Over at Hailing Frequencies Mike has grouped the sprawling mess that is the Star Trek movies into nice organised groups for us as to which are good, which are bad and the rest which are “alright I suppose”. This has spurned me on to finally get them all in a nice neat order so go make yourself a brew and get comfy, as I cover all fifteen out of the thirteen Star Trek movies, as we go from ‘Motion Picture’ to Beyond with the worst to best films of………………………..
15 Intro Darkness
Bottom of the list and for fairly obvious reasons. For years Star Trek has been living in the shadow of Khan and this was the movie that gave up trying to pretend otherwise and just redo a movie but with everything turned up to 11. Bigger ships, bigger explosions and bigger tits (and no I’m not talking about J.J). Worse than that was how much it managed to rehash of the “first” movie too; with Kirk stripped of command and forced to prove himself all over again for control of the Enterprise, with twice the bedding of alien chicks and another round of drinking in a bar with Pike for good measure.
Nemesis is considered the movie that killed off the original timeline and considering it derailed the massive cross-over they were apparently planning for number eleven that seems to be true. It’s a movie that doesn’t care, with a director that has never seen Trek before and a list of demands that they were only to happy to bow too. Picard riding dune buggies, Data dominating the plot for no real reason in a tale that pales to Lore. How Tom Hardy managed to get a career after this is a sign of his great talent. Half the cast have no rhyme or reason to being there and the rest just wish they weren’t. Every new instalment of Trek typically needed some tweaking from the books to fit in this one needed nine to explain everything it got wrong or just glossed over. It’s cheap stab at giving us an evil Picard and ended up with someone closer to Marvin the Martian who despite being oppressed by the “evil” Romulans decided to blow up the planet Earth; presumably because it obstructed his view of Venus, in his mega space ship built in secret during the middle of a war. But let’s not dwell to much or we won’t make it to the single digits.
Generations is not a bad movie, it’s just lazy and cheap and in a way that’s worse. Now this could be the worst case of Next Generation getting out done by themselves with “All Good Things” being a far better story than the rather lazy suggestion of getting what TOS cast members they could afford and just rolling with it. From turning down the lights on the sets to make it look more atmospheric to pinching the shirts from Voyager to save on the costuming budget leaving Frakes walking around the entire movie with his sleeves rolled up, this movie reeked of budget film making and a studio desperate to earn a quick buck. When the death of your baddiess relies on a shot you’ve not only pinched from your own t.v series but also in turn the movie before you, you should realise you’re in trouble. A lot of the original movies concerned themselves with age, death and the future but that was because they were all a lot older by the time they got around to making said movies. One week after the end of series seven is a bit weird to be trying to force a crisis of family and legacy on poor Picard who showed no real signs of that in the previous seven years. Heck I’ve seen Picard into someone who slept with his brothers sister and had an illegitimate offspring just to make this movie work.
12 Master and Commander
This could be the best film on the list, unfortuantly it doesn’t have any aliens nor spaceships and so is relegated to twelfth place. What it does have is a captain playing games against another captain in a technological superior ship, relying on council from his Doctor and building a relationship with his crew. Kirk was pitched as Horatio Hornblower in space and Jack Aubrey has the best Horatio Hornblower esque movie in a long time.
11 Galaxy Quest
Star Trek doesn’t have to take place on the Enterprise or even in space as we’ve seen and Galaxy Quest get’s a lot right, from the sets to the costumes, the characters to the actors and even the fans. However it misses the moral quandaries and thoughts behind some of the better instalments. Truth be told I was almost tempted to put this at the top of the list but then I thought it might look bad a non-Trek film winning the best Trek film award so I relegated it down here with the rest of the non-Trek movies.
10 Motion picture
Which brings us to the last of the non-Trek movies. This one beats the last two due to having Klingon’s and Kirk’s in it at least and you know being called ‘Star Trek’. It’s not bad, though make sure you pick up the Directors cut for a cut down on the pornographic shots of the ship in space dock. This brought back Trek and made money despite financing other less successful, though quite interesting sounding, stabs at resurrection. But at the end of the day it’s not Trek. Gone are the colour and the fist fights. Kirk is now moping around like a lost extra replaced by a younger model and all in all it comes across a little too much like someone saw 2001 and figured that would be better than bringing back a campy sci-fi show from the sixties even if they are doing so with a plot ripped from that same campy sci-fi show from the sixties.
09 Final Frontier
So Star Trek has just wowed audiences with a critically acclaimed trilogy so where do they go next? To Heaven and back of course. Rodenberry had always wanted to take a swing at God, for some reason, and this is better than some of the pitches he’d given us. The stab at politics with a run down nimbus 3, a character filled camp fire and the immortal line of “What does God need with a starship?” make this movie. Unfortunately it got ruined by studio interference with instance of more comedy and writers who thought this meant Scotty banging his head. There’s a lot wrong with this movie but a few good ideas and a bit of heart that puts it ahead of the lazy entries of some of the other movies on the list and it feels more like Star Trek than some of the “better movies” we’ve already mentioned.
They say that had they known they were going to have do movies as well once they were done making a hit television show they’d have saved the likes of “Yesterdays Enterprise” for then. Thus this is yet another example of a not very bad film being over shadowed by instalments from years ago. Truth be told the best thing to come out of this was “Fade In” an ebook Michael Piller that is the only documentation of not a good movie, nor a bad one, but a middling mess all the way from initial pitch to premier that I know of. Watch it turn from “Heart of Darkness” starring Patrick Stewart to a cheesy mid season two part episode that would have been otherwise fairly quickly forgotten. Looking back it’s one fan dance away from being Final Frontier and though it lacks the heart of scenes like Kirk and McCoy being confronted with their innner demons it’s level, and honestly rather uneventful, playing field make this pip the last movie at the post. It doesn’t go as high as the last one but it never sinks quite so low.
07 Star Trek
With perhaps the best opening of any Trek movie to date I don’t hate this movie despite it’s terrible exposition and coincidence filled middle, to the sinking realisation that this is all an excuse for a reboot that a)wasn’t needed and b) other franchises wouldn’t take two hours to explain away. I don’t hate it I promise. It’s well shot and fairly well constructed, the characterisation is pretty spot on with an all round brilliant Bones McCoy and a Jim Kirk sleeping with a woman in order to get what he really wants. Cut the ice planet and Spock explaining parallel time lines for those too dim to keep up and you have a decent pilot for a new series of films. Not the best I’ve seen hence being only at number seven but decent none the less.
First Contact is the best of the Next Gen movies, this I hope is not a spoiler for those of you who hadn’t realised it hadn’t come up yet. The question however will always remain; is that due to it being good or the rest being terrible. That same question will always haunt Beyond with a needless two hour reboot explanation and a retread of a better movie by more talented people being so far the only other movies in the block. That trends looks to be continuing with rumour of number 14 giving us Chris Hemsworth returning from the dead and the Borg appearing on the scene. Now yes it falls back on blowing up the Enterprise for drama and a moustache twirling villain played by a classically trained British guest star but it gave everyone something to do and for the most part tries something new, for the most part.
05 Undiscovered Country
The last outing of the original crew it was heavy handed and struggling to find something new for the geriatric crew to do. Drama had to be drummed up by giving us a resentful crew bitching and moaning through half their adventure while holding the same stuck in the past prejudiced views that they shouted at Stiles for several years ago, until they have to step up and sort things out. Still it had the right mix of talking, metaphor and action, adventure. It had a bad guy so good that all round good guy Chancellor Gorkon had to come back to out do him after a years hard study.
04 Search for Spock
Is Search for Spock elevated for being wedged between the two most popular entries in the original series film collective or brought down because of it. Directed by Leonard Nimoy it’s a plot about bringing a dead character back by magic, something comics have struggled to make decent for years. Not only did he do quite well but he managed get some decent acting out of scenery chewing, old ham Bill Shatner. Granted this was supposedly done by doing the scene over and over again until Bill was too tierd to overact but it doesn’t matter as the scene where he finds out his newly discovered son is dead still manages to hit home every time. Like all good second acts of a trilogy this is the darkest and thus it becomes possibly the darkest of the Trek movies. The budget runs tight on the sets as usual but unlike Generations they made up for it with a rousing score and decent model work from ILM. Whether this started the trend of “if in doubt blow up the ship” for the writers I will leave up to you.
03 Voyage Home
Or the one with the whales as it is commonly known. A return to the lighter episodes after the rather dark turn the series had taken. A bit preachy and more than a bit silly this became the other favourite Star Trek movie for a long time and with good reason. Everyone is given a plot thread to follow up on, Hicks plays well off Shatner and a super Vulcan like Spock. Just don’t ask how two whales are going to repopulate an entire species.
02 First Contact
It isn’t perfect, Picard looses all his character growth from episodes like ‘Family‘ and ‘I Borg‘ and we’re now locked on the path of every movie being about Picard and Data despite TNG being more of an ensemble show than TOS ever was. We have another contender for the crown of top Star Trek villain despite the Borg being a hive mind and thus making the concept of a Queen a bit of back step in their story. Yet it has suspense and humour, action and drama and decent acting all round. The jokes land the best since “Voyage Home” and the lower deck Borg fights feel genuinely chilling and well shot.
01 Wrath of Kahn