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09.06.21 Neek'd: Star Trek (films)07.12.21 Jesus Christ I'm so blue all the time
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Neek'd: Star Trek (films)

Yes yes, I'm a bit of a trekkie. My TNG list got a bit overwhelming (I didn't end up liking it much on rewatch, probs a 6/10 show overall sorry), so here's something a bit more manageable but equally geeky.
13Jerry Goldsmith
Star Trek V: The Final Frontier


Yeah, this one kinda sucks. While not a godawful film by any stretch, it’s certainly earned its comfortable spot at the bottom of most fans’ rankings. Helmed by William Shatner (jealous of all the time co-star Nimoy spent in the captain’s chair), this one features several insipid narrative and character choices that are frankly baffling coming from anyone as closely involved in the franchise as much as he is. That being said, I have to say I love the brazenness of this film’s concept—finding God. Does it make up for the meandering, cringe-inducing first two acts? No. But ambition is something sorely lacking in this franchise, and it should be celebrated (or at least approved of) when it surfaces. 2.5/5
12Jerry Goldsmith
Star Trek: Insurrection


Despite “First Contact”’s success both critically and financially, the producers somehow decided they should venture back to a less action-oriented story in favor of the moralizing, ensemble-driven “style of the show.” This doesn’t go so well, as we’ve learned that everytime you write a movie like a television episode, it doesn’t go so well (I happen to believe this push-and-pull is correlated to the odd/even Star Trek movie rule). A few interesting twists, a capable villain, and competent direction from Frakes make this a bit more palatable than it could’ve been, but it’s a terribly paced, lifeless film with no discernible characters arcs or meaningful sequences. This is the opposite of First Contact—we doubt these events will last much longer in the crews’ minds as they will in ours. 2.6/5
11Dennis McCarthy
Star Trek: Generations


An interesting exercise in TV writers trying desperately to write a “major motion picture,” Generations serves a strangely forgettable entry for the franchise. Billed as a baton-pass between eras, Kirk’s appearance is shortchanged by his anticlimactic death that leaves all its buildup deflated. The plot itself is overstuffed with sideplots and references, so desperate to appeal to Trekkies that it alienates casual fans. A few attempts to inject “character arcs” feel awkward from writers a show so bereft of them—the death of Picard’s nephew feels stapled on to give him purpose, as hard as Patrick Stewart works to sell it. A few things make this watchable though—the enhanced visuals and cinematography, the desperation of McDowell’s villain sells better than it should, and the sequence of Picard convincing Kirk to leave the Nexus serves a far more interesting mesh of the spirit of both shows than the pitiful climax. This one could’ve done a lot more. 2.9/5
10James Horner
Star Trek III: The Search for Spock


After the success of Khan, the baton was passed to Leonard Nimoy to helm the franchise. Unfortunately, his inexperience as a director somewhat craters the potential of this film to bridge the gap between the sci-fi wonder of TMP and the edgier action of TWOK. Despite some gorgeous work from the technical departments (this film looks stellar), there’s a sluggishness to the blocking, editing, and even the performances that’s so universal it could only be credited to Nimoy’s direction. It manages to be a fun enough ride and somehow manages to make Spock’s return feel mostly earned, its jank narrative decisions and awkward pacing/tone cement it as a weaker entry in the Star Trek cinematic canon. 3.1/5
9Jerry Goldsmith
Star Trek: Nemesis


A more violent left-turn for the franchise than had ever been attempted before, I actually respect a lot of what Nemesis attempted in bringing action cinema to the franchise. It has a lot of the right ideas; a strong villain that directly challenges Picard, a lesser focus on the rambling subplot of various crew members, and a lasting effect on the characters’ lives. But as great as I love the focus and visual design of the film, it is inherently flawed as a Star Trek film—it simply doesn’t understand the franchise’s ideals and world to the depth that would make something like this soar. But that being said, it doesn’t a pretty damn fine job of tearing up what you expect from Trek and taking things in some pretty crazy and memorable directions. And in a franchise this samey—I’ll take what I can get. 3.3/5
8Jerry Goldsmith
Star Trek: The Motion Picture


Rushed into production to take advantage of the recent success of Star Wars, it’s actually remarkable how Star Trek this one really feels. Glacial pacing aside, this is a bona-fide science fiction film, with big ideas, gorgeous visual design, and a solid grip of character in favor of the action/fantasy leanings of the other franchise. It’s of course knee-capped by its runtime (the director himself claimed that the theatrical cut was more of a rushed rough cut), but there’s a very real tension and danger posed by the huge threat—and scope—that V’Ger possesses. It requires perhaps too much patience, but it’s a rewarding and admirable film especially when viewed through the lens of recent franchises crumbling in the wake of fan pressure. 3.4/5
7Michael Giacchino
Star Trek Beyond


Another “back to the TV show”-styled adventure, but they get things better this time around. It’s got zippy pacing, stellar space battles, and some serious energy from director Justin Lin. The shame is that its story is largely secondary, resulting in a few strong turns revolving around Idris Elba’s villain, and it sags unbelievably in its second act as all the crewmates bumble around trying to get back together. But when this one works, it really works. Hopefully we’ll see more of the Kelvin Universe, but if this has to be their last rodeo, at its best, it embodies the best of all generations of Star Trek. And that’s not a bad legacy to leave. 3.9/5
6Cliff Eidelman
Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country


With Nicholas Meyer once more at the helm, we get another treat of a Star Trek film. What makes VI so enjoyable is its intense pacing and drive. There’s always something pushing the story forward, whether it be a surprisingly tense mystery, ratcheting stakes, or a solid parable to contemporary events of the USSR falling. While I wish I could give this a higher ranking, it doesn’t quite stick the landing with a predictable third act. But the intensity of the dark visuals, massive set pieces, and action all proves further that Meyer understood the medium of film far better than any of his television Trek counterparts. 4.1/5
5Michael Giacchino
Star Trek Into Darkness


The rightfully maligned sequel to the pitch-perfect ’09 film, I still find myself defending this film more often than not. For all its bunked marketing, playing right in to fan expectations in the least inventive of ways, I think in most ways it’s a successful film. Tackling titularly “darker” material than the first time around, “Into Darkness” bumped up against the original sequel “Wrath of Khan” while looking deeper into the Federation’s dark side. I still find the plot invigorating up (until it falls apart a bit in the third act with a hokey call-back to TWOK and a dookie of a dues ex machina), but I just love the way it twists and turns knives into these characters, prompting them deeper into desperation for us to learn how they’ve grown. Again, this is largely flawed, but I think since this one has got kickass action setpieces for days and features a pretty slick thriller yarn for the majority of its runtime, I can’t deny it any longer. 4.2/5
4Leonard Rosenman
Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home


Starkly more confident in the director’s chair this time around, Nimoy leads the Enterprise through extremely charted territory (a time-travel plot sending the crew back to the contemporary era, really?) to delivery one of the soundest films the franchise has to offer. While its quality has been well-attested, I’m still surprised it works as well as it does. The stakes back home are terrifyingly well set—the havoc on Earth feels more real here than any of the “world-ending scenarios” they’ve faced yet, and the ambivalence the crew feels towards the uncivilized 1980s culture plays far better than any wide-eyed staring ever could’ve. Pretty much everything works here, even weaker side-plots like Kirk’s romance and the crew’s sideplots through time are still more engaging than they should be. This is an incredible film against all odds, but its faults as a Star Trek film are clear—this is hardly a strange, new world. And we’ve all been here before. 4.2/5
3James Horner
Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan


Hitting the panic button after TMP didn’t live up to studio expectations, Paramount handed less than a third of the budget to writer/director Nicholas Meyer and told him to figure it out—and to his credit, he did. This is a bristling action picture with a much tighter pace and meaner, more personal stakes, that also manages to not lose sight of character moments. Still true to the Original Series, it evoked the more rambunctious elements of the series to great effect. Still, a lot of the character drama and themes concerning obsoletion and purpose lack a throughline in the face of Khan’s arrival, and the third act shows a considerable lack of imagination largely thanks to its restrictive budget. Spock’s death is handled exceptionally well, but feels somewhat toothless in its age thanks to the very title of its sequel. It’s easy to see why this is a fan favorite—but it’s at once too reverent and too repressed to truly take flight. 4.2/5
2Jerry Goldsmith
Star Trek: First Contact


Opting to up the ante in terms of stakes, scale, and story, First Contact managed to be the most Cinematic of the franchise up to this point. Johnathan Frakes proved an adept action director even on first attempt, dancing between tense horror-influenced setpieces and effects and terse action sequences. Picard’s character arc is much more convincing here, and the supporting cast is well-utilized. The premise is actually pretty goddamn clever too, staking out a spot in unused Star Trek canon and fleshing it out as an essential moment in history, reminding the audience at every turn what’s at risk. The only thing holding it back are the same things that hold The Next Generation back—a general toothlessness to the characters and conflicts, talkiness over visual storytelling, and a lack of interesting science fiction plots. But this is a incredible film (with a great villain) that leaves an impact in both the characters and the audience. That’s a winner for me. 4.3/5
1Michael Giacchino
Star Trek


Fine, I’m just gonna admit it. This is one of my favorite goddamn movies. Like ever. I think it’s a perfect action film—one that demands action at every turn from several different iconic characters in ways that challenge them and the way we thought of them. It’s a brilliant origin story, meshing reboot and sequel elements in a Trekky fashion while never getting bogged down with techno gobbledegook. It soars. The action sequences are pulse-pounding, the characters are well-considered, and jesus christ if it doesn’t look stunning doing it. Could it really be considered strong science fiction? Probably not. But it uses brilliant action filmmaking to make you care about characters that lost their flair decades ago, and creates an exciting new mythology for them to play in. 5.0/5
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