The final frontier beckons at long last – retirement.
After Shatner’s wobby-but-easy-to-appreciate take on the franchise we’re back with “safer” hands as Nicholas Meyer and Leonard Nimoy return to helm the TOS crew’s final outing. But will “safe” be a synonym for “dull” or will The Undiscovered Country deserve its place in the pantheon of good Star Trek films?
Pre-Existing Prejudices: Alongside The Wrath Of Khan this is, I know, generally regarded as the strongest of the TOS outings. It’s one I’ve always had a lot of appreciation for, though as with most of the TOS films it’s been a very long time since I’ve seen it so I’ve no idea whether my warm fuzzy memories are in any way justified.
Does the movie with the worst reputation in the Star Trek canon deserve it’s fate? Surprisingly, no.
In some ways, Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home was a perfect conclusion for the TOS crew. The story arc that’s run for three movies’ reached its conclusion, there’s some character growth, and a promise of the future with a new ship. But it wasn’t the conclusion – so can Star Trek V: The Final Frontier add anything to the saga?
Pre-Existing Prejudices: “What does God need with a starship?” It’s that one! Yes, arguably the most notorious movie in the whole of Star Trek, this has its fair share of critics. It’s co-written and directed by William Shatner, which means he’s bringing everything to the table, for both good and ill. Because I’m a nerdy fan, I’m aware that this is the first of several Star Trek appearances by the joyfully brilliant David Warner, if not perhaps his most noted. Marshmellons, El Captian, Spock’s half-brother… it’s a heady mix. Let’s find out if this movie deserves it’s dreadful reputation!
Is there any point in putting anything here other than “it’s the one with the whales!”?
Spock’s alive again! Well he was at the end of the last movie at any rate. After the surprisingly strong third entry into the series can The Voyage Home keep up the momentum?
Pre-Existing Prejudices: The One With The Whales. Come on, it’s the one with the whales! Everyone knows the one with the whales! I am, of course, aware of the pro-environmental message – though not how well it’s aged since the mid-80’s – and of course it’s “the funny one”. You know, “nuclear wessels”, “Computer!”, “double dumb ass on you!”, “I think he did a little too much LDS” and so on. As with the last entry though its been simply ages since I saw anything but the usual clip reel, so I’m looking forward to revisiting it.
What’s It All About, JG?
After three months on Vulcan, apparently unmolested by a Starfleet who might be rather cross at the destruction of one of their ships, Kirk and the crew head back to Earth in their euphemistically-acquired Klingon Bird Of Prey to finally face the music. Meanwhile, however, a mysterious probe (nothing like the mysterious probe from a couple of movies ago) knocks out ships and starbases on its way to Earth as it broadcasts a signal.
What’s It All About, JG? What it’s about is Anthony Hopkins giving an Oscar-worthy performance, but more specifically it’s about Anthony, an old man suffering from dementia trying to navigate his way through a life which he sees as entirely rational yet which clearly isn’t. There are details that escape him, sometimes small things like where he’s left his watch, and sometimes much larger things, like failing to remember what happened to his “other” daughter, never explicitly revealed though implicitly she’s dead – there’s reference to an “accident” but little more detail is forthcoming. Sometimes when he’s looking at his daughter he sees a different woman. Sometimes when he’s talking to her… husband? boyfriend? …. he sees different men. We slide in and out of Anthony’s perspective throughout the movie, always seeing things from his point of view, until finally it ends with him in a nursing home being cared for and it’s unclear how much, if any, of the details we have seen have represent reality.
Spock’s dead! But don’t worry, it won’t last. Uh… spoilers?
What’s The Movie?Star Trek III: The Search For Spock
Pre-Existing Prejudices: It’s the first of two films to be directed by Leonard Nimoy, who carved out a niche for himself as a director after this. It’s also the first time we have the chance to tackle “the curse of the odd numbered movies”, the true-in-popular-culture idea that when it comes to Star Trek films, the even-numbered ones are good, the odd-numbered ones are not (though if we follow numerical sequence, that would make Nemesis – the least beloved of just about any Trek movie – Star Trek X: Nemesis, where I suspect most fans might suggest this theory goes a bit wrong). I haven’t seen this is a good couple of decades, maybe longer, and my residual memories of it are very variable, so I’m looking forward to revisiting it.
Can Khan still captivate or is it time to can the Khan?
What’s The Movie?Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan
Pre-Existing Prejudices: It’s a sequel to godawful TOS episode “Space Seed”, so it’s got that baggage to carry. It’s got Ricardo Montalban giving the kind of subtle, understated performances that Ricardo Montalban is known for (he’s still amazing). But, more than anything else, it’s The Wrath Of Khan, fanboy favourite and beloved franchise restorer after the misfire of The Motion Picture. I wonder if it will live up to its reputation? Mmm.
The slow-motion picture! But does the crew’s first outing deserve its slow and ponderous reputation?
What’s The Movie? Star Trek: The Motion Picture
So here we have the debut cinematic outing for the original crew of the Enterprise as the band get back together for their first venture onto the silver screen (plus a couple of session players, it seems). But does the movie live up to its slow, ponderous reputation?
Pre-Existing Prejudices: Well, there’s that ponderous reputation for starters. The film is often referred to as The Motionless Picture or The Slow-Motion Picture, and has a standing that suggests “good attempt, didn’t work out” is about as generous as one could be. Putting that aside I know the Riker/Troi relationship from TNG is basically a carbon copy of the Dekker/Ilea one from this movie. I doubt I’ve seen this in… twenty-five years though, so I am going in as open-minded as is possible.
Monkey punch lizard punch monkey punch lizard. For two hours. What more do you need to know?
What’s The Movie?Godzilla vs Kong
What’s It All About, JG? If you can’t work it out from the title, I’m not sure what I can do to help, really. Monsters fighting monsters (but then also fighting a robot). Surprise, right? Anyway the technically-there plot is that Godzilla attacks a research base unexpectedly while Kong, who has been taught basic sign-language by a deaf girl, is transported from Skull Island to help get into the Hollow Earth. Midway there, there’s a big slap-fight between Godzilla and Kong, then Kong does indeed get inside the Hollow Earth where there’s a throne-room where his people once ruled from (I guess?) and big-ass axe made from a previous Godzilla’s dorsal fin. Some people – all the humans, from the little deaf girl to major characters are all just “some people”, really – have built Mechagodzilla and it’s down to our deaf friend to convince Kong to stop fighting Actual Godzilla and team up to defeat the robot one. Which, in a vastly destructive Hong Kong sequence, they do. The movie ends with the two Titans going their separate ways and Kong ruling once more beneath the Earth.
Does the re-edited, re-shot and re-monkyed-around-with movie improve on the original? How could it possibly be any worse?
What’s The Movie?Zack Snyder’s Justice League
What’s It All About, JG? Following the death of Superman in Joan V Betty: Dawn Of Handbags the world is under threat from Steppenwolf, a hilariously be-spiked bad guy who has come to Earth in search of three Mother Boxes. They’re devices that can literally destroy the world and were left on Earth after a previous invasion failed. Racked with remorse, it says here, Bruce Wayne puts together a team to fight him off consisting of Wonder Woman (excellent), The Flash (fine), Cyborg (certainly in this), Aquaman (appealingly silly) and an eventually-resurrected Superman (poorly served), plus his own Batman (OK). It all ends – can you imagine the surprise? – in a big CGI slug-fest where Steppenwolf is defeated but it turns out he was only working for Darkseid, the real power behind (well, on top of) the throne. And there’s a stupid Epilogue about a wasted world and the Joker for no apparent reason, but that need not detain us.
Can the Agatha Christie formula be reworked into something successful in the 21st century?
Today’s Recipe Knives Out
Ingredients Well, it’s a dish prepared as a twisty-turny whodunnit, perhaps less directly indebted to the style of those late 19th- and early 20th-century mystery suppliers like Agatha Christie, but reflecting more contemporary approaches, specifically of films like Clue. Of course second-hand influence is still influence, and the familiar ingredients are all here – the outrageously silly name (and accent!) of Daniel Craig’s Benoit Blanc recalls the many, many idiotic accents of Poirot across the years and gives a flavour of the original without the need for direct references. He’s been called in by a mysterious figure to investigate the death of author Harlan Thrombey (a suitably ripe Christopher Plummer), who apparently died by his own hand. As his family gather for the reading of the will there is suspicion of foul play, and of course everyone in the family ends up wanting their fingers in the pie – Harlan’s vast fortune – and of course everyone has a reason and motive to get it. Could it be the good-looking rake of a grandson played by cast-against-type Chris Evans, Hugh? (America’s Asshole!)