On movie review site, Rotten Tomatoes, Star Trek (2009) scores highest of all the cinematic treks. Rotten Tomatoes is an aggregator site which compiles everyday user reviews with professional critical analysis. It’s good to visit before plunking down cash at the multiplex or renting from iTunes, Redbox, Google Play or Netflix. There are now 12 Star Trek feature films – 6 starring the original cast – 4 featuring the Next Generation cast – and 2 with actors recast as Captain Kirk (Chris Pine), Spock (Zachary Quinto) and the rest. How does Captain Kirk and Captain Picard measure up on Rotten Tomatoes?
Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979) – Score 45%
Directed by Robert Wise (The Haunting) and reuniting the cast from the original 1966 TV show – William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, Deforest Kelley, Nichelle Nichols, Walter Koenig and George Takei – the big screen effort is a contradiction in cinema terms. Though awash with spectacular sets, costumes and FX, the film seems to keep both the characters on screen – and the audience – at arm’s length. This may have been an intentional or subliminal theme, afterall, Spock and the rest haven’t been working together for years. When they must band together to fight the rampaging thing called V’ger, a little rekindling of the chemistry is definitely required.
Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan (1982) – Score 90%
Khaaaaaaaan! It’s the line most associated with this Nicholas Meyer directed flick, and perhaps as popular as other taglines like Beam me up, Scotty or Live long and prosper. Khan was played by the charismatic Ricardo Montalban – TV’s Mr. Rourke of Fantasy Island fame. There’s a plethora of reasons why STII is so popular, even favorite among trekkers, but chief among them is the powerful performance from Montalban. Benedict Cumberbatch plays the role in 2013’s Into Darkness, and while serviceable, and even fun, his portrayal can’t touch the original Khan.
Star Trek III: The Search For Spock (1984) – Score 78%
Spock is back – well, mostly. It’s a rare and special film where the title character doesn’t truly appear till the final scenes, but that’s what makes STIII so engaging. Still, compared with its predecessor, the love for it is dimmer. Leonard Nimoy helmed the movie and one can say that his dual role of director and actor – as brief as it was – may have limited the care and feeding of this cinematic beast. Note to Taxi fans: Christopher Lloyd, the Reverend Jim himself, plays head Klingon Kruge. He’s not the most villainous of the Trek big baddies, but he’s definitely the quirkiest.
Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986) – Score 85%
You can’t go home again? Not for Captain’s Kirk crew! They not only do so, they travel in spectacular, albeit risky fashion. After the Enterprise herself is sacrificed in the previous entry, Kirk, Spock, McCoy and the rest time warp back to the hip 1980’s. Their mission? Bring back a few whales – yes, those giants of the ocean. Directed again by Nimoy, this in all respects is the lightest, even most joyous of space treking tales. There’s no villain – save maybe bad future ecology. It’s hands down the funniest film entry of them all.
Star Trek V: The Final Frontier (1989) – Score 21%
What does God need with a starship? Kirk fires off this line to the super baddie at the film’s conclusion, so you basically get an idea of the tone of this ambitious, if off kilter 5th installment. William Shatner directed this weird romp – and provided story material – like his buddy Leonard Nimoy had in the last two outings, but sadly, the reception wasn’t quite the same. Though bolstered by the solid actor Laurence Luckinbill as Sybok, the tale is hampered by a muddled narrative focus and cheap looking FX and production values. Note: For real fans and collectors, the blu-ray release looks worlds better than the DVD or even when it’s broadcast on TV.
Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (1991) – Score 83%
The Klingons make a serious, yet fun appearance here, in perhaps the most political oriented entry. Writer Leonard Nimoy is on record saying he got the idea for this after witnessing the fall of the former Soviet Union. The Klingon Empire becomes the stand in for the Russians and Kirk and General Chang’s face off evoke the tension of the cold war between the USA and the USSR. Christopher Plummer as Chang delights in his deviltry. Nicholas Meyer returns to the director’s chair, which results in an adventure for both the inquisitive mind and action loving spirit.
Star Trek: Generations (1994) – Score 47%
The passing of the historical and creative baton is realized here in polished style. Kirk, Scotty (James Doohan) and Chekov give way to The Next Generation alumni of Captain Picard (Patrick Stewart), Data (Brent Spiner) and Jonathan Frake’s Riker. Director David Carson makes good use of the upgraded TV sets and offers up some new eye candy like Stellar Cartography. While it doesn’t rank up there with Wrath of Khan or the forthcoming Borg buffet, ST: First Contact, Generations utilizes no less than three villains in the self serving Soran (Malcolm McDowell) and delightfully decadent Klingon Duras sisters to great effect. While no masterpiece, it seems to grow on one after repeated viewings.
Star Trek: First Contact (1996) – Score 92%
I am the beginning. The end. The one who is many. I am the Borg. The one and only Borg Queen, played by South African actress Alice Krige (Stephen King’s Sleepwalkers), is a primary reason this feature film entertains so well. It comes in 2nd best rated on Rotten Tomatoes. In TNG’s 2nd season episode, Q-Who, we met the Borg – courtesy of the clownish demi-god, Q. This cybernetic race scours the galaxy like a band of tech hungry zombie geeks. Jonathan Frakes directed this dark blockbuster, and while the parallel story of Riker, Troi and LaForge coaxing the drunkard Zephram Cochrane into action is compelling, the seduction of Data by the Queen and reuniting with her beloved Locutus (Picard) is the story we’ve come to see. The Borg are such a universal crowd pleaser – like The Walking Dead with blinking lights. They were covered mightily during ST: Voyager’s television run, and will no doubt invade the big screen again someday. Resistance is futile.
Star Trek: Insurrection (1998) – Score 55%
Like a warp powered fairy tale or Ponce de Leon’s search for a fountain of youth, this 3rd Next Generation movie feels like a lost and overlong episode. There’s a great, screeching villain played by Oscar winner F. Murray Abraham (Amadeus), and an intriguing mystery, but the payoff and ultimate stakes are far more TV centric than big budget box office fodder. Look for a few hilarious scenes as Starfleet’s finest get ‘younger’ from the planet’s deaging radiation – Worf suffering through a bout of acne alongside Beverly and Troi’s breasts getting perkier by the hour qualify for must see chuckles.
Star Trek: Nemesis (2002) – Score 37%
Above all else, this movie is worthy for introducing many to one of the hottest and most in demand actors working today, Tom Hardy, whose first Hollywood flick was a small role in Black Hawk Down. Hardy plays a clone of Captain Picard, enmeshed in Romulan politcs. Though he’s hindered a bit by some dopey plotting, convenient alien social structure and over the top dialogue, Hardy is an actor who always commands the screen. Tom Hardy will be the new Mad Max – taking over for Mel Gibson. Nemesis was helmed by British director Stuart Baird (Executive Decision), and it’s said that while filming, Baird caused tension by confusing characters with one another – frustrating some of the actors.
Star Trek (2009) – Score 95%
It was a 7 year gap, but well worth the wait. J.J. Abram’s big budget bonanza solidified Star Trek as a huge cinematic draw – as long as it was given enough money, time and talent. Starring Chris Pine as the new Kirk, Zach Quinto as Spock and Karl Urban as Dr. Leonard ‘Bones’ McCoy, the movie satisfies most hardcore fans, while opening the door up for new ones. This one scores highest of all the Treks on Rotten Tomatoes and managed to smoothly steer the franchise into another entry four years later.
Star Trek: Into Darkness (2013) – Score 87%
We’re aging, Jim. The Enterprise crew are aging once again – albeit a little slower this time. With four years between each big screen outing now, the fans must wait longer and see their heroes and heroines just a tad more weather beaten come the film’s release. But it’s OK, all that jarring CGI eye candy distracts with gleam and glee. With British thespian Benedict Cumberbatch (The Hobbitt: The Desolation of Smaug) fleshing out a new kind of Khan, and Spock and Uhura’s romantic relationship rocking on into stormy territory, this one has something for every fan, new, old or merely confused.