Re-Watch Reviews: Star Trek in Retrospect

J.J. Abrams’ “Star Trek: Into Darkness” is nearly upon us. I must admit I was leery of his previous Trek film. For a man who admitted to not being a Star Trek fan, and desiring to inject elements of Star Wars into his rendition, I was scared (which he can now indulge himself as he directs the new Star Wars flick). Such alchemy as this surely would result in disastrous explosions.

My fears were allayed since “Star Trek” the reboot was actually quite good, though I still have some reservations about Abrams’ choices. So long Sela and your Romulan cohorts, though. I will miss thee.

Since I will not adequately be able to enjoy or examine the new film until it is released, all I am left with are the existing films.  For now, let’s leave the reboot alone, and it can stand on its own confidently anyway, and just look at the rest which can be divided into two categories: The Original Series films and The Next Generation films.

The Original Series Films

  • The Motion Picture – Meh-tastic and bloated. Also called “artistic”. Merely okay. 
  • The Wrath of Khan- The standard by which all Star Trek films are to be judged. Consider “II” = “I” and forget the first.
  • The Search For Spock- Oft-overlooked and under-rated. A strong film that happens to be book-ended by much stronger films.
  • The Voyage Home- Sci-fi-fish-out-of-water-time-travel story (holy hyphens, Batman). Also considered one of the best, and it ties up a cohesive trilogy quite well.
  • The Final Frontier- Sean Connery turned down being in it. That should have been the sign to stop. No redeeming qualities except a surprisingly poignant scene in which McCoy and Spock face dark moments from their pasts.
  • The Undiscovered Country- An exciting send off for our crew. Makes you wish for more, even though the characters are obviously aged, weathered, and deserving retirement from their constant heroism.

The Next Generation Films

  • Generations- Passing the torch results in dropping it and burning things terribly. Not a good start. See Kirk die. Twice. 
  • First Contact- Action-packed but that’s about it, but definitely the best TNG era film. I wish the Borg invasion had been expanded, and the time-travel aspect could have been curtailed to be more succinct and effective.
  • Insurrection- More action. Very “TV Movie of the Week”. Attempts at “character development” are made and Picard cheats on Beverly Crusher.
  • Nemesis- Too little, too late and it borrowed too many tropes from previous films. I preferred it to Insurrection and found some of its concepts promising and enjoyable, however.

Truth be told, I prefer TNG on TV to the Original Series exponentially (though I grew up with Kirk and the gang first), but unfortunately the films fail to deliver. The Original Series films made missteps, but they were at their best when they elevated the essential Kirk-Spock-McCoy triumvirate to the films and explored related themes.

TNG films never elevated anything to the silver screen, traded complex themes for theme park experiences, and ultimately bore only a superficial resemblance to the TV series. Kirk was a man of action, who grew emotionally and personally over the course of the films. Picard was a man of the mind on TV, who emotionally deteriorated in the films and solved problems with guns and torpedoes instead of his intellect.

As tragic as it may be, J.J. Abrams’ supernova may have been the biggest favor to the Star Trek franchise. He delivered it from a whimpering wane and gave it, literally, a bang of an ending and a new beginning.

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