Star Trek: Generations – Is it really that bad?
I saw Star Trek: Generations when it first came to theatres and bought the DVD, but a lot of critics and fans hate this film, and I’m not sure if I agree. Maybe the most controversial part of this film is the death of James T. Kirk, which I think was done to rake in more dollars, but I don’t really think it made a difference at the box office, so they kinda blew it on that one. The destruction of the Enterprise-D was a recycled Star Trek idea, and the comedy in the movie isn’t that good. However, I think Patrick Stewart gives a great performance, and it could be his best Star Trek feature film outing, in my opinion. Also, the emotional connection this movie makes with the audience really sells the whole thing.
First of all, I don’t think we needed the death of Captain Kirk in a film. Beyond that, it was poorly conceived and done for shock theatre, in order to rake in more box office cash. Paramount really blew it with this ploy, and now they can’t (or won’t) undo it, because it would be nice to have William Shatner as an option for continued guest cameos. The death of Kirk and the overly long destruction of the Enterprise really typifies this movie. It is self-absorbed and thinks everything is bigger than it really is.
I like how the script gives everyone something to do, just like in the old days of Star Trek. However, some of that works and some doesn’t. Data is probably the biggest issue, but I don’t mind this character arc, to be honest, despite the plot holes and the bad comedy. It works as a character story. Patrick Stewart has the most to do, and has probably the most emotional scenes. He’s just a good actor. He carries this movie. That’s pretty much what it comes down to. He discusses the death of his nephew with Troi and that’s pretty much the highlight for his character in this movie. Geordi is just there to spout techno-jargon, but that’s more spotlight than Beverly or Worf get, who are both pretty much embarrassed early on.
I’ve always wondered what it would be like to see the full Original Series cast in Star Trek: Generations. It’s not so far-fetched an idea, as I’ve read, but I agree with most critics who say that they weren’t needed here. Most people say that Star Trek: Generations spoiled the Original Series send-off in Star Trek VI, but I’m not sure I agree. I probably would have done the same thing, so I can’t really blame Paramount, even though I might want to. I’m okay with the reduced role for the Original Series cast, but I think they really only needed Shatner to make their plot work.
To be honest, I like the plot of this movie. It has some unique ideas and works to satisfy the techno-jargon quota, but it satisfies the mysterious mystical quota too. It also could have been used to bring Captain Kirk into the future, but they chose not to do that. On one hand, you’ve got a mystery and a villain, but on the other hand, there’s no exploring or star jumping. I really dislike when critics say “hey, the Enterprise isn’t ‘boldly going’ anywhere in this movie, so it sucks”. I really hate that. Critics said that both in regards to Star Trek: Into Darkness and Star Trek: Generations. It’s a lazy critique and doesn’t examine the story. Roger Ebert said something similar in a 1994 review, so I pretty much discount his opinion in this instance.
The moral lesson in this movie is delivered by William Shatner in his advice to Patrick Stewart. In Kirk’s opinion, it’s better to live for the moment and make a difference, than die with regrets. Kirk deludes himself for who knows how long in the Nexus, but ultimately joins Captain Picard to stop the major league villain, Soran, Unfortunately, we know Kirk too well for us to believe he’d really brush off Picard for too long, so the conceit only half-works. I think the Picard and Kirk interaction works anyway, though. Hey, it’s not Casablanca. It’s a frickin Star Trek film. We get Picard and Kirk talking for 10 to 15 minutes and I liked that. It’s great.
Soran is played by Malcolm McDowell and he goes way over the top. That’s okay though, because a Star Trek villain needs to go way over the top. He doesn’t inspire as much emotion as Khan though, which is probably the most common statement by a Star Trek fan. He doesn’t want to conquer the galaxy, but he is evil and he’ll do whatever it takes to get what he wants. He’s pretty unique, for a one-note character. Maybe if they would have explored his background a little more the character would have worked as a real person, but he’s just a villain here. I didn’t really mind though.
There are tons of other plot holes in this movie I didn’t notice at the time, but really irk some people. Picard and Kirk don’t use the Nexus effectively. I don’t care. Data installs his emotion chip, when he said it was too dangerous to use. I don’t care. Picard’s fantasy in the Nexus is a large family even though he’s a solitary military man. I don’t care.
The only thing I really care about is the death of Kirk. I give the rest of the movie a pass, in my opinion. Even the shoddy way Beverly and Worf are treated. The death of Kirk even trumps those embarrassing moments. Kirk’s death is pretty much the loneliest death in all of Star Trek, and the script makes a point to deliver this home. I’m not sure why. He is trapped in the future and dies with none of his friends or his family around. I’m not sure why. Picard and Riker pick up the Enterprise and don’t even mention him. They just move on with the movie. I’m not sure why. The flaws and mis-steps I mentioned have created a divide amongst fans and critics alike, which is one thing I am sure about. I think of the death of Kirk as an emotional moment I’ll always remember and I think William Shatner plays it just right, although we are left heartbroken and sad, instead of celebrating Star Trek’s triumph and the Next Generation’s success.