Star Trek Generations (1994)

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Star Trek Generations (1994)

Post  BoG on Sun Mar 07, 2010 12:43 pm

This film follows Star Trek VI:The Undiscovered Country (1991), which was the last one to feature all of the original (TOS) Star Trek cast; this contains 3 of those crew members - Kirk, Scotty and Chekov. Generations also functions as a follow-up to the TNG series, which ended a few months prior to this film's release. So, there are a lot of elements to bring together, or attempt to, into a cohesive whole - a challenge which was probably next to impossible to meet. There are a lot of 'science fictiony' (an improper term, I know) touches to this one, the result of making these attempts.
This is, largely, a wish fulfillment dream for the Star Trek fans, namely: an answer to the proposition 'what if Captain Kirk teamed up with Captain Picard?' The film represents the differences between this film series and others, in that much of the plot and themes are essentially dictated by the fans. The writers were given certain plot points that were mandated to be a part of the story and their job was to somehow write around these: (a) Kirk meets Picard; (b) Data gets emotional; (c) Enterprise crashes; (d) Kirk...meets his end? The writing is adequate, but due to the constraints, there were quite a few clumsy aspects to the overall story.
There is an unusual scope to the film: the first 18 minutes take place in the 23rd century, with Kirk, Scotty and Chekov (nearly the last appearances for them) on the new Enterprise-B.  Guinan, a long-lived TNG character, also pops up here. This is a nice section, almost like a mini-movie or episode within the film, with our old guard crew definitely retired (though I always felt Chekov had a good 10 years left in him and he finally did return in the internet film Star Trek:Of Gods and Men in 2007). Then it transits to the 24th century, to Picard, Riker, Data and the rest of the crew of Enterprise-D.
This transition in itself is not bad, but the writers had to come up with a way for Kirk to go forward and team up with his 24th century counterpart;  using the by-now-stale method of traditional time travel was out. So they came up with the Nexus Ribbon, an intriguing space/time phenomenon which mirrors the concept of the film: a wish-fulfillment dimension where/when anything goes, anything can happen. It addressed the problem of how to get Kirk and Picard together, but is sufficiently vague and even hazy in its conception that it comes off as simply hasty writing, not the cleverness we hoped for. The threat faced by Picard and his crew is the somewhat grandly villainous Soran (McDowell, fiendishly gleeful as is usual for him, but not entirely suitable for the tragic aspects of his character), whose plan to enter the Nexus involves destroying an entire solar system. Soran is teamed up with a couple of Klingon sisters (March & Walsh) from the TNG series and these actresses actually give the better performances in the film.

The pace is pretty good, with enough action to offset the lengthy subplot about Picard's personal tragedy, which mirrors Soran's - there are probably one too many parallels here. Stewart, as Picard, gets a chance to get all weepy in one scene - can anyone picture Kirk breaking down like this? I'm not saying this is bad - they are two different characters and perhaps this is the clearest indication here of just HOW different. The key battle scenes in space here echo those of the 3rd Trek film, The Search For Spock, in which a smaller Bird of Prey Klingon ship once again gains the upper hand over a more powerful Starfleet vessel - I suppose being a sneaky dastardly alien race has its advantages in both the 23rd and 24th centuries.

But, it actually works to the film's favor, establishing a darkly ironic tone for the usually level, sometimes bland Star Trek TNG universe. After seven years of evading destruction from all manner of cosmic menaces on the TNG series, the great ship is laid low by these cloaked skulkers, plotting their deeds from an outmoded vessel (the Enterprise-D's downfall was, in reality, an edict from higher powers at Paramount).

Likewise, after even more years of eluding all manner of death, Kirk appears to have used up all his good fortune. It seemed to me that, after exiting the safety of the Nexus, Kirk was doomed to fall, no matter the circumstances; he would've slipped up somewhere on those mountains even without Soran attacking him - all his cards had been played. Of course, as a longtime fan, I would've preferred Kirk survived and gone off into legend in the same way Scotty did on the TNG episode Relics.  Idea  But no, the filmmakers were hampered by rules and a lack of imagination, a bad combo for such a series. Rules were created for the Nexus, for example, which sweeps over the planet and takes Soran & Picard along with it, but leaves the Enterprise crew to die with the planet; so it only swept over that small part of the planet - convenient or wild science fiction with loopholes?
Kirk and Picard interact in much the way we would expect and it's a great exercise for the two seasoned actors, Shatner and Stewart. If only the setting wasn't so mundane - cooking eggs in a kitchen. The budget limitations, rushed quality and not thinking things out enough shows in these sections: by rights, no one should be able to leave the Nexus. The audience has to make allowances to feel better about it all: starship captains are made of different stuff. They'll get out.

But, if you can get out, would you go back to the moments to just before everything goes to hell? Why not give yourself a day? If Kirk had to die, couldn't it have been on the bridge of an exploding starship or even an exploding planet, to give it some grandness, maybe even some greatness? You can drive yourself crazy with all the what ifs.
Some of the themes - related to old age, the brevity of human life and making a difference, though having a 'tacked on' feel, do emerge by the end. And, it's interesting that the adversary here, the one who rebels against these declared virtues, is himself nearly immortal (Guinan's race is very long-lived); that may be why he instigated this conflict, not knowing the preciousness and poignancy of a brief life. But, this is what happens when you put together a film as modified by fans - you get a fan film - exciting in many ways, quite illogical in others. That's what Spock might say and he was missing, but I think actor Leonard Nimoy had the same opinion. BoG's Score: 7 out of 10. The next film was with the all-new crew on the new Enterprise-E in Star Trek-First Contact.
Idea Trek Trivia: in the original (deleted) ending, Kirk was simply shot in the back by Soran. Test audiences didn't like this. So, the filmmakers re-shot Kirk's death by having him simply fall down with a ladder. This was meant to be, evidently, more epic in their eyes, the surest sign that the Trek franchise was plagued by ennui at this point.

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