Star Trek Movie Retrospective–Star Trek III: The Search For Spock

“Because the needs of the one…outweigh the many.”

Kirk to Spock on Vulcan

spock posterAfter the rousing Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan, its sequel Star Trek III: The Search For Spock feels like a bit of a letdown. It’s an entertaining film but it could’ve been a lot better and the cast and crew give it a good try. It can be difficult to state exactly what is wrong with film. It’s not dull like Star Trek: The Motion Picture and moves along at a brisk pace. More than the other two films, this one feels more like an episode of the original series thanks in part to director Leonard Nimoy’s obvious familiarity with the characters and situation. But a careful examination would have to conclude that the script needed another pass before filming began. The film feels disjointed at times and seems to be in a rush to go from one plot point to another; in the meantime some unanswered questions pop up about plot developments.

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The film begins not long after Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan, the Enterprise is heading  back to Earth after Khan (Ricardo Montalban) and Spock’s (Leonard Nimoy) death. Commanding officer Admiral James T. Kirk (William Shatner) is visibly depressed over the loss of his friend. Most of the young cadets onboard the ship during the last film have been transferred elsewhere. Saavik (now portrayed by Robin Curtis because Kristie Alley and the producers couldn’t agree on a salary) has been assigned to a science vessel called Grissom orbiting the new Genesis Planet (after Khan detonated the stolen Genesis Device, it created the planet). Assisting her with researching Genesis is Kirk’s son, Dr. David Marcus (Merritt Butrick), developer of the rapid terraforming process that created the planet. Even though his mother, Dr. Carol Marcus (Bibi Besch), was a major character in the previous film, her absence in this film is never explained at all. In reality, writer and producer Harve Bennett needed to make budget cuts and felt her character wasn’t essential to the story. That was the first clue that the script was off.

Meanwhile, Dr. Leonard McCoy (DeForest Kelley) is behaving strangely, actually he begins acting like Spock and even sounds like him. But there isn’t any effort to get him any help.

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The Enterprise arrives at a huge Spacedock orbiting Earth and sees the next generation of starships, the Excelsior, whose commandeered by an arrogant Captain Stiles (James Sikking). He would’ve been a good foil for Kirk but that is never explored. Throughout the film, members of Starfleet show an obvious disregard and disrespect toward Kirk and his crewmates that is a bit baffling and undercuts their supposedly legendary status. Perhaps they weren’t that highly thought of in their time.

Kirk and his crew learn from the commander of Starfleet, Admiral Morrow (Robert Hooks) that the Enterprise will be decommissioned because of its age. They are also ordered not to discuss the matter of Genesis, since it has become a political hot potato.

meldSpock’s father, Sarek (Mark Lenard) visits Kirk at his apartment and demands to know why he left his son’s body on Genesis and didn’t bring back his katra or his spiritual essence to Vulcan. According to Vulcan belief, when a Vulcan is dying, he or she mind melds with a close associate so that the katra can be transferred into that person. Both the katra and body are needed to give a proper burial and that if the katra remains with the associate it will mean that person’s death. The entire matter isn’t properly explained but that is the script for you. After looking at the Enterprise’s video logs, Kirk discovers that right before he died, Spock quickly performed a mind meld with McCoy. This explains the doctor’s odd behavior since he has Spock’s katra.

Kirk decides to risk everything to retrieve Spock’s body and soul because of his friendship. However, Admiral Morrow forbids Kirk from returning to the Genesis Planet and won’t budge. Kirk gets annoyed and resolves to go anyway as he tells the Enterprise helmsman Sulu (George Takei), “The word is no. I am therefore going anyway.”

escapeHe frees an imprisoned McCoy slated to be turned over to a “Federation funny farm” because he tried to hire a ship to go to Genesis and his behavior has people convinced he’s insane. Kirk also steals Enterprise out of the Spacedock with the help of his crewmates Sulu, Scotty (James Doohan), Chekov (Walter Koenig) and Uhura (Nichelle Nichols). Apparently the only other ship in Spacedock that can pursue the Enterprise is the Excelsior, which is stopped dead in its track thanks to some sabotaging from Scotty. It seems odd that in such a space faring society, Kirk is unable to procure a private ship to go to Genesis. Stealing a badly damaged starship while fun to watch, fails to quell the question of why do it? The Enterprise needs repairs and will make an easy target. It would’ve made more sense if they quietly took another ship and snuck away.

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Trailer For The Wolverine Debuts

wolverineEager fans of Marvel Comics’ favorite mutant superhero have waited for quite some time for a look at the upcoming film The Wolverine. A sequel to the poorly received X-Men Origins: Wolverine, this new film promises to be better than that one. At least, that is what the people behind The Wolverine are claiming.

One thing going for the film is that it seems to be a loose adaptation of Chris Claremont and Frank Miller’s comic book mini-series Wolverine, which takes the title character a.k.a. Logan,  into an adventure in Japan.

From looking at the trailer, the film sets up Logan (Hugh Jackman) as being on his own and approached to go to Japan where an old, dying friend offers to cure Logan of his curse of regeneration, which has made him practically immortal. He undergoes medical treatments that makes him mortal, but vulnerable. It couldn’t come at a worse time, since in the film, Logan has to fight an army of ninjas and other killers.

Directed by James Mangold, The Wolverine looks intriguing and exciting. That scene at the end of the trailer where he’s fighting some guy on top of a speeding bullet train is an obvious green screen shot but wildly kinetic. More importantly The Wolverine, at least by looking at the trailer, seems to focus more on Logan and his emotional state. Hopefully it will be better than the last Wolverine solo film, leave out needless cameos of other X-Men characters, and stick to a pure Wolverine adventure.

Waldermann Rivera

Star Trek Movie Retrospective–Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan

Spock: “The needs of the many …”

Kirk: “…outweigh the needs of the few.”

Spock: “Or the one.”

An exchange between Spock and James T. Kirk onboard the Enterprise

khan posterStar Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan was a radical departure from its predecessor Star Trek: The Motion Picture, which is what Paramount Pictures wanted. Even though Star Trek: The Motion Picture made money it was perceived as a failure. Many people complained that it was dull and pretentious. In other words, they wanted action! And that is what director Nicholas Meyer delivered with Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan, only he added a human element that elevated the film to classic status.

This film is the most personal Star Trek film out of the many that have come out. Its main characters go through some intense and heartfelt emotional journeys and are changed forever. Admiral James T. Kirk (William Shatner in his best performance as Kirk) faces the prospect of middle age and looking back at his life. His best friend Captain Spock (Leonard Nimoy) faces his mortality with a sense of bravery and nobility that touched audiences’ heart in a way that would have been more lasting if his fate had been final. On the other side of the coin, the main villain Khan Noonien Singh (Ricardo Montalban) is wracked with bitterness and hate over his lot in life and in the end this anger consumes him.

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In the original Star Trek episode “Space Seed” Khan was part of a group genetically enhanced despots from Earth’s violent past found hibernating by Kirk and his crew. After briefly capturing the Enterprise, Kirk defeats him and exiles him and the other superhumans to an uninhabited planet.

In between that episode and the film, the planet. Ceti Alpha V, underwent an environmental disaster that made it practically unlivable. Think of Tatooine on its worst day with blistering sandstorms. Most of Khan’s people didn’t survive, including his wife. Now, Khan is a seething cauldron of fury out to annihilate the one he blames for his predicament: James T. Kirk.

Even though the film is a sequel to “Space Seed” it skillfully brings viewers up to speed with only a few lines of exposition regarding Khan, who is portrayed magnificently by Montalban. The actor originated the role of Khan in “Space Seed” and testmade a solid impression in that episode but by the time that the first Star Trek sequel came around, Montalban was more known for his role in the show Fantasy Island. His performance as Khan demonstrated the true nature of his acting prowess thanks to his bringing to the role a sense of regal eloquence, animalistic charisma, and maligned fury.

The film opens with the Enterprise, commanded by a young Vulcan  named Saavik (Kristie Alley in her first role), being attacked by Klingon ships and losing the battle with main characters like Spock being killed. But it was a simulation at Starfleet Academy. Some time has passed between Star Trek: The Motion Picture and this film. One noticeable difference is that the Starfleet uniforms are now bright red jackets with black pants giving its personnel a more militaristic look. The filmmakers wanted to convey a sense of naval conditions with this film since they saw it as a retake of Horatio Hornblower. In fact, the feel of Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan feels more grounded, less lofty than in the first film. Sets look more cramped and a bit more lived in although not as severe as with Star Warsor Alien. A good eye will spot a No Smoking sign on the set, which alarmed some fans who hoped that the awful habit would’ve been gone by the 23rd century.

The actual Enterprise is now training vessel commanded by Spock for young cadets and officers, including Spock’s protogé Saavik. Kirk is no longer commanding a starship and feels like a relic, in spite of the fact that it’s his birthday. Gifts from Spock and Dr. Leonard McCoy (DeForest Kelley) do little to cheer him up, prompting McCoy to urge him to do something with himself and stop living in the past.

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Around this time, the starship Reliant approach the barren Ceti Alpha V, which is to be used as a testbed for the Genesis science experiment. Kirk’s former lover Dr. Carol Marcus (Bibi Besch) and her son David (Merritt Butrick) have developed the Genesis Device, which can initiate rapid terraforming on inhospitable worlds for colonization. The Reliant’s captain Clark Terrel (Paul Winfield) and first officer, the former Enterprise navigator Pavel Chekov (Walter Koenig) beam down to the planet investigate life signs only to find Khan and his people marooned there. After capturing the two men, Khan and his genetic superhumans gain control of the ship and set out on a mission of vengeance.

khan castKirk joins Spock onboard the Enterprise with his original crewmates to assist with a training cruise for Starfleet cadets. They receive a call from Dr. Marcus wanting to know why Kirk is taking the Genesis Device. What she and Kirk don’t realize is that Khan is trying to lure Kirk by manipulating a brainwashed Chekov into stating that Admiral Kirk wants the Device. Kirk takes the bait and orders the Enterprise to head out to Marcus’ science station Regula I, which orbits an asteroid the station is named after, and investigate. In a preemptive move, Spock relinquishes command of the Enterprise to his friend because as he famously said, “Commanding a starship is your first, best destiny; anything else is a waste of material.”

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At Last, Star Trek: The Visual Dictionary Is Here

Most of the other big sci-fi, fantasy and comic book treek vis2franchises has had those Visual Dictionary large-format books put out by DK Publishing. One major sci-fi franchise noticeably left out was Star Trek and that universe is a perfect fit for these informative books with their large, visually pleasing pictures and lay outs. Finally, one has been made for Star Trek and it’s just been released.

It was worth the wait.

Star Trek: The Visual Dictionary by Paul Ruditis is a beautifully designed and laid out book full of rich pictures and information about the Star Trek universe. It is lay out and format is similar to the other Visual Dictionary books of other franchises and covers all the Star Trek shows in their universe’s chronological order. So it starts with humanity discovering warp drive, continues through Star Trek: Enterprise and finishes with Star Trek: Voyager.

Basically, the major races, characters and some events are presented and all the shows are given equal space. Alien races included are popular ones like Vulcans and Klingons to more obscure ones like the Vidiians. So there is some meat for fans of any particular show.trek vis1

The only complaint that can be made about Star Trek: The Visual Dictionary is that it’s a bit short. It couldn’t be a mammoth reference guide like The Star Trek Encyclopedia, but some characters and aliens were unfortunately left out. DK Publishing could’ve done what they did with the Star Wars: The Visual Dictionary books and published more than one volume. Hopefully this will prove to be a test to see if there is a market to put out more volumes. There is plenty of material left to cover. It wouldn’t surprise anyone if one were to be made for the new Star Trek reboot films.

In any event, it certainly is a treat for Star Trek fans and at an affordable price ($20) Star Trek: The Visual Dictionary makes a terrific addition to a fan’s library collection.

Lewis T. Grove

Star Trek Movie Retrospective–Star Trek: The Motion Picture

“Out there. Thataway.”

Admiral James T. Kirk replying to a request for a course heading

posterWith the new Star Trek film coming out in a couple of months (Star Trek Into Darkness), it’s time to take a look back at the many Star Trek films that preceded it. Let’s start off with the one that launched Star Trek’s cinematic voyage, Star Trek: The Motion Picture.

This film isn’t regarded as a top tier Star Trek film and for good reason. It’s slow moving, yet seems rushed and for good reason. Director Robert Wise recounted how far behind schedule they were that the effects work was only completed just before the film made its debut, translation: Wise didn’t have time to properly edit the film. On the other hand, it does have undeniable merits.

Out of all eleven Star Trek films (twelve counting Star Trek Into Darkness), Star Trek: The Motion Picture is the most majestic and oddly the most Trek like. Meaning that this film captures the core concept of Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry’s optimistic view of humanity’s future. That is largely because Roddenberry produced the film and it’s the only one where he was directly involved. After its perceived failure, Roddenberry was relegated to a “consultant” role in the other Star Trek films until his death. In this film, we get a few glimpses of Earth and see that it’s a bright, pastoral paradise where people either wear New Agey type of clothing or bland Starfleet uniforms. The conflicts in the film are largely internal believe it or not. Sure, there’s the threat of this V’Ger entity that wants to annihilate life on Earth, but the problems that capture viewers’ attention are those with Admiral James T. Kirk (William Shatner), Spock (Leonard Nimoy) and Commander Will Decker (Stephen Collins). Anyone expecting a mustache-twirling villain will have to look elsewhere.

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In between the original Star Trek show and Star Trek: The Motion Picture, Kirk was promoted to a desk-bound position as an admiral and he’s bored. He’s in charge of refitting his old ship the Enterprise, which was supposed to be commanded by Decker, but Kirk uses the V’Ger threat as a excuse to take command of the Enterprise, which naturally angers Decker. Now with Spock, he’s retired from Starfleet and off in his home planet Vulcan undergoing this ritual to purge all emotions from within him, but he finds himself unable to go through with the process. He feels a calling, which so happens to coincide with the coming of V’Ger.

The film opens with V’Ger, seen as an immense multi-colored energy cloud in space that dematerializes three Klingon battle cruisers. It should be pointed out that this film is responsible for introducing the modern take of Klingons, now adorned with thick armor and sporting their distinctive sagittal crests on their foreheads. While the film properly shows how badass the Klingons were with their guttural speech, armor and a tribal music soundtrack, they are quickly taken out by V’Ger. It effectively illustrates the entity’s power and deadliness. And of course, it’s heading towards Earth.

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Equally convenient to the plot is how the Enterprise, although not finished with its refitting, is the only starship that can intercept V’Ger. How many ships does Starfleet have? But hey, what’s a Star Trek film without the Enterprise and its crew being the only thing standing between life and death?

Despite’s Chief Engineer Scott’s (James Doohan) usual protests that the ship isn’t ready, Kirk orders that the Enterprise be launched to confront V’Ger. Afterwards, the engineer entreats Kirk to an exhaustive external inspection of the Enterprise while in drydock. It’s at this point, that the film first rears its indulgent tone. Continue reading