Thursday, August 02, 2007

Trek Film 101

Leonard Nimoy is on board to reprise the role of Mr. Spock in the upcoming Star Trek XI and it looks like director J.J. Abrams is intent on bringing back William Shatner as Captain Kirk, if he can find a way to do so meaningfully. Given this optimistic bit of news about the franchise, I thought I would post all six movie trailers from Youtube, and also pose six questions about Star Trek film franchise history (in honor of the six Star Trek films featuring the original cast). I'd like to read your responses in the comments and see if we longtime Trek-perts are on the same page (or close to the same page...) about Trek filmdom. Based on your answers, maybe we can together intuit what we'd like to see in terms of tone, story etc. for Star Trek XI.


1. What is the best Star Trek film?
2. What is your favorite Star Trek film?
3. Which is the most underrated Star Trek film?
4. Which is the most cinematic Star Trek film?
5. Which Star Trek film best captures the aura or feeling of the series?
6. Which Star Trek film do you watch the least (even if you don't consider it the worst)?


My answers (but don't let it prejudice you...).
1. Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
2. Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country
3. Star Trek: The Motion Picture
4. Star Trek: The Motion Picture
5. Star Trek V: The Final Frontier
6. Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home

Based on my answers, I guess I'd like to see an "adventure" film with a great villain like The Wrath of Khan, featuring the intelligence, intrigue and political commentary of The Undiscovered Country. Cinematically, I'd like the film to have the scope and grandeur of The Motion Picture, with some of the jaunty, esprit de corps and character emotionality of Star Trek V: The Final Frontier. Finally - though I appreciate humor - in the long run I prefer my Star Treks to be serious business, set in space or on other worlds (not Earth, past or present), and boasting situationally-appropriate humor but not prevalent humor. There - that's my perfect recipe for a Star Trek movie. What's yours?


And now, the movie trailers...











9 comments:

  1. Anonymous9:57 AM

    Here are my choices:

    1. The Wrath of Khan
    2. The Wrath of Khan
    3. The Search for Spock
    4. The Motion Picture
    5. The Final Frontier
    6. The Voyage Home

    The answer on this list I feel most strongly about is number three. I always resent the whole cliche that "the odd numbered films suck." I have never thought The Search for Spock was somehow inferior. In fact, I believe it has some of the most powerful emotional scenes in all of Star Trek. At the heart of its story is the Kirk/Spock/McCoy relationship and that is the true heart of Star Trek.

    Chris Johnson

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  2. Anonymous11:17 AM

    I don't know the Star Trek movies well enough to provide any worthwhile rankings (My wife and I much, much prefer old Brit Scifi like UFO and Space:1999), but we do greatly enjoy 'The Voyage Home'. Why? Perhaps because it's "Trek-light' as I once saw in a review. We recently rewatched it with our pre-teen kids and they loved it. The banter between the characters remains for the most part timeless, and the scene of Chekov running away from the military on the aircraft carrier Enterprise never fails to bring a smile to my face. Just a fun scifi movie.

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  3. Anonymous1:37 PM

    I would very much like to see Paramount release a widescreen DVD of the THEATRICAL CUT of "Star Trek: The Motion Picture". So far this is the ONLY Star Trek production that isn't available on DVD. The DVD of the "Special Edition/Director's Cut" of ST:TMP (re-edited and with updated special effects) is certainly interesting, but I definitely prefer the Original Film over the "Special Edition/Director's Cut".----FRED

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  4. Anonymous1:51 PM

    Fred,

    The original version of The Motion Picture was released on DVD by Paramount as a single disc version. They took it out of print after the Director's Edition came out. I'm sure if you search on Ebay for the single disc version of TMP you can find it. I still have the single disc version of The Wrath of Khan because it is the theatrical version. The two disc set is an extended cut that used to air on ABC.

    What I want more than anything is for Paramount to release the theatrical cut of The Undiscovered Country. The only version that has ever been available on VHS, DVD, or Laserdisc is the extended version. I just don't care for the "Scooby-Doo ending" added on where the shooter in the end is really Rene Auberjonois in a Klingon mask. I also prefer the dissolve from Azetbur saying "Kirk will pay for my father's death" directly to the trial. In the extended edition we get a straight cut from Azetbur to a conversation between Scotty, Spock, and Valeris. There are many more changes but those two really stick in my craw.

    But just look around the internet and I am sure you can find the old DVD of The Motion Picture

    Chris Johnson

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  5. astrid3:43 PM

    1. What is the best Star Trek film?
    2. What is your favorite Star Trek film?

    These two questions seem to be redundant to me, unless you define "best" with some objective criteria I am supposed to use. Khan!

    3. & 4. - TMP

    5. I don't think I can really equate the series with the films to that extent. Same folks, same universe, but the films are much more emotional, more grand in scale, and sometimes (in the case of IV) more commercial. The TV series had spunk, youth, and a message relevant to its time that was delivered in small weekly chunks. Their 'auras' are nothing alike. :-)

    That said, it's been a while since I've seen V, so I'll keep this in mind next time I watch it based on your pick. But I will say III, precisely because of the Kirk/Spock/McCoy triangle mentioned previously.

    6. I wish I could say IV because it is my least favorite, but it was always on cable so I've seen it more times than some of the others. *sigh*

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  6. I don't know the Star Trek films well at all (come to think of it, I don't know any of the shows that well...when I had the time to watch a lot of TV, I was too young to really understand the show, and now that I would understand it, I don't have the time).

    I do recall seeing THE UNDISCOVERED COUNTRY in the theaters with my Uncle (absolute STAR WARS fanatic and a big, early influence of my love of film), my cousin (STAR WARS fanatic), and my Dad (could care less). I was very young when I saw the movie (8). All that I remember was that "the undiscovered country" was a really obvious name for history/the future. I remember laughing at how lame and obvious it was, even to my lame and obvious 8 year-old mind.

    Though I do recall liking STAR TREK: GENERATIONS a lot when I saw it. I find the first film to be excruciatingly long and pretty lumbering. Haven't seen any of the others.

    I'm sure I'll be stoned alive for saying all of this.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Kevin,

    Allow me to throw the first stone! (Just kidding). I enjoyed your comment and appreciate your contribution to the discussion.

    Regarding the Undiscovered Country, there was more to it, perhaps than what you suggest from your childhood memory. The characters in the sixth film refer to the Undiscovered Country as "the future" (or history) as you say, but on a self-referential level, the film refers often to Hamlet in particular (where that term arises), and we know explicitly from Hamlet that "the undiscovered country" is not the future at all...but death. You were too young to remember, but this adventure was billed as the last one featuring the Star Trek crew (the Next Generation was growing more popular at the time) and there was even a shot (visible in the trailer I posted) of Kirk being obliterated by a phaser hit (actually a shapeshifter...). The notion - playing with audiences perceptions and anticipations - was that this was the "undiscovered country" the death of the beloved cast, who at that time had been around some 25 years. The film is also, if you go back and actually watch it, obsessed with the idea of "endings" (i.e. "death"), from the painting in Spock's quarters of the expulsion from Paradise, to the closing narration which establishes the end of the voyage.

    Visually and cinematically this obsession with death and ending is borne out too: a careful viewer will notice that of all the Star Trek films, this one alone features a different color palette (thanks to cinematographer Hiro Narita). Singularly among the franchise, this film features many autumnal colors and shades: oranges and browns galore; again supporting the notion of death or endings (before inevitable winter...). Even the soundtrack of Star Trek VI is darker, more lugubrious than its franchise mates.

    So I strongly disagree that The Undiscovered Country was obvious or lame, or childish (which I think is your implication). The way the double meaning of the term was incorporated into the plot was actually clever(and reflected cinematically in the film's visualization and soundtrack.) Especially for a mainstream blockbuster. Of course, I wouldn't expect an eight year old to get all that.

    Regarding The Motion Picture: I agree it isn't a perfect movie by any means, but "slow" and "lumbering" and "exruciatingly long" is a description I could also apply to describe 2001: A Space Odyssey or the Russian sci-fi epic Solaris, for that matter. I'm not saying the film is in league with either of those: just that this was the style it was attempting to emulate. (Also, frankly - look at the costumes and sets - there's a lot of the moody Space:1999 in there.) As usual, context is important. I guess I give ST: The Motion Picture some kudos because in 1979, every sci-film was jumping on the Star Wars band wagon with all kinds of zippy lasers and space battles (from the James Bond series and Moonraker to Disney efforts like The Black Hole), and Star Trek: The Motion Picture bucked that trend. It tried to bring back the more "thoughtful" approach to science fiction films when it was anathema to do so and viewers wanted "gee whiz" Flash-Gordon style swashbuckling. So the film is a noble failure, perhaps, but noble nonetheless.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Kevin,

    Allow me to throw the first stone! (Just kidding). I enjoyed your comment and appreciate your contribution to the discussion.

    Regarding the Undiscovered Country, there was more to it, perhaps than what you suggest from your childhood memory. The characters in the sixth film refer to the Undiscovered Country as "the future" (or history) as you say, but on a self-referential level, the film refers often to Hamlet in particular (where that term arises), and we know explicitly from Hamlet that "the undiscovered country" is not the future at all...but death. You were too young to remember, but this adventure was billed as the last one featuring the Star Trek crew (the Next Generation was growing more popular at the time) and there was even a shot (visible in the trailer I posted) of Kirk being obliterated by a phaser hit (actually a shapeshifter...). The notion - playing with audiences perceptions and anticipations - was that this was the "undiscovered country" the death of the beloved cast, who at that time had been around some 25 years. The film is also, if you go back and actually watch it, obsessed with the idea of "endings" (i.e. "death"), from the painting in Spock's quarters of the expulsion from Paradise, to the closing narration which establishes the end of the voyage.

    Visually and cinematically this obsession with death and ending is borne out too: a careful viewer will notice that of all the Star Trek films, this one alone features a different color palette (thanks to cinematographer Hiro Narita). Singularly among the franchise, this film features many autumnal colors and shades: oranges and browns galore; again supporting the notion of death or endings (before inevitable winter...). Even the soundtrack of Star Trek VI is darker, more lugubrious than its franchise mates.

    So I strongly disagree that The Undiscovered Country was obvious or lame, or childish (which I think is your implication). The way the double meaning of the term was incorporated into the plot was actually clever(and reflected cinematically in the film's visualization and soundtrack.) Especially for a mainstream blockbuster. Of course, I wouldn't expect an eight year old to get all that.

    Regarding The Motion Picture: I agree it isn't a perfect movie by any means, but "slow" and "lumbering" and "exruciatingly long" is a description I could also apply to describe 2001: A Space Odyssey or the Russian sci-fi epic Solaris, for that matter. I'm not saying the film is in league with either of those: just that this was the style it was attempting to emulate. (Also, frankly - look at the costumes and sets - there's a lot of the moody Space:1999 in there.) As usual, context is important. I guess I give ST: The Motion Picture some kudos because in 1979, every sci-film was jumping on the Star Wars band wagon with all kinds of zippy lasers and space battles (from the James Bond series and Moonraker to Disney efforts like The Black Hole), and Star Trek: The Motion Picture bucked that trend. It tried to bring back the more "thoughtful" approach to science fiction films when it was anathema to do so and viewers wanted "gee whiz" Flash-Gordon style swashbuckling. So the film is a noble failure, perhaps, but noble nonetheless.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Somehow, that printed twice. Which I couldn't have done if I consciously attempted to do so.

    ReplyDelete