Tuesday, June 29, 2010

1991 - STAR TREK 6: THE UNDISCOVERED COUNTRY, as they say nostalgia ain't what it used to be

The final film with the original Star Trek cast is a letdown.  After five films Paramount probably saw the handwriting on the wall with diminished box office returns and a cast that was probably asking for more money with each successful film.  The studio decided to pull the plug on the series with this shoddy production.

The director of the best film in the original series (The Wrath of Kahn)  Nicholas Meyer was brought in to wrap things up.  Meyer was also co writer of the screenplay and conceived an outer space murder mystery for a plot, with Kirk and McCoy being put on trial for the death of a Klingon ambassador while Spock tries to figure who framed them.

The mystery element was new in the series which had increasingly loaded up the films with comedy.  Meyer had written a few Sherlock Holmes stories so he probably seemed like the right person to incorporate the mystery and science fiction plots.  But the mystery was really uninteresting with everyone pretty much walking around waiting for the next clue to show up.  

Unfortunately by this point the oldster cast had kind of descended into a quasi hammy acting style.  If the audiences wanted to see William Shatner in full overblown expressive mode that's what he gave them.  DeForrest Kelly was equally hammy as the put upon ship's doctor and the rest of the original crew followed suit with similar broad performances.  The acting at one point was so ridiculous that Christopher Plummer showed up as a Shakespeare quoting Klingon captain attempting to match Shatner with an equally over the top performance.  The constant quoting of Shakespeare that was meant to give the story some dramatic importance got pretty stupid.

All of this might have made for an enjoyable final film but Nicholas Meyer directed the film with almost no visual style or pace.  Almost every scene is shot in medium closeups with all the interest of an episode of Dragnet. The film looks very clautrophobic for a story with spaceships flying through space.

The constant jokes about retirement and being "put out to pasture" get tiresome, and even Shatner's overblown acting style can't prop this thing up.  The reassurance of seeing the familiar characters that dates back to their first appearances in the the 1960's show is about the only thing interesting in The Undiscovered County.

A disappointing way to end the first Star Trek film series.

113 minutes.

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