Star Trek: Generations

[This review includes big honking spoilers.]

Kirk: "I take it the odds are against us and the situation is grim?"

This movie had a lot of pretty cool elements, but they just didn't come together as a whole. And it did something I absolutely hated. It yanked James T. Kirk out of heaven so that he could have a fist fight with Malcolm McDowell, and then it dropped a bridge on top of him.

Yes, yes, I got the point. There was something very "old" Star Trek about Kirk and Picard connecting because they were both so mentally strong that they could resist the Nexus in order to save a planet full of people, that they both chose career over family and that for them, it was the right decision. But despite a somewhat effective death scene for Kirk ("It was fun") and the aforementioned cool elements, this movie is unsatisfying and a big disappointment. Maybe it was the best they could come up with while trying to create a movie that bridged the 78 years between the Original Series and the Next Generation. Maybe it should never have been attempted. The Original Series movies should have ended with The Undiscovered Country. Or, let me be a bit radical here, the wonderful Star Trek IV. (I doubt anyone will be arguing in favor of Star Trek V.)

The usually wonderful Malcolm McDowell was underused as Soren, the villain, and the Nexus felt like the ultimate McGuffin, jammed sideways into the story simply to serve as a motivation for Soren. Where this movie finally, completely lost me was during the Christmas sequence in the Nexus. It was like they assumed that since Patrick Stewart is British, Picard's secret fantasies and desires had to be Victorian in nature. Kirk's "heaven" was much easier to understand and much more like mine would be: his favorite house, his dog and horses, a former love that he regretted losing.

Even though it felt inappropriate and occasionally silly, my favorite part of this movie was Data and his emotion chip. Brent Spiner spent a lot of years on Next Generation creating a much loved character while conveying a great deal with very little expression and intonation, and here, he just got to go nuts. Some of his lines were very funny. His little song about how much he loved scanning for life forms had me laughing for five minutes. The scene where he found his cat Spot made me go "aww." I also enjoyed the holodeck costume party on the sailing ship early in the movie. Very Next Gen.

The crash of the saucer section was cool to watch; hey, good thing they didn't land on someone's village. But did they have to have Deanna crash the Enterprise D? As a character, Deanna just got no respect. It took them years to even let her have a uniform like everyone else's, too.

Bits and pieces:

-- Stardates: the opener was set in 2293, and the Next Gen section in 2371. The action took place on the Enterprise, the Enterprise, the Enterprise, Amagosa station, and Veridian 3.

-- As I subtly referred to above, there were three Enterprises in this movie: NCC1701-B, which was the same class of ship as the much ridiculed Excelsior; our last scenes with the NCC1701-D (sigh); and the sailing ship Enterprise on the holodeck.

-- The first shot was a champagne bottle flying through space, which was quite appropriate for a "pass the baton" movie.

-- We also got Alan Ruck as Captain Harriman, Tim Russ (although not as Tuvok), Jenette Goldstein from Aliens, and Glenn Morshower from pretty much everything.

-- In a way, Picard was also battling his "emotion chip" in the earlier scenes when he wouldn't tell anyone he'd lost his brother and nephew.

-- The planet scenes looked like they were filmed at Vasquez Rocks, but no. It was the Valley of Fire state park in Nevada.

-- Ron Moore. Tsk, tsk, tsk. You've done better.

-- In Star Trek V, Kirk said he knew he would die alone. He died with Picard. And the bridge dropping on Kirk is so awful that it's a TV Trope. "Bridge on the captain!" William Shatner is quoted as saying after filming his death scene.

-- The Klingon women were Lursa and B'Etor, continuing characters from Star Trek: The Next Generation.


Scott: "Finding retirement a little lonely, are we?"
Kirk: "You know, it's a good thing you're an engineer. With tact like that, you'd make a lousy psychiatrist."

Kirk: "You left space dock without a tractor beam?"
Captain Harriman: "It won't be installed until Tuesday."
This may be the perfect line to express what was wrong with this movie. The good storylines were left behind in space dock and hadn't been installed yet.

Riker: "Computer! Remove the plank!"
Picard: "Number One, that's retract plank, not remove plank."
Riker: "Of course, Sir. (calls down to Worf) Sorry!"

Data: "I get it! 'The clown can stay, but the Ferengi in the gorilla suit has to leave.' I get it!"
Geordi: "Data, what do you get?"
Data: "The Farpoint mission! You told a joke; that was the punchline."
Geordi: "The Farpoint mission? Data, that was seven years ago."
Data: "I know! I just got it. Very funny!"

Data: (singing) "Life forms… You tiny little life forms... You precious little life forms! Where are you?"

Data: "I hate this. It is revolting."
Guinan: "More?"
Data: "Please!"
It's Spiner's expressions that make this one so funny.

Although they dropped the numbering with Generations, it's still an odd-numbered (7), not so great movie. One and a half out of four champagne bottles,

Billie Doux loves good television, especially science fiction, and spends way too much time writing about it.


Mark Greig said...

There's a great commentary on the DVD where Moore and Brannon Braga talk in detail about how they dropped the ball with this one. Luckily they got everything right with the next film.

Juliette said...

I really like this film!

I think my main gripe with it was the needless slaughter of Picard's family, who all got stuffed in the refrigerator, rather ruining the ep 'Family.'

I like it though. It's not as great as II, IV or VI, but it's nice, and it's funny. I love the callback to Data not getting Geordie's joke in Encounter at Farpoint.

And now I have Data's lifeforms song stuck in my head for the rest of the day...

Anonymous said...

Ug... this movie is atrocious.

Any science fiction movie requires the viewer to accept the fantastical as being real. However, the viewer is only able to do that if the fantastical is definable within the context of the movie. For example, it's easy to accept the fantastical "warp drive" because it's defined (eg. "warp 2" is faster than "warp 1") and therefore we can follow along as the plot of the movie uses it.

And that's where this movie really fails the viewer. The Nexus is not defined... the rules not explained with enough clarity. Therefore, without "rules" for the Nexus, Soren's plan and Picard's solution become an uncertain mess that the viewer just doesn't have enough interest in sorting out.

Kathy said...

I'm not a fan of this one (good review, though.) It has a couple of good moments to it, but the whole thing is a let down. Picard meeting Kirk should be epic, but I think Kirk is written OOC. He's the kind that would be craving adventure, even in the Nexus. He should be sensing that something isn't right.

And then dropping a bridge on him. Such an awful, stupid death for such a character.


Dustin said...

One of my problems with this movie is that it feels more worthy of being an episode of the TV series than a feature film. The best of the Star Trek movies feel like movies. Wrath of Khan, Voyage Home, Undiscovered Country, First Contact, and even Search for Spock all feel like feature films. For Generations, Insurrection, The Motionless Picture, Final Frontier, and Nemesis all you need to do is cut a few big budget scenes and they are all just mediocre to bad episodes that you might skip over when you do a rewatch.

Another problem is that we know nothing of the planet that Soren is endangering. We never meet the inhabitants and have no investment in their survival except that saving any life is the right thing to do. It usually annoys me that it's always Earth that is in danger (see Star Treks I, IV, VIII, X, XI, XII, The Best of Both Worlds, and of course, The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy) but this movie illustrates to me why filmmakers usually fall back on that trope. I cared more about what was going to happen to the aliens at the beginning of Into Darkness because we got to see them, even briefly, and get a sense of who and what they were. If they at least had made it a planet that we had heard of or been to before then the stakes would rise for me as a viewer. If not Earth then Vulcan, Andor, or Risa could easily have been the target. We care about the destruction of Alderaan in Star Wars because of Leia's reaction to it. It could have been Betazed that Soren targeted and in the same way we could have cared through Troi's reaction. Or maybe whatever planet the El Aurian survivors settled on and Guinan could be our emotional conduit.

My final thought is that Generations suffers from what I call the Next Khan Effect. Khan was such an effective and memorable nemesis that most of the Star Trek movies have tried to replicate him with what the filmmakers usually refer to as "the next Khan". Chang in VI, the Borg Queen in VIII, Shinzon in X, Nero in XI, ahem John ahem Harrison ahem in XII and Soren here. The problem here is that there was viewer history to Khan that we don't have with Soren. While Malcolm McDowell puts on an admirable performance, he’s just not Khan.