Star Trekking VII: Generations

Posted: June 29, 2014 by Daniel Simpson (PG Cooper) in PG Cooper's Movie Reviews, Retrospectives

Warning: Spoilers

star-trek-generations-movie-poster-1994-1020190499Written by Daniel “PG Cooper” Simpson

Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country may have ended the original crew’s journey, but it would not be the end of Star Trek. Even in 1991, this was a known fact since the tv series “Star Trek: The Next Generation” (which, as its name suggests, takes place after the days of Kirk), had been running strong since 1987. With the original crew’s glory days behind them, the only logical choice would be to shift focus to The Next Generation cast of Captain Picard (Patrick Stewart), Riker (Jonathan Frakes), Data (Brent Spiner), and Worf (Michael Dorn), among others. However, some were weary over introducing movie audiences to a new crew cold, so it was decided that Star Trek: Generations would bridge the casts, featuring Captain Picard…and Captain Kirk.

The film opens in 2293, with the Enterprise under new command. Kirk, Scotty, and Chekov accompany the ship for a run more based on publicity than anything else. However the ship recieves a distress signal when two ships are caught in an energy wave tearing them apart. There are many causalities, but the Enterprise manages to save a handful of people, including Tolian Soran (Malcolm McDowell). In the process, the Enterprise takes damage and it is believed Kirk is killed. Flash-forward to 2371, when the new Enterprise, headed by Captain Picard, investigate an attacked solar observatory. They evacuate the survivors and hold them on the Enterprise. Among this survivors is the aforementioned Tolian Soran. From there, we learn that the energy wave of earlier is called the Nexus, and provides anyone within it limitless pleasure. This is where Soran was before he was beamed out by the Enterprise in 2293, and he’s willing to do anything to get back, including destroying stars in order to change the Nexus’ trajectory so that it absorbs him. Picard and the Enterprise set out to stop him, but eventually find the require the assistance of a legendary captain from the past.

I had a lot of apprehensions about Star Trek: GenerationsĀ going in. The Undiscovered Country brought the curtain down for the original cast perfectly and I didn’t want a lackluster return after such a great ending. My concerns continued as the film opened with the only returning crew members being Kirk, Scotty, and Chekov. With so many important characters missing, Generations was quickly beginning to feel second-rate, as if they were only able to get these three. Still, the proceeding scene is actually quite good. Once the disaster kicks in, things are quite tense and exciting. I found myself interested in the anomaly, what Soran’s relationship to it was, and generally wanted to see where things would go. This is also the scene where Kirk supposedly dies and it’s very well-handled. There is little dialogue, but it is very dignified, and had it really been Kirk’s death, it would have been a fitting end. Though the scene is good, it is unfortunately where the film peaks.

After the opening, the film basically starts again 78 years later. It’s an awkward transition which actually makes it harder to accept the new characters, rather than easier. In general, pacing is one of the film’s biggest issues. In addition to the awkward reset, the main villain doesn’t really start to put his plan into motion until almost an hour in and then we don’t meet Kirk again until the last 40 minutes. It’s also important to note that Picard and Kirk meet up in the Nexus, right after a sun has been destroyed, effectively wiping out all life in the system including everyone on the Enterprise. Despite the high stakes however, Kirk and Picard just kind of hang around the Nexus for a bit. Sure, technically speaking it doesn’t matter how long they stay, but any momentum the film had built is lost.

Star Trek: Generations also lacks a certain sense of weight. Despite the fact that the film features the two most famous Trek captains of all time, the story doesn’t seem worthy in the film is rather light thematically. There is definitely a running theme between doing what is right and what brings pleasure, and that does have its moments. Picard’s brief fantasy of being a father is pretty good, mainly because Patrick Stewart really sells the scene, but the film doesn’t explore this theme or offer any insight. The overall message seems to be “always do the right thing even when it’s hard”. Noble enough message, but not a particularly interesting one. I might have been more forgiving of the lack of weight had the execution still been solid, but it really isn’t. The action scenes are mostly just average and the finale involving Picard and Kirk facing off against Soran is not only uninspired, but also very awkward and unexciting. I also found the cinematography to be subpar, with the lighting of the Enterprise being especially odd.

It would be easy to blame these numerous problems on director David Carson, and while he does show a lot of mistakes, the fact is he was working with a very flawed script from the start. This thing is just littered with holes, and while things of that nature usually don’t bother me, they’re too big to be ignored here. Soran’s whole scheme is to keep destroying stars so that he alters the trajectory of the Nexus. Many are quick to point out what a ludicrous idea this is, and while it doesn’t really work, I let it slide because I think it’s a unique plan and kind of neat. For me, the worst plot hole is when Picard is in the Nexus and founds out he can leave to any where at any time. Never mind the fact that that’s stupid and makes no sense, why would Picard choose to go back to just before Soran fired the missle. Why not go back an hour before, or a full day even. Then when Soran shows up, you could catch him off guard and take him out with ease. Hell, why doesn’t Kirk just return to his supposed death moment and inform everyone of what Soran does. They might be able to do anything yet, but they could monitor him and make sure he never begins his star exploding plan at all. Plot holes aside, the script also has a number of elements which range from being stupid to just lame. The scene on the holodeck strikes me as very bizarre and the subplot involving Data’s emotion chip is…horrible. First of all, if you have a character like Data (an android lacking in human emotion) why would you make his introduction to a new audience a story where he conveys emotion? Beyond that, Data’s just really annoying here. The whole thing feels like an attempt to recapture the humour of Spock struggling with emotion in The Voyage Home and it fails miserably. Then there are the scenes in the Nexus, audiences first time seeing Kirk and Picard together. And what do they do? Make breakfast and ride horses on a sunny day. Riveting.

In fact, it’s Generations treatment of Kirk that bothers me the most. I knew going into the film that Kirk was going to die and while there’s nothing inherently wrong with that, the fact that he basically dies twice in this movie sort of robs the act of its poignancy, or at least it would had the second death had any to begin with. After an awful fight with Soran, Kirk is crushed by a bridge, rambles aimlessly, and dies. It’s an extremely anti-climactic end to the character made worse by the fact that both Kirk and the audience have no emotional attachment to the planet being fought for and that Kirk himself is barely in the film. In fact, Kirk isn’t really all that important here. Picard just needed somebody, anybody, to help fight Soran. Kirk just happened to be available. The captain deserved better.

Star Trek: Generations is not a completely awful film. There are a handful of good scenes, strong special effects, Malcolm McDowell makes for a good villain, and while I didn’t really get to know the new crew, some of the performances were strong, especially Patrick Stewart. But this still a film which fails on most levels. It doesn’t work as an introduction to the new characters, a farewell to the old ones, or even as an enjoyable movie in and of itself. Hopefully The Next Generation movies get better than this. Otherwise, “Star Trekking” is going to be a harder trip than I expected.

D+

Hopefully with the new series under way, things will improve next time, when I look at Star Trek: First Contact.

Comments
  1. Great review. Be patient. First Contact redeems all the flaws you’ve noticed so far. It’s outstanding!

  2. I felt the film was better than your review indicates (I posted my own review of the film last summer). It was a rough transition though from the old crew to the new crew, I’ll give you that. I also rather liked the cinematography very much. I think you’ll like the next three much better.

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