Hello and Welcome to In Too Deep, where I over-analyse a certain section of pop culture.
The Star Trek Movie curse. A curse that every geek knows by heart as something set in stone: every odd Star Trek movie sucks, every even Star Trek movie is good. There have even been desperate fan theories to get around the fact that this isn’t a solid rule. But there is a good reason for it; and I plan to work out why.
Lets start with Star Trek: The Motion Picture. This film, without a doubt, is the worst Star Trek movie. It is very long, very boring and very loring (a combination of long and boring). Oh sure the effects are pretty good for the time. And the model work is very nice. But it is so long and boring. There’s bugger all happening in it. It was a film that was rushed to the theatres while the prints were still wet. I still stand by my argument that it’s the worst.
So lets move from the worst Star Trek film to the best, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. Now it is a good film on it’s own right, sort of like a submarine movie, but in space (and 43% more scenery chewing). There’s no doubt that it’s good. But is it remembered as such a good film because it came after such a rubbish one? On the surface it looks like it escape the problem of Sequelitis, the idea that sequels tend to suck. But when you have such a bad film to come before, anything is going to be an improvement. Hence why the film seems so much better.
Okay, then what about Star Trek III: The Search For Spock. Well any film coming after such a masterpiece is going to look a lot worst. And in its defence it’s not that bad of a film, it just can’t compete coming after such a good one. So perhaps the reason why people think it sucks is because it can’t match up to the movie before it.
Moving onto Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. Why is this one popular? Because it’s a comedy, that’s why. It’s a piss take against Star Trek and the characters in it. As such, people love a good comedy movie. While there were comedy aspects found in the third movie, it’s the fourth one that’s the most funny. Hence why people think of it as being so good.
Next is Star Trek V: The Final Frontier. It tries to recreate the success of Star Trek IV by playing up the more comedic aspects of the story. However unlike the fourth film it doesn’t do the jokes enough justice, with most of them falling flat on its face. Oh sure the idea is interesting, of Captain Kirk going up against God. I’d almost be good if it hadn’t been done in the show several times over. You could see that they aimed at making it a comedy like four, but failed miserably. It also suffered in the fact that it was fairly anti-climatic. However it’s one saving grace is that it’s just a tale told by Captain Kirk while sitting round the campfire (cos it pretty much starts and ends there), hence why it bolsters so much to his ego. It never happened, it was just Kirk talking out his own arse.
Finally (for the original generation at least) we have Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. If the second one was a submarine movie and the fourth a comedy, then this is easily a political thriller. IN SPACE. The Communists I mean Klingons meet with the Americans I mean Federation to discuss peace. Again it’s a big concept, sort of what five had. It examined the characters closely, since five was about the crew hugging their feelings out. Here it was getting over past prejudices. Hence why it was so good, it allowed the characters to develop. Plus it came after a real stinker of a movie. So the last in the line was a good one.
And then Star Trek: Generations came along. Kirk and Picard on screen for the first time… only for Kirk to have a bridge dropped on him. Literally. Now why is this film so universally hated (or at least fall under the curse). Well because it’s setting itself up for a fall. There is no way you could have Kirk and Picard in the same movie. Even if you went ‘screw it, they’re together, who cares about the plot’ (which is most certainly what the writers said), what are you meant to do with the characters? A fight between them would be stupid; and getting them to fight against something would be anti-climatic. Plus it’d only work if you got Kirk as he was in his prime, not when he’s retired. Furthermore how are you meant to kill Kirk off without it upsetting people? Even if he died saving the universe (instead of just a few planets and a space ship), it still wouldn’t be enough. No this movie is bad because it attempts the impossible and fails miserably at it.
So why is Star Trek: First Contact the second greatest Trek film? Well mostly because it’s an action popcorn flick. Sure there’s stuff about the mythology and the first manned space flight with wrap speed. But that pales at the fact that it’s a zombie action flick. It has all the action that the seventh film was missing while also having a scary villain attached to it. Perhaps if Kirk and Picard had to fight the Borg (or worst, Klingon Borg) together it’d have been more interesting. But the film works because it’s a good action film.
And it’s preciously the reason why Star Trek: Insurrection is the second worst Trek film. Oh sure on paper the idea is great. Have the Star Trek crew discover that the Federation is secretly evil (or at least a bit unkind) and rebel against them. A brilliant idea ripe for having good action scenes… at the expense of a plot. The insurrection makes no real sense, hence the action has no real purpose. After a good action film like First Contact, this mediocre action film had no chance. Worst the attempts at conflict break down when examined closely, the same way the story breaks down in number 5. So it’s hard to top an action film with a duller, less action film.
But here’s where things get odd. Star Trek Nemesis should have been great. Should have been. But for some reason it sucked. Why? Well firstly perhaps it’s because 1 + 0 = 1, thus making it an odd number film. Or perhaps it was just a copy paste of Wrath of Khan, but done really badly. Shinzon is meant to be Khan, able to torment the protagonist with the past; Data is meant to be like Spock and his heroic sacrifice. The being trapped in a gas cloud is meant to be similar to the climax of the second film. It was basically a poor retread; and that was its problem. It didn’t do anything new, unlike the other 4 even movies. Hence why it flopped. Why watched Wrath of Shinzon when we could watch Wrath of Khan instead?
Next we have the second to last, and possible best, movie of the series: Star Trek. A total reboot of the whole thing, even if it is number 11 (however 1 + 1 does = 2). Why did it work so well? Because it is one of the few times when a reboot worked, reintroducing the characters and universe. Plus it helped that Nemesis was bad enough to make it look brilliant in comparison.
Following on from that we have the latest film, Star Trek: Into Darkness. I mentioned a paragraph ago asking why we’d watch Wrath of Shinzon when we could watch Wrath of Khan instead. Pretty much just going to repeat myself at this point. Why watch a rebooted version of a story they’ve already done once and really well? Since it’s movie number 12, we could argue the 1+2 = 3, ergo it’s bad. Not that the film is all terrible, just that a lot of it really doesn’t work and seems inferior. While the previous reboot did something new and interesting, this one just tread tired old ground. It seems inferior because after promising something new they ended up doing something old.
So what is the point of all this? Well the Star Trek curse makes simple sense when you think about it. When the first movie is bad, the second one will naturally look better. Thus that makes the film after that seem worst, whilst the film after that is better etc. It’s an inverse of the Indiana Jones movie, where every odd numbered movie is good. Because of the expectations made by the last movie, we judge whether the next when is good or bad. The Star Trek curse is nothing more then just a cultural perceptive of things going from bad to good to bad, nothing more.
So there you have it. A blog that basically sums up my views on the Star Trek movies and why they either succeeded or failed. If you disagree with anything, or have anything to add, feel free to leave a comment. Till next time.