Friday, May 1, 2009

Review: Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home

Directed by: Leonard Nimoy
Produced by: Harve Bennett
Screenplay by: Steve Meerson, Peter Krikes, Harve Bennett & Nicholas Meyer
Story by: Leonard Nimoy & Harve Bennett
Executive Producer: Ralph Winter
Cinematography by: Don Peterman, A.S.C.
Edited by: Peter E. Berger
Music by: Leonard Rosenman

Cast: William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, James Doohan, George Takei, Walter Koenig, Nichelle Nichols, Catherine Hicks, Mark Lenard, Jane Wyatt, Brock Peters, Robert Ellenstein, John Schuck, Scott DeVenney, Majel Barrett, Robin Curtis

1986 / 119min / Rated PG

The crew of the Enterprise make their way home in their captured Klingon ship to face the consequences of their actions in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock. But when an alien probe sends destructive signals to Earth, causing critical damage to the planet, Admiral Kirk, Spock and crew discover that the only way to save Earth is to travel back in time to acquire a pair of humpback whales to bring them back to the 23rd century to communicate with the probe.

Just reading the brief synopsis would make you wonder that, besides being Star Trek, how this movie ever got made. But the results are marvelously fun and hilarious, turning Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home into the franchise's most financial successful and mainstream film.

A lot of that success is that this is a fish-out-of-water story, pardon the pun. The crew of the Enterprise is thrown into situations where they are in way over the heads as they travel the streets of San Francisco, trying to find directions to a naval base, obtain transparent aluminum that hasn't been invented yet, and woo a marine biologist into providing information on the humpback whales under her care.

The crew breaks into groups to find the various materials needed to return to the future successfully. The best of these groups is, quite naturally, Kirk and Spock as they encounter Dr. Gillian Taylor (Catherine Hicks) and two humpback whales, George and Gracie. Shatner and Nimoy are great in their respective roles as Kirk and Spock, with Nimoy able to infuse Spock with more humor than we have previously seen.

Most importantly, however, is the arc Spock has throughout the film. At the film's outset, Spock fails to comprehend why his friends sacrificed everything to save him. He views it as illogical, and the only reason he is traveling to Earth with them is because they are his shipmates and to offer testimony at their court martial. But at film's end, Spock stands beside them because they are his friends and it is the human thing to do. It's the most growth any character has had in any of the Star Trek films to-date. The results are Nimoy's finest performance as Spock, who tries to deal not only with the rebuilding of his mind, trying to find the balance between being Vulcan and human, but also, amusingly, how to handle cursing.

The performances from the entire cast are wonderful, particularly the main cast as they fumble from one awkward moment to another as they try to make by in 1986 San Francisco. It's obvious that these people are having a lot of fun, and it makes for very enjoyable performances.

There is no villain, only an object that serves as a plot device that leads to the characters traveling back in time to solve the problem. There really isn't much in the way of plot, but that's insignificant considering it's the characterizations But the focus isn't on the problem or the solution, it's on the people we have come to know and love over the years.

Leonard Rosenman's score is a mixed bag. While the theme is wonderful, much of his underscore is rather forgettable and does not match previously Trek scores. The highlights of his score are found in both the presentation of the main theme at the beginning and end, but the only cue of note is during the hospital chase scene in the middle of the film. Otherwise, Rosenman's score is rather hard to listen to, despite having been nominated for an Academy Award.

The cinematography, particularly of the whales, is top-notch, and the sequence of the bird-of-prey flying under the Golden Gate bridge and crashing in San Francisco Bay is quite fun to watch.

I can't let the screenplay go without mentioning. The writing is wonderful, and the dialog is fresh and witty. Also of worthy note is Leonard Nimoy's direction. Nimoy's direction of The Search for Spock was strong, but rather uneven at points. By The Voyage Home, it's obvious that Nimoy is very much at home in front of and behind the camera. He infuses the movie with so much fun and energy that it's hard to imagine The Voyage Home being equally good under the helm of someone else.

The Voyage Home might be thin in story, but that doesn't matter. It's the characters who carry this adventure, and the humor and energy that is brought forth is quite remarkable, giving Star Trek it's most light-hearted and fun outing.

1/2 (of 4)


Dave said...

This is my favorite Star Trek movie. I love its humor.

Evie said...

This is the movie that finally sparked my interest in the Star Trek franchise. The humor was great.

The score may not have been consistently good, but the track behind the hospital chase scene is well done. I think you used to love that part for the music as much as for the visual impact and story.