Somewhat haphazardly, Jim and I decided to sit down and watch the newest “Star Trek” film. We’d seen the movie separately and enjoyed it (in fact, we both own it), but one thing led to another, and we ended up watching most of the other movies together too (I passed on the bad ones, but like a trooper, he toughed it out).
It’s been quite a ride, so much fun in fact that we both decided to rank them (separately, for extra fun). It was his first time viewing for most of them, but as it’s been a little while for me, it was an awesome re-watch for a franchise that I don’t revisit enough (plus, I got him to start watching DS9. Mission accomplished!).
So, here are my rankings, from worst to best. For Jim’s list, check here.
(We didn’t include the newest movie, mainly because it’s starting its own line of movies and doesn’t quite fit in with this bunch. And of course, spoilers ahead.)
10. “The Motion Picture”
As I’ve written before, “The Motion Picture” is pretty damn awful; it’s slow, it’s humorless, the actors (with one exception) are all stiff in their unfamiliar roles, and the movie drags, and drags and drags. Watching the movie feels like you’ve given away 40 years of your life that you will never, ever get back. It’s incredibly fortunate that this ill-conceived project didn’t kill the movie franchise (and somewhere I bet there is an alternate universe where it did; I weep for those unfortunate souls).
9. “The Final Frontier”
The fifth movie isn’t too much better than the first one, but I did laugh at parts, which sets it apart from the joyless first outing. And getting to see some more backstory to Spock and Bones was pretty cool…but the rest of the movie is just unforgivably dumb. These actors and the crew were capable of so much more, and it’s a shame they were wasted in such a lame enterprise (bada bing).
8. “The Search for Spock”
Well, we’ve gotten past the bad ones, and “Search for Spock” really is a bridge between the sub-par movies and the rest, which I think are all good for different reasons. I don’t really mind this one, but it feels like there just isn’t enough plot for two hours, and so the filmmakers stretched things out to make a movie. That said, there also are some good parts here two; I really liked Robin Curtis’ more Vulcan Saavik (as opposed to Kirstie Alley’s non-Vulcan acting in ‘Khan’), and William Shatner gives an incredible performance when his son dies. And God help me, that shot of the Enterprise exploding is damn cool. It’s got a lot of the elements of what made the later films great but it’s just not enough this time around.
This one is a more literal bridge movie, as the old cast is set off into the sunset as “The Next Generation” crew takes over. “Generations” has some problems (Kirk’s empty death is probably the biggest one), but really, it’s easy to brush them off and just go with a generally fun ride. It’s the first “TNG” movie, and it manages to escape most of the problems “Motion Picture” had, which is good enough for me.
6. “First Contact”
I used to say “First Contact” was my favorite of the “TNG” films, but with this latest rewatch, it seriously went down on the list, through no fault of its own — I’ve just seen it too many times at this point and a lot of the flavor has worn off. My loss really, because there’s a lot of good about this movie; it’s the one “Star Trek” movie that really feels like a straight-up action movie, and Jonathan Frakes keep the pace moving and the one-liners coming. Maybe if I wait a few years I’ll love it again, but know that I still have a lot of affection for the movie.
I think a lot of people complain about this movie because it feels more like an episode, and I can’t argue there, but I still like it a lot. It’s probably higher on my list than it should be, but screw it; it’s the funny and charming movie that isn’t afraid to be funny and charming (and that also stokes the righteous fury when the baddies plot is fully revealed). Plus, it’s got Donna Murphy. And one bad-ass explosion. I’m sold.
I can freely admit that the first time I saw “Nemesis,” I hated it and vowed to never watch it again. Fortunately, I didn’t listen to myself too closely, and I’ve liked it more each time I’ve seen it since. I’ll also agree that when I’m in the mood for ‘Trek,’ this usually isn’t my first choice; it’s a weird, very dark (look and theme both) and you have to pay attention to fully understand all that’s going on. It’s the only one of the films to get the PG-13 rating, and with one thoroughly unsettling rape scene, not to mention the wanton execution of the Romulan senate, it’s not a surprise. It’s a “Star Trek” film for our new era, and I love it for all its darkness.
3. “The Wrath of Khan”
I’ve only seen a handful of the original series episodes, but after years and years of watching “Khan,” I finally decided to go back and watch the episode that begot what many consider to be the best of the films. I love “Khan,” make no mistake, but we’re talking favorites here, not best. I might even agree with the ‘best’ part based on nothing else but Spock’s incredibly poignant death scene. For the first time, Kirk can’t talk his way past death, and his best friend dies because of decisions Kirk made, and that counts for a lot with this fan. I don’t have the emotional connection to the crew to push ‘Khan’ to the top spot on my favorites, but top three is nothing to scoff at either.
2. “The Undiscovered Country”
If “First Contact” is the pure action movie in the bunch, than “Undiscovered Country” is the murder mystery/political thriller. As my viewing buddy demonstrated, it’s really easy to figure out the ‘who’s’ in this who-dunnit, but this Cold War allegory is the first of the movies that I found and loved on my own (amazingly enough, I used to watch the trailer endlessly on my sister’s copy of “Soapdish”…that’s one hell of a demographic for you). If you didn’t know this already, I have a soft-spot for sad stories, and this aging crew, about to become obsolete in their thinking and in their jobs…there’s nothing sadder than that. And nothing’s more worthwhile than getting to see believable changes in characters you’ve come to know so well.
1. “The Voyage Home”
Was there ever any doubt that this one would top the list? By far, it’s the most watchable of the films because even while their world is in danger, our beloved crew knows that they can save the day. They have a ship, they have each other, and they have a plan, and at the end of the day, well, Earth is saved. Along the way, they have some fun adventures in 20th Century language, dating, technology and whale biology. It’s the crew at their finest and their most together, even if they are the ultimate fish out of water. I’ve been watching this film for 20 years, and I still laugh every damn time. I hope I never stop.