Sunday, May 3, 2009

Review: Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country

Directed by: Nicholas Meyer
Produced by: Steven-Charles Jaffe & Ralph Winter
Screenplay by: Nicholas Meyer & Denny Martin Flinn
Story by: Leonard Nimoy, Lawrence Konner & Mark Rosenthal
Executive Producer: Leonard Nimoy
Cinematography by: Hiro Narita
Production Designed by: Herman Zimmerman
Edited by: Ronald Roose
Associate Producer: Brooke Brenton
Co-Producer: Marty Hornstein
Music by: Cliff Eidelman

Cast: William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, James Doohan, Walter Koenig, Nichelle Nichols, George Takei, Christopher Plummer, Kim Cattral, Rosanna DeSoto, Kurtwood Smith, Brock Peters, Rene Auberjoinois, Leon Russom, Iman, Michael Dorn, John Schuck, Darryl Henriques, Mark Lenard, Grace Lee Whitney, Jeremy Roberts, Paul Rossilli

1991 / 113min/ Rated PG

When a key Klingon energy production facility explodes, leaving the Empire with only 50 years of life, the Klingons pursuit peace negotiations with the Federation. The U.S.S. Enterprise and crew, only three months from retirement, are grudgingly assigned to escort the Klingon Chancellor to Earth for the negotiations. But when the Klingon flagship is attacked and the chancellor assassinated, Kirk and McCoy are arrested as the only two suspects, leaving Spock and the Enterprise crew to prove their innocence while discovering who is behind the plot to begin an interstellar war.

Serving as a swan song for the original cast as well as a 25th anniversary celebration, The Undiscovered Country hits all the right notes for both occasions. It successfully celebrates Star Trek's 25th anniversary with the beginnings of peace with the Klingons and simultaneously provides a very fitting end for the original cast and characters.

The story is not only very appropriate for the anniversary but also for its era. Star Trek VI essentially predicts the fall of the Soviet Union. Quite fitting, considering that the Klingons were Star Trek's Soviet Union in the 60s.

Cliff Eidelman's ominously dark score sets the tone perfectly during the credits, and as the music crescendos and climaxes, the film starts off with a bang. Literally. In just a matter of seconds, the Star Trek universe as we know it is changed forever. Within a matter of minutes, we've learned that the Klingon Empire is dying, that they are seeking peace with the Federation, and that there are many hard feelings on both sides. After all, this is a cold war that has been going on for many, many years. For these characters, especially Kirk and crew, they've only known the Klingons as their enemy. And letting go of that viewpoint is not going to be easy.

From the outset, director Nicholas Meyer (the genius behind the success of The Wrath of Khan) establishes a much darker tone. This is a different kind of Star Trek movie. A lot is at stake here, and Meyer makes it well known right away. At the same time, Meyer skillfully juggles the darker tone with lighthearted zest and tongue-in-cheek dialog that helps to offset the political drama going on. Meyer doesn't miss an opportunity to give the viewer a moment to relax before immediately kicking up the suspense again. While depicting insightful character analysis of Captain Kirk and his feelings about Klingons and the peace, Meyer never takes his eye off the big picture. This is some very skillful direction.

The final act, as the Enterprise races to stop another assassination, is incredibly suspenseful. Aided by Cliff Eidelman's score (inspired by the The Planets symphony) the suspense keeps you on the edge-of-your seat, with excellent editing as we jump back and forth between Chang gleefully shooting up the Enterprise, Spock and McCoy performing "surgery" on a torpedo, and an assassin prepare to take his shot, it's a quite thrilling finale.

While there are some small plot holes, with some answers falling into place a little too neatly, these things are easily overlooked and don't detract from the experience. There's zest and energy here and the performances are wonderful from top to bottom. William Shatner is great, with Leonard Nimoy and DeForest Kelley both able to move back and forth between drama and small comedy. Christopher Plummer is delightful as Klingon General Chang, the villain of the film. He's so over-the-top as he recites Shakespeare while blowing holes in the Enterprise, and yet you believe it all the way because he is such a brilliant actor. Plummer's eyepiece-wearing Chang is easily one of Trek's top villains.

The performances of the main cast are spot on. You know they're having a good time as they deliver tongue-in-cheek dialog, yet we are caught up entirely in their performances. These are very fitting final performances for this cast.

The cinematography is dark and moody, adding to the suspense. Shots during Kirk and McCoy's escape from Rura Penthe are some of the most beautiful scenic images in all of Star Trek. This movie is incredibly well put together.

Cliff Eidelman's score is top notch. It is very different from any previous Trek score, yet remains true to its origins and maintains the suspense throughout.

I normally don't do this, but I can't go without mentioning the poster. It is probably one of the coolest Star Trek posters out there, and I'm waiting for the day when this poster is topped.

Star Trek VI came at the right time, repairing the damage that The Final Frontier did to the franchise's future. It is a fitting 25th anniversary celebration, while serving as a touching and wonderful send-off for the original crew. As William Shatner delivers his final captain's log featuring the Star Trek monologue while we look at these characters, we know that it is for the last time. The applause at the end is well earned, including the Starship Enterprise's final exit as she sails into the sunset.

1/2 (of 4)


Dave said...

I liked this movie. That said, the members of the crew walking to the front to receive the accolades of the delegates did not set well with seemed to be grandstanding by the crew.

Evie said...

This is my second favorite Trek movie. I loved Christopher Plummer's villain - that guy's a fabulous actor.