A bit of a divider in the Star Trek community, Generations brought my favorite Star Trek characters onto the big screen and did some pretty major...things that are highly controversial. Before I get started, let's watch a really dated trailer.
When I started reviewing this, I thought to myself, where exactly do I rank Generations on my list of Trek movies from best to worst? To be honest, this is the most difficult movie for me to rate because there are some parts I enjoyed and, overall, I really wanted to love this movie… but that's why it’s even more disappointing that Generations face-plants hard into the realm of the odd-numbered Trek movies. I can hear myself saying to those that ask, "Eh, it was ok." It's not the worst, certainly not "good" by any stretch of the imagination - it just holds a rather underwhelming place in Trek continuity.
So, since you're reading this and you've presumably seen the movie, I'm just going to dive in and talk about the things that could have made this a great movie for those of us that adore the Next Gen Cast. Spoilers ahead!
Kirk’s Death – Might as well start with the point everybody brings up when you ask them about this movie. Generations opens in the past, and in the beginning it demonstrates that it had the opportunity to provide some closure around Kirk’s death. If this was how Kirk had died, I think most of us would have been totally on board. Why? Because he would have been taken out saving the Enterprise B and a whole crew full of people.
Instead, we got one of the most frustrating and unsatisfying death scenes a captain of the Enterprise has ever (and hopefully will ever) experience. For those of you that don’t know, Kirk’s death (in which he was shot/stabbed by Soren instead of dying via cascading bridge) was re-written at the last minute due to a leak. This serves as yet another example of an internet leak scaring writers into making a knee-jerk decision that greatly hurt overall story.
Data – there are some points where we start to see Data’s character explored on a deeper level as he continues his quest to become human (since his emotion chip is re-installed and becomes a bit of a plot point when he can't stop Geordi's kidnapping). As an anthropologist, I’ve always been fascinated by how Data learns and grows based on what he observes to be the most significant (and often perplexing) qualities that make us human. In many ways, it should say a lot to us about who we are while we're watching. Unfortunately, there are also points in Generations where they don’t explore this as much as they should or simply use Data as a bit of comic relief while he’s dealing with his emotions ("Oh shit," as they are crashing into the planet, for instance). Don't get me wrong, though, I love the "Tiny little life-forms" bit. /no-shame
Soren - Malcolm Mcdowell is an incredible actor, and he does a pretty good job of at least making sure Generations' main villain is sufficiently threatening, but would it have hurt them to maybe have him get a little more screen-time? The Nexus was a cool concept and had great "unexplained" elements to it. As viewers we could completely understand why Soren wanted to go back to the Nexus so badly.
Lursa and B'Etor - Soren really didn't need these bumbling Klingon sisters to achieve his goals. Couldn't they at least given him some badass Klingons that appeared a bit more threatening? At times they crossed from 'silly and useless' into 'completely inept.' I always liked the portrayal of the Klingons in Star Trek VI and wished that, like the Klingons in that film, the sisters had posed a much more serious threat. I get that we're trying to show two Klingons that have been failures in the empire as a whole, but did this really need to happen?
This part was pretty cool, though. Can't go wrong with a badass Riker moment!
How could it be that these poor excuses for Klingons took down the Enterprise D?!? I'll never forget seeing the saucer section crash sequence in theaters - at least they did a good job of making the crash epic given the special effects at the time. They also did a good job of reminding everyone in the audience that this was a Galaxy Class Starship that carried civilians. When I picked up the Bluray, I noticed that they had added back in the full crash sequence I saw in the theaters, whereas the VHS and DVD versions I had owned much earlier had cut it significantly. Here you can see a bit of the edited (shorter) sequence in action:
Guinan – My long standing theory on Guinan is that she’s a Q or some other being that has observed the happenings in the universe for hundreds (maybe even thousands) of years – explaining both her holistic knowledge, tendency to give plot-driving advice, and her overall calm in the face of serious danger. I realize she’s an El-Aurian (a race of listeners), but since the Q we know and love from Next Gen once said there was much more to her “than could be imagined” I’m pretty certain my Q theory could hold some weight. Here, we see Guinan giving advice in the Nexus, and her overall part in the film is actually relatively solid, but I could have seen her showing up a bit more if we wanted to make her character a driving point in the film.
Picard and Kirk – So, the two captains are eventually united in the Nexus (a Holodeck like setting where we could have seen any number of interesting writing choices) and instead we see poor Picard chase Kirk around while he makes eggs and rides a horse. Picard finally snaps Kirk out of the Nexus and he’s ready to go back and make a difference. Every Trek fan in the universe got excited here because we thought to ourselves, “Yes! Soren is a decent villain, and Kirk is a much better fighter than Picard ever was (I think we’ve seen him punch enough aliens to trust that he’s better at hand-to-hand combat). So, we’re going to see Kirk and Picard team up and kick Soren’s ass!” Unfortunately, we were wrong, and we end up at my first point (in which we get a rather anti-climactic fight and Kirk plummets to his death). Couldn’t he have just gotten a sufficiently epic fight ending with Kirk being shot (or stabbed, per the original plan) when he delivered the line “Actually I am familiar with history Captain, and if I’m not too much mistaken, you’re dead.”
To steal one of my friend's phrases, this movie makes me feel "surround sound disappointment." In summary - I'm not the biggest fan of Generations. I wish I could say more positive things about it, but the enjoyable moments just don't outweigh the rest, particularly due to the treatment around Kirk's death.
What do you think? Love it? Hate it? Let us know in the comments below!