Saturday, June 8, 2013

Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home


  After the semi-cliffhanger of The Search For Spock, there was enough gold left to mine in the Star Trek name to get people in the seats. Paramount rallied the cast and crew of the previous outing to once again, boldly go where no man has gone before... In this case? 1983. That's right. This is a time travel movie. Obviously saving them lots of money setting 90% of the movie in the then-present, the special effects that are on display, look nigh impeccable, leaving plenty of canvas for the intrepid crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise to do their thing. They still do it so well too, the movie rests on the shoulders of their chemistry and dynamic, as usual, but even moreso this time. There are no flashy space battles or snarling villains swearing vengeance upon them. This time? There a probe... and some whales. Humpback whales.

  That's right folks. This movie could have easily been called Star Trek IV: Save the Whales and it wouldn't have made a lick of difference. An alien probe travels across the galaxy to Earth to find out why it no longer hears whale-song. The problem? The energy it's emitting, or whatever, is disabling every electronic thing in it's path. Which is wreaking havoc on starships and entire planets. People are dying in space, all because of this douchebag probe and it's hard-on for whales. Regardless, Kirk and crew in their hijacked Klingon vessel, the H.M.S. Bounty, on their return voyage home to "face the music", as it were, for breaking every rule in the book, and stealing the Enterprise to rescue Spock... discover this probe as it lingers above Earth. The probe is now going even farther, and evaporating all water in the oceans on Earth to find those damn whales.
Problem? Mankind hunted them to extinction in the 21st century.

  Solution? Kirk obviously surmises they must time-warp to the past and... of course, bring two whales with them into the future. Obviously. If that sounds ludicrous to you, don't worry, you're not alone. Even the movie's own characters think its nuts. "Well, that's crazy!" proclaims Doctor McCoy. Of course, when asked if he has a better idea... he doesn't. Neither do we in the face of such an absurd problem. So with time running out, they time warp to the past in search of humpback whales. I won't give away anything else about the plot, but just enough so you know what kind of movie it is. It's a far cry from the dark and growling fare of the past two entries. It's for all intents and purposes... a comedy. A sci-fi comedy. It's lighthearted and fun, but it's biggest strength is the humor. It's actually laugh out loud funny. Of course it helps if you're well versed in Star Trek, but it's a fish out of water story that actually works.

  The problem with The Voyage Home is that it's not much of a Star Trek movie. It's one half comedy, and one half environmental message. It's so blatantly 'save the whales' that it's heavy handed. The entire plot is a 'save the whales' message. It feels beyond preachy, it feels almost silly. Star Trek has always infused some humorous camaraderie into it's outings, but an all out comedy feels natural on one hand, yet awkward on the other.  The upside to this is, it doesn't try to mask it's environmental attitude, in fact it embraces it, which is smart. At it's worst, it's preachy, and I'm thankful it never gets pretentious. Other than that, it's full of little flaws and shit that doesn't make sense at all. For example, in one scene Scotty uses a Macintosh Plus, to compute an equation to create "transparent aluminium"... in about five seconds. Please. Gimme a break.
Not to mention, with the idea of hiding their spaceship in mind... Kirk and co. land it in the middle of central park. Cloaked sure, but you'd think someone would bump into the HUGE friggin spaceship. Yet aside from a single main character, and a duo of late night sanitation workers... nobody does. I'm sure there's a deleted scene somewhere of Mr.Spock point out the illogical nature of it. Tsk.

  If you can take the peripheral bullshit in stride, this is a very very fun movie. It's hollow as all can be really, not saying anything about friendship, or revenge, or mortality, or getting old... just... 'save the whales'. In that respect... it feels like a let down. This movie doesn't have a moving message, or an emotional focal point to it. It's a sci-fi comedy at face value. If you find it fun seeing the crew's banter, wit, and humorous moments, I have no doubt at all that you'll thoroughly enjoy this movie. That's it main strength. This little adventure is undoubtedly fun, but it's very simple, and very two dimensional. If you're okay with that, accepting it on it's own terms, it's even good. It's an enjoyable reunion of much loved characters who are once again tasked with saving the world.

  "We're going to need to transport some Humpbacks, Mr.Scott."

  "Humpbacked... people, Sir?"

  That's the tone and beat of the movie in a nutshell. If that made you laugh, then the movie has more in store for you. I personally find myself readily enjoying this one over and over. It's watchability is incredible.
Yet it's far from the top tier of Trek adventures. Just one of the most fun, if you meet it on it's own terms.

2 comments:

  1. Must be fun going through these films again. I intended to do the same in preparation for Into Darkness, but I couldn't make it happen in time :(

    The Voyage Home is one I'll always have a soft spot for. Very fun, and like you said, incredibly rewatchable. Nice review!

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  2. Thanks man! It is indeed fun. I too wanted to get these in before Into Darkness, alas it was not to be. Regardless, they're all worth seeing again. Thanks for reading and commenting. =]

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