'Star Trek' film uses same formulas

By Doug Cummings

Arizona Daily Wildcat

The promotions of "Star Trek Generations" make it clear that it's a movie where the old captain of the Enterprise, James T. Kirk (William Shatner) and the new captain of the Enterprise, Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) team up and beat up the Klingons. However, this fateful meeting doesn't take place until near the end of the movie and when it does, it only seems trite and tremendously anticlimactic and does a great disservice to Kirk and the original series.

Aside from that, the rest of the movie plays like a bloated episode of "Star Trek: the Next Generation."

The story presents Dr. Soran (Malcolm McDowell), a mad scientist who wants to throw himself into a moving time/space energy vortex with the aid of the Klingons. However, in doing so, he will kill millions of people, which is why the Enterprise crew wants to stop him.

The rest of the movie routinely comprises standard "Star Trek" dramatic elements: using an incomplete Enterprise to save a distress call because "it's the only ship available," a renegade group of Klingons, the sacrifice of family life in lieu of a military career, a logical character who struggles with emotions, the destruction of the Enterprise, the death of a major character, etc.

The movie never seems like more than a simple compilation of self-indulgent plot developments. One of the movie's subplots involves the android Data (Brent Spiner) who suddenly decides to incorporate an "emotion chip" into his circuitry. Suddenly, Data is transformed into a laughing fool who cackles from jokes that ran during the first season of the television show. Later, he begs for mercy, and still later, he morosely decides to be decommissioned because he can't handle his feelings. To die-hard fans of the series, Data's antics might be amusing, but to anyone else, his melodrama is ecceedingly tiresome.

The rest of the cast members deliver their usual charismatic performances but the movie doesn't provide them any character development beyond their standard television personas.

With the exception of cinematographer John Alonzo ("Chinatown"), and the state-of-the-art special effects by Lucasfilm's Industrial Light and Magic, virtually everyone involved with the production is leftover from the television series. British director David Carson, whose major claim to fame before this movie was the pilot episode of "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine," films the movie with static closeups associated with small screen aesthetics.

"Star Trek" works best when it forgoes its formulas and challenges its characters with real-life tragedies and emotions ("Star Trek II") or forces them to bounce their own techno-utopian philosophies off of the audience's real world ("Star Trek IV"). While "Star Trek Generations" has isolated moments of character probing and philosophical insight, the bulk of the movie is much more concerned with resurrecting tired plot devices and a misconceived and half-hearted attempt to incorporate the old with the new.

"Star Trek Generations" is showing at Century Park 12, 620-0750.

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