The Edge of Tomorrow 2 - 1992
Star Trek VI - JK Fouzder
(page 5/13)

STAR TREK VI

(Note from the typesetter: If you have not seen the film Star Trek VI then this review may spoil some of the surprises in it. If you are worried about such things then I suggest you skip to the last paragraph :-)

As you have almost undoubtedly seen the film, let me first dispense completely with any notion of plot resume you may have been expecting; what you will read herein is simply my own opinion of the movie. Next, let me say that I thought the film was amazingly brilliant and so, if you agree, you can save yourself reading the rest of this review and move right on to the next article.

After the disaster that was 'Star Trek V: The Final Frontier", few people could have retained hopes of another Star Trek film. Indeed, the bods at Paramount publicly announced that there would be no such movie. Owing to the tenacity and sheer pigheadedness of fan support however, it was decided that the Star Trek films ought to end on a good note and so just one more "old generation" film would be made. The powers that be decided that drastic changes would have to be made for Trek VI. William Shatner, who had cut his directing teeth on, and should have lost his balls for Trek V was ruled out. Similarly, Leonard Nimoy, whose directorial debut was Trek III and who also directed the most commercially successful film of the series, Trek IV, was also deemed unsuitable. Instead, the film would be directed by Trek II helmer Nicholas Meyer, who had also collaborated (at script stage) on Treks III and IV and who had turned down an offer to direct Trek III.

It was also decided that a strong supporting cast was necessary. Initially Kim Cattrall, Jack Palance and Christian Slater were announced. Palance I suspect was to have played Chancellor Gorkon, since it makes little sense to recast an actor (David Warner) who played a Terran in one film - ambassador to Nimbus III in Trek V - as a Klingon in the next. Slater appeared in a brief cameo as Excelsior's communications officer, after being persuaded to by his mother, who was the film's casting director (i.e. the person who casts all the non-major roles). Cattrall was supposed to be some sort of Spock love interest. Later it became clear that Christopher Plummer would appear as a Klingon who was obviously the villain of the film, judging from the film poster and publicity stills. David Bowie's girlfriend, Iman, would also cameo.

Paramount decided that Industrial Light and Magic would have to do the effects (they had worked on I, II, III and IV, but had little involvement in Trek V owing to previous commitments), which was hardly surprising considering the number of effects sequences in Trek VI and the software owned by ILM since "Terminator 2. The budget was decided at $26m. It was also decided to re-use some "Next Generation" sets and special effects.

Now you know the movie's background, what of the film itself? The most noticeable difference between Trek VI and its predecessors is its style of direction. The new film is paced very quickly; it has a dark almost operatic tone. Despite having a script littered with conventional Trek humour, this is never allowed to overbalance the film's rather sombre aims. The story was Nimoy's idea and is quite clearly a combined Chernobyl disaster/end of cold war parallel set in space. This does not seem out of place at all and actually serves to give the film a situation that audiences can readily identify with.

The script abounds with quotes from Shakespeare: "Hamlet", "Henry V", and "Richard III" are but a few examples of this. On the whole these are well used, but the most prominent quote about the future being "the undiscovered country" is, in fact, a reference to death (or so it has been claimed) in the play "Hamlet", this may well be a touch of black humour on the part of the writers. The plot is perhaps too predictable, since General Chang is the most obvious villain, while Valeris is the only plausible traitor aboard the Enterprise; he is the best-written Klingon character while she is the only new addition to the Enterprise's complement of officers.

The most verbose scenes are beautifully written, but far too brief. If, most notably, the scenes between Spock and Kirk and Spock and Valeris had been fleshed out, the film's aims would have been clearer. These scenes may have been trimmed for running time and pace considerations. Such was the fate of scenes showing Spock, caught up in the heat of his seven-yearly "Pon Farr" mating cycle, making love to Valeris. Such a sequence would have added even more tension to the revelation that she was the traitor. It's a shame that Paramount feels unable to release a Trek movie longer than 110 minutes (although Trek I was roughly 128 minutes) since there appears to be no discernable reason for this: 'Terminator 2' runs for roughly 136 minutes. Audience concentration span is no excuse for this, as Trek movies, at a guess, attract older audiences than cheap blast-'em-ups like "Star Wars". Maybe with the advent of "director's cut" movies, Paramount will consider re-releasing full-length Trek films on video. This is already happening in the US with the video re-release of a longer version of Trek IV; as Bazza Norman would say, "and why ever not?"

That little moan aside, back to the film. The performances are all very good, especially those of Shatner and Nimoy. George Takei is also good in a longer than usual part as Excelsior's Captain Sulu. David Warner is infinitely better as a Klingon in Trek VI than as a Terran in Trek V, while Christopher Plummer's Chang is grossly underused as what we see of this character in the film is simply outstanding and deserves much more screen-time. I felt that Kim Cattrall was slightly disappointing as Valeris, choosing to play the character more as an android than a Vulcan. She did redeem herself, though, in the superb interrogation/mind-meld scene by bringing just the right mix of fear, anger and defiance to the screen with such intensity.

The plot gets considerable mileage from its assassination attempts and the superb climactic space battle and manages to create incredible excitement; incredible for the fact that these ideas are just so outdated, but enjoyable nonetheless. Just as the second assassination attempt is foiled and all the characters ought by right to be drowning in their own adrenaline, Kirk manages to produce one of those soppy, embarrassing-to-watch speeches about honour and peace; some bloody mistake! Why don't the scriptwriters inject a dose of reality and reconvene the peace conference a day or two later and have Kirk give a less embarrassing and sentimental speech then? This is only a small blemish in an otherwise excellent screenplay. Technically though, the production is almost flawless.

The crew's make-up is amazing considering the cast's age and Shatner and Kelley in particular look much better than the pair of haggard geriatrics they looked like in Trek V. Production design is very good with an excellent set for the Klingon courtroom and redesigned Enterprise and Excelsior bridges looking uncluttered, functional and comfortable too. Hiro Narita's photography (his last film was "The Rocketeer") deserves a mention for giving the Kirk/Chang battle at the end much of its excitement. He uses close-ups more than most action movie directors of photography, which is unusual, but works tremendously well in building up excitement quite subtly, and also results in good shots of the bridge of the Enterprise. As far as the score is concerned, the director originally wanted to remix Holst's Planets, but money in postproduction was short and so this idea was ditched. Based on demo tapes, Cliff Eidelman (a virtual unknown) was chosen. The subtle but intense title track was inspired by Stravinsky's Firebird. His score ought to achieve instant classic status. It smoothly alternates between echoing the film's optimism and its foreboding undertones, with some outstanding battle music and a suitably triumphant sign-off.

No review could be complete without mentioning the exemplary special effects work. The battle was handled well, most memorably when a torpedo flies through the dome of the Enterprise and when the cloaked bird of prey is finally destroyed. A zero-gravity slaughterfest is also very well conceived visually and aided by some gruesome sound effects. The remnant of Praxis identified on Excelsior's main viewer was obviously a very poor matte painting. The explosion is completely unrealistic, confined as it is to one plane, but aesthetically unsurpassable. The shot of the Excelsior surfboarding on the energy wave was worth the price of admission itself.

The link to Trek VII, a Next Generation film, is best described as tenuous, since Worf s grandfather (Kirk and McCoy's defence counsel at their trial) was identified by name only once. After Trek VI though, many people will await the film eagerly.

Trek VI has done well in the US. To date its gross has levelled out at roughly $75m, almost what Martin Scorcese's "Cape Fear" got, so it was one of the strongest Christmas openers. It had the advantage over previous Treks of moving to the less crowded competitive Christmas market, from which it benefited. Interestingly, the film grossed more in its first three days than "Hook" did in its first five and has higher overall takings to date than "Bugsy". It has also garnered two technical Oscar nominations and has topped the UK charts since opening here.

In conclusion, non-Trekkies will find the Rura Penthe scenes slow, but the rest of the film lively and interesting. Trekkies (like myself) will find the film the most enjoyable 1 hour 50 minutes that they'll ever spend with all their clothes on.

Live long and prosper.

JK Fouzder