Rental Corner: “Star Trek IV” whale of a fun tale
I feel there’s something that needs to commented about Leonard Nimoy and his directorial debut with “Star Trek III”. Compared to Nicholas Meyer who directed “Wrath of Khan,” its strange to see someone who had no idea what Star Trek was about make a great sequel. Nimoy’s take is much different retaining the B-movie feel of the original series while feeling contemporary. “Search for Spock” was a good attempt but lacked focus under so many different elements that it came off as a string of ideas than rather a single narrative. While “Search” still had some legs to keep it enjoyable, all that gets fixed in “The Voyage Home.”
William Shatner returns as Captain James T. Kirk as him and his crew try to return to Earth after their last adventure but find out that a giant alien probe that looks like a Cuban cigar with a disco ball attached to is destroying the Earth. Its revealed the probe is trying to make contact with humpback whales but unfortunately the giant mammals have been extinct for years. The logical solution; go back in time to the 21st century, get some whales and head back to the future. Sounds complex and really hair-brained but somehow all that is made “logical.”
Much like “Explorers” and “Real Genius,” it takes what could have been a really ridiculous idea and make it very plausible. Most of the time, we get to see how they are able to figure out a way to transport the marine creatures and doesn’t skip over any scientific beats. They even go as far to explain an extremely durable form of glass that won’t be invented (yet it was in 2009…scary) is the solution to keeping them in the ship. Though if I had to nitpick, I’m still a little concerned about “leg room” for the whales the tank is only big enough to hold them but I can let is slide seeing its a one trip ordeal.
The biggest highlight of “Voyage Home” is seeing the Enterprise crew in modern day 1986. Its the typical fish out of water routine but lives up to potential. Instead of Back to the Future where someone from out current time is looking at the past, we get people from the future seeing our current time (or past in this case) and making commentary cracks about daily life like the usage of money, our limited technology and so forth. This widens the bar for many jokes and scenes that work really well. But in a way, I do feel like there could have been more in like maybe Spock watching “Stand By Me” in a theater and trying to understand the emotion of the film or Sulu exploring Chinatown. There’s open possibilities that get limited because of the story and motivation but at least it knows when to stop and deliver a humorous jab at 1980s society.
If there was one problem I did have with it, or possible a few, its that while the story is plausible yet far fetched, the pacing again is very laid back and lacks a strong conflict. Which is not a bad thing but it makes you wish there was some way this entry was more powerful and had stronger elements. For example, there’s a doctor played by Catherine Hicks that looks after a pair of whales that Kirk and Spock eye at but is too attached to the gentle giants. This could have been a great use of an obstacle but her character feels somewhat interesting. When Kirk explains that he is from the future, we don’t get a strong sense of wither he believes him or not and most of the time Hicks’ character feels confused and annoyed. In fact, a lot of the people they come across in this movie feel a tad cut-out and not so developed. Maybe it has to due with how there’s so much focus on the Enterprise crew and their mission that it makes the 1986 dwellers of San Francisco feel more like plot elements and less like civilians. They only serves as devices to get the crew to obtain things like money or as a gag once in a while.
On top of that, it really takes the message of endangered species to a conventional level. The idea of saving animals from extinction is something that could have ended up as too preachy but thankfully they don’t go that road. At times, it does a feel like obvious considering they show footage of hunters killing whales and even a short encounter with some at sea. But I wouldn’t say its pushes it too much. It plays out to a point where it fits in with the story without being the focus. Come to think of it, what kind of conversation would an alien want with whales? There are some things about this movie that really boggle the mind. For a set up like that, you think it would become this big moment at the end but without giving too much away, it happens without flare. Even the way they time travel to 1986 is a little questionable. Maybe its because I’m not a big Trekker but there has to be a more reasonable way than warp speeding into the sun. What if they go too far and end up in the 1800s? How else will they know the amount of warp speed to get the date?
Perhaps I’m already thinking too deep but as a whole “Voyage Home” is a good entry. The only reason to see this film is for these fish out of water characters interacting with modern day. Its not a bad movie and its certainly a good entry but there is some room for improvement here in spots. Nothing too bad just a little more expansion with the Enterprise crew in modern times and perhaps some things better explained. On its own, its a rather enjoyable entry with surprisingly good comedy. A good example is when Kirk and Spock try to ask the Hicks character out for dinner and likes Italian. Seeing Vulcans can’t lie, Spock dejects like Kirk tries to help. Moments like that add to the Enterprise characters as genuine people with flaws.
But in hindsight, maybe that’s what Leonard Nimoy was trying to convey here. That we as people have flaws that we make us a part of what we are. There’s a running theme about communication and how it can be misinterpreted or fixed in the long run. From Spock not understanding a question about emotion to Scotty trying to speak to a Mac computer, its all about how we interact with each other and in doing so, understand more of our surroundings and where we are. Perhaps that is the heart to “Voyage Home.” Its not just seeing these familiar characters in the past but more how they interact with it. Truly that makes this one a worthy sequel that is not to be skipped. Live long and prosper…
Posted on March 1, 2015, in Rental Corner and tagged 1986, Gene Roddenberry, Kirk, Leonard Nimoy, Spock, Star Trek, Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, Time Travel, Whales, William Shatner. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.