Monday, 24 June 2013

Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986)

This was the first Star Trek movie I saw at the cinema, and to top that I think I saw it whilst in the US of A too. So the story continues from where it left of in 'The Search for Spock' with Nimoy again at the helm. What can one say about this Trek outing, it certainly took a different route and clearly went for a more comedic approach. I believe this was the first movie to be set on Earth in the present day (at the time, 1986), I think that might also count for the TV series too.

Was this the right approach? well maybe, I can't deny that the film is very entertaining with some well crafted family fun moments that make all the veteran actors even more endearing in their now historical roles. How can anyone fail to love these guys? look at Spock in his hippy outfit...hilarious right?...right?!! Quite literately old age pensioners in space (with Shatner and Doohan getting fatter by the sequel and Koenig's hair piece becoming more obvious) and still saving the Earth, what a team! So yes kudos for the alternate direction and some lovely amusing moments which can't fail to make you smile but...

On the other hand did this film really do much to bolster Star Treks sci-fi rankings within the sci-fi hall of fame? I'm not so sure really, we all know Star Trek has that little niche of semi-serious logical sci-fi mixed with blatant fantasy but for me this plot just took one step too far. There is really only so far you can go before you have to step back and say hold on, and I think the whales went over that mark.

Earth is in trouble (again), oh geez! A weird object in space that looks like a black cylinder connected to a football by a beam of intense white light is headed to Earth. Note the rather blatant '2001' obelisk clone conveniently changed to a cylinder...well that's what I think. Unsurprisingly this foreign object is draining everything of its power as they usually do. When in orbit around the Earth the object knocks out the global power grid and starts tearing the planets weather system apart...inadvertently. This alien thing is seemingly calling to humpback whales which are currently extinct in the year 2286 so the ageing crew simply decide to use a time warp into the past to casually pick up some humpback whales and bounce back to the their present before anyone knew they were there.

Now is it me or is this premise just a tad beyond the realms of a reasonably sensible film? The last film saw a main character resurrected because they needed to keep the franchise going after the surprise blockbuster and now they can jump through time to fix problems...with whales, these guys can't be beaten!
The story is indeed an ingenious creation (they do tend to come across a lot of unknown energy sapping problems don't they), a good message about the environment and endangered species but for me the time travel thing just never sat well. Its too convenient and renders the Enterprise crew almost insurmountable in any given situation. Problem? well we'll just pop back in time with a time warp and hocus pocus every things gonna be OK. Don't even get me started on how they managed to somehow transport these massive whales in massive tanks of seawater...Jesus!

All that aside its a completely new breathe of fresh air to have the film set almost entirely on a planet surface, especially our own. This does infact render special effects almost obsolete for most of the film...almost. Being set on present day Earth (1986) Nimoy was able to do a lot more without worrying about the confines of space limitations and real science. This movie really felt like a far out comedic fantasy where anything goes and Earthbound visual gags were a tour de force. Naturally being set in the 80's you can't not have a gag utilising a stereotypical 80's punk...that's virtually an obligation.

Alas there are still many many typically nasty Star Trek bluescreen shots, hokey sets, some hideously obvious whale footage crowbarred in and pretty obvious matte paintings. On the other hand you do still get a solid array of decent looking starship models and the ever lovely Earth Spacedock. We also get to see much more interior of a Klingon Bird-of-Prey ship which up to this point had never really been explored much. On the whole I did actually like the misty atmosphere of the ship, the dark green colour palette set against various red LED panel lights, it looked mean and aggressive.

I can see why this did well upon release as its a fun film with a good message and happy ending. True it does feel like a long tourism advert for San Francisco and the humorous side makes the entire feature come across like something as daft as 'Crocodile space'. For me the plot has gone from generic in the last two films to completely outlandish in this film, such a sweeping change in concepts and tone! much suspension of disbelief required here.

Yet much like the previous two films I neither overly dislike or overly like this fourth effort. Its a movie of its time, I accept it for what it is and the movie itself knows what its aiming for, so to that degree I can't really moan. It is a typical Star Trek plot...but one of the more stupid plots, the classic TV series always did have good and bad plots. I can't really score this very high because apart from the childish funny moments that are indeed sweet the rest is pure dodgy hokem that still doesn't really look any better than the last two movies (the original still looking the best at this point).