At the Movies with Alan Gekko: Star Trek VII: Generations

At the Movies with Alan Gekko: Star Trek VII: Generations

MPAA Rating: PG/ Genre: Sci-Fi/Stars: Patrick Stewart, Jonathan Frakes, Brent Spiner, Levar Burton, Michael Dorn, Gates McFadden, Marina Sirtis, Malcolm McDowell, William Shatner, James Doohan, Walter Koenig, Barbara March, Gwynyth Walsh, Patti Yasutake, Whoopi Goldberg, Alan Ruck, Jacqueline Kim, Glenn Morshower, Tim Russ/Runtime: 118 minutes

I think it is fairly safe to start this review off by saying that the time-honored activity that iconic sci-fi franchise Star Trek has been all about since its conception in the form of going boldly where no one has ever decided to go before really wasn’t at one point in time quite the exciting and riveting prospect that it perhaps had been all the way back in either the 60s or 80s. Indeed if the original series was like being a teenager and The Next Generation was a sci-fi representation of what it’s like to be in your 20s, then I would definitely say that right about now the franchise as a whole seems to have found a spring of rejuvenating rebirth in its golden years with not just a successful set of 3 (with a possible 4th  that has been in the wings for about the past 5+ years now) alternate timeline films, but also a pair of highly regarded shows on CBS’ streaming service. It was when this show was in middle age however that we saw this truly iconic sci-fi franchise really did seem content with just doing nothing more than doing a lot of what it had done before since it wisely knew that nothing was more comforting to its legions of fans than always going back and doing things that worked before and then doing those things again albeit with a distinct curve or 2 thrown into place for the sake of novelty. It is with this in mind that we see that the 7th Trek film, Star Trek: Generations, is a slice of sci-fi cinematic pie that really honestly feels more like taking in part in a type of recurring religious practice rather than sitting down to view a movie. Yet even with that thought in mind, I did find that there are some things to enjoy in this movie. Indeed the visual effects are wonderful, it’s a delight to see William Shatner’s Kirk pop back up again, and we get good work from both the cast of The Next Generation and (especially) the ever-delightful Malcolm McDowell as this movie’s villain. Suffice it to say that if you are someone who has a fondness for this particular franchise then this entry will keep you entertained. If you are new to all of this however, I definitely think you should consider either go back and watch the previous movies or shows otherwise please don’t expect it to really give you a desire to be beamed up and join the crew of the Enterprise on their adventures past, present, or future any time soon.

The plot is as follows: Picking up some time after their last adventure, we see that Captain Kirk, Mr. Scott, and Pavel Chekov find themselves brought back together for the dedication ceremony of the Enterprise-B, the successor to the iconic Starfleet ship that was crewed by the trio of men as well as their friends/fellow crew mates Spock, Dr. McCoy, Uhura, and Sulu for the past 3 decades (and 6 movies, but that’s another story entirely). Of course, we soon see that the dedication festivities have to wrap up in a hurry when the ship receives a request for aid from a pair of ships filled to the brim with people who have found themselves stuck in some kind of galactic energy phenomenon. Of course, there’s also the added complication that, despite being the only ship in the nearby vicinity that could render aid, the new Enterprise has not been equipped with the vast majority of components necessary to make such a rescue feasible. Yet even with the odds stacked firmly against them, we see that the ship is able to get a few of the refugees on board and get away from being destroyed by this phenomenon themselves with the tragic caveat being that Captain Kirk is seemingly killed during the rescue attempt. Decades, and the end of The Next Generation, later we see that Picard and the crew of the Enterprise-D are put on notice in regards to a Federation research base that has come under attack. Upon arrival, we see that the crew is able to locate a single survivor in the form of a man by the name of Dr. Tolian Soran. A man who, we soon learn, is not only one of the select few survivors from the Enterprise-B’s rescue mission all those years ago, but also a researcher who continuously keeps making the request to head back to the station so he can complete his research which he claims is “time sensitive” and thus imperative that he complete. Of course, no sooner does Picard make his request possible does he also uncover that Soran wasn’t entirely being honest with him. It appears that Soran is trying to redirect the energy phenomenon the crew of the Enterprise-B encountered, known as “the Nexus”, to a nearby planet in the hopes that doing so will permit him to go back inside it. As for why on Earth he would want to do this, it’s because apparently within the Nexus, a being can live in a frame of mind that is their absolute happiest. Unfortunately, in order to redirect the Nexus and achieve his goal, Soran will also have to obliterate the Veridian system’s sun. An action that will see millions of beings horrifically perish. Thus it is up to Picard and an old legend long thought dead by the records of history (gee I wonder who it could be?) to work together in order to put a stop to Soran and his twisted machinations…

Now right off the bat, I think it should be said that when Star Trek: Generations made its way to theaters, it did so with a healthy amount of both goals and fan expectation behind it. This is because unlike the original group which had a 10-year break between the original show’s last episode and the very first Star Trek movie in 1979, Paramount this time decided not to let much if any time pass by before bringing the equally as iconic Next Generation crew to movie theaters everywhere. As a result, we see that about half a year after the final episode of The Next Generation bowed, Star Trek: Generations was beamed up on movie theaters everywhere. Yet unlike the first Star Trek movie which was unhurried and very much in the realm of science fiction, this one feels more like an elongated episode of the show that preceded it. In other words: it was a more immersive, bigger in terms of budget, and action-packed film that whilst entertaining also gave us an iconic to the series enemy, teamed up 2 iconic characters, and also proved to be a final send-off to 2 other icons as well. Suffice it to say that Star Trek: Generations really is very much a passing of the torch from one iconic series to another and constructed around that concept is a fairly well-made film that doesn’t deviate all that much from what made the show that preceded work as phenomenally well as it whilst also taking the time to begin further fleshing out several of the main characters, a trend that would continue in the three movies that came after this one.

Ultimately, the main component that distinguishes this movie from the television series’ that came before it is the fact that this obviously had a much bigger budget than the show did especially in regards to the technical areas. Indeed exceeding even the finest episodes that both Star Trek and The Next Generation ever sought fit to give us, I can easily say that Star Trek: Generations looks incredible with particular regard to the intro of the incredibly well done Stellar Cartography. Even with that in mind though, it should still be said that this film has a few dents in the hood which take the shape of curiosities and ways out that really do stand out like a Wookie who’s not allowed to win (oh sorry; wrong franchise). It is with that in mind that I feel perhaps the most hilariously bad gaffe comes from the fact that there is a reused camera shot that showcases a blowing up Klingon vessel that was actually utilized in the 6th Star Trek  (though thankfully not the 5th because then it would be even worse). A close 2nd in the gaffe department would have to be the fact that there are some very trashy special effects shots used in this with particular regard to some moments that happen during the final showdown. In regards to the curiosity department, Star Trek: Generations allows us to witness as the series starts to make the switch from the typical uniforms worn starting in season 2 of The Next Generation to the ones worn by the crew from Deep Space Nine for some reason. I mean it’s not exactly an issue in terms of continuity, but it is actually distracting at times (though in all fairness The Next Generation show was also guilty of things that were of a similar ilk so make of that what you will).

Thus it is with all of this in mind that I think it should be said that this is one film that works purely on a superficial level and no more. Indeed this is one movie that is clearly void of any sort of logic during the last act of the movie plus the fact that a pair of characters don’t even consider the quite obvious, to say nothing of safer, plan is given a pass since not only would the ending be completely flat, but there would also not really be a purpose to the film altogether although at the same time it would spare us the absolutely atrocious way one character exits that throws by and large a lot of what we learned about said character in an earlier installment out of a 100th story window. Yet even with that in mind, I do feel it should be said that Star Trek: Generations is a film that has more positives than negatives going for it. I mean the cast does, by and large, fairly well, the action is actually not that bad, there is some camera work that is commendable, and Malcolm McDowell is terrific as Dr. Soran. In regards to the latter, this is crucial because this franchise really had been struggling to find an antagonist that could even come close to the work done by either Ricardo Montalban or Christopher Plummer in previous installments. Yet although McDowell doesn’t outshine either of these iconic thespians he does do a solid job at giving us a, very much like Khan, one track minded, driven, and willing to do whatever it takes to succeed. Yet whereas Khan was simply out for vengeance at all costs, Soran is on a different level entirely since everything he does, he does for himself and without an ounce of conscience anywhere in sight and suffice it to say that McDowell does a brilliant job at bringing him vividly to life.

All in all is Star Trek: Generations the worst entry in the entire filmography of Star Trek movies? Honestly no. Not by a long shot. At the same time is this the best entry in the entire pantheon of Star Trek movies? Again the answer becomes not even close. Indeed if anything, dear reader the best way to describe this movie is there are great things about this movie, there are good things about this movie, and then there are things about this movie that really didn’t need to exist, but which were thrown in for reasons that I can’t even figure out. Suffice it to say therefore dear reader that if your interest is seeing the worst the original series of Star Trek films had to offer definitely check out Star Trek V. If you want the best then may I recommend either Star Trek II or IV? If however you want a Star Trek movie that is good, but not great and enjoyable enough to just sit back and watch on a rainy day then ask Scotty to beam this movie up for you. I promise you can do a whole lot worse. On a scale of 1-5 I give Star Trek VII: Generations a solid 3.5 out of 5.