Directed by David Carson
Seventy-eight years ago, an energy ribbon raced through our quadrant destroying refugee ships and taking the life of Captain James T. Kirk (William Shatner). Now the El-Aurian scientist Tolian Soran (Malcolm McDowell) who has spent all that time figuring a way back in is about to enact his plan which will destroy millions of lives and hand a weapon of immense destructive power to Klingons bent on retaking the empire. Now the crew of the current USS Enterprise must stop him with the aid of Captain Kirk who has been trapped inside the ribbon since he was presumed dead.
Generations is not a bad movie. The plot is pretty Star Trek. The film touches on duty and kind of touches on spirituality. Its message is also about not living in the past and how destructive that can be. The film discusses bittersweet endings when Kirk jumps with the horse. He realizes that it is no longer exciting to him. The character realizes he can no longer go back to what was and he must move forward.
This movie asked some big questions and they do a fair enough job on answering them. Picard (Patrick Stewart) is confronted with mortality in the form of the death of his brother Robert and nephew René. It’s implied he even felt a duty to continue the family line but had pawned that duty off on his brother and now that his brother is deceased, he is experiencing guilt over that.
Guinan (Whoopi Goldberg) should have played a bigger role in this plot because of her connection to Soran (same species and both arriving in this quadrant at the same time on the same ship) but she is more of a plot device than an active participant. She just spouts some hippie gobbledygook at assorted points to keep things moving. In total I have always felt Guinan was a bit of a wasted character in the series. This goes all the way back to when she first encountered the entity Q (in “Q Who?”) with the rest of the crew. Q had been encountered before but it was the first time both were on screen together. There were hints of darker aspects to her character at the time that were never really explored or expanded upon, and I had hoped this movie would give her some kind of redemption in that area but nothing. She remained little different than a human.
I enjoyed the subplot of Data (Brent Spiner) finally implanting the emotion chip. As a fan of the show you wanted him to get closer to human but here it all came off a bit as filler. It felt as if they saw what they had with the script and decided they needed to pad things out a little bit. It does however discuss emotions and how we must learn to deal with them rather than let them control us. That is a very Star Trek thing. The emotion chip plot also helps Picard deal with his own feelings on the death of his brother and nephew. They get points for that but isn’t that what Counselor Troi (Marina Sirtis) is for?
Soran is a good Star Trek villain. McDowall chews up the scenes and enjoys himself in the role as all of his best predecessors had. Lursa (Barbara March) and B’Etor (Gwynyth Walsh), the Klingons to whom Soran is giving the trilithium he developed, never came off as a serious threat in their appearances. I am talking from TNG to this. They were almost always comedic and here is not much different. They should have been taken more seriously by the writers. They are Klingons and not Ferengi after all.
The crash of the saucer section of Enterprise-D is definitely equal to the destruction of the original USS Enterprise in excitement and shock value. Much like the first, the ship was as much of a character as anyone on the bridge and it did hit you hard when the drive section exploded, and the saucer section crashed into the surface.
The plot for Generations is a bold plot. An alien scientist is willing to enact planetary destruction in order to achieve his goals. Where it falls short is that this planetary destruction is a planet where we never get to see the aliens nor is it a species we are even familiar with previously. You are invested but not enough. Give it some stakes for their universe. There are dozens of alien species that appear regularly in Star Trek. Pick one.
The special effects are mid-tier for the era in which it was made. They are not too bad, but they are not the best on screen. The 90s were a dark time for movie special effects in my opinion. For the most part they just did not look all that good. It was a time between the high use of CGI and the use of more old school effects processes. Those crafting the effects just did not know how to balance the two. I am not sure if they were in love with her new toys and going above what could actually be done or what.
The death of Kirk is quite possibly the worst death of any character ever. Captain Kirk deserved better. He should have either died in a blaze of glory or survived by the skin of his teeth and gone off into the sunset. The character is an icon and his death was extremely weak. And his participation in the events of the end of the movie felt forced. It always struck me that Picard could have done what he needed to do without any help. He could have left the ribbon earlier and popped out closer to the launch device. Instead he popped out with Captain Kirk about as far as you could get from the weapon without being outside of the shield. Kirk was there to give fans of the old series a reason to stick around until the end. It might have been better if Kirk had died in the deflector control room. I understand that the death of Kirk was to tell fans they were not getting any more movies with the original crew, but this was handled poorly.
One could overlook the low budget if the death of Kirk had not been so bad. In the Star Trek universe, he is a legendary character and in science fiction he is iconic but instead of giving him a good sendoff he just fell down. He died like we were warned that lady in the Medic Alert commercials would.
Generations is not a bad Star Trek movie. It is a Star Trek style plot that addresses big questions, but it is also a hand off film and that is in part where it falls short. They try to hand off the movies from Kirk to Picard. They treated the plot as a handoff plot and not a Star Trek film and made decisions based on that. That was a mistake. They wanted to make absolutely clear and sure that there was no going back EVER.
Generations is not the best of the series. It was a good start. I think the issues could have been overcome with one more draft and an improved budget along with a better death for Kirk. That really ruined it all. You will enjoy it, but you will feel it is lacking something.