Boldly Going Pt 10 (Star Trek: Nemesis, 2002)

ST_Nemesis_PosterSo, after the disappointing returns the studio brought in the director of Executive Decision, Stuart Baird, and John Logan, the screen writer of the Time Machine.

The Romulans are in turmoil and during a high level meeting of their government, there is an assassination of the council.  Shinzon is installed as their leader.

Picard and the Enterprise are lured to a remote planet by a unique signal that is emitted by androids like Data.  They discover the pieces of an Android named B-4. Once assembled they try and determine how he got to the planet and his purpose.  It turns out that he has a connection to Shinzon.

When he meets with Picard, it is revealed that he is actually a clone of Picard from an abandoned secret  Romulan project. Shinzon is deteriorating and needs the genetics of Picard to stop it.

To be honest?  This is the film that nearly killed the franchise.  It is a dreary and dark mess.  The characters do not feel like themselves and the attempts at epic game changers just do not feel like they were at all committed. Data’s self sacrifice would probably feel more heavy hearted if there was not already an onscreen replacement. When Troi is literally mind raped, she requests to step down and Picard refuses to allow it, asking her to endure more.

Even scenes that feel like they should be exciting adventures are just lifeless.

Nemesis is a disappointing slog.  True story, I tried to watch this film five different times in the years since it came out and fell asleep until the fifth time.  I recently watched it again. I did manage to stay awake, but boy was it not a good time.

Boldly Going Pt 9 (Star Trek: Insurrection, 1998)

ST_Insurrection_PosterAfter a rousing success with First Contact, Jonathan Frakes returned to the directors chair with Insurrection.

When Data goes haywire as part of an undercover science team observing a small community on a remote planet, the Enterprise is called to investigate.

When they arrive, the peaceful Ba’ku are discovered to be aging very slowly. As they dig deeper, they realize there is a dark conspiracy at play to remove the Ba’Ku so the planet’s unique radiation can be harvested.

Picard and his crew, of course, side with the Ba’ku and work to stop the attempt to forcefully re-home them.

This film seems to be a less popular entry…but honestly? I do not think this is the film is “bad”.

Largely, Star Trek films lean towards a larger and more “epic” adventure. Stories bigger than the TV series would have allowed.  But Insurrection is a pretty small scale story.  And it feels like it easily could have been at home as another episode of the Next Generation.  But this is not a bad thing.

Insurrection is an action film with small level ethical questions.  And it is a lot of fun.  They lean into jokes where the crew all start to feel re-invigorated by the planet…and even find sone ways to make it a bit meaningful (as Geordie’s eyes heal and he is able to watch a sunrise in a way he never has been able to in his life).

There is some nice twists with the villains and F. Murray Abraham rages like a master.

Is this up there with the best of film Trek? No, but it is a solid Star Trek tale that is a lot of fun.

Boldly Going Pt 8 (Star Trek: First Contact, 1996)

ST_First_Contact_PosterFor the Sophomore voyage of the Next Generation crew, they pulled a Wrath of Khan and a Voyage Home.  They reached back to a central villain from the the series, the Borg, and added time travel.

Picard is still haunted by a voice from his time in the Borg Collective. When he senses the Borg are mounting an attack on the Earth, he is surprised to learn that the Federation feels there is too much risk for him to be there and command that the Enterprise patrol the neutral zone.

Picard and the crew decide they cannot sit things out. They arrive to find that the Borg are on the verge of victory, but Picard gives the fleet the orders to hit the right coordinates to destroy the Borg ship.  A small escape ship trails out and the Enterprise follows it, only for it to open a rift in tine and space, they realize as they follow, time is changing around them, the Borg have gone to the past to assimilate a defenseless pre-Federation Earth.

The Borg manage to damage a small community that happens to be the base of operations of the first man to achieve Warp Speed just days before his flight. After the Borg ship is destroyed, the Enterprise crew sets about making sure the flight happens.

But while Riker and his team work to correct history, the Borg managed to get to the Enterprise before their ship was destroyed and Picard must lead the charge against the attempts by the Borg to take over the Enterprise and its crew.

First Contact is highly regarded, and not unjustly.  It is easily one of the best of the entire film series.  The Borg provide a new perspective on Picard and pairing him with Alfre Woodard’s 21st Century Lily (who ends up trapped on the Enterprise) is a perfect choice as she is able to see past his authority and is not afraid to call Picard out in a moment of machismo.

The film mines a lot of humor from Zefram Cochran’s unwillingness to embrace the hero Geordi and Riker expect him to be.

There is a lot going on with themes of heroism, revenge, blinded by one’s perceived righteous anger and fear of the demands others place on you.

The performances, from the regular cast to Alice Krige as the Borg Queen, James Cromwell as Zefram Cochran and the previously mentioned Alfre Woodard are some of the best of the franchise.

The film holds up as a true high water mark for what the Star trek Franchise can be and is easily rewarding for multiple visits.

 

Boldly Going Pt 7 (Star Trek: Generations, 1994)

ST_Generations_PosterComing only a few months after the Next Generation series came to a close, Generations was to be the film to bridge the original series and the Next Generation.

And there was a hope that it might bring together both crews in an exciting meeting of titans so to speak.

Opening in 2093, the new ship the Excelsior is making it’s maiden flight.  Kirk, Scotty and Chekov are part of the celebration when the ship encounters a distress signal. They beam the inhabitants to their ship, but in an accident, it appears Kirk was killed.

The film jumps to the present (I mean, for the Next Generation Crew) where they are having a celebration. They answer a distress call from a science vessel. There they discover a scientist who claims they were attacked by Romulans.

The scientist wants to get back to his experiment, to the point of attacking the crew.  Picard learns that he is part of the same long lived race as Guinan and he is trying to get to another dimension known as the Nexus. But doing so could be highly destructive. Add to the mix Klingon mercenary sisters who are working with the scientist and things look bad for the Enterprise Crew.

Picard ultimately finds himself alone with the mad scientist on a planet where he must try and stop him…but he finds an ally in a man thought long dead.

To be honest, for a long time I just did not like this film.  I came to realize that this was mainly due to the fact that it was not what I wanted it to be.  Only Picard and Kirk meet. And upon revisiting the film recently, I think I hold this one up a bit higher than in the past.  There are some things I really enjoy.

Everyone is great, but I confess I find Stewart and Spiner to be the MVPs here. Stewart gives real heart to Picard who is suddenly facing a sense that maybe he made the wrong choice in never having a family.

Meanwhile, Data opts to install and activate his emotion chip.  At first, this is mined for humor, with Data recalling jokes from early in the television series and discovering-with joy- that he hates a particular drink. However, he starts to become overwhelmed by his emotions, ultimately becoming paralyzed with fear, leaving Geordi to be taken captive.

They try and up the stakes with the destruction of the Enterprise, which is a pretty exciting crash sequence.

Is Generations the movie a younger me wanted?  No. Is it a better film for not being what the younger me wanted?  Yes.

Theeeeeeey’re Back (Independence Day: Resurgence, 2016)

independence_day_resurgence_posterTwenty Years between sequels is a long time.  There has been longer, but twenty years is nothing to sneeze at.  The reviews that proceed me have been harsh, many suggesting that this is the worst film of the summer.  But honestly?  It’s an OK film.  There are some decent quips.  The effects are good.  Goldblum slips into his role pretty seamlessly.  Spiner pops back up and gets a beefed up role.  Bill Pullman is the tortured Ex-President.  Sela Ward is thr tough current president.  Replacing Will Smith’s Captain Steven Hiller is his son Dylan Hiller (Jessie T. Usher).  He is apparently annoyed with Jake (Liam Hemsworth) for almost killing him (accidentally) a few years before.  Jake is the hotshot risk taker who saves the moon base (but getting no thanks for it).  He is also engaged to President Whitmore’s now grown daughter Patricia (Maika Monroe), who works for the current President and is a former pilot.  Then there is Floyd (Nicholas Wright, also one of the writers).  He is in love with Rain Lao (Angelababy) the top Chinese pilot.  Towards the beginning of the film, we are also introduced to Warlord Dikembi Umbutu (Deobia Oparei) and the standard sparring love interest for Goldblum, Catherine Marceaux (Charlotte Gainsbourg).  If this seems like a long introductory paragraph?  It is a lot longer in the film.

One of the big problems this film has?  So much of the personal conflict feels entirely unnecessary.  The conflict between Dylan and Jake could be removed entirely and not impact the film at all.  Their relationship would not be lessened without it.    What makes it worse is that really, the new character lack charisma and have terrible lines.  The quips in the film are largely duds.

The movie follows the first film’s formula pretty closely.  We spend an hour being introduced, or re-introduced to the leads (or at least, it feels like a long slow hour).  We get a lot of destruction as the ship arrives.  An “exciting” battle that fails, heroes stuck in the alien ship, heroes flying alien ship.  A road trip with Judd Hirsch.  Sure, some it is a bit jumbled around and it is all amped up a bit, because, well, it is a sequel.

The creature design is surprisingly pedestrian.  The Alien Queen is suspiciously like the Alien Queen from Aliens, especially in her movements. The world building is a bit lazy.  Yeah, they have alien technology, but it seems to be mostly applied to weapons and vehicles.  How does it change other things?  Communication technology seems to basically be smart phones, laptops and tablets.  The world has been united since 1996, and I guess there might be some plausibility there, but the world is basically America, except for the continent of Africa, still run by Warlords.

The film also just ends very weirdly.  No big speech, Spiner just runs into frame to set up the next film.  And the screen goes black.  So, no, this is not the worst movie of the summer (surely we cannot make such a claim seven days into summer).  It is not the best either.  It is an okay and underwhelming sequel.

Taking Our Planet Back (Independence Day, 1996)

independence_day_poster24 Year old Me Reviews Independence Day: OMG!  That was awesome!  Cool Effects, funny quips.  Will Smith and Jeff Goldblum was great!  Bill Pullman plays the Version of a Democratic President Dean Devlina and Roland Emmerich wish Clinton was!  Cool movie!  Everyone should see it.

20 Years Later Me Reviews Independence Day:  Ehhhhhhh…this is a pretty dumb flick.  But in a weird way?  That is part of it’s charm.  Will Smith plays his standard Cocky Hero Guy, Jeff Goldblum is his standard nervous idealist guy, Bill Pullman is THE PRESIDENT, Randy Quaid is a version of his Uncle Eddie character (a version more deeply consumed by alcoholism), Mary McDonnell is the woman who must die to give Bill Pullman resolve (er, the First Lady) and Judd Hirsch plays Old Jewish Stereotype.

Visually, this film holds up pretty well.  Considering it relies on practical effects as digital (as Digital Effects were still in their infancy) the destruction still looks convincing.  The dogfights hold up and the aliens look quite good.

The writing is broad in the film.  Folks speak in quips and dramatic phrases.    Sometimes, as with Goldblum and Smith, this is effective.  They carry the burden of most of the humor, Though Brent Spiner (Star Trek’s Data) shows up briefly to play an amusing and socially awkward Area 51 Scientist.  Pullman plays earnest and plays it well.  There is a speech in the film that could have gone off the rails, but his delivery makes it seem better than it is.

Of course, the “Rah Rah America” gets overbearingly embarrassing.  The whole world was apparently sitting around waiting on America to come up with a plan to fight back against the aliens.  There is a moment where a British guy tells another soldier that the Americans have a plan and he pretty much says “It’s about time”.  The inspirational message to the world in the film? We are all America.

The overall cheesiness and goofy nature of the film does work to the film’s favor and it is the times when it takes itself to seriously that it feels like it will fall apart.  And even 20 years later it can be fun to watch, especially for the visual effects and the main performances.  And no matter who is in office, there are always going to be people happy to see the White House blown to bits.

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