Star Trek: Generations
- Street Date:
- April 30th, 2013
- Reviewed by:
- Joshua Zyber
- Review Date: 1
- October 17th, 2009
- Movie Release Year:
- Paramount Home Entertainment
- 118 Minutes
- MPAA Rating:
- Rated PG
- Release Country
- United States
The following is a review of the first disc in the 'Star Trek: The Next Generation Motion Picture Collection' box set. In order to provide the most comprehensive coverage, High-Def Digest will be reviewing each film in the set separately.
Any proper analysis of the success and failures of 'Star Trek: Generations' will, by necessity, require discussion of at least two major plot spoilers. Given that the movie has reached its 15th anniversary, I expect that most 'Star Trek' fans have seen it by now. If, by chance, you haven't, and you're reading this review anyway, consider yourself warned.
The Movie Itself: Our Reviewer's Take
"You say history considers me dead. Who am I to argue with history?"
The seventh 'Star Trek' feature film is what you might call an unfortunate necessity. After 25 years of service, the original crew of the Starship Enterprise finally set sail for retirement in 1991 with the triumphant send-off, 'Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country'. Meanwhile, a whole new cast of characters had been developing a rabid popularity on television in 'Star Trek: The Next Generation'. When that show wrapped up its seven-season run in 1994, fans were eager to continue Captain Picard's adventures on the big screen. Studio executives at Paramount, recognizing the demand, wanted a new movie in theaters the very same year that the series ended, and greenlit a feature to rush into production as soon as the final episode finished shooting. Thus, the 'Next Generation' cast and crew segued from TV to movies without missing a beat.
However, those same studio executives feared that fans of the 'Star Trek' original crew movies and fans of the 'Next Generation' television series may not have been entirely the same audience. They insisted that the new picture bridge the gap, and provide a crossover between both sets of characters, allowing the old crew to pass the torch to the new. Captain Kirk and Captain Picard in the same movie – a little something for everyone – the fans'll love it! And so we have 'Star Trek: Generations', which drags the irrepressible William Shatner back to duty as Kirk, and awkwardly foists him into a new adventure that really has nothing to do with him.
But the timelines of the two 'Trek' franchises are set eight decades apart, you say? How can Captain Kirk still be around to interact with Picard, Riker, Data, and the rest? Why, it's those old 'Trek' standbys – pseudoscience technobabble and time travel, of course. Really now, did you expect anything else?
'Generations' actually starts off on a good note. In a clever prologue sequence, original Enterprise retirees Kirk, Scotty, and Chekov are called to attend the christening of the brand new Enterprise B, helmed by a fresh-faced crew. The ceremony involves a quick jaunt across the solar system for the benefit of the press. Naturally, at exactly this moment, a sudden emergency arises, as these things usually do. A strange energy ribbon has trapped a pair of vessels, and the Enterprise is the only starship in range to help. Inexperienced and insecure Captain Harriman (Ferris Bueller's best bud Alan Ruck) looks befuddled and makes a series of rookie mistakes. Sitting on the sidelines, Kirk struggles to hold himself back from jumping into the captain's chair and saving the day once more. These moments exhibit some subtle, knowing humor and remind us why we love these characters so much.
It goes without saying that Kirk will save the day again. His last-minute heroics lead to the rescue of a portion of the endangered vessel's passengers, and save the Enterprise itself from getting torn to pieces in the ribbon's vortex. In doing so, he must sacrifice himself, when the deck he's on gets blasted by an energy wave and sucked out into space.
That's right, Captain Kirk dies. All things considered, it's actually a fitting, honorable death that allows Kirk to go out doing something he loved. It also calls back his declaration in 'Star Trek V' that he has always known that he'd die alone. Goodbye, old friend. You shall be missed.
Too bad the movie will throw away all that good will later on.
So that all happens in the first 20 minutes. Next we jump forward 78 years to the Enterprise D, with the noble Captain Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) in charge. The ship has been called to investigate an attack on a deep space science station. Soon we discover a mysterious scientist named Soran (Malcolm McDowell), who just happens to be one of the survivors that Kirk rescued earlier, and he looks not a day older. Turns out that Soran is conducting some dangerous experiments in the hopes of getting back to the energy ribbon, which somehow transports people into an alternate dimension of ultimate happiness called the Nexus where all their dreams come true. Or something. Frankly, the explanation is absurdly vague.
Long story short: Soran is a bad guy. His plan will cause the destruction of a planet full of innocents. Picard must stop him. In trying, they'll all get sucked into the Nexus, where Picard meets Kirk. Or the ghost of Kirk, or an "echo" of Kirk, or something. They'll have to team up and then go back in time 10 minutes to stop Soran by having a fistfight on top of a mountain. And Kirk will die again, this time rather ingloriously by falling off a rickety catwalk. With Picard standing over him. Not alone.
No, it doesn't make any sense to me either, and I've seen the movie a bunch of times.
In the process of all this, the Enterprise D, making its first and only appearance in a feature film, will get blown up by a warp core breach. Now, mind you, a "warp core breach" is something that happened to the Enterprise about once a month for each of its seven years on television. Super-engineer Geordi La Forge (LeVar Burton) always managed to fix them before, or eject the warp core in a worst case scenario, which happened more than once. But he's apparently forgotten how to do that here, and doesn't even try. One second, he discovers the breach. The next second, he's yelling for everyone to abandon ship. Ka-boom.
Obviously, the filmmakers are trying to call to mind the traumatic destruction of the original Enterprise in 'Star Trek III'. It doesn't work, mainly because you can't duplicate the emotional impact of something merely by mimicking it. Also, it's plain as day that the ship was only destroyed in this entry because the Enterprise D model, which was built for TV, wasn't detailed or elaborate enough for theatrical feature work. Blowing it to bits is a cynical move that will allow the producers to build a newer, sleeker model for the next movie. Which is exactly what they do.
The movie has a weak script loaded with hackneyed nonsense technobabble about temporal fluxes and people's life signs "phasing in and out of the space-time continuum." (How convenient that the Enterprise has a Space-Time Continuum-ometer to measure that.) Tedious comic relief about the android Data (Brent Spiner) and his malfunctioning emotion chip consume far too much screen time. Neither the villain nor his evil plot are particularly compelling. The Nexus concept is poorly explained and logically inconsistent. We're told that it's a wondrous place overflowing with joy, and that once a person enters he'll never want to leave. And yet, when he gets there, Picard's happy vision is so boring that he's ready to get the hell out within five minutes of arriving.
The conceit of Picard and Kirk teaming up isn't nearly as exciting in action as it may have read on paper. They ride horses together for a few moments, and then leave the Nexus by… Well, they don't do anything, actually. They just say that they want to leave and go back in time a few minutes, and then it just happens for them. You'd think it might be a better idea to go back in time a little while more to stop Soran at the start of his plan, but I guess that never occurred to either of these genius captains. And why do they get out of the Nexus with all their memories intact, but Soran has no idea that anything has happened? This is just sloppy, shoddy writing.
Worst of all, Kirk's ignoble death is truly one of the biggest bungles in the franchise's history. Words cannot express the disappointment.
With all that said, 'Generations' isn't the worst of the 'Trek' movies. That honor still goes to 'Star Trek V'. Honestly, it's not even the worst of the 'Next Generation' crew's movies. To give it some credit, the film is slickly produced and directed (by series veteran David Carson), has gorgeous lighting and photography by Oscar-winning cinematographer John Alonzo ('Chinatown'), and its terrific special effects have hardly dated a bit over the last 15 years. The Stellar Cartography sequence, in which Picard and Data chart the energy ribbon's path in an elaborate three-dimensional interactive map of the galaxy, is still an impressive visual highlight. As is the crashing of the Enterprise's saucer section. Contrived though that scene may be, it's a spectacular action sequence.
More than that, it's nice to see the 'Next Generation' cast coming into their own as movie stars. They meet the challenge with aplomb. The transition just feels right.
Sadly, in their four attempts, the 'Next Generation' crew never managed to make a great movie on par with 'The Wrath of Khan' or 'The Undiscovered Country'. Their efforts range from pretty good (the next entry, 'First Contact') to just awful ('Insurrection'). 'Star Trek: Generations' falls squarely in the middle of the pack, neither here nor there. It's a transitional movie that the cast needed to get out of the way to prove themselves capable of carrying a theatrical feature. It just barely meets that goal.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
'Star Trek: Generations' is available on Blu-ray exclusively as part of the 'Star Trek: The Next Generation Motion Picture Collection' box set from Paramount Home Entertainment. The 5-disc set contains the four 'Star Trek' films with Picard and Riker, plus a bonus disc of new special features (details of which will be included in our review of 'Star Trek: Nemesis'). The Blu-ray packaging is designed to compliment that of the 'Star Trek: Original Motion Picture Collection' set released earlier this year. The discs are each housed in individual slim Blu-ray keepcases within a black cardboard box and clear plastic slipcover. The front of the box features a lenticular image of the Enterprise E flying through a Starfleet insignia. Each keepcase has a close-up photo of a major character's face.
Annoyingly, every disc in the set automatically starts with a trailer for the 2009 'Star Trek' feature film and a promo for other 'Trek' Blu-ray releases before the main menu.
The Video: Sizing Up the Picture
When the first six 'Trek' movies were released on Blu-ray earlier this year, video quality ran the gamut from excellent to mediocre. However, even at their worst, they were all still significant upgrades over DVD. That didn't stop the home theater community from exploding in uproar. On various A/V forums, the discs were all declared unwatchable, and the worst atrocity to have ever been inflicted on home video consumers. So now the 'Next Generation' box set is out, and the forum buzz is much the same. Once again, the hyperbole seems to be unwarranted.
For at least its first 3/4, 'Generations' looks terrific. The 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 transfer shows off the movie's slick photography well. The 2.35:1 image has excellent contrasts and a tactile sense of three-dimensional depth. While facial features are not always tack-sharp enough to resolve individual skin pores in every wide shot the way some A/V junkies demand, that appears to be more an attribute of the photography and production than an artifact of digital filtering. The picture is detailed enough to expose the texture and seams in the heavy pancake makeup on the actors. (Brent Spiner's robot makeup really doesn't hold up to scrutiny.) Close-up shots are sometimes amazing.
Some light edge ringing intrudes in a few occasions, and Digital Noise Reduction filtering may have been employed as well, but neither is intrusive enough to be overly distracting.
Unfortunately, things take a turn for the worse during the saucer crash. From that point forward, the movie looks noticeably duller than anything earlier. It's like someone at the studio suddenly remembered to flip on the DNR switch. The rest of the movie has some heavy filtering that causes mushy details and unnatural frozen grain patterns. Edge enhancement also looks to have been dialed up a few notches. Edge halos are much more overt in all the Veridian 3 scenes.
If only the movie could have been more consistent throughout, it would have rated much better overall. As it is, the disc is very good, but flawed.
The Audio: Rating the Sound
'Star Trek: Generations' was released to theaters in the early days of Dolby Digital 5.1 audio. It was also one of the first titles released on Laserdisc with that soundtrack configuration. Around that time, the sound designers for many action and sci-fi pictures felt the need to amp up surround activity and bass to really show off the format. For better or worse, 'Generations' has extensive use of attention-grabbing split-surround effects, as if to declare, "Hey, there's a sound effect in the right rear channel! And now it's over here in the left. Oh, and now it's back in the right again!" It's gimmicky, but sometimes a lot of fun. The mix is also swamped in bloated, overcooked bass, which frankly grows fatiguing after a while.
The original crew 'Trek' movies were remixed into 7.1 configuration for Blu-ray, but the 'Next Gen' movies remain in their original 5.1 format. I have no argument with that. The lossless Dolby TrueHD 5.1 soundtrack has clear dialogue and crisp, loud (very loud) sound effects. Dennis McCarthy's score is broad and sweeping. Fidelity is perfectly fine overall, though I could wish for better separation of individual sounds. I recall from past screenings (including theatrically) the way that specific sound effects, like the rattling of a loose light fixture as Kirk goes to fix the photon torpedo, or the strange ticking noise during the saucer crash, stood out from the rest of the soundtrack. But here everything sort of blurs together. The crash itself is also duller than expected.
Still, these are nit-picks. The disc sounds fine.
The Supplements: Digging Into the Good Stuff
'Generations' was last issued on DVD in 2004 as a 2-disc Special Collector's Edition. It is also now being re-released on DVD in a box set comparable to this Blu-ray release. The 2009 DVD contains only newly-produced bonus features, but does not carry over any of those from the older DVD. Fortunately, the Blu-ray consolidates almost everything from both into one package.
Features from the older DVD are presented in standard definition, while newer features are high definition.
- Audio Commentary by David Carson and Manny Coto – This newly-recorded commentary finds the film's director joined by 'Star Trek: Enterprise' producer Manny Coto. The latter was not involved in the production of 'Generations', but right off the bat declares it, "a terrific movie." The track is basically a fawning mutual-appreciation love-fest in which the two men continually declare how much they admire one another and how great they think the movie is. Coto also spends an inordinate amount of time pointing out that he now works on '24'.
- Audio Commentary by Brannon Braga and Ronald D. Moore – This track from 2004 is by far the better of the two commentaries on the disc. The film's writers deliver a surprisingly frank assessment of both its strengths and weakness. Early on, they admit that the movie doesn't compare favorably to 'All Good Things', the final episode of 'The Next Generation' that they wrote around the same time. Considering the low regard that Braga is held by 'Star Trek' fans, he comes across as a humble, intelligent man willing to admit his failings. He and Moore (who went on to create the 'Battlestar Galactica' remake) trace the evolution of the script from early conception through the many revisions mandated by the studio.
- Uniting Two Legends (SD, 26 min.) – This old EPK piece features interviews with the cast and crew boasting about the larger scale of the production (compared to the TV show) and the better treatment they've received from the studio. Curiously (or not), no one actually seems all that excited about the movie itself.
- Stellar Cartography: Creating the Illusion (SD, 9 min.) – A look at the making-of one of the more impressive scenes in the movie.
- Strange New World: The Valley of Fire (SD, 23 min.) – A collection of dull on-location footage from the Veridian 3 set.
- Scoring Trek (HD, 9 min.) – Composer Dennis McCarthy explains what he does.
- Inside ILM: Models & Miniatures (SD, 10 min.) – Visual effects technicians demonstrate how they refurbished the Enterprise D model and created the saucer crash scene.
- Crashing the Enterprise (SD, 11 min.) – A behind-the-scenes peek at the miniature landscape set being built.
- Scene Deconstructions (SD, 16 min.) – Three scene breakdowns: the opening titles, the Nexus ribbon, and the saucer crash.
- A Tribute to Matt Jefferies (SD, 20 min.) – In this lengthy 2003 interview (conducted shortly before his death), the 'Original Series' art director tells about designing the original Enterprise, and shows off a number of fascinating early concept sketches.
- The Enterprise Lineage (SD, 13 min.) – A history of the real vessels that have borne the name Enterprise, from sailing ships to the first space shuttle.
- Captain Picard's Family Album (SD, 7 min.) – A close-up look at one of the movie's most important props.
- Creating 24th Century Weapons (SD, 14 min.) – The so-called "Klingon Armorer" shows off the alien and futuristic knives he's created for 'Trek'.
- Next Generation Designer Flashback: Andrew Probert (HD, 5 min.) – The production illustrator describes his involvement with the franchise. The piece spends more time on 'Star Trek: The Motion Picture' than 'Generations'.
- Stellar Cartography on Earth (HD, 8 min.) – Real astronomers talk about mapping the galaxy.
- Brent Spiner: Data and Beyond, Part 1 (HD, 10 min.) – The actor describes his background in comedy and how he landed the role of Data.
- Trek Roundtable: Generations (HD, 12 min.) – This group discussion between Larry Nemecek (author of many 'Trek' tie-in books), Anthony Pascale (trekmovie.com), Charlene Anderson (The Planetary Society), and Jeff Bond (Geek Monthly) feels like a missed opportunity. They debate a little bit about the merits of the film, but ultimately all give it a pass without too much criticism. The talk isn't particularly animated, and two of the members hardly speak at all.
- Starfleet Academy SciSec Brief 007: Trilithium (HD, 3 min.) – The seventh in a series of ultra-cheesy plot recaps hosted as though they were Starfleet instructional videos. I was hoping I'd seen the last of these at the end of the Original Motion Picture Collection box set.
- Deleted Scenes (SD, 33 min.) – The movie's producers famously ditched part of its opening and reshot the ending after test screenings. Here we finally get a look at the lame Orbital Skydiving sequence, a small extra snippet on the sailing ship, alternate dialogue during Picard's Nexus fantasy, and the original ending, in which Soran shoots Kirk in the back. The ending doesn't work at all, but certainly isn't any more or less awful than the final version we got.
- Theatrical Trailers (HD, 4 min.) – Two trailers: the teaser, and the spoiler-filled regular version.
- Production Galleries
HD Bonus Content: Any Exclusive Goodies in There?
The Blu-ray also includes a couple of new features, comparable to those on the other 'Trek' movie Blu-rays.
- Library Computer – A very cool interactive graphic trivia interface loaded with screen-specific information about just about every aspect of the 'Star Trek' universe. The track is overflowing with data that pours out at a steady clip.
Will Work in Any Blu-ray Player
- Star Trek I.Q. – Connect online to participate in 'Star Trek' trivia quizzes. Several pre-made tests are available, or you may create and share your own.
BD-Live: Requires Profile 2.0
The Cutting Room Floor: What Didn't Make the Blu-ray?
The 2-disc Special Collector's Edition DVD released in 2004 contained a text trivia commentary by Michael & Denise Okuda. That trivia was mostly consolidated into the new Library Computer feature.
The 'Star Trek: The Next Generation Motion Picture Collection' contains four feature films and a significant volume of supplemental content, both old and new. The set is an easy recommendation for fans.
'Star Trek: Generations' is a shaky start for the 'Next Generation' crew's first foray into feature films, but it serves its purpose adequately enough to get by. There are things to savor in the movie, even if it's a missed opportunity on the whole. The Blu-ray isn't perfect, but looks and sounds pretty good. Supplements are plentiful. Trekkies will get their money's worth with this one.
- BD-50 Dual-Layer Disc
- BD-Live (Profile 2.0)
- 1080p/AVC MPEG-4
- English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Surround
- French Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
- Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
- English Subtitles
- English SDH
- French Subtitles
- Spanish Subtitles
- Portuguese Subtitles
- 2 Audio Commentaries
- 16 Featurettes
- Deleted Scenes
- Still Galleries
- 2 Theatrical Trailers
Exclusive HD Content
- Library Computer Interactive Trivia
- BD-Live Content
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