Friday, January 04, 2013

Penny Thoughts ‘13—Star Trek V: The Final Frontier (1989) **

PG, 107 min.
Director: William Shatner
Writers: David Loughery, Harve Bennett, William Shatner, Gene Roddenberry (tv series)
Starring: William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, James Doohan, Nichelle Nichols, George Takei, Walter Koenig, Lawrence Luckinbill, David Warner, Charles Cooper, Cynthia Gouw, Todd Bryant, Spice Williams

“Star Trek V: The Final Frontier” is often cited as the worst of the Star Trek franchise. It may be so. Often the blame is placed on budgetary constraints that greatly affected the scripted finale of the film. While the finale is decidedly underwhelming, and one of the worst features of the movie, it cannot take all the blame. The scripted finale wouldn’t have pull the movie up to quality standards either, since it was primarily action that was cut, not substance.

The script is weak throughout. It has a villain that smacks of convenience from his very appearance to the revelation that he is Spock’s brother. He appears from nowhere, and nowhere has it ever been mentioned before that Spock had a brother. But, making him Spock’s brother supposedly raises the steaks. One problem with the rules of screenwriting 101 is that they’re often relayed in bullet points, such as Rule #1: Raise the stakes. However, the fine print stating that everything must be explainable and plausible within the established rules of the universe in which you are working is frequently forgotten.

Worse there really is no good reason for this man to be Spock’s brother. That fact that he is Vulcan should make him brother enough to Spock for the plot’s sake. Often screenwriters focus so much on the plot that they don’t step back and see what is good for it or not. That’s something that can be said about so many aspects of life.

Enough about the film’s problems. I’m only reiterating what so many before me have already have stated. What I like about this one is that it brings the series back to a concept that was seen on the television show—the notion of ideas being at the heart of the plot rather than action. Spock’s brother is looking for the Supreme Being and thinks he’s found him/it on a forbidden planet. This being is very much like a threat that might’ve been tackled during the original run of the television series. The limited budget also makes the special effects for this entity not a far cry from what might’ve been seen on the series.

In a recent article, screenwriters Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman spoke of a dilemma they encountered when tackling the script for next summer’s “Star Trek” sequel. They first had to decide whether to make the threat a traditional revenge centered villain or an entity that the starship needs to investigate. They opted for the former, which is a disappointment to me, because the revenge driven villain has too often been the threat in the movies. I much prefer these more philosophical idea driven plots from the “Star Trek” franchise. They are much more what science fiction is supposed to be about. The other type of plot results in something more akin to space opera, which is fine for “Star Wars”, but I prefer more meaning in my “Star Trek” movies. It’s too bad that this one was so poorly done.

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