Reel Matt

This blog started as my movie marathon — watching a movie a day for a whole year — and has continued as a place for me to write reviews about movies, TV, and various other items.



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Star Trek V: The Final Frontier

Film #305


Captain Kirk and his crew must deal with Mr. Spock’s half brother who hijacks the Enterprise for an obsessive search for God.

Year 1, Day 316

BEFORE: Second film of the triple-feature today is Star Trek V: The Final Frontier. Unlike the last three films The Final Frontier should have a more independent storyline that doesn’t directly follow events of the previous films. Unlike the last two films, this is not directed by Leonard Nimoy (portrayer of Spock) but is directed by William Shatner (portrayer of Kirk). Not really that important, but I thought it was an interesting tidbit to point out.

AFTER: Gut instinct is something I believe very strongly in. Many times I am faced with a situation or a choice and asked to explain my reasoning. The thing about instinct is that you can’t really explain it; there’s something indescribable and you can’t quite put it into words. One of the biggest benefits of doing this movie marathon is that I’ve gotten much better at pin-pointing and putting into words that which I cannot describe. I may still stare at a blank screen for too long and go through countless drafts of sentences, but most of the time I’m able to get my point across.

With Star Trek V: The Final Frontier I’m stuck in one of these situations. I really enjoyed this film and think it’s one of the best Trek films I’ve seen so far. So afterwards when I was looking at the critical response, I was shocked to see the film was panned by many, including my go-to critic Roger Ebert who even said of the film, “Of all of the “Star Trek” movies, this is the worst.” Luckily, I think I’m able to voice my opinion quite clearly in fact.

A lot of the criticism seems to be surrounding the general structure of the film with the first and last acts being specifically called out by Ebert. I must admit that I do have a minor problem with the ending. I think it is too direct and answers more questions than it should, but also poses many more questions about the logistics of the film (why and how are these events happening). But by the end, I had been through so much good and entertaining scenes that it didn’t matter as much; I was more accepting of these flaws.

So why did I find the beginning so catchy? If we look back to earlier today and Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home my biggest compliment for the film was it’s exploration of bigger-ticket issues; the real meat of what the science-fiction genre can do. This time instead of life and death, the big theme is that of the meaning of life: where did we come from and why are we here? Well The Final Frontier continued with this but also brought up the energy level a bit, something that was missing from its predecessor. The scenes in the beginning - Sybok (Laurence Luckinbill) taking three diplomats hostage and the Enterprise crew on shore leave - which Ebert among others described as, “pointless” and the “Row, row, row your boat” scene in particular as “silly and awkwardly written”. This is where that gut instinct comes into play. Because I enjoyed these scenes and found them to be great displays of character, the rest of the film fell into place for me. For someone like Ebert who didn’t find those scenes amusing and a great setup, it makes sense why the rest of the film suffered.

But I think Shatner set out to do something great and he met that goal. He wanted to show who these characters are and place them in a truly Star Trek-esque environment. Kirk is this bold daredevil who hides his fear, Spock is the logical yet devoted friend, whereas Bones (DeForest Kelley) is the troubled friend and confronts his fear constantly, often combating it with sarcastic remarks. For me, Star Trek V: The Final Frontier ranks among my most favorite, right up there with The Wrath of Khan. Be aware though that many people do not like the film as much as I. If you’re looking for an entertaining, semi-thought-provoking, and lighthearted Star Trek film though, I think this definitely qualifies.

RATING: 4 out of 5