Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Ten Things I Like About Star Trek V

Hey y'all.  I've recently rewatched Star Trek V, the infamous "bad" entry to the Star Trek movie collection.  People have hated this movie since its release, and it's an in-joke among the Trekkies that this is so.  However, I disagree with this assessment.  Is it a great movie?  Certainly not.  There's just too much that didn't get fully thought out, and it goes too goofy.  However, I find it mildly entertaining.

Why?  Well, it means a lot to me.  I had it on VHS as a child, along with IV and VI.  It was something I watched back in the day, and you know what?  It holds up a lot better than a lot of the nonsense us kids watched then.  Sure beats the old Mega Man cartoon.

The thing is, I just don't understand why this movie gets so much hate.  It's not wonderful or terribly thought-provoking, but it's also not the worst thing in the world.  In fact, there are several things I like about it.  Here are ten of them.

Ten good things about Star Trek V:

1.  The characters in the film feel like themselves.


With the single exception of the stupid fan dance, everyone feels like themselves.  We're still seeing our brash, thinks he's invincible Kirk, the sarcastic McCoy, the ever so logical Spock, and all the gang.  We get to see them doing fun things.  One of my favorite moments is where Scotty is trying his hardest to keep the main three out of Sybok's clutches.  I love this side of Scotty, and it's still a good bit, even if it ends with a cheap gag.



2. The acting is good.

The problems with this movie were generally all in concept, not in execution.  What I mean is that even though it's stupid that Sybok is Spock's brother, the actor who played Sybok, Laurence Luckinbill, does an excellent job.  I totally believe him as a misguided cult leader who on the one hand will do anything for his purposes, but on the other truly cares about people.  He makes perfect sense in the role, and plays it very well.  I wish this movie had been good, because it was fun to watch him.

The other actors did well also, and even though some of their lines were stupid, they made every moment as believable as possible.



3. The soundtrack and movie poster are good.




People say that it's cheap to point out that a bad movie has a good soundtrack, but I say why not?  However, in deference to people with that opinion, I'll go ahead and point out that the movie poster is really good in the same point.  Honestly, I love this poster.  I want to own it, regardless of how people feel about this movie, as it's gorgeous in color and dramatic in presentation.  Heck, look at that magnificence!  The only thing wrong with it is that it really should have had McCoy in there somewhere.

As for the soundtrack, it's really great, and my favorite among all of the Star Trek movies, though VI and IV are likewise the pinky off the teacup.  I just enjoy how exciting it sounds, and even if the story is weak, I can imagine myself having a better adventure when the music plays.

Oh man, I need to get on iTunes....



4.  There were good plot ideas involved.

Say what you will about the dumb parts of the plot, but good ideas where there.  For example, there was a plot point entirely cut out near halfway in the movie, and the movie definitely suffers because of its lack: Nimbus III.  The whole idea of Nimbus III is that the human, Klingon, and Romulan governments have come together to take the planet and make it a place of perfect paradise.  Quite frankly, I think the Romulans should have been replaced by another alien race (the girl cast as the Romulan looks nothing like one, and doesn't have a Romulan attitude), but overall that's an extremely interesting plot idea.

Think about it.  What elements are involved in making a multi-government paradise planet?
- The political discourse required to get three not so friendly governments to work together.
- Terraforming a barren world, possibly as a contrast to the dangerous Genesis project in Star Trek II.
- Creating the perfect, utopian land with a peaceful authority and plenty of job opportunities.
- How the natives feel about their planet being used.
- How transplanted people survive on a planet they're unfamiliar with.

Any of these ideas are an excellent source for conflict.  For example, trying to make a desert world support plant life and crops could be a huge struggle, and that would set up the movie nicely, with several disillusioned citizens with dreams of plenty could find themselves struggling to make it day by day.  That would make them vulnerable to Sybok's control, and we should see several scenes where he is gathering followers.

This would also give the three government representatives at the beginning something to do.  The Romulan (or other alien) woman would be the idealist, believing with all her heart that Nimbus III would actually work out.  The other two, having been there longer, of course don't agree.  Korrd the Klingon, would be just as he is already: indifferent and only concerned about his next drink.  St. John Talbot (what a great name) would be the guy directly bitter about everyone's efforts for Nimbus III, thinking it's all a bunch of hogwash.  His only purpose then on the planet would be to make life comfortable enough for the inhabitants, hence the booze and kitty-stripper.  These three personalities leading Nimbus III would form a lot of interesting conflict between them and also set the stage for a creepy, kind cult leader to swoop in and take power.

Honestly the plot would have been so much better had it stayed on that planet.  The quest for God should have been shrunk for time, and perhaps eliminated from the plot.  I'm a believer and all, but Star Trek has rarely been all that good at describing spiritual things.  The closest they ever came was in creating the Bajoran religion, which admittedly was pretty interesting, though made later than this movie.

Of course, the quest for God could work, but not without overcoming the obvious problem: what do you do when you find him?  If it's not really God, that's kind of disappointing, and just another higher species pretending it's better than it is.  If it really is God, what then?  Does a new, universal religion form?  What does God want?  What happens to the Star Trek universe?

The thing about the real God is that he likes us showing our talents and gaining knowledge. We don't need to see God "in the flesh", because God isn't in the flesh.  He's a spirit being, which all of us are and will remain when our bodies die.  So, that being the case, why would God want to appear in body again?  He hasn't done it in millenia, so unless the physical realm is ending, what would coming in the flesh, or in the glowy blue light as it were, accomplish?  If we also are spirit, then God can speak to us just as well to our spirits.  His physical presence is technically unnecessary.

However, it might have worked if the fake god had been on Nimbus III, and Sybok needed a bunch of souls to "awake" it, or something.  Then we find out that the creature was trapped in that planet by one of the other god-like species Kirk encountered in the past, and that god's presence is preventing Nimbus III from becoming a lush planet.  Sort of like a slant of the Celtic gods, the people of the goddess Danu, who were said to live underground and control things like the growth of plants and the health of animals.  This would be really interesting, and also utilize the three characters introduced in the beginning far better, as this god is interfering with their work.

All I'm trying to say that the spark of inspiration did indeed exist, and that adjusting the plot to pay more attention to the stronger parts would have produced a great movie.  And that I enjoy correcting the more iffy parts of the plot.  What?  It's fun!



5. Dr. McCoy had some awesome moments.

This movie showed some of the best scenes Dr. McCoy ever had in the movies.  You might hate me for saying that, but Dr. McCoy had nothing to do with how this movie failed.  Absolutely nothing.  His every line was well-delivered, and he had a couple of great moments where you can't help but love the man.

The first is obviously the scene where he relives the moment where he pulls the plug on his father's life support, only to find out two days later that a cure for his father's disease had been found.  This is probably the most backstory for him that both the show and the movies ever gave.  It's also an excellent acting moment, and we feel deeply for him, even though the rest of the movie may be goofy.

Another moment that doesn't get mentioned as often is the moment where they're in front of the false god, and both Kirk and Spock have been zapped.  Even in the face of the danger, knowing what will happen, Dr. McCoy refuses to give in and resists the evil deity.  This moment is so great, and for a second there I was scared to crap it would do something bad to McCoy.

Man, McCoy is so great.




6. The shuttle crash was an excellent effect.

I'm not going to lie: normally I'm not impressed by special effects.  I enjoy the story of a film, and no shiny trick of the computer is going to change my mind if the story is crap.  However, this had a really good miniature scene where a shuttle flies into the bay of the Enterprise without normal automation, and it's an exciting scene that looks beautiful.  It even holds up when compared to modern movies.  It's really nice without being excessive to the point of unbelievability.



7. Great cinematography.

Say what you will about the content of the film, but at least it's all shot pretty.  You can say that's a cheap compliment, but fun shots make the film interesting for you and your friends to sit there and make up your own lines to what is going on in the scene.  Lots of shots in this film just look nice, especially some of the pre-god shots on Sha-ka-ree.



8. There were humorous bits that made me smile (Chekov gets to be captain!)

Granted, not every joke in Star Trek V worked.  But the plot of this film enabled it to be a bit more humorous than most of its predecessors.  There's nothing quite funny about combating an old, hateful rival or trying to stop Klingons from taking control of a powerful device.  However, this film feels the most like an episode of Trek, in that while some of its humor didn't work, some of it really, really did.  For example, I loved seeing Chekov pretend to be a Captain, and I really wished that was a longer bit.  And if there were a scene of brainwashed Sulu attempting to persuade Captain Kirk to listen to Sybok, that would have been hilarious too.

As it was, there were some great lines at times, like when Spock is commenting on how the Captain needs a shower, or when the guys were talking in the brig.  Or the best line of all, when Kirk asks why God needs a starship.  That's hilarious, and even if you don't like this movie, you have to laugh at that.



9.  Everyone coming together in the end, including the antagonists, was a fun situation.

Maybe this is just me being sentimental, but I really like the idea of a bunch of characters getting together in the end, even the antagonists, and all having a drink.  That's just a really fun idea.   Like they've all gone through a lot together, and have decided that their conflict isn't worth it anymore.

"Ah, you did a great job.  Congratulations on your victory.  If only I hadn't made that one mistake!"

"Ha, ha, you almost beat me.  For a while there I was really worried!"

"Thank you, Captain.  Cheers!"

"Cheers!"

I dunno, maybe that's just me.



10.  The campfire scene

This scene is very much hated, which is weird because when I was a kid I thought it was one of the better scenes.  Even now I really like it, aside from the fact that it's weird that three grown men are singing a children's song.  I like seeing these guys off-duty, just doing whatever.  It's really weird, though, because they work so much together, and here they are all camping out together?  Don't they have anyone to see, or something?

People get on Kirk's case for climbing a mountain, even though he's so old and out of shape looking, but that never bothered me.  Kirk always seems like the kind of guy trying to prove that he's invincible, and there's a certain body type that naturally holds onto fat unless said person works out all the time like one of those hyperactive fitness types, or else doesn't get enough food.  I'm willing to believe Kirk is in shape enough to want to climb a mountain, even if he's somewhat in denial about his physical ability.

I just love the idea that the guys all love each other enough to go camping out together.  It's a nice moment, and Spock seems especially enthusiastic about doing traditional camping things.  It's like people have stopped camping the same way in the 23rd century, and they're trying to recapture traditional modes of hanging around a fire.  Sure, the song's a bit ridiculous, but when you're an old guy in the middle of the woods camping with your bros, you don't have to make sense.


My overall point with this blog post is that Star Trek 5 doesn't deserve all the hate it gets.  Sure, you don't have to enjoy it if you don't want to, but it's not really all that bad.  In fact, it would take only some reworking of the plot to make it a workable movie.  As opposed to other movies of today...

For example, Avatar.  A really boring movie that has only a few characters with enough personality to be stereotypes.  The rest of them are simply hollow zombies that do things simply because "it's the right thing to do", as says Hollywood.  Oh, what's this you say?  The graphics were so amazing?  Huh.  They were amazing for the first twenty minutes, and then I didn't care anymore.  Until I got a headache, that is.

I literally once had a conversation with someone, and they told me "but it has amazing graphics!  Just wait until the next one has a great story!"  Um, excuse me, but they made stories before people spent millions of dollars making films.  Movies from the 1940s had better characters and actors than in Avatar, and if I don't give a crap about the characters, I don't give a crap about the movie.  Reworking old themes is fine, but if you can't make it original in some way, then why am I bothering to watch your shallow collection of digital shinies?  I'd rather watch Star Trek V.

Oh man, and has comedy degenerated.  Half of it is slapstick crap generated from the minds of people like Adam Sandler, where each joke is someone getting hurt in some way or acting like the dumbest thing ever spawned.  Tropic Thunder was so brain-rottingly bad I was ashamed to admit it came from my country, and I'm starting to develop a paranoid conspiracy theory that Hollywood wants to make America look stupid. The worst thing ever was when a British guy commented in a review that this movie was "American humor." Seriously, when I'm in a youth hostel on the other side of the planet, I don't want to be embarrassed by the one channel in english.  I'd rather watch Star Trek V.

What?  They're making a Robocop remake?  Isn't that like the forty bajillionth remake they've made in the past five years?  Robocop was half art film, what with its extreme visuals and poignant message.  You can't remake it!  Dang, that remake trailer looks as boring as crap...seriously movies have to be good enough for me to want to nitpick them.

I'd rather watch Star Trek V. 

You see, the thing is, Star Trek V is sort of like E.T. for the Atari.  People hail it as the worst game of all time, but honestly, have you even seen a playthrough of it?  They're all seven minutes long or shorter, and that's including the intros/outros of the people doing the videos.  How can something that short be agonizing? It's not like Sonic 06 with its unbelievable glitches, extremely long and boring playtime, lackluster design, and stupid story.  It's not like Dark Seed II, whose characters are so unbelievably unlikable -- especially the protagonist -- that you're not at all unhappy when several of them end up dead.  E.T. was just a dumb little game.

I owned and played E.T. when I was a child.  I had one of those old monitors that was orange, and I couldn't see where the pits were.  I didn't even know what I was supposed to be doing.  And yet, I won the game.  You can argue that this speaks poorly of the game, but the fact remains that E.T. never tormented me.  Heck, I bet if someone included it as a part of a modern day game (think how original Donkey Kong was placed inside Donkey Kong 64), then that modern game would sell more copies.  E.T. is only horrible in the sense that it ended up doing financial damage to Atari.  Note that Star Trek V harmed neither Paramount nor the Star Trek franchise.  Both live on.

See, both Star Trek V and E.T. were things horribly scorned at the time of their release, but neither of them are really all that horrible from an objective standpoint.  People at that time just didn't realize how bad a movie or a video game could really be.  They didn't know about remakes, rip-offs, really terrible voice acting, or a world where people thought graphics were a substitute for a story.  And that's why I'm not ashamed to say that I have fond feelings for Star Trek V.

Row, row, row your boat
Gently through the lake
Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily
Haters gonna hate!




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