The trek leads us where no man has gone before in Star Trek V: The Final Frontier!
The Enterprise is back. This time, have they gone too bad?
This film has problems. Lots of them. Listing them all is going to be a pain in the ass, but I have to do it. Why? Because... Well, because if I don’t do it, who will?
Let’s start with the main issue of the film: it is completely nonsensical, for the most part. There are many moments where you’re like "Because...?", because you want to know the reason why the characters are doing what they’re doing, but the film doesn’t give you any.
The film opens on Nimbus 2000, where Voldemort is digging holes in the desert because... Well, because he has nothing better to do, I suppose! Enters Sybok (I shall call him Geezus in this review, because, let’s face it, that’s who he’s supposed to be) riding his blue unicorn. He arrives at Voldemort’s digging field and brainwashes him because... Well, because I guess he needs hoboes in his army to take over Paradise City, the most heavily guarded city in the entire galaxy. Voldemort notices that Geezus is a Vulcan, which makes Geezus laugh because... Well, because I guess Vulcans are funny-looking people. Then we cut to Kirk climbing up El Capitan (see what they did here? The Captain climbing up El Capitan. Clever!) because... Well, because it’s there! Meanwhile, a Romulan, a Klingon and a man meet in a bar (yeah, I know: sounds like the beginning of a joke) because... I honestly don’t know. They want to talk about intergalactic peace and shit like that, I suppose. Oh, and also because the script needs them to be here in order for Geezus to take them hostage. And these are just the first 15 minutes of the film!
The list of things that don’t make sense goes on and on... How did Geezus get his brainwashing powers? We never know. What was this vision he supposedly had of Shakira, which made him realize he had to go there? We never know. What is this God-like entity on Shakira? We never know. Now, I like when movies don’t give you all the answers, and there is some mystery left, but here it just feels like lazy writing. But there is more! Regarding the three representatives (the Penis-Haired Romulan, the Funny Fat Klingon and the poor man’s Charles Dance) in Paradise City: it’s unclear whether they were sent here by their "governments" to talk about a treaty or some shit like that, or if they were just banished on this planet for some reason, but in any case it just doesn’t make sense. If they were sent here, then surely they would have come aboard a spaceship. Couldn’t Geezus steal one of those instead of the Enterprise? If they were banished here, why would anyone care about them when they were taken hostages? Later on, Kirk says the Enterprise isn’t fully operational to go on a rescue mission, but his superior tells him that, yes, there are other ships in the sector but they need Kirk to go there because they need someone with his experience. OK, but why couldn’t he be beamed up aboard the Excelsior or some other fully operational spaceship? Even later in the film, as Geezus, Kirk and co are using the shuttle to go on the Enterprise, they are attacked by the Klingons and are forced to fly the shuttle manually to board the ship. OK, but why couldn’t they ask the Klingon representative to tell the Klingon ship not to attack them (as he does later in the film)? Then there’s the Penis-Hair Romulan and Poor Man’s Charles Dance ending up together at the end of the film for whatever reason, Scotty and Uhura being together for whatever reason (yeah, they sure had a lot of chemistry in previous films...)... It never ends!
Everything revolving around Shakira is also completely nonsensical. Kirk states: "No ship has ever gone into the Great Barrier. No probe has ever returned." (note that he doesn’t say that no ship ever returned, which means that no ship went there). Yet when the Enterprise goes through the barrier, it does so in less than two minutes and with no problem whatsoever (no damage, nothing). So, are we to believe that all the ships that faced the Great Spooky Barrier never tried to cross it and just turned back because it just looked scary to them? What a bunch of courageous explorers they all make... When they arrive on Shakira, all they see is a purple wasteland and Geezus is like: "It’s exactly how I imagine it would be". Yeah, sure, isn’t this how most people picture Eden? Like a purple wasteland? (Well, I assume this was to show how much of a lunatic the character is, so I guess we can let that one slide). Later on, when Santa Claus is trying to convince Geezus that he needs to give him the spaceship, Santa turns into Geezus for some random reason, which leads Geezus to attack him for some random reason. Then it goes into full nonsense, with the Enterprise shooting a torpedo at Santa Claus, which doesn’t do anything, yet later on, a simple laser blast manages to kill him... This is just a fucking mess.
The humour is another major drawback. Whereas the humor of the fourth film was witty, here the humor is just downright goofy: we get the (supposed-to-be) funny fat burping Klingon, Sulu and Chekov pretending to be caught in a blizzard, the fan-favourite "Go climb a rock" t-shirt, "I miss my old chair", Scotty hitting his head on the ceiling (hearing some mickey-mousing music here wouldn’t have surprised me)... and finally, the infamous "Uhura’s dance" scene (the lowest point of the Star Trek film series so far... My eyes still hurt to this day...What on Earth was Shatner thinking? Then again, he wanted to have a three-breasted catwoman in the film, so who knows what fantasies lie in his mind....). I know Shatner was "forced" by the studio to add humor (because, hey, the previous entry worked well thanks to its humor, so if we add humor to this one, it’s bound to be successful, right?), but that doesn’t justify it being so lame. The fact that it’s so silly also gives the film an inconsistent tone and there are moments where you genuinely don’t know if what’s happening on screen is supposed to be funny or is unintentionally funny. And that has to do with some of the acting in the film.
The acting is not necessarily awful, but it’s not really good either. The actors just don’t seem to give much of a damn anymore. Part of it probably has to do with the fact that they were starting to get too old for that shit (this is the first Star Trek film where their age really starts to show), and then there’s also the fact that after 3 seasons and 5 films playing the same characters, they were bound to get tired of them at some point. They’re but shadows of their old-selves in this one. Shatner is overacting most of the time, for some reason ("I want my pain. I NEED my pain!", "You mean he’s your brother-brother?"), Nimoy is OK and so is Kelley but then the other characters (Chekov, Scotty, Uhura and Sulu) feels like parodies of themselves (because, hey, the best way to add humour to the film is to make the characters act like buffoons, right?).
This sense of not giving a damn extends to whole film. Visible wires all over the place, some guy that doesn't even look remotely like DeForest Kelley playing McCoy in that shot where he’s running toward Kirk after he fell from El Capitan, sloppy editing (do I need to mention the gravity boots scene with all the decks showing up in random order? And why does, for some reason, Spock arrives from above Kirk instead of below? Makes no freaking sense), poor production values, etc. Then there are the villains. First is Klaa (even his name goes to show how much they didn’t give a damn. Let’s just call him Roaster Toaster). What’s the reason for him going after Kirk? Well, he wants to because... Because he’s bored and shooting stuff in space just isn’t much fun. Roaster Toaster is another example (after Lloyd’s Kruge) of the Klingons looking and acting like cartoony villains, not villains you can take seriously (were they like that in the shows?). That bit when he apologizes to Kirk after having tried to kill him... Looks like a child acting all sorry after he broke his grandma’s Chinese vase. Roaster Toaster really feels like a character from another movie being added here just to beef up the running time. His actions have little to no impact on the overall story. Then there is Geezus, which isn’t really a villain, and could have been an interesting character if they didn’t make him look like an idiot by the end of the film. He starts off well, but then, since you don’t know what his plan is until halfway through the movie (a big mistake, if you ask me), you just don’t care much about him. And when he is starting to be interesting again, he is turned into a fool and is killed off pretty quickly. And finally, there’s the Santa Claus floating head. We don’t know what this entity is supposed to be, we don’t know why he’s there, we don’t know how he contacted Geezus, we don’t know why a photon torpedo can’t harm him yet a simple laser blast can kill him... He’s just there because the film needs a climax.
Visually, the film is probably the least interesting so far. I find it to be reminiscent of Batman & Robin in terms of visuals (of course, there are other similarities with that film ): everything looks phoney (what is this weapon Voldemort is supposed to be using? An air gun that fires rocks?), lots of flashy colours (red, green, blue and purple neon lights), fake-looking special effects (the inevitable consequence of not having
Weta Digital ILM working on the film), etc. There isn’t any impressive shot. Shatner just doesn’t seem to have been really inspired here. Yes, I know, he wasn’t given the budget to really present his vision, but still. The movie was made with more money than TWOK and TSFS, yet it doesn’t look better than these. Part of it obviously has to do with ILM not working on the movie, but the rest is probably due to a bad use of resources. I mean, even TMP looks better than this film, and it was 10 years old at the time this film was made! On a sidenote, overall, I like the look of the Enterprise A (even though it looks more like a cruise ship (especially Kirk’s cabin) than an exploration ship).
Even though the film is utterly bad, I believe it has a few redeeming qualities. First and foremost, Goldsmith’s score (obviously) is particularly good and offers some great thematic material (both old and new). Then there’s everything that revolves around the friendship between Kirk, Spock and McCoy. Some of the best scenes from the film are about that, like the brainwashing sequence and the campfire scene (I know not many people like it, but apart from a few bits (Row, Row, Row, Your Boat, anyone?), I think it’s a nice little moment between these characters). The brainwashing sequence is probably the best part of the film in that regard. Laurence Luckinbill was also a good casting choice and gives a solid performance (it would have been interesting to see Sean Connery in the role, though). It’s a shame his character was poorly handled by the script, because it had great potential. And finally, one could say another strength of the film is that it’s a "so bad it’s good"” kind-of film. The sheer silliness of it actually makes it enjoyable!
In the end, the film didn’t live up to its great title or its rather nice-looking poster. Indeed, I find the poster to be quite evocative. You see those riders of doom on the poster and you’re like: "Holy shit! They look badass! Could they be the biggest threat the Enterprise has ever face yet?" and when you see the film, there’s just one rider with about 15 extras on foot storming Paradise City. To put it mildly, it didn’t live up to expectations... (On a sidenote, for some reason, I think Shatner looks a bit like Clooney on that poster). Funnily enough, this is the first film in the franchise to actually stick to the premise of the Star Trek series ("To boldly go where no man has gone before"), yet apparently, that wasn’t the wisest thing to do... I’m not sure Shatner’s original idea for the film would have fared any better, though (An Act Of Love? Seriously?).
If life is a dream, then this film is a nightmare.
I have little choice but to sample your beans.
About deleted scenes: I want to see the Rockman!