Captain Picard, with the help of a purportedly dead Captain Kirk, must stop a scientist (Dr Tolian Soran) from destroying a star which will result in the death of millions and the destruction of an entire planet.
Star Trek Generations was released in 1994, when Star Trek was at the height of its popularity. To say I was excited about watching this movie was an understatement, but sadly, with the exception of Star Wars: Episode 1, this is the most disappointing film that I’ve ever seen.
It’s not that Generations is a terrible film – indeed it is actually quite ambitious in its story-telling, but Generations is conceptually flawed and a bit dull.
The main problem with the movie is the concept of ‘the nexus’. The nexus is a weird kind of destructive energy ribbon that tears through space. If you enter the nexus then you can live in a kind of nirvana, where all your fantasy’s come true.
The nexus is an intangible notion that does not translate well to the big screen. Furthermore, when Picard decides that he wants to leave the nexus, we are told that he can leave anytime, and go anywhere. This is a major plot hole in the film. Why would Picard return to the point just before Soran fires his rocket into the sun? Wouldn’t it have made more sense to travel back to just before Soran boards the Enterprise?
Conceptually, the film is about how we deal with ageing. All three men, Kirk, Picard and Soran are thinking about and/or seeking immortality in three completely different ways. Picard, grieving over the death of his nephew, realises that his family line will now die out. Soran has lost his family to the Borg and wants nirvana in the nexus. Kirk meanwhile wants to make a difference again and is finding retirement a little dull.
After Cliff Eidelman’s beautiful score for Star Trek VI, the music for Generations feels like a massive step in the wrong direction. Dennis McCarthy’s score is adequate but underwhelming. I find that it is too restrained and the soundtrack feels like a TV score. The main theme lacks power and is understated, the bombast of the Star Trek theme is muted.
David Carson directs this installment and it’s like he’s filming a TV movie. All his shots are medium to close-up shots. There are a lot of talking heads, there is precious little in the way of creative camera positioning or movement. Shots are static and dull, lending a pedestrian feel to the film. Compare this with the recent JJ Abrams movie, which is full of camera movement for a sharp contrast in styles.
Thankfully, the director of photography – John A. Alonzo does a fantastic job on the movie. Photography is warm and filmic, a standout scene is the scene with Patrick Stewart and Marina Sirtis where Picard learns of the death of his nephew.
The acting in the movie is also self indulgent and lack lustre. Shatner and Stewart reportedly got on very well, but their scenes together lack chemistry. Shatner seems to be playing himself rather than Captain Kirk, and I was irked that the woman Kirk was with in the Nexus was not one of Kirk’s established lovers like Carol Marcus or Edith Keeler.
Patrick Stewart seems to be still acting for TV, some of the line deliveries are poor and the dialog needed a polish. Kirk’s death scene is anti-climactic and lacks the emotional impact that the death of Spock had in Star Trek II.
Brent Spiner’s Mr Data has a sub-plot where he receives an emotion chip. Spiner takes real chances with some broad comedy acting that enlivened the film no end. I know that some fans found the comedy to be over the top and annoying, but I felt that it gave the film some much-needed fun. Overall though, the supporting cast are side-lined – a problem that would afflict later movies as well.
Generations was made on the cheap and it shows. Various shots of the Enterprise B are cribbed from Star Trek VI, as is the explosion of the Klingon Bird of Prey. The model effects work is accomplished though the saucer crash sequence is not wholly convincing. It’s quite a primitive element for a film franchise that used to push the boundaries of visual effects technology.
Generations was the fist film to ever have a dedicated web page on the internet to officially publicize a motion picture. The site was a huge success, and was viewed millions of times leading up to the film’s release. Remember, this was at a time when fewer than a million Americans had internet access. The website allowed you to download the movie poster at the huge resolution of 387×480 pixels!
Generations should have been a brilliant film, sadly though, the plot lacks focus and the movie feels like an extended TV episode rather than a movie event. The film suffers from gaping plot holes, badly played characters and a lack of excitement. Star Trek VI acted as a much more dignified swan song for Kirk and the original Star Trek series.
The film feels rushed, with half the crew in the new DS9 uniforms and some in their standard TV uniforms. Reportedly, filming began just ten days after the series finale was made. I think that some of the rush to capitalise on the huge TV success is evident on-screen. A similar problem would afflict The X-Files, which also tried to capitalise on its popularity by transitioning to the big screen.