There is a joke amongst Trek fans that all the odd-numbered Star Trek movies are inferior to their even-numbered counterparts. Yes, some of the movies are better than others, but it’s not an exact science. What often comes up though, is that Star Trek V: The Final Frontier is the worst of the Trek films. I think that’s a rather harsh label that’s been slapped on the film. To try it and lift from the intergalactic mire, I’m going to tell you why it’s definitely NOT the worst.
What’s it all about?
The film takes place shortly after the events of Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. The plot revolves around a renegade Vulcan called Sybok, who is searching for God in the centre of the galaxy. Ok, so the premise doesn’t sound that exciting but bear with me.
Sybok is actually Spock’s half-brother. In a ruse to get his hands on a starship, he takes human, Klingon and Romulan diplomats’ hostage on a planet called Nimbus III. Kirk and the crew of the Enterprise are sent there to rescue them, but Sybok has the ability to relieve innermost pain through a mind-meld. The process then renders the hostages and crew submissive. Apart from Spock and Kirk. They end up doing a deal and taking Sybok to the mysterious planet, but it turns out that God isn’t there. It’s just an entity that tries to prevent them from leaving the planet. They are also being followed by a Klingon ship, which inevitably saves the day.
Shaken, but not stirred
You may be thinking that it all sounds a bit over-the-top. I think that is partly true. A lot of that has to do with the fact that William Shatner both wrote the original idea and directed the film. After the success of the previous two films – that Leonard Nimoy directed – I suspect that Bill had a point to prove. And it’s not as if Mr Shatner has ever over-done anything, has it? A-hem.
Anyway, looking past the suspect plot, the cast is pretty solid. It features the entire Enterprise crew from the previous films, along with legendary actor, David Warner. Sean Connery was initially contacted for the role of Sybok but was busy with Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. Instead, lesser-known actor Lawrence Luckinbill got the job. Still, they named the mysterious planet Sha Ka Ree in his honour, which is cool. Let’s look at what makes this film good.
First off, the bond and chemistry between the characters are superb. Although they’ve had twenty-five years to get it right, Shatner managed to pull off fine moments. Particularly brilliant is the jailbreak scene between McCoy; Shatner and Spock on Nimbus III. Just the right amount of humour combined with some great lines hits the spot. The final scene between the three of them by the fire is also magical. If ever there should have been a final franchise send-off for the three of them, that should have been it. The scene where Sybok tries to brainwash Kirk; McCoy and Spock are also brilliantly done. The atmosphere of the scene is done to perfection, as is the acting. Huge credit to Shatner for acting and directing a truly spellbinding piece of cinema.
The raw human emotion and ethical philosophy that is core to Star Trek ooze out of the screen. These moments are what makes this film special. There is plenty of them peppered throughout the film. This is something that has sadly been lost on the most recent Trek films, more on that later. Lawrence Luckinbill’s acting also deserves a lot of credit. He delivers the villain role with presence and precision but brings an air of calm collectiveness that makes it more sinister than it should be.
William Shatner’s inspiration for the story was Christian TV evangelists and how they end up getting rich from people’s fears. That’s what makes Sybok such an interesting character. He believes he is on a noble cause, which inevitably makes him do some evil things. But he soon comes to the realisation that he himself has been duped into believing something that isn’t what he thinks it is. It’s an interesting concept to explore, but perhaps a little too deep for a movie that needs to appeal to the wider public as well as core Trek fans. Part of the films commercial failure was that Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home was such a success, that this had to blow it out the water, and it didn’t.
Why it’s worth a watch
It’s unfair to blame the story or direction. There were many factors in play that blighted the film from the very start. Firstly, budgets and time schedules overran. There was also a writer’s guild and drivers’ strike and probably most damming was Industrial Light and Magic’s unavailability. The special effects firm had handled the previous three Trek movies but were too busy making Ghostbusters to help. This left the production team scrambling around for alternatives.
When the studio demanded budget cuts the end result was, well, pretty poor in comparison. Some scenes look ok, but the ‘God’ scene at the climax of the movie is pretty laughable. But we can’t hold that against them as a lot of that stuff was out of their control. Because of this, I think a lot of the film’s critics need to take a step back, ignore the questionable special effects, and look at the story. Look at the character interactions. And look at the social and philosophical points the film is trying to make. If they want to point a finger at bad Trek films, take a look at the three J.J Abrams Kelvin timeline films. They are all terrible, and all equally so. But more on that another time.
Star Trek V: The Final Frontier is worth another watch. Yes, it has some dodgy effects and less action, but it’s pure Star Trek. And ultimately, that’s what we want from a Star Trek movie.
Thanks for reading our article on why Star Trek V: The Final Frontier isn’t the worst Star Trek movie. Do you agree or disagree with our points or have anything to add? If so, leave us a comment below.
More of our Star Trek articles HERE.
Read IMDB information on Star Trek V: The Final Frontier HERE.
Jungle Cruise – Review
Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt swing in with force in Disney’s new Jungle Cruise. And while the movie has fun callbacks to the Disney Park ride and a clever plot, if this movie is trying to be the next Pirates of the Caribbean, it falls short. Here’s our review of Jungle Cruise.
SPOILERS: Warning there are spoilers ahead.
To be honest, I was expecting a much less creative plot from this movie. Following suit with typical adventure movies, I was expecting this film to be a less-funny version of the Jumanji reboot. But the plot has an unexpected emotional centre and a clever twist. And while the film suffers from CGI villain goopiness, it gives the CGI villains actual heart and motivations.
The film centres on Lilly (Emily Blunt), a botanist in search of a healing petal. The petal is said to be able to cure any illness and resides deep in the Amazon Rainforest. She is accompanied by her little brother, McGregor (Jack Whitehall) and their hired skipper, Frank (Dwayne Johnson).
But a curse resides around the petal. Spanish conquistador Aguirre (Edgar Ramirez) and his crew went in search of the petal four hundred years ago. The petal can only be found with an arrowhead sacred to the Umbala or Headhunter tribe of the region. When Aguirre and his crew are on the brink of death, the Umbala tribe saves them. But Aguirre betrays them to get his hands on the arrowhead, and the chief of the Umbala tribe curses Aguirre and his party. They can never stray from the river, or the rainforest will take them. For four hundred years, they’ve lain dormant, having strayed too far from the banks of the river. They cannot die.
Now the arrowhead rests with a sexist scientific community. Lilly steals the arrowhead, just before it was set to be sold to Prince Joachim (Jesse Plemons). Joachim works for the German government during the height of World War One. He believes that the petal will not only bring victory to Germany, but will make him a world ruler. (How he thinks it will do that is unclear).
As Lilly, McGregor, and Frank make their way down the Amazon in search of the Petal, Joachim follows and occasionally attacks them in his submarine. Deciding he needs more help, he wakes up Aguirre, now a monster of the Amazon, and his crew. Aguirre, who is now made out of snakes, and his two colleagues, one of which is made out of honey and bees and the other mud and tee frogs, are sent on Lilly’s trail.
What happens next is the usual adventure. White water rapids, a run-in with the Umbala tribe (who become allies), submarine fights, swinging on jungle vines; you name it.
But after a run-in with Aguirre, Lilly learns the truth about Frank. In a plot twist I absolutely did not see coming, it turns out that Frank is actually Francisco, Aguirre’s cartographer. We learn that Aguirre was not looking for the petal for glory or gold, but to save his deeply ill daughter. Aguirre and Francisco grew up together, and they were willing to do anything to save his daughter. But when Aguirre betrays the Umbala tribe, Francisco tries to stop Aguirre. Francisco was also cursed to be unable to leave the riverbank, but Aguirre kept returning to fight and defeat (stab) Francisco.
Tired of constantly getting stabbed, Francisco traps Aguirre in a cave. Letting the Amazon have him and turn him into the monster he is today. Francisco then built a town on the river banks, built a boat in search of the petal, gave up, and now runs river cruises.
While the plot is very complicated, it’s easy enough to follow while watching the film. I will say that the motivations of Joachim are a little hard to follow. But the plot twist with Frank was very clever. It gives a CGI-heavy Aguirre a human heart. Now all he wants to do is break the curse and be allowed to die. To do so he needs a petal. The plot in and of itself was much more clever than I expected.
Characters and performances
One character that pleasantly surprised me was McGregor. At first, I thought he was merely queer-coded. He definitely fell into some gay stereotypes, but I thought that was all it was going to be. A guy who was subtly a little queer. But, when Frank asks him why follows Lilly, even through a jungle, he gives a surprisingly candid answer. He explains to Frank that he is gay and that Lilly is the only one who supports him.
When the world turned his back on him, she stood with him, and for that, he would “follow her into a volcano.” This is the first time I can remember that a Disney character was very, clearly openly gay. Disney has had about a dozen “first gay characters,” but all of them have been off to the side. None of them has stated their sexuality or been open about it. McGregor not only states it outright but is not ashamed of it and it is not his only character trait. He becomes brave and capable and is a good friend to both Frank and Lilly. It was really surprising to see good representation from Disney in this film.
Emily Blunt also gives a wonderful performance (as she always does). She’s headstrong and stubborn, but kind. The sexism was a little on the nose, with a tired bit about how she wears pants, but she was delightful.
And Dwayne Johnson was… okay. He plays the exact same character in every movie he’s in. And while his performance was good in this movie, I can’t help but think that another actor could have done better. He and Emily Blunt have a romance in this movie, but they have absolutely no chemistry. It was hard to believe their romance. I think another actor could have added a little more to Frank’s character. Frank is an interesting character, and another actor could have done more with him. This movie might have been better without Dwayne Johnson.
This movie also might have been better without Joachim. His motivations were really hard to follow. At the end of the day, he was just another stereotype of a German general who only complicated the plot.
It feels as though Jungle Cruise might be Disney’s attempt to re-make the magic of Pirates of the Caribbean. But I can’t see this film becoming a franchise. The first Pirates movie is masterful, with amazing rewatchability. But Jungle Cruise, while fun, is forgettable. It’s not a movie I see myself rewatching anytime soon. If this is an attempt to create a new franchise for Disney; it falls short. But, the film was fun to watch and was a good movie theatre experience.
CULTURE CROSSING SCORE 5/10
Thank you for reading our review of Jungle Cruise. Do you agree or disagree with our points or have anything to add? If so, leave us a comment below.
Read our review of Emily Blunt in A Quiet Place Part Two HERE.
Read IMDB information about Jungle Cruise HERE.
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