Enough With The Trek Movies, PleaseBy Joe Beaudoin
Posted at June 1, 2000 - 11:40 PM GMT
I suppose I echo some of the statements and thoughts of fellow fans, whether passive or not, when I say enough with the Trek movies. It’s time to stop continuing these movies, which cost more and more to make, and get back less and less. These movies are also quite insulting, although I can only speak of myself personally, since I grew up with the characters of Picard, Data, Riker, Troi, Crusher, La Forge, and Worf. One thing I can personally state before getting to the guts of the matter is the fact that the principal characters you or I see in the TNG films are not what I grew up to in the Next Generation television series.
To me, that’s the root of the problem right there –- the characters not being the characters on the television series. True, the movies only run, on average, 120 minutes; and not all moviegoers to Trek films watch the series that they’re based on. I can see where that can be a problem that a writer of a movie would have to face, but yet again, the same thing can be said for a television episode. However, that’s really no excuse to go around changing the characters to two-dimensional characters that just utter lines and conduct themselves like puppets. My personal feeling is that these movies should be representative of the series that they’re based on, and frankly it works. Kirk was still Kirk, Spock still Spock, McCoy still McCoy, Scotty still Scotty –- yes, so they evolved but evolution does not mean complete “rinse-and-dry” characters.
The problems I've had with the last three movies, Generations to Insurrection, was that the characters weren’t utilized to the fullest extent to better the product. They didn't even come close. Nor were did we see too many glints of the characters that were seen on TNG. Frankly, what we basically saw on the movie screen during these three movies were the actors of these characters playing other characters who pretended to be Picard and Company. There were some brilliant moments in the initial two movies concerning these characters, but really, these characters had little impact on me on the movie screen as opposed on the small screen.
For instance, take the fact that Picard and his fellow crew were cracking jokes whenever they could be inserted to get a horrible bootleg laugh or two. To me, Picard and Company could do humor, but light humor – not the “heavy stuff” like “smooth as an android’s behind” and horrendously contrived puberty cracks. All that made me do was wince, especially during the Airplane scene of Insurrection where the joystick popped out of nowhere. I don’t know if they were repaying the classic Enterprise’s appearance in Airplane II or what, but it didn’t work in this movie.
I’m not against the characters’ evolution – I am against a total or major change in characters for no reason, or the “just because we felt like it” reason. I can see if Geordi was mentally conditioned a la “Mind’s Eye” style, which was surely a traumatic experience, and was scratched upon barely by the torture scenes in Generations (which, by the way, are excluded from the VHS version, not that the scene really helped make the movie anyway). However no evolution really exists from one movie to the next or the episodes to the movies for that matter. Data, one of my personal favorite characters, pretty much turned into a Star Trek-esque version of Jar Jar Binks, especially with the “flotation device”. Troi and Crusher, two perfectly excellent characters in their own rights, are turned into “chicks on the side” who really contribute nothing to any story thus far. With the minor exception of Troi who did get into her job TNG style in Generations when Picard’s nephew and brother perished.
As it is said, “That is the exception of the rule, not the rule.” Apparently, in the TNG movies, the main female characters are no better than walk-ons, which is really woeful since Worf is also a walk-on also and has joined the ranks of one of the most underutilized characters in the movie series. There’s really no sense in having Worf be there at all, truth be told, for he is better utilized on DS9, but more surprisingly has his integrity as a character still.
Since the characters are the root to a movie, as they are the movers of the plot, and the instruments who make things interesting, shocking, and are those that people should really care about –- not some eye opening special effects, cool sounds, or the vibrant surroundings –- they make the movie, and thus everything is thrown out of the airlock, as it were. They are the movie. Not that I would rather see the ships be strung along on transparent wires, moving through space beyond belief, however all special effects and sounds are merely nice. It really didn’t help fans like or enjoy Star Wars: Episode I, now did it?
My second grievance I have with these very dreadful messes was the entire fact that these movies are basically overblown television episodes. Generations could have been, very easily, a television episode. As could have Insurrection and First Contact, since there’s really nothing “blockbuster” about these movies, although First Contact was a bit of an exception.
The thing about movies is that they thrive on an event, an event that makes people open their eyes and choose a movie –- Trek fans or not. These “Earth needs saving” plots are overused, as is time travel and “attack from space aliens” clichés. Those don’t really work for blockbusters, for you need an event. The thing that made Generations be noticed was the fact that Kirk and Picard joined forces, but that wasn’t really used at all, and the movie was very dull and very insulting to those who saw Kirk die needlessly, but it did have it’s exciting parts, and it did try it's hand at something called risk -– for a Trek movie.
First Contact was basically one of those “Earth needs saving”, time traveling, and “attack from outer space” movies “Moby Dick” and “Alien” style. Pretty much a bloodbath movie, with Borg being blown away left and right -- the Alien 4 of Trek. The ironic part of that whole movie was that Sigourney Weaver could’ve played Picard, shaved her head, and given Weaver the Picard look -- and no one could really tell the difference. The movie lacked any real feeling what so ever, other than repugnance, false bravado, and perhaps a few scrapes from the surface of the events that Picard went through during his short tenture in the collective. It basically was one of those “good action flick, bad Trek flick” movies.
Insurrection was… well, I can’t say what Insurrection was exactly. I could say this was “Stewart's folly”, like The Final Frontier was “Shatner’s folly”. I guess I could call it one of the worst movies in history of filmmaking. What I can really give it credit for is how it definitely knocked Shatner’s The Final Frontier up a few notches, which I think was thought to be pretty impossible. Devoid of any feeling, devoid of any humanity, and devoid of the characters from the TNG television series, was what this movie turned out to be. Frankly, the darker version of the movie I heard about sounds thousandfold better. So it may have not been an optimistic Trek movie, but look at the result that was produced… It was decried and declared horrible by fans and critics alike – and one usually sees both disagreeing – and it is considered to be far more horrible than Final Frontier.
Leaves a negative picture, doesn’t it? These reasons are pretty much why I have no hope for Trek X, and I’m probably going to not see that movie. I'd more excited about seeing Patriot and The Perfect Storm than the forthcoming flick. Frankly, Trek isn’t as interesting as it once was back in 1993. In fact, it’s pretty much grown juvenile and trivial. There are those growing groups of people who apparently don't really care anymore whether that be in the movie seats or behind the scenes, and I don’t know whether that’s a good thing in some respects or that’s a bad thing. Perhaps both, if that’s even possible.
Additionally, there’s really no entertainment value in these movies. Generations was incoherent, worse than the first Mission: Impossible movie. First Contact was enjoyable, but as an action flick with a dead body strewn about every ten or so minutes, whilst Insurrection was pretty much akin to a Barney movie. Sounds bad, doesn’t it.
It really is though, because I would have though that, after six movies, they’d be able to get the whole format down. I truly thought that The Next Generation movies would be explosive as the television series was. The problem is though, in light of how successful the series was, perhaps there shouldn’t have been TNG movies, knowing how things have turned out. Or, even more head scratching, was the fact that they certainly had an unforeseen potential into becoming as successful, or even more so than the Classic Trek movies.
However, my feeling on all of this is that the people behind the scenes are really underestimating their audience. I am aware that estimating your audience at all could be a very daunting task, if not deadly for a movie, however I feel that these movies are just there to make money. Well, at least they’re right about that. Movies are made to make money. Yet why let that petty, foolish idea stick to being why the movie must be made? Making money is one thing, and the TNG films do that to meager extents, however to me they’re really not too concerned about making the best film. They’re not interested in giving the fans a movie that they can talk about with pleasure, they’re really not all too keen on keeping things together either.
Star Wars was able to do this. Star Wars had action, adventure, good storytelling, and they didn’t need to compromise the characters to do so! The plot progressed, as did the characters, and George Lucas and his fellow folks knew that their audience was smart enough to at least follow everything and not be insulting. Of course, with Episode I, I guess he and the folks at LucasArts, ILM, and the Skywalker Ranch forgot and instead gave us a visual appearing, meaningless good time wasting movie.
And I’m not saying that Trek films should have lightsabers, people with powers, and aliens that are actually alien within and without… well, they can keep that. However, I’m fairly satisfied in saying that Trek movies need the things I have recommended to plant people in their seats and keep them there –- as well as keep them awake especially.
While I hope that Trek 10 will be a fitting film for the TNG characters as well as the cast, I seriously doubt it. Reality sets in; The Powers That Be are too bent up after the cash and they’re quite satisfied with the way things are sliding as it is. I don’t think that the passive fans would go out and see Trek 10, especially after the massively loathed Insurrection. I seriously doubt I’ll plant five to ten bucks at the register for a movie ticket, whether matinee or otherwise. Maybe if it was written by only Dean Devlin & Roland Emmerich, or perhaps even J. Michael Straczynski.
Otherwise, to quote Luke Skywalker, “I have a bad feeling about this.” Bad feelings aside though, perhaps Trek 10 will prove to be the slaying point to the end of Trek movies. Trek really isn’t a movie saga, when you get down to the roots of Trek. It belongs in television, and I think it will be remembered as such, and is thought as such generally despite the fact that Trek movies came out during the late 70’s. It would be like putting Star Wars into a television series… it simply couldn’t work. Some things are just better left alone, And knowing what I now know, transcribing the TNG series into the movie screen was something that should never have been attempted, nor continued beyond Generations.
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Joe Beaudoin writes a bi-weekly 'Controversial Stance' column for the Trek Nation.
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