Monday, April 21, 2014


CLASSIC FILM REVIEW:  Star Trek: Generations (1994) ***

The Original Star Trek crew ended its run as a film series in 1991 with the surprisingly upbeat and entertaining "Undiscovered Country." Now the plan was to move the franchise into a new phase. A successful "Next Generation" continuation/sequel series had aired on television since 1987, and it was seen as logical that any new movie would include the characters from that show. Also inevitable was the expectation that the series would be passed on to the new crew in some way by combining elements of both the old and new series. The result was "Generations."

This film is a mixture of big-screen special-effects and small-screen story concepts. It utilizes the directing services of David Carson, who had done episodes of the "Next Generation" TV show, while three members of the original crew (Kirk, Scotty and Chekov) make appearances.

A mysterious energy ribbon causes an under-equipped USS Enterprise-B to go into a rescue mission, barely escaping the ribbon's power source. Unfortunately, Captain Kirk had gone to a lower deck to help with a technical problem when the ribbon breaches the ship's hull and it is assumed he could not have survived. Many years later, USS Enterprise-D rescues people from a solar observatory, among them Doctor Soran (Malcolm McDowell) who is revealed to be obsessed with getting back to the ribbon energy source, to a place known as the Nexus. Guinan (Whoopi Goldberg), the ship's bartender and a "listener" tells Captain Picard the story of how the Nexus is a place of total peace that keeps you trapped by giving you the ability to be in any time or place for as long as you wish. They become aware that Soran poses a threat to thousands of lives through a plan to use a weapon to destroy stars and planets in altering the trajectory of the energy ribbon. Unable to stop Soran's first attempt, Picard decides to use the Nexus to stop Soran from succeeding in this plan, but realizes he needs help. So he enlists Captain Kirk, who has become trapped in the Nexus, to do battle one last time.

While this story-line is interesting enough, there are subplots like Data's quest to experience human emotions. This gets a little silly at times, with awkward jokes thrown into several scenes. The whole film feels like an extended TV episode, though the Nexus scenes have a nice dreamy quality and the Kirk/Picard meeting is fun. This marks the final appearance of William Shatner as Kirk.

CLASSIC FILM REVIEW:  Star Trek: First Contact (1996) ***½

Now that the franchise had been handed over completely to the new crew, the expectations were high. Like series actors Leonard Nimoy and William Shatner before him, Jonathan Frakes (who plays Commander Riker) took the directing reigns.

The Borg, a half-machine/half-alien race encountered in the "Next Generation" TV series, have returned to take over the Earth using time travel. So the Enterprise crew must do the same in order to prevent the Borg from altering history by making sure that "first contact" occurs. With humor, exciting action set-pieces and good supporting characters, this entry is easily the best of the four "Next Generation" films. As in "Wrath of Khan" and "Undiscovered Country," it is clear that a compelling villain helps to make a good Star Trek film. This time, it is the Borg Queen (Alice Krige), a repulsive creature who controls the "Borg collective" and is eager to persuade Data (Brent Spiner) to join her in taking over Earth. Cunning and ruthless, but oddly seductive, she is among the best adversaries in the film series.

Jerry Goldsmith, working with his son Joel, wrote the score (as he did for "The Motion Picture" and "The Final Frontier"). The sets and costumes are diverse and interesting, and the effects are top-notch. Makeup team received an Oscar-nomination and a Criddic Award.  The film also received a Criddic Award for Best Visual Effects.

CLASSIC FILM REVIEW:  Star Trek: Insurrection (1998) *½

Picard and crew discover that some factions of the Federation are planning an unethical violation of the rules in order to acquire a special radiation protecting the planet where a people called Bak'u live. This element effectively gives its people immortality. Corrupt members of the Federation have teamed up with the Son'a, a race of beings that require constant cosmetic surgery to keep from falling apart. The principle members of the Enterprise crew decide that the ethical questions raised by these actions outweigh any benefit the planet's elements might present, and seek to save the Bak'u from destruction.

After achieving great success with their second outing in "First Contact," the Next Generation crew faltered. For reasons unknown, the series under this crew never regained its footing. Much of the action in this film is ho-hum, the humor flat and it contains two romantic subplots that don't really work. One is between Commander Riker and Counselor Troi that is played mostly for laughs, and the other between Captain Picard and Anij (Donna Murphy), a Bak'u woman. Their relationship is sweet, but underdeveloped and ultimately doesn't go anywhere. The villians, played by F. Murray Abraham and Anthony Zerbe respectively, are pretty unmemorable compared with the Borg Queen or Khan. Overall, the film feels unnecessary and little more than a middling extended TV episode.

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