The Star Trek Movies Ranked, Part II

Continuing this ranking of Star Trek films, we go from the undeniable classics to the lesser entries in the Star Trek film series. They range from being just okay to junk best seen on Mystery Science Theater 3000. As explained in the previous article, tier three films have their flaws but also boast some admirable qualities about them. Meanwhile, the tier four flicks are absolute junk that should only be seen by hardcore fans or the morbidly curious who want sleep aids.

Tier Three

7. Star Trek III: The Search For Spock (1984): The second Star Trek sequel has so many elements going for it, but for some reason it doesn’t search for spocktake off. After the triumph of Star Trek II, this direct sequel is a huge letdown. Trying to follow up Star Trek II is a difficult task and try as it did, Star Trek III couldn’t equal it, much less top it. For me, it’s hard to pinpoint why this film is a misfire, but for all the important plot developments it doesn’t have much passion.

In this sequel, James T. Kirk (William Shatner) and his core Enterprise crew risk everything, including their careers, to retrieve Spock’s (Leonard Nimoy) body from the Genesis Planet. Once there, they discover that he’s resurrected and now have to save him. There are many pivotal events in this movie; the Enterprise is destroyed, someone close to Kirk is killed, while his best friend comes back to life, and careers are jeopardized. Yet, most of these events feel ho-hum. One thing will happen, the characters reflect about it, then it’s on to the next development.

enterprise blows up

On the other hand, Star Trek III is not to be missed, not just because of what happens in the movie, but for its merits. The character interactions are fantastic and the actors all turn in solid performances. The villain of Star Trek III, a Klingon commander (Christopher Lloyd) is quite menacing and Lloyd plays him more nuanced than your typical Klingon, which was refreshing. The final battle between him and Kirk was also satisfying to watch. Production wise, Star Trek III hits the right marks and this is the movie that introduces the ubiquitous and iconic Klingon bird-of-prey ship and the Excelsior-class starship. Compared to the other films, Star Trek III is a good, but not an outstanding entry in this series.

crew8. Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979): I’ll be frank and say this movie is boring in many parts. Yet, there is so much that I like about it. It is the one film that stays truest to creator Gene Roddenberry’s vision for Star Trek and humanity in the future. Out of all the films, this one is the most cerebral and takes its influence from pre-Star Wars films like 2001: A Space Odyssey, and it does so to a fault.

In the first Star Trek movie, an enormous, destructive energy cloud is headed towards Earth and a newly refitted Enterprise is dispatched to confront it. The lead up to encountering the cloud was pretty good. Remember, when the film came out, we hadn’t seen the original crew in anything since the series ended in 1969. So, the film reveled in re-introducing Star Trek’s many iconic characters like James T. Kirk, Spock and McCoy (DeForest Kelley). That reunion aspect worked very well thanks to Jerry Goldsmith’s majestic and triumphant score, special effects that still hold up today and the cast’s acting prowess–they’re clearly comfortable in their familiar roles.

Well, we’re building up to when the Enterprise confronts the energy cloud. The movie is self-indulgent at parts, enterprise refitbut it’s moving along. Then midway through it, the film comes to a snoozing halt after the first encounter reveals that the cloud is hiding an immense artificial entity that is seeking its creator. Overly long scenes of people staring at special effects plague the movie. They’re pretty to look at, but after a few minutes, it becomes overkill and enough is enough! There is a lot of pondering throughout, in fact, there’s too much of it. But in spite of its faults, Star Trek: The Motion Picture has an ethereal, contemplative quality that is hard to dismiss.

9. Star Trek: Nemesis (2002): This is probably the most underrated Star Trek film in the batch, which is unfortunate. Due to its dismal reception at the box office and with fans, this would turn out to be the last film to feature The Next Generation crew. It does have major faults, such as its by-the-numbers execution and that it outright cannibalizes plot elements from the TV show Star Trek: The Next Generation and Star Trek II. At one point, it was the best ripoff of the first Star Trek sequel until Star Trek Into Darkness came along.

s3Captain Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) is ordered to take the Enterprise-E to the enemy Romulan homeworld and meet that empire’s new leader in a peace initiative. This leader turns out to be Shinzon (Tom Hardy), a young clone of Picard and he has a major beef with Picard and the Federation. Shinzon’s unclear motives are one of the weakest elements about Star Trek: Nemesis and that is vital since this film’s premise hangs on the villain. He just lacks the gravitas to be an effective foil for Picard. What’s worse is his lack of reason for wanting to attack the Federation. All Shinzon does is spout corny lines about being Picard’s opposite. It’s probably the film’s clumsy attempt at addressing the theme of duality. Adding to that theme is a redundant sub plot involving the android Data (Brent Spiner) and his duplicate, which already happened n the TV series. The action is unexpectedly flaccid considering that the director (Stuart Baird) was known for helming action films.

Still, this film has some merits. It features interesting character scenes and it exudes an atmosphere of impending change. The scene where the Enterprise-E is rammed enterprise fightsagainst Shinzon’s warship is pretty cool though, but a major character’s death doesn’t generate much of a reaction from me. It felt forced and trite since it tried to evoke Spock’s death in Star Trek II. With all that, somehow, it serves as a decent wrap up for films featuring The Next Generation crew.  At the very least, the film isn’t dull and has superb special effects and the last score done by composer Jerry Goldsmith. Continue reading

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Star Trek Movie Retrospective–Star Trek: Insurrection

“How many people does it take admiral, before it becomes wrong? Hmmm? A thousand? Fifty thousand? A million?”

Captain Jean-Luc Picard questioning Admiral Dougherty’s attitude about forcibly relocating 600 Ba’ku villagers

ins posterThe ninth Star Trek film, Star Trek: Insurrection, isn’t well regarded by fans and even the people who made it. However, it does have some merit. In fact, as our contributor GEO would say, here’s what’s great about Star Trek: Insurrection:

Still looking? Don’t bother. There isn’t anything great about the film.

dataIt opens in a quaint pastoral Mediterranean-looking village on an unnamed planet. The townspeople are a simple and content lot who tend to their fields, bake bread and live a quiet existence. But they’re monitored unnoticed by Starfleet personnel and mummified-looking aliens in a duck blind. They’re also tracking an invisible person who turns out to be the android Lt. Commander Data (Brent Spiner) who has gone rogue. Other cloaked officers try to stop him from reaching the village, but the android reaches it. The villagers become aware of them, especially after Data removes his invisible suit and shoots at the invisible monitoring station, making it visible to everyone.

uniform

Meanwhile, Captain Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) is hosting a reception onboard his ship, the Enterprise-E, for new members of the United Federation of Planets. He runs into his old Klingon friend Lt. Commander Worf (Michael Dorn) who apparently dropped by the ship to visit. Worf at this time was a regular character in the show Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (DS9) but it’s never really explained what he was doing on the Enterprise-E.

sona ship enterprisePicard gets an urgent message from Admiral Dougherty (Anthony Zerbe) who is requesting Data’s schematics and informs him of the android’s behavior. He adds that Data took hostage the Starfleet observers along with the Son’a, the aliens working with the observers. The captain offers to send his ship over to help but Dougherty discourages this since the planet they’re on is in a perilous region of space nicknamed the Briar Patch.  It got that name from its volatile gases in the system’s nebula that creates anomalies like poor communication.

His interest piqued, Picard has the Enterprise-E go to the planet anyway. When they arrive, Dougherty is with the Son’a leader Ru’afo (F. Murray Abraham) on the Son’a’s command ship, which was just attacked scout shipby Data in a scout ship. Picard and Worf quickly leave their ship in a shuttlecraft and are in turn attacked by Data’s ship near the ringed planet. Both vessels enter the planet’s atmosphere during a cat-and-mouse chase. Over the radio, Picard engages Data to an embarrassingly dumb musical duet based on a Gilbert and Sullivan musical. This distracts the android long enough for Worf to board his ship and deactivate him with a modified tricorder.

Afterwards, the Enterprise-E crew arrive at the village to free the hostages. They’re surprised to find that the so-called prisoners are treated as guests and are free to leave. Picard meets one of the villagers, Anij (Donna Murphy) and a few others. They’re the Ba’ku and despite their primitive appearance are actually a warp-capable society who are up to date on science and technology but choose to live a simpler life.

Back on the Enterprise-E, Chief Engineer Geordi LaForge (Levar Burton) informs Picard that Data’s positronic brain was damaged in a firefight, which is picard data and chickwhy he was acting strangely. Data, now repaired, is activated. The android doesn’t remember much of what happened to him, so him and Picard go back to the planet to investigate. Anij and other Ba’ku, including a young boy named Artim (Michael Welch) who previously encountered Data, join them. They discover a cloaked rectangular ship that is really one large holoship that can recreate any environment inside of it. The ship has a recreated Ba’ku’s village, meaning that the villagers were to be transported there while they slept and fooled into thinking they were still in the village. The mystery just deepens.

Picard and his crew begin experiencing strange reactions to being on the planet, notably that they are getting younger. Worf breaks out in acne, First Officer William Riker (Jonathan Frakes) and Counselor Deanna Troi (Marina Sirtis) rekindle a dormant romance and most dramatically Geordi regains his eyesight. The scene where Geordi looks at a sunrise for the first time in his life was his best moment in all the films thanks to Burton’s quietly emotional acting.

geordi sees

Anij explains to Picard what is going on. The Ba’ku left their ruined planet centuries ago and resettled in the current world. The metaphasic radiation from the rings of the planet rejuvenated them, which explains the Ba’ku’s youthful appearance. Anij and many others are actually centuries old thanks to the rings. The Ba’ku’s world is an actual Fountain of Youth, which is why Starfleet and the sickly Son’a are so interested.

Continue reading