Welcome to Reel Rewind, a semi-monthly column in which I’ll take a look back at some of my favorite films, bringing along artists that I can’t get enough of. We’ll team up for some fun collaborations and bridge the gap between film appreciation and art. Because we can’t get enough Trek, Matt Ferguson and I are looking back at the Next Generation films. Make it so!
Director: David Carson
Writer(s): Rick Berman, Ronald D. Moore, Brannon Braga
Region of Origin: U.S.
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
35mm, Color, 118 mins
Star Trek Generations‘ first image perfectly captures everything you’d want from the film; it’s a bottle of vintage 2265 Dom Perignon hurtling across space in elegant, zero gravity. With this image alone, we’re promised the celebratory continuance of a franchise that refuses to die, only getting better and more distinct the further time passes. But while echoes of this concept do manifest in the film’s themes of legacy and destiny, Star Trek Generations is a mixed bag. Introducing us to Jean-Luc Picard’s Enterprise-D team while saying goodbye to the legendary Captain Kirk, the film suffers from it’s awkward necessity to be a bridge for a new generation while trying to stand on it’s own. Even though it doesn’t all come together in the best way however, there’s still just enough good in it to make the effort worth a viewing — at least once… in a while.
The film begins with the christening of the Enterprise-B. To celebrate the ship’s maiden voyage, Captain James T. Kirk, Montogmery Scott and Pavel Chekov have come to see the ship off. After barely leaving space dock, a distress call ends the ship’s premature launch with tragedy, resulting in Kirk giving his life to save the ship from a destructive, unknown energy ribbon. Flash forward 80 years to the crew of the Enterprise-D, led by Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) and the cast/crew of Star Trek the Next Generation. After another distress call leads the crew to find a surviving scientist named Doctor Tolian Soran (Malcom McDowell), they’ll discover the true nature of the energy ribbon that caused Kirk’s tragedy years prior. In reality, the ribbon is a gateway to another dimension called the Nexus, one with irresistible qualities in which Doctor Soran will stop at nothing to return to, leaving a wake of destruction in his path if the Enterprise can’t stop him first.
Like most of the original Enterprise films, Generations again pits it’s characters and crew against their own mortality, forcing them to question all the choices they’ve made and will make. It’s an apt theme, considering the circumstances and it gives us a few good glances at both Picard and Kirk’s heroic sense of duty and what makes them drastically different, even if they have some of the same goals and responsibilities. When the pair’s inevitable team-up occurs, you can’t help but get a little excited, even if it took too long to get there. Regardless, the film does a good job of upholding Trek’s motif of humanity and sacrifice amongst extraordinary circumstances. Another fun element involves the crew’s lovable android Data (Brent Spiner), getting a mostly endearing subplot involving an emotion chip, giving him his first real brush with all the “flaws” that make up our humanity (“The Ferengi in the gorilla suit has to go!”).
It’s true, there are plenty of good ideas floating around in the film, the problem is that there might be just a bit too many than the story can sustain. Since there are so many things that need to fall into place before the film finally picks up in it’s third act, most of the plot feels like exposition, with a lot of interesting character moments spread apart and stilted, without any tough character choices to drive the plot with any real urgency. While the original films had the luxury of providing a triumphant reunion of sorts, this film needed to be the one that proved the new crew’s mettle. But with the story’s focus on a long road to Kirk, there just isn’t enough for the group to do. In addition, there’s a bit too much reliance on old shopworn tropes, again relying on Klingons as stock villains, giving us similar battles to what we’ve already seen rather than starting off with something fresh. It all amounts to a theatrical experience that feels like a bigger-budgeted, drawn-out episode, lacking any real set pieces or that operatic wonder and scale that we’ve come to expect from the Trek films. At the very least, the triple-threat of John A. Alonzo’s cinematography, Herman Zimmerman’s production design and Dennis McCarthy’s evocative score make things more interesting than they sometimes ought to be.
Despite all that, as with any Trek film, the cast does their best to make things work. Immediately, you can notice the difference in the Enterprise-D crew; they’re a bit less campy, but with just enough distinct quirks and a strong camaraderie to make them interesting. Patrick Stewart’s more refined and stoic Picard has a different sense of gravitas than Kirk’s impulsive and more unhinged nature, and it’s a nice contrast. And when is it not great to see William Shatner as Kirk? His final scenes hit the right notes, despite his inclusion being contrived at best. As mentioned, the only other next-gen crew member given a chance to shine is Brent Spiner’s Data. True, his character moments can be a bit misplaced, but when they’re good, they’re pretty good. As the film’s true villain, Soran, Malcom McDowell is given some legitimate and interesting moral choices, even if he just doesn’t feel threatening enough.
On paper, Star Trek Generations looks like a great idea, with a new crew being passed the baton by a legend. Parts of it work, parts of it don’t, but the nostalgia is mostly too hard to ignore, such as when Kirk, Scotty and Chekov meet Sulu’s daughter in the opening moments. If it sounds like I’m pretty mixed on this, it’s because I am. On one hand, the film sets up some great possibilities and ideas even if it doesn’t follow through, and on the other, we’ve seen better. I suppose your enjoyment of the film will depend on how much you love the universe and relish every moment you can to visit these characters. If that’s the case, Star Trek Generations has got just enough.
Crome Rating: 2.5/5
And now here’s Matt’s insane Generations poster! Even if you have problems with the film, it isn’t a stretch to say that his poster is so good, you’ll want to rethink the way you see the film. His color and composition do a fantastic job at ratcheting up the nostalgia and the clean execution and composition are as sophisticated as it gets! In a way, he represents the film in the way you’d want to remember it! Don’t forget to check out Matt’s website for more art or follow him on Twitter! You can click on the art below to see it huge as well!
Also check out our original Trek films retrospective and come back next Friday, August 16th, for Stark Trek: First Contact!