on September 12, 1999
Kirk v. God, and Kirk wins? An egotistical set up for a movie, but Trek V is better than it's reputation. The film has several positive attributes which are often overlooked:
1) A strong emphasis on character development, particularly with Spock, Kirk and McCoy. The campfire scenes are classic, and there are few moments in the film series which match the drama of McCoy confronting his "inner pain."
2) Final Frontier was the closest in spirit to the original series. The plot and (unfortunately) the special effects are reminiscent of such classic Trek episodes as "Who Mourns For Adonis."
3) Sybok, the "passoinate Vulcan" and half-brother of Spock, is an intriguing antagonist for the main characters.
4) Jerry Goldsmith delivered what I feel is his best Trek score for this installment.
What's keeping this movie from being one of the best in the Trek cannon?
1) The worst special effects put on film since the invention of the motion control camera.
2) A somewhat anti-climactic climax. (The original script called for a big FX battle between Kirk and a flock of gargoyles summoned by the God Monster, but it was cut for budget.)
3) Not revealing Kirk's "secret pain" feels like a cheat (although his "I need my pain" speech was good).
4) A couple of embarrasing moments for the Trek supporting crew-- Scotty bonks his head and knocks himself out? Uhura, who otherwise gets her best Trek movie role, as an exotic dancer? Puh-lease!
We'll never see it, but it would be great if Paramount would spend a few million to create a "special edition" with improved special effects and the original ending.
While they're at it, could they throw in a couple thousand to remaster the film for DVD? It looks like a bad copy of the laserdisc-- the "widescreen" is masked off from a 4x3 frame instead of enhanced for 16x9. The image itself is very grainy and a bit washed out.
on November 21, 2003
With the new release of the Special Collector's Edition of Star Trek V on DVD, I thought it would be a good time to review the picture.
What can I say? ST:5 is weak on many levels.
First, the ship's crew is way too small, less than a skeleton crew (they had like, what, five trainees besides the Classic cast?). Second, the ship is far more buggy than it should be. It's not as if General Dynamics builds these things, after all, it's suppossed to be a starship! A few bugs, sure, but to be in as bad a shape as the new ship is strains credibility.
Then there's the whole "barrier" thing. As any Trek fan worth his toy tricorder knows, the "barrier" is not at the center of the galaxy, but at the edge. It's also supposed to be pink, not Indiglo blue. Of course, they simply should have called this new "barrier" something else, but be that as it may, this kind of slip highlights a certain basic sloppiness in the production. Also, the ship gets there way too quickly, and the skeleton crew is subverted to Sybok's vision too easily (is only Kirk capable of putting up a fight?).
And what about Sybok? "Where'd he come from?!" (or so I asked when I first saw the picture). Another good question would be, "Where'd he get all this power?! Regular Vulcans don't have it, so why should he?"
There's plenty of dopiness on hand to be sure, but if I had to point out any one element that brings the picture down, it would have to be the effects. As Shatner himself comments in one of the featurettes on the new disc, they "were not well-served" by the New Jersey-based effects team hired for the film. They were out of their league, and it shows.
The effects range from really interesting to really bad. The more interesting ones are almost totally confined to the luminous dyes and other elements used on the "God" planet. The worst effects are reserved for the starships. For example, when the Enterprise escapes a Kingon torpedo, the ship looks clunky and "pasted" onto the backgrounds, the sudden motion not realistic or believeable. Other shots share the poor movement, and the shabby lighting of the models just adds to the cheap-o look of the movie.
As for the entity imprisoned on Shakaree, it's a plot point taken directly from one of the animated Trek episodes, and was adapted into one of the "Log" books which recounted the animated episodes in novel-length form.
So, what we have here is a pretty weak Trek, with bad effects and a mish-mosh of dull plot points.
On the other hand, out of all the Trek movies, ST:5 feels the most like a television episode (no doubt, due mostly to Shatner's directing experience up to that point).
Lukinbill's Sybok is really a pretty interesting character. His ability to control others through charisma is excellently portrayed, too.
The Yosemite elements at the beginning and end of the film are the best and most personal depiction of the interaction between the triad of Kirk, Spock, and McCoy. The "visions" of Spock and McCoy are pretty powerful (some of Spock's vision were cut, and are on Disc 2 as an extra). The attack on Paradise City is well staged. Lots of action, and when Kirk gets attacked by the cat dancer, you don't even wonder why he went in the bar without having his phaser drawn. The humor used throughout the picture is also right on the money.
But despite all of the plusses, the film just doesn't seem to overcome all of the minuses. The film strikes an odd note at best, and is the pariah of Trek movies at the worst.
The DVD treatment of the film in the new 2-disc set is very nice. The animated menus are probably some of the best in the Trek movie sets so far, and there are plenty of interesting elements. Besides the usual intellegent documentaries (one dealing with the search for God), the Kingon couple is interviewed, and the "making of" documentary is comprehensive, (if a bit one-hand-tied-behind-its-back). Deleted scenes are on Disc 2 (pretty much all but the extended Spock-vision deserved to be cut, I think), and there is some rock-man footage that shows us what the monsters were supposed to have looked like. There is also a press conference held on the ST:5 bridge, and a video pitch from Harve Bennett to the Paramount sales staff. The extras earn it an extra star, I think, the movie being a "3".
The disc is worth adding to your collection, especially for Classic Trek fans. Time may have afforded fans the ability to forgive the film somewhat, as it is a product from the pre-sickeningly PC Trek of the 90's and today that fans are forced to suffer. Time may also help the fan hate the bad elements of the movie less, and appreciate the good elements of the movie more.
So is ST:5 moronic, or just misunderstood? Frankly, the answer is "both," but it's still strangely worth watching.
on November 8, 2001
So much potential, wasted.
This could've been a really good film if only. If only they'd thrown out everything, or at least almost everything. Here's a few of things that will take away from your enjoyment of Star Trek 5, LAMBADA, I mean "The Final Frontier"
The special effects are sub par. There's a few shots of the Enterprise near the beginning that aren't bad, particularly the beauty shot of the ship and the moon, nice touch. But unfortunately, it's one of the few actual shots of the Enterprise you will see in ST5. Here's a hint for the producers of Trek. Fans like the ship, we like to see the ship, please include exterior shots of the ship in your films whenever possible. Other effects include the horrible "planet" beyond the "great effects barrier" that looks more like a visual depiction of Vicks Vapor-action than a planet. Really all the effects seem quite crude in comparison to other trek films; maybe they blew the budget getting Shatner to direct.
The story lacks a villain. Sybok, the happy Vulcan, is about as close as you'll get to one here. The problem with Sybok is, he really isn't dangerous and you'll find his laugh intoxicating. There's also a stupid sub-plot with a rogue Klingon; Captain Krunch or something like that. He's about as threatening as a french poodle with the hairstyle to match. Cap'n Krunch's main purpose in this movie seems to be to blast an ancient Voyager-style space probe(like V'Ger from ST:TMP) into bits. Maybe in a future film a Voyager-style probe will be kind enough to blast an ancient copy of ST5 into dust. There's an even more stupid sub, sub-plot involving the Klingon William Conrad, the henchman from Titanic and some Romulan Babe on planet Nimrod-3 which looks a lot like Tatooine. Its all pretty lame!
And just who are these people? This movie was made in 1989, which means the original series had been out of production for 20 YEARS when this came out. Did the writers never watch this show? Hardly any of the characters in Star Trek 5 even remotely resemble the original series characters. Examples:
A) - Capt. Kirk is now into rock climbing (something never before mentioned). He's annoyed that Starfleet would call him to deal with an alien threat, completely contradicting already established movies where Kirk couldn't wait to get out there and kick some alien can! And Kirk's relationship to Spock and Bones seems more like Moe's relationship to Larry and Curly in this movie.
B) - Spock now has a brother, Sybok, who he never saw fit to mention before. Spock chooses not to shoot Sybok and save the ship. So what happened? Did the emotionless Mr. Spock have a bad feeling about shooting an intruder? Is this the same Spock that would have let his own father die (in "Journey to Babel") rather than relinquish the helm to Scotty for a few hours? I guess we could blame this on that "being dead and brought back to life thing." I choose to blame Shatner instead.
C) - Scotty, what the hell is your deal. You can repair the transporter when the damn Doomsday Machine is blastin' chunks outta the hull, but you can't fix it in dry-dock? And what about all the other malfunctions on board? Mr. Scott is supposed to be the "miracle worker", yet he can't even keep the Captain's palm pilot from self-destructing. Scotty! Quit sniffin' around Uhura and get to work!
D) - Sulu, Uhura and Chekov seem a bit different too, but maybe that's because they actually get to do something in this film, which I guess is good except there is a weird and disturbing Scotty/Uhura romance hinted at and possibly even a Sulu/Chekov! (what are they doing out in the woods alone?) Dr. McCoy seems cranky, which is at least normal behavior for him.
E) - The U.S.S. Enterprise NCC-1701-A: WHAT THE HELL? Somehow the whole ship undergoes a facelift from the last movie, the bridge is completely changed and somebody has added like a hundred extra decks and steering wheel, and nothing works right. To quote Kirk "Starfleet has a lot of nerve sending us out in this condition..." Damn straight! What happened? Did they buy the parts from some Ferengi huckster?
Finally the whole plot is just bloody dull! Sybok the happy Vulcan is looking for the Supreme Being (God) on planet Shakaree, the previously mentioned Vicks Vapor-Action planet of heavenly lint. Sybok and his followers take over the Enterprise with relative ease, then sets a course for the "great big effect barrier" Kirk, Spock, and McCoy eventually make nice with him, all go down to planet Vapor-rub, they find out that "God" is really a hairy thunderer in a Santa suit, Sybok croaks everybody is happy, the end. SNORE!
It's just all really sad. It's as though no one making Star Trek 5 had ever seen Star Trek before, there's no clever new gadgets, no socially relevant commentary, no sir, NO NOTHING! No vision of the future to make us gasp in awe, even the heavenly lint ball planet looks nasty. This place is supposed to look like Heaven, but it looks more like Death Valley shot through a pair of Ray-Bans. Fortunately, this film can be missed without missing anything. It adds nothing to the Star Trek mythos and should be written off as Kirk's fever dream.
I'm a trekkie, and I even own a copy of this movie, but Star Trek 5: The Final Frontier is neither final, nor frontier. It's just bad.
on June 14, 2005
I honestly can't understand the vehement angst and negativity against this film by Trekkers and average viewers alike. The tragedy about this film is that it was pre-judged by rumors in the press, thoroughly trashed. When this movie came out, I was actually publishing a magazine and my film critic quit because I wouldn't publish his review (rather than write a review, he chose to write a biased tirade about why he hated Star Trek).
Enough of that! The FX in this film are awful, some of them aren't even as well done as the FX in the original 1960s TV series. However, that wasn't William Shatner's fault. What happened is that there were too many leaks in the press that got back to Paramount, and they pulled the plug on FX. Luckily ILM allowed them to reuse select previous FX shots from previous films...so that, at least, you won't really notice anything amiss until about 30 minutes into the film.
The opening scene in this movie took my breath away. It's desolate, haunting and epic, with some of the best scoring by Jerry Goldsmith ever. This scene, which introduces Sybock, is one of the best introductions in ANY Star Trek film, or ANY film for that matter. It's that good.
The campfire scenes with Kirk, Spock and McCoy are some of the greatest scenes in the entire pantheon of Star Trek. There is great chemistry here, and McCoy's "special ingredient" in that chili, plus Kirk's remark about "an explosive combination" are truly delivered to evoke side-splitting laughter. Sure it's adolescent humor, but as a preamble to their subsequent philosophical discussion, it works!
Although much of the humor works, some of it doesn't. It works when Nimoy delivers a very subtle "Yes!" to Shatner's uninvited exclamation that "I could use a shower!" Where it doesn't work is when Scotty hits his head on the bulkhead. Again, when a bumbling Kirk, McCoy and Spock accelerate up the elevator shaft, it's more like a scene out of the Three Stooges.
The scene where Sybock shows them their greatest fear is underrated and perhaps the greatest acting ever presented in the sequence of Star Trek films, particularly by DeForrest Kelly. Kirk's adamant refusal to participate (e.g. "I need my pain!") is perhaps the closest that one ever comes to looking into the window of Kirk's soul, the real driving power behind Star Trek.
Finally, the confrontation between Kirk and "God" is the most pronounced and philosophical statement of Star Trek, a point hinted at in the TV series to be sure, but never so humorously depicted as in ST 5. To wit, Shatner's brilliant line about "Why does GOD need a starship?" With all due respect to those of faith, that is a question that any thinking person would ask about the angry war-making "god" of the Old Testament.
As for Jerry Goldsmith's musical score, this soundtrack is the second best soundtrack of any of the Star Trek films (his score for Star Trek: The Motion Picture is obviously the first best score). When Mr. Goldsmith died last year, we truly lost one of the Great Ones, second only to John Williams, and some might even debate that.
This film actually works better on TV. I attribute that to William Shatner's somewhat uncertain use of film and being more familiar with television. But, considering the fact that some scenes fully exploit the film medium on an epic scale, it is probably true that what ultimately spoiled this movie on the Big Screen is Paramount's pulling the plug on FX...virtually ruining the whole experience for Star Trek fans who by that time had become accustomed to good effects. That they were simultaneously broadcasting Next Generation with first class FX just made Paramount's decision that much more damning. Remember that this is the same studio that sat on the Star Trek franchise for almost 9 years before being prompted by the success of Star Wars to dust off their property and save Gene Goddenberry from Skid Row (typo is lovingly intentional).
One may be confused as to why I gave this film 5 stars in spite of the obvious flaws mentioned. The reason is that this film has an important story to tell, and tells it very well, despite the flaws. In a way, the story really begins at the campsite with Kirk, Spock and McCoy, and it ends at the campsite with Kirk, Spock and McCoy (literally), leaving a very good feeling inside. Originally I thought Star Trek V was their swan song. I'm glad it wasn't, but wouldn't have minded if it was...like a fade out into retirement...
This is a great Star Trek film and I never get tired of watching it!
on December 26, 2000
For the last 11 years, Star Trek V has been criticized mercilessly by critics, alleged Star Trek "fans" and even some Next Generation cast members.
Yes, there is sloppy editing in points and if you are obsessed with special effects, then I guess there are some slips here and there.
However, the film offers a good deal of interesting moments. We finally get to see Kirk, Spock and McCoy explore their friendship in a venue other than the ship!! Most importantly however, the much maligned Shatner, long criticized for hogging screen time, gives us more of ALL of the co-stars than we see the in the other Trek films. The Motion Picture offered virtually nothing for Uhura, Scotty, Chekov and Sulu to do. ST II gave Chekov a little more screen time but Uhura, Sulu and especially Scotty were hard to find. (Not to mention that the theatrical cut of II removes a fine scene with James Doohan in sick bay when his apprentice dies and Scotty asks Kirk why? A powerful scene left on the editing room floor.) III leaves Uhura in the dust somewhere, in IV Sulu might as well not be there and in VI, again Sulu gets short shrift as do the rest.
In V, everybody gets in on the action. Uhura is allowed to do more than just open hailing frequencies, she flies the shuttle, distracts the Nimubs III outpost guards etc. Chekov has some nice moments as the "Captain". Sulu is on the ground with Kirk as he was in the original series. Scotty is allowed to venture out of the engine room. The jail break scene is priceless!
More than any of the other films, V has the feel of the first two seasons of the original series where more attention was paid to the co-stars. In V you get the feeling that these characters are really something of a family and that they care about each other.
Particulary effective is the characterization of Spock. Nimoy does a nice turn playing a weaker, more unsure Spock which is how the character should be played given the events in III and IV. However, as the movie progresses, Spock gets stronger. His old nature slowly returns as the challenges mount and finally the Spock of old is back when he takes command of the Enterprise in an attempt to save Kirk. He says to the old Klingon General, "You will try" when the General hesitates to confront a hostile bird of prey. In those three words, Spock's ability to command is fully returned to him. Something he had lost after he died. I find in this movie that Spock is not only unsure of his actions regarding Sybok, but that the sub text is that he is questioning his ability to be an officer in Starfleet.
Five has various problems agreed, but the characters are never closer.
That closeness holds somewhat in VI only to be butchered yet again in the horrific Star Trek Generations. The only time that picture is at all intersting is when the old crew or in the later parts, Kirk, is on screen. Again, cut were made which reduced Koenig and Doohan's roles to virtually nothing and though the addition of Sulu's daughter is a nice touch, Kirk's apparent unfamiliarity with her is disturbing. Yes it is supposed to show that Kirk gave up a personal life blah blah blah. But why not have Kirk responsible for helping her through her career in Starfleet afterall, though Generations leads us to believe differently, Kirk's devotion was not just to the Captain's Chair and his duty, but also to his ship and crew.
I cherish V because it does effectively what ALL the original Trek movies should have done more of, give more story time to the co-stars and show the powerful connections between all seven of the characters.
on May 3, 2009
STAR TREK - THE FINAL FRONTIER is by no means the best STAR TREK movie. It drags on in several places, and the visual effects look like they went through absolutely no post-production. Aside from that, though, there is an engaging story, great acting, and some great moments that make this film memorable.
I enjoy the STAR TREK films just as a casual movie-goer. I'm not a Trekkie in the least, so I have no idea if this film goes against some of their rules. That's my disclaimer: If you're a Trekkie, see the film for yourself. However, I read quite a bit about the film before I watched it, and it seemed no one liked it. Even Roger Ebert, whose opinions usually coincide with mine, called it "pretty much a mess". I could see where fans might not like this one, as it varies from the usual STAR TREK formula, but I enjoyed it.
The plot goes like this: Kirk, Spock, and McCoy are on vacation, but are called back in (with the rest of the crew) when intergalactic consuls are taken hostage in a neutral zone. Sounds okay, right? I kept waiting for something horrible...Back to it. The ENTERPRISE, which is in pieces, flies to the planet, Nimbus 3, to rescue the hostages. While there, however, they are captured by a renegade Vulcan, Sybock, whose quest for the Divine has robbed him of his sanity. He holds the crew as prisoners on their own ship, while piloting it to Sha-Ka-Ree, the fabled Eden of the galaxy, where God is supposedly located. (oh, and there are some angry Klingons in there too, but they're not important)
Yes, yes, it sounds pretty ridiculous, but not any more than any of the other films (VOYAGE HOME, I'm talking about you). And the crew of the film execute the story pretty well. The acting is great (especially by the two Vulcans, Spock and Sybock), and the script was fine, with some genuinely funny and touching moments. The film picks up speed after the first 15-20 minutes, and it doesn't slow down all that much. Some of the visuals are awful (take the Klingon ship firing at an old space probe), but they prove not to be a distraction from the film's real centerpiece, which are the characters. Supporting roles, like Uhura and Scotty, get increased roles in this one.
About the big climax of the movie: I can see where it might be a bit disappointing (and a bit reminiscent of WIZARD OF OZ), but for me it was okay. The end of this film, for me, was quite like the end of THE SEARCH FOR SPOCK: The real climax didn't come at the big showdown at the end. For me, the best part of the ending was after, when Kirk, Spock, and McCoy speak of what they mean to each other. Sounds corny, but really: moments like that are those that make STAR TREK magic. And, even if no one else agrees, I think this film gets that right.
on October 10, 2003
It's so popular to hate The Final Frontier that it's become a cliche. But I say this hatred is largely unfounded. This movie has many of the elements that make Star Trek great: an epic story, action and suspense, a search for the unknown, and most importantly, exploration of the bonds of friendship.
There are plot holes. There are parts that are downright unbelievable. And there are parts that make no sense whatsoever, even in the context of the Star Trek universe (for one thing, the center of the galaxy is supposed to be thousands of light years away in the Next Generation and Voyager - a journey measured in years - but the crew of the Enterprise-A can reach it in about a half hour). The exact nature of what they find inside the Barrier is also never made clear. And some of the dialogue and situations are downright hokey.
But what's good about No. 5? First of all, the music is outstanding - Jerry Goldsmith at his best. Second, the directing is truly not bad, especially for being Shatner's first feature film. Certain moments even show a sign of brilliance, such as a long shot of the crew of the Enterprise staring at the viewscreen, watching the discovery being made, with the camera slowly zoomin in on an un-noticed sensor picking up a Klingon vessel closing in, with a faint hint of Goldsmith's Klingon Theme creeping in just as the Bird of Prey appears on sensors.
The movie is decidedly more lighthearted in tone than the others, except maybe for No. 4 - the Voyage Home. As another reviewer once said, it seemed like they tried to artificially capture the humor from the 4th film, and that's probably fair. But that does not make it all together unentertaining. Lines such as "I liked him (Spock) better before he died," and "Spock: I am well versed in the classics. McCoy: Then how come you don't know Row, Row, Row Your Boat?" still resonate with me as classic moments from the classic cast.
Compared to other Trek films, this one does leave much to be desired. It doesn't have the drama and epic battles of Khan. It doesn't have the cleverness of Voyage Home. It lacks the political intrigue of the Undiscovered Country. But against the other "weak" films, a.k.a. the odd numbered ones as many Trek fans like to say, this movie holds its own - compared to The Motion Picture, The Search for Spock, Generations, and Insurrection, I think this movie has many advantages.
This is a must have to complete your Star Trek collection, and should not be reviled as a necessary evil. Every Star Trek story (be it an episode or a movie) has its own charm, and this is certainly no exception. Don't expect rivetting drama, but do expect an entertaining, mostly lighthearted story with a modicum of suspense and wonder.
on August 11, 2004
Sure the special effects are lacking, but this movie has heart,something lacking in the Next Generation movies and new Star Trek series. After 15 years this movie should be rediscovered and put with pride in any Trekker or Non-Trekker's collection.
on May 27, 2004
The Good Captain and his crew finally get some shore leave and we begin the movie in beautiful Yosemite National Park - a very uplifting idea from the start, that Yosemite Park will survive into the 23rd Century!
I'm dismayed that if one reviewer/critic (oh, let's say Roger Ebert) wants to boldly label this movie THE WORST of the six starring the original cast, that everyone else feels obligated to nit-pik it to death. Remember, this movie came out the same time as BATMAN and perhaps we were all turning to the dark side anyway. I do, however, remember seeing this movie in a packed theatre and the audience enjoying it as much as the others in the series.
Yes, this movie IS sentimental. Yes, the money DID run short (if you listen to the commentaries of all the Star Trek movies, all the directors were forced by the studios to do much with little compared to Robert Wise!) and some production values suffered. Yet I much prefer it to Star Trek VI because so much of the enjoyment for me are the ACTORS interacting in character. The themes of brotherhood, blind loyalty, blind faith, facing your own fears and the question of just where GOD is are addressed on grand scale as well as gently. That's a huge undertaking. This is as introspective as I've seen the brothers Kirk, Spock and McCoy get. Toss in some silliness and sweetness, and it makes for great entertainment. It's very close to what one of the better episdoes of Star Trek (The original series)was like. William Shatner as director also gives each actor known in the series a featured scene as well. So lighten up, people. Go climb a rock! Then enjoy the Commentary by William & his daughter Liz Shatner when you watch it the second time!
on September 8, 2005
Maybe I'm too much of a Star Trek geek for my own good, but I must admit that the Final Frontier has always been one of my personal favorites. First we find out that Spock has a half brother, and this selfsame half brother is trying to take over the Enterprise in search of God. The outer reaches of space never seemed so dark or mysterous as the crew battles their own personal inner demons on the way to helping Sybok destroy his own.
Yes the romance between Scotty and Uhura seems rather sudden, but I found it rather charming, its time someone apreciated her.
The banter is as humerous as ever as the holy Trinity (Spock, McCoy and Kirk) start of the movie sitting around a campfire, introducing Spock to Whisky and song. Row Row your boat for that matter, while Spock synthesizes marshellow's to roast.
In short, I guess what I'm trying to say that this movie is wonderful, and a definate must see.
Let it take you into realms where no man has gone before