Friday, February 3, 2017

The Star Trek Movies: I, II, & III

Hey look, I'm not writing about Frankenstein because I'm a piece of crap liar. I guess I'll do Star Trek. Anybody here heard of this super obscure thing?

I have never been too big into Star Trek. When it comes to any form of pop culture I often reject the entertainment which spawns the most rabid of fanbases, and when it comes down to that you won't find a more annoyingly dedicated and psychotic fanbase than that of Star Trek. I've only watched a couple episodes from the original show and never seen more than short clips from anything beyond that (Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, and whatever other series' included), so right out the gate I want to get it out of the way that I don't *know* Star Trek like a lot of other people do. All I know is that I enjoy clever and fun science fiction movies and going through this film franchise offered plenty of entertainment for me. Are they true to the source material? I can't be certain though I'd venture to guess that no, they aren't. So let's just approach this from an outsider's perspective and how someone like me with a sense of humor and only a passing interest in real Star Trek might see the movies.

This isn't going to be a massive write-up like my Hammer Frankenstein piece, so I hope not to let anyone down with my lack of detail and knowledge. But I actually know a little about Frankenstein, so if I pretend to be an expert here it would just be a big damn lie. Is that what you want? Big damn lies? I thought not. Now let's start with the first one.

Star Trek: The Motion Picture
Right off the bat I knew I would kind of love this movie. It was very slow, deliberate, and focused more heavily on exploration and the contemplative themes Star Trek has been known for. Also, it did an amazing job at introducing the characters, by acknowledging that that in-depth character set-ups aren't necessary for a movie like this and most of the people watching it will already be familiar with Kirk, Spock, McCoy, and the rest. It doesn't talk down to the audience and just lets the characters be, choosing to tell a grand story without being bogged down by unnecessary filler. That being said, this movie certainly takes its time, and adding intros for each major character would have probably pushed the movie over 3 hours, which would have made it incredibly difficult to enjoy.

But while the pacing is definitely slow, the beautiful music and visuals keep this from ever being difficult to watch, often eminent me of 2001: A Space Odyssey -- a comparison I can only imagine has been made thousands of times already. While the story could be seen as underwhelming and tedious by some, I was very immersed and appreciated the relative subtlety of it all. This isn't a big, stupid action movie like the 2009 reboot, and feels a lot more like the small bits of the show that I've seen only on a larger scale and with a much bigger budget. I can't imagine fans of the show would be able to dismiss this one, and while it wasn't my favorite, it did make me feel like I need to give the show a fair shake.

Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan
Hey everybody, wanna know how unique I am? This is my favorite in the series by far, aren't I special? Yeah, it should come as a shock to no one that the movie of these first 6 that I got by far the most enjoyment out of was the movie everyone knows and loves. Definitely going much further into the "big dumb action movie" territory that seemed to eventually take over the franchise, this is a fairly simple revenge story that just works on all levels. While one could argue Ricardo Montalban's Khan amounts to little more than villain-of-the-week, his intensity and effectiveness as an antagonist was never again matched throughout the rest of the films, only ever poorly imitated by later installments (2009 and Into Darkness, for more recent examples).

The entire movie plays out like an intricate chess match where every move counts, and watching this strategic battle of wits is exhilarating. It proves once and for all that the entire universe doesn't have to be in danger for a movie like this to be effective -- as long as you like the characters, you'll be drawn into the story and care about what happens to them. This is easily the most emotional, intense, exciting, and overall brilliantly executed film in the franchise, and it all comes down to how well it blends action with dialogue, character moments, and real danger. Nimoy and Shatter are at their best here, sharing several of their best moments on-screen together. I would go so far as to say this is one of the best movies of the 1980s, and easily my favorite Star Trek.

Star Trek III: The Search For Spock
Following the events of Khan, this movie was the first one that I really didn't care much for. Throwing wrinkle-faced Christopher Lloyd in felt like that aforementioned "villain-of-the-week" trope, the lack of Spock makes the movie much less fun to watch, and the whole thing winds up feeling muddled and convoluted. It felt to me like two different movies stitched together, while the previous two films felt much more concise. Overall, I wound up enjoying this movie almost entirely on the strength of Wrath of Khan's finale, which set the tone for a darker and more emotional follow-up. While at times emotional, it still felt pretty cobbled together.

Since the majority of this movie is about Kirk and co. trying to find out the truth about Genesis from the last movie and wanting to get Spock back, they decided to throw in some Clingons who hate Kirk as a means to add tension, action, and drama. I mean it worked last time, so why not again? Without making this the center of the story, it winds up feeling tacked on and really underdeveloped. It works okay for what it is, but this didn't need to be an action movie. It should have done what the first movie did, but after the action-packed second movie, I can't really blame the for wanting to follow that up with an equally energetic story. It just didn't really stand alone as a fun movie and it relied too heavily on the last film to make any kind of sense at all.

It's time for me to stop thinking about Star Trek for a few minutes and end this post. I'll probably not post the next reviews for another week, but I'll continue filtering in the Adventure Time reviews to fill the gaps. Can't let there be any gaps in between posts, can I?? Let's face it, I only post this much because I'm an attention-seeking turd. Okay, I'm done now.

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