III: the Search for Spock except for the one element which made that movie decent--Spock.

Think back to my review for TSfS. I said the film had ambitious goals, but felt small, almost like a two part episode There were serious dramatic moments like the death of Kirk’s son and the destruction of the Enterprise, but the emotional impact of the losses were muted by poor writing, probably because the screenwriter came from television.

Flash ahead to Star Trek: Generations we have epic theme of finding nirvana along with the passing of the torch from one generation to the next. We also have the need to kill off the legendary James T. Kirk and destroy the 24th century era Enterprise. Along the way, Picard’s dearest family is killed, all against the backdrop of a mediocre villain aided by Klingons. The script is based on a story by Rick Berman and written by Ronald D. Moore and Brannon Braga, all from television.

It is not difficult to see why history repeated itself. .Star Trek: Generations feels small. Not only is the story more suited for a two part episode of the series, it would not rank as one of the better ones. I enjoyed Leonard Nimoy’s return as Spock in “Unification” more than this. If you need further confirmation about the general, bad television feel of Star Trek: Generations, then realize it was nominated for the Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation--and lost to “All Good Things…,” the series finale thereat it.

But let me be fair. There are plenty of “small’ movies that are good. I just said yesterday Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country was good in spite of its subdued feel. The real problem is the lack of emotion. The film offers up a number of what ought to be heart tugging moments; Kirk’s apparent death at the beginning, Picard’s brother and nephew’s death, Kirk and Picard’s wish fulfilment within the nexus, Kirk’s actual death, and the destruction of the Enterprise.. We do not get to absorb the emotion of any of those events before another one gets thrown at use. The story is going from point a to B to C without any enthusiasm. It shows on the actor’s faces, too.

Why should it not? The film was doomed to be that way from the beginning. Leonard Nimoy was offered a role as Spock and the chance to direct with thestiulation he had to shoot the script as is. If therreason for that stipulation was anything other than Berman’s ego, I would love for someone to tell me what it is. Nimoy refused to either appear or direct under the circumstances. He said the lines Spock was given could have been said by anyone. His appearance would have nothing more than an effort to ’get Spock in the film.” Nimoy’s instincts must be correct. Spock’s lines were given to other characters with seemingly no trouble. Creative restrictions convinced Nimoy to not direct.

You could remove Scotty and Chekov from the film, too, without losing much. They are every bit as disposable as the barely metioned Sulu and the completely ignored McCoy and Uhura. The two serve only to care about Kirk’s “death” after he isdrawn into the nexus. It is pickig nits, but I call onestrike against the sequence for Scotty being there. It causes a continuity error from “Relics” in which Scotty believes Kirk has come to rescue him from thedyson sphere when he actually witnessed Kirk’s death. “Relics” was only two years prior to Star Trek: Generations. There is no excuse for creating acontiuity error like that.

The TNG crewdes not get off any easier. Half the cast is wearing uniforms borrowed from DS9 cast members. Joathan Frakes’ in particular is horrible. He had to borrow Avery Brooks’ unforeseen though it was clearly too big for him. There wasa grumbling among the cast during the seventh season prodyction money was going to DS9 rather than financing a good send off for them. Here is your best proof thatwas not only true, but did not end when theseriesdid.

The production looks like it was flying along by theseat of its (borrowed?) pants, too. The naval ship in the holodeck was so freshly painted, Worf gets some on his uniform as he is climbing back aboard. Soran’s platform at the climax is nothing but a thin metal fire escape. I can understand Paramount’s caution with spending money on a cast previously untested at the box office, but the nickel and dime production is embassarassing.

Bits are chopped out awkwardly, as well. The most notable is a torture scene involving la Forge in which Soran injects nanotech in him order t simulate heart attacks. The deleted scene is on the DVD and I will agree it is unnecessarily gru4some. Its absence does not detract from the story. What is left in does not clarify that La Forge is being tortured at all, however, and lines by Soran and Crusher regarding ’his heart not being in it” and pulmonary damage are rendered meaningless, but not edited out.

Regardless of problems with other characters, the main focus is on Picard and Kirk. It is a dramatic convention that if you want us to care about characters, you have to make us like them, then do horrible things to them so we sympathize. It is difficult to like Picard because there is not much appealing about him. We are told everyone respects him and is loyal to a fault because of it, we just shrug and accept it. I often think others have an emotional connection to him unwarranted by his behavior, but let us say for now we like him.

When he loses his brother and nephew, he is terribly upset, but not so much by their loss as emotional connections, but because the Picard family line has ended. It is a matter of ego. So when Picard enters the nexus and his wish fulfillment is kids, we cannot believe it. We should not, either. When his son asks him to help put together one of his Christmas toys, Picard rushes him off and soon goes trotting after Kirk. That marks the end of Picard’s angst over the family line ending without offering any real resolution. What a cold fish. Or is it bad writing? Both?

The more glaring problem is with Kirk. He never connects with Picard, even when he is no loger distracted by the nexus’ fantasy fulfillment. What is his fantasy? To captain the Enterprise forever, right? No, it is to marry his lost love, Antonia. Who is Anotinia? You got me. She was created solely for the movie and is never even seen. If Kirk’s fantasy true love is never going to be seen, why not make it Carol Marcus or even Edith Keeler instead of someone we have never heard of before? Carol or Edith would resonate. We would recognize those are lost loves Kirk would like a second chance with. Instead, we are left wondering who the heck Antnia is.

That is not the best part, however. Kirk’s death does not measure up. The irony is they went back and filmed a new death scene when test audiences did not like the original. In the original Soran shoots Kirk fatally in the back. In the new, Kirk falls off the platform. It is not an improvement. It was not even fun, as Kirk’s last words sum up his life. I am left with a feeling of, “That is it?”

So is it fortunate or not that we get little time to dwell on Kirk’s death as the Enterprise is subsequently destroyed? I would like to forget both, so I do not care to dwell on the question. The original Enterprise was as much a part of TOS as any character. It was not so with TNG. There was always a sense if the ship was destroyed, the crew would just get another one and bebop right on along. So why should we care, particularly when we not only have Kirk’s death to think about, but be agry about the lsck of meaning in his passing?

The bottom line is that trek is getting rid of the two in order to give Picard the captain’s spotlight and a spiffier ship next movie. Either Kirk’s death, noer the ship’s destruction is meant to end an era so much as allow for what Berman evidently thought was bigger and better things in the future. If so, he very much had the wrong idea.

I will giveStar Trek: Generations one kudo for the comic relief of Data. His emotional issues come and go a bit too conveniently, but I laughed out loud at several points even while rewatching the film for this review. Otherwise, this thing is a dud solidifying the notion odd numbered treks are bad into the next generation.

Rating: * (out of 5)

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