PG. The Star Trek movies are what I actually define as PG. They can have some intensity, but there is nothing outright offensive. I often look to my son because he's scared of EVERYTHING. He was scared of the idea of seeing floating Klingon blood. There's a little human blood in here too. There's a genitals joke in the movie and some mild cursing. It feels intense, but there's nothing really objectionable in the movie.
DIRECTOR: Nicholas Meyer
I finally get to write about my favorite Star Trek movie. I have a bootleg poster in my garage of this movie. I didn't know it was bootleg when I ordered it online. It has a signature of Rene Auberjonis on it and I don't really get that. But it also is a garage poster and it fit the frame very nicely. Yes, I have framed posters in my garage. These are all things that you now know about me.
It's this bittersweet thought that the last movie of the old guard is so good. I'm sure that some suit really tried to be like, "The Undiscovered Country opens up all new doors to us." Yeah, I would love to see a whole franchise that treats Star Trek like The Undiscovered Country treats Star Trek. In previous entries, I've talked about cinematic Star Trek is not really Star Trek. But this other thing? The thing that is perfectly boiled down in The Undiscovered Country is perfect. It's what I want and it's something completely different from what I've grown to love about Star Trek as a television show. Nicholas Meyer also did the other great in the series, The Wrath of Khan. In Khan, Meyer introduced the militaristic Federation. I hate that idea, but it really works. One thing about Star Trek as a whole is that it is too idealistic. There's no natural transition from the world we have now to the world that we saw in TOS. Instead, the military version of Starfleet grounded so much of the world. The thing about The Undiscovered Country is that it is almost a Tom Clancy novel with a Star Trek heavy setting. It's kind of an idealized version of the military. It's got the structure. It's got the chain of command. It is a well-oiled machine. But it also values exploration and actually continuing peace. 1991 spells the end of the Cold War. If the Klingons are the Russians of the Star Trek universe, what happens when the Russians lose the Cold War? I know that Nicholas Meyer doesn't really love his own film. He doesn't see it as nuanced, but I don't think Star Trek has ever really been accused of being too nuanced. Maybe with some of the stuff on Deep Space Nine, but otherwise you are supposed to get the allegory. But Klingons were always hilarious versions of Russians. They were James Bond villain Russians. The idea that Klingons being multifaceted had never been explored before. There's a dangerous precedent that is established with The Undiscovered Country that actually probably started on The Next Generation. The idea that the Federation could be lacking kind of builds out of this idea. I know that Roddenberry hated this. It's a bummer, because it really works. As much as I idolize Roddenberry, it often is hard to relate to Starfleet because they were just so perfect. But the idea that the Klingons weren't always bad and that the Federation wasn't always good is interesting.
I have to disagree with Meyer over his own film because I don't think that The Undiscovered Country is too broad. The theme of people wanting war because it is the status quo is a really interesting idea. In the other Star Trek movies, we've seen Klingon ambassadors. But they tend to be drunks or boors and don't really sell the Klingons very well. Instead, we see Klingon diplomats in The Undiscovered Country. This is someone who doesn't really seem to deny their Klingon background. There is Klingon pride and militaristic attitude, but can actually discuss politics like a person. One of the weaker elements of Star Trek is that entire races represent character traits. But The Undiscovered Country gives the Klingons a reasonable vulnerability. There is honor and pride, but there is also a bit of fear of extinction. Spiraling out of that is the concept that the old guard really wants things to stay the same. We get extremism on both sides. The Undiscovered Country doesn't just say that there are Klingon saboteurs to the peace process, but actually Federation higher ups who want to maintain the status quo. The Federation is supposed to be the strongest advocates for peace and then there are people who want to obliterate the Klingons from existence. Not only that, but these were people that Jim Kirk trusted. I really don't know what Meyer is talking about in terms of simplicity. Putting James T. Kirk in the center of this conflict is the best thing I've ever heard. It's a genius idea. Often, Kirk is this great hero and he's attracted to stories because he's this guy with a great success record. In The Motion Picture, he's the expert who kicks out the young bucks. In the second, his greatest victory is coming back for round 2. Part III has him know better than the Federation. Part IV, he / his crew are the only one's to figure out it is whale song. Part V, there's a random guy who thinks that he wants to take down the greatest soldier in the galaxy. But Part VI? Nope. This one focuses on Kirk's actual blind spot. Kirk has been fighting Klingons for so long that he can't trust them. How is this simple? By crafting this character for about thirty years, the team actually created a real flaw that was probably never intended. For all intents and purposes, Jim Kirk is accidentally became a specific space racist.
Growing up in awe of Star Trek, I never understood why people always ragged on William Shatner. I thought he was great. But as an adult revisiting these movies, I can kind of see some choices that aren't amazing. I don't think that they ever get as absurd as many of the Shatner impressions get. But he has a very specific acting style and that doesn't always work for everything. However...HOWEVER, he brings his A-game to The Undiscovered Country. God forbid, William Shatner has range. This doesn't just seem to be another entry for him. I'm not going to give William Shatner all the credit (although I kind of am), but it seems like his leadership makes everyone bring their A-game. There isn't one weak spot in the movie. What kind of happens with the other entries is that these are Star Trek movies. JUST Star Trek movies. Yeah, there's a little bit of cultural penetration. Star Trek IV is made for everyone, but the nerds are going to love it. Star Trek VI almost doesn't feel like a Star Trek film. The effects budget looks so good. Star Trek V was the cheapest looking movie in the franchise and you can tell. But Star Trek VI has this color palate that I haven't seen in a Star Trek movie before. I don't know why purple and pink work for Star Trek so well, but that was a good decision. Also, the world seems clean but lived in. Nothing seems arbitrary. The movie looks technologically timeless. Yeah, there's a old school digital readout for the clock and circuit boards fall from the ceiling when there's damage. But nothing really seems novel or majestic. Instead of having starship porn, it just exists. It's such a good movie. Then you add Christopher Plummer and he spouts Shakespeare? This movie isn't cheap. The movie is expensive, which inspires good performances. There's this need to deliver and it really does.
Is it weird that they send Scotty to take care of the assassin? That's odd. What's really weird about this movie is that it is kind of short. The story feels epic and sprawling. But the movie cuts out all of the fat. It's a very tight film because it tells the story and gets out. (Oh that's right! Kim Cattrall is in this. I haven't anything to say about that. I just remembered.) The movie literally starts with a planet exploding. There's a brief meeting scene explaining what had happened and the consequences of this moon exploding (sorry, it was a moon) and we're off to the races. The story moves extremely quickly, which really helps because if I had read the plot as a summary, it would sound dry. Instead, the action actually services the movie really well. Other space action movies inject action to keep the movie feeling like it is going on. There's action in the movie, but it all actually kind of important to the plot. It also is a great mystery. Honestly, there's a lot going on for this movie. But since I'm starting to ramble, I do want to mention that the dialogue somehow seems...real. Part of that can be tied to the military element that I mentioned earlier. But for the first time, everyone including Spock, feels like they are talking like people. They aren't abandoning their characters. They still have a lot of the same traits that they exhibit in the other films, but there's nothing intentionally alienating about it. Instead, Spock is logical without somehow being an outsider. He is the intellectual friend we had. McCoy is always McCoy and he's fantastic. But I love frustrated Uhura. She keeps getting the short end of the stick in these stories and I love that she has one moment to show what it must really mean to be in this sausage fest of a franchise. Her job sucks sometimes and I love that we get to see her present that. There is one moment that is too meta for me. Often, the bridge crew tend to find themselves in situations that should be relegated to a security team. I know that this is the last movie where this entire cast would be together, but having them save the ambassador? That's really weird. Doesn't Captain Kirk have a tactical team that should have training in that kind of stuff? Regardless, it's fun to see Scotty save the day. Also, the Excelsior is rad and Sulu totally deserves that and Ensign Christian Slater.
I adore this movie. It is nearly perfect for me. It really justifies any of the weaker movies in the series. It shows that this crew was something truly special. It is what can be made when everyone really puts everything right. Every detail feels addressed. It makes a very wise decision to keep the movie short and to spend money where it counts.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.