Monday, June 12, 2017

STAR TREK GENERATIONS (1994) - **



Rated PG for sci-fi action and some mild language.
Running time: 118 min.
Release date: November 18, 1994

Ever since Star Trek: The Next Generation hit the television airwaves in 1987, Trekkies everywhere began the debate of which captain was better: James T. Kirk or Jean-Luc Picard. Star Trek Generations unites the pair for the first time in a historic meeting. Unfortunately, the story surrounding this epic encounter does not fill one with the excitement that the occasion deserves.

The story begins in the year 2293, with Kirk (William Shatner), Scotty (James Doohan) and Chekov (Walter Koenig) attending the maiden voyage of a new Enterprise. They are there merely as observers as the new captain (Alan Ruck) guides the ship into space for a tour group that includes reporters. A distress signal is received and the new Enterprise is thrust into action. Of course, Kirk is anxious to jump in and when he is asked for his assistance, he immediately responds like it was the good ol' days. Kirk displays his old bravado which leads to his seemingly untimely demise. Flash forward "78 years later", and the crew of the Enterprise, led by Capt. Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart), is celebrating the promotion of Worf (Michael Dorn) as Lieutenant Commander. We get a couple of subplots for the crew, with Picard receiving word that his brother and nephew have died, leaving Picard a blubbering mess; and the android Data (Brent Spiner) experiments with an emotion chip, which leaves him acting inappropriately at the worst of times. A distress signal is received, the Enterprise responds, and people are rescued from an observatory that came under attack. Among those rescued is Dr. Soran (Malcolm McDowell), who seems pretty intent on getting back to the observatory to conduct his experiments. His experiments. of course, are evil. They involve destroying entire stars in order to clear the path for a ribbon of energy called "the Nexus" that will transport a being to where time has no meaning and your desires are fulfilled. Picard and the crew must stop Soran from destroying yet another star, and save millions of lives in the process. The idea of extra-dimensional realms just floating in space is something that Trek fans have long dealt with dating back to the original series. It is a plot device that is filled with techno babble and high concepts that are not totally accessible to all in the audience. Of course, the climactic scene takes place on a desert planet on top of a rickety catwalk, which is not very original and rather silly. Of course, Picard gets pulled into the Nexus and apparently his desire is to have children straight out of a Dickens story, but he eventually pulls himself together and discovers that Kirk is alive and well inside the Nexus as well. We get some silliness with Kirk on horseback chasing down a dream woman, with Picard chasing after him to convince him to come back to defeat Soran. The plot was moving along slowly as it was, but this silliness within the Nexus took the story down a path that I was not willing to follow.

Director David Carson is known for mostly directing television, and Star Trek Generations sort of has that extended TV episode feel to it. The budget is still big, with the visual effects and scope of the production being capably handled. In fact, the effects were the most impressive aspect of the film. However, Carson is unable to provide a pace that helps move the story forward. The drama revolving around Picard's family is part of the issue, as Picard broods and weeps his way through the first third of the story. Perhaps the film could have benefited more from a big-screen director.

The cast is familiar to those who watched the series. Patrick Stewart is a fine actor but, in this film, his Picard seems to be sleepwalking through the story, as if he was in a dream. The subplot involving Brent Spiner's Data provides a laugh or two as the android runs the full gamut of emotions throughout the film. However, the character becomes quite obnoxious in a few scenes and the comedy falls flat. Malcolm McDowell, as the villainous Soran, is not fully explored. Why is he so obsessed with the Nexus that he is willing to destroy entire solar systems because of it? He has some deal with Klingons that is not explored, and is then forgotten about entirely when the Klingons are destroyed. McDowell is another good actor who probably deserved more than the screenwriters were willing to give him.

Star Trek Generations contains some rather impressive visuals but overall it is an unsatisfying film that should have given more weight to the meeting between Picard and Kirk. Also, William Shatner and Kirk did not deserve the fate that this movie gives them and it was probably provided to give the movie a dramatic moment, since there are none to be found in this dull, plodding mess.

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