Thursday, July 31, 2014

Star Trek VII: Generations

At the end of Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Journey, we got what seemed like a conclusive sendoff for the original series crew. Paramount was poised to move forward with future films with a new cast fresh from finishing off the television series run of Star Trek: The Next Generation. It wound up Paramount backtracked just a smidge with the seventh film in the franchise with 1994's Star Trek: Generations (trailer). Yes, Paramount removed the numbering in the film titles starting here, but for the sake of organization in this blog I will have them numbered in the blog titles and in the ratings rundown at the conclusion of each blog.

It turns out the studio heads wanted an official passing of the torch from original series to TNG crew. Star Trek buffs may ponder how do you incorporate that when TNG takes place 70 years after the original series. That problem is easily remedied in the world of science fiction when you have a good old fashioned time travel plot device readily available. Generations opens with a retired Kirk (William Shatner), Chekov (Walter Koenig) and Scotty (James Doohan) as guests on the debut voyage of the Enterprise-B. A ship's distress call that is caught in an energy field quickly changes this initial voyage. The energy field is later revealed to be capable of producing lightning-like bolts that can zap individuals in and out of a purgatory-esque world called the Nexus. The Enterprise-B is able to escape with some survivors, but not before the field zaps Kirk into the Nexus.

We then flash forward 78 years, where TNG crew is having a promotion ceremony at sea for Worf (Michael Dorn). Everything is going well until Captain Picard (Patrick Stewart) receives a distress call from an observatory that is under attack. At the observatory Riker (Jonathan Frakes) leads an investigation where they discover a survivor by the name of Soran (Malcolm McDowell), who we briefly saw 78 years earlier as one of the survivors zapped from the Nexus. Turns out he has been trying ever since to go back there, and he has been collaborating with those pesky Klingons all along to help him destroy a star system to enable him to get there.

McDowell is tremendous as Soran, and he is one of the best antagonists of the films since Kahn. I also am a fan of the side story of this film where Geordi (LeVar Burton) installs an emotion chip inside of Data (Brent Spiner). Generations was the only one of the first 10 films that I saw in the theater, and I the thing I remember most is getting a kick out of the formerly emotion-less Data now being overwhelmed with his new feelings and cracking jokes and breaking down in an instant throughout the film. Revisiting this film 20 years (damn) later, and I cannot help but think they overdid it a little bit, but it is still effective nonetheless. It is worth mentioning the special effects now are really starting to hold up and do not seem as dated now than previous films. The excellent HD remastering for BluRay definitely helped here too. There is one scene where Data and Spock are in a cartography room that has a 360 degree view screen that seamlessly zooms in and out of their projected trajectories. It still looks pretty high end and holds up well 20 years later.

I very much liked Generations for the most part, but things break down a bit in the final half hour. For those who want to avoid ending spoilers, jump ahead a paragraph. A needlessly convoluted, lengthy battle between Soran and Picard results in both being zapped into the Nexus. This starts off quite awesome as Picard meets up with Kirk in this purgatory where both are living out their ideal fantasy lives, and when the two meet it yields a intriguing dynamic of the two captains mixing it up for the first time ever. Then it breaks down as the two decide they must stop Soran and in an instant in their own volition warp from the Nexus and time travel back to reality where Picard failed to initially stop Soran, and then the two captains successfully vanquish Soran in his efforts. I am left scratching my head at the previous sentence, because it ostensibly played out a little too convenient. In the opening of the film I was left with the impression that only being caught in the Nexus's energy storm can zap people in and out of the Nexus, but then Kirk and Picard magically decide to leave on their own free will and just so happen to drop in on Soran in his super bizarre scaffolding set up in the mountains. I do not know, sometimes this sci-fi stuff can go over my head and maybe I missed a well placed line of dialogue explaining how the Nexus worked earlier, but the way that scene played out did not sit well with me and somewhat tarnished the ending for me.

Like the rest of the films in this BluRay collection, there are several hours of extras. All I can say is thank goodness for 1.5x speed playback on my PS3 to somewhat help speed up going through them. There are two commentary tracks, I watched the final half hour with new commentary from director David Carson and Manny Coto, and the opening act with the original series crew with original commentary from the two screenplay writers Ronald Moore and Brannon Braga. Wish I had time to listen to both in their entirety, but I learned a lot from what I caught of both, including how the original ending did not go over well with test audiences which lead to Paramount shooting and producing a new one in the final hours of post production and why Leonard Nimoy did not return as Spock in Genarations' opening act.

Commentaries aside, there are over three hours of original DVD extras and nearly an hour of additional BluRay features. Highlights include Creating Illusion, a nine minute look at how the special effects team created the aforementioned cartography scene. Uniting Two Lengends is a near half hour look at how TNG crew within weeks had to adapt from a television to film production schedule. Enterprise Lineage is a fascinating 13 minute look at actual vessels and crafts throughout history with the Enterprise name. Make sure to check out the deleted scenes, they are on the lengthy side running over just a half hour, but each scene has a mini-documentary leading up to it, which especially helps explain why Paramount did not run with the initial ending, and I am glad they did not, and you are going to have to see for yourselves what they originally had in mind. Some of the new extras that standout is a first part of an interview series with Brent Spinner that lasts 10 minutes profiling his career, and a 12 minute Trek Roundtable with four critics dissecting the film.

Qualms with the ending aside, Star Trek: Generations was a great introduction of The Next Generation crew into the films. The amount of screen time the original series cast got was just right to "pass the torch" onto the new cast. It was long overdue, but yet still great to have a very convincing and fun to hate antagonist again in Soran. I am looking forward to the next three films with TNG cast as I have never seen First Contact or Insurrection, and only caught brief parts of Nemesis long ago. I will see you next month!

Star Trek Film Ratings

Star Trek: The Motion Picture - 5.5/10
Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kahn - 10/10
Star Trek III: The Search for Spock - 7.5/10
Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home - 9/10
Star Trek V: The Final Frontier - 6.5/10
Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country - 7.5/10
Star Trek VII: Generations - 8/10

No comments:

Post a Comment