Welcome to The Mundane Adventures of a Fangirl

I consider myself a Fangirl. What does that mean, you ask? A "fanboy" in the most common understanding is a hardcore fan of 'genre' based entertainment in particular. In my case - science-fiction and comic book based movies and television. Because I'm a chick - it's fangirl, not fanboy. There you have it! I am a big movie fan, however, not necessarily a 'film' fan. And now - I have the forum to present my opinions to the public! These will mainly be movie reviews -that will always be my opinion - repeat OPINION. Just what I think, and in no way do I present my opinion as fact. I hope you enjoy and maybe it will help you decide what to see at the movie theater this weekend!

Monday, March 2, 2015

Retro Movie Review: Star Trek IV – The Voyage Home (PG – 119 minutes – 1986)

The passing of the legendary Leonard Nimoy hit me really hard last Friday.  

Star Trek was one of the first things I ever remember watching on TV when I was little.  It was something my family watched together – so I have a lot of warm feelings and memories associated with the show.  Over the years, I came to realize how amazing a man Leonard Nimoy was as well as being one of my favorite TV characters.  The Vulcan hand salute was his own contribution to the show; he brought a hand gesture of Hebrew blessing he noticed from the rabbis at his temple to Roddenberry, who liked it so much he kept it – becoming one of the most recognizable hand gestures in history.  He was a crusading feminist and equal rights activist, and went to the showrunners in the 60s to make sure Nichelle Nichols was making the same amount the men on the show were making.  He was a huge supporter of the arts, and wrote a lot of poetry.  One of his other artistic passions was photography, and he released a work of plus sized women photographed in the nude to push the idea of beauty in women at any shape and size.  He was always warm and receptive to his fans, and cared what they thought of the projects he worked on.  He was active on Twitter, and upon learning about his own COPD and lung issues as a result of smoking, encouraged everyone to quit or – not to start.  He lived a full and amazing life – or – he certainly lived long and prospered.  I wondered what movie I could retro-review in tribute.  The Invasion of the Body Snatchers Remake?  Three Men and  Baby, which he directed?  I settled on Star Trek IV – The Voyage Home, a fan favorite, which he also directed.  Yes, Star Trek II is widely considered the best – and it is fantastic, but IV is far and away the most fun.

Star Trek started as a campy sci-fi TV show in 1966, and was created by Gene Roddenberry.  The Original series lasted three years, but then became a giant cult hit – launching an animated show (available on Netflix), Star Trek: The Next Generation; Star Trek: Deep Space Nine; Star Trek Voyager; and Star Trek Enterprise.  There have also been six TOS movies and four TNG movies, then two J. J. Abrams rebooted movies.  The very best thing about Star Trek was the multi-ethnic cast, and a future where all humankind was pretty much at peace, and belonged to a “Federation” of planets that was all about science and exploration.  It greatly influenced many real-life scientists, including those who invented the cell phone, the tablet, various engineering inventions, and other practical applications of what was once science fiction fantasy.  It also influenced NASA in multiple ways – they named one of the Shuttles Enterprise, and many astronauts credited their love of the show with the reason they pursed that vocation.

Leonard Nimoy played first officer/science officer Mr. Spock.  Spock was a half-human, half Vulcan who joined Star Fleet against the wishes of his ambassador father.  Vulcans are a race known for purging emotion from their existence.  Because of this, Spock proved the perfect counter-balance for Dr. McCoy, the extremely emotional ship’s doctor, in terms of advising the captain on their missions.  The cast grew very close over the years, which is easy to see in the subsequent movies.  The first movie is very long, and pretty much forgettable (unless you need the trivia information that Stephen Collins is in it – I’ll bring that up again later).  Basically the crew encounter the original Voyager probe.

In Star Trek II – which is pretty much the best of the six – and really the beginning of an unofficial connected trilogy - Kirk and crew accidentally happen across Kahn – someone Kirk marooned on a planet years ago (“Space Seed” – the original Kahn episode aired in 1967 – STII was released in 1982 – 15 years after).  Khan chases them all over the place while Kirk is dealing with being re-introduced to his son David and ex-love Carol Marcus.  Kahn finally sets off the Genesis device to attempt to kill the Enterprise and her crew.  They escape – but only because Spock goes down to engineering to manually reset the warp core.  Being exposed to that much radiation essentially kills him.  Kirk rushes down, and what follows is an amazing scene between two actors with a history of a 20 year friendship between them.  

This is also why the parallel scene in Abrams “Into Darkness” did not work – as those actors (and characters) did not have the weight of the years of friendship.  Spock dies – Kirk and crew bury him ‘at space’ by launching his burial tube towards the newly formed Genesis planet. The funeral scene is incredibly powerful, and really makes me cry every time I watch it.

In Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (1984) – which Nimoy directed (which is why he’s barely in it – too much working behind the camera) – Kirk learns from Sarek (Spock’s father) that Spock basically downloaded his consciousness into McCoy’s head, and that the Genesis planet has sort-of rebooted his body.  He needs to get both to the steps of Mt. Seleya on Vulcan to put the mind back in the body and resurrect his friend.  Well, McCoy starts to go a little insane due to having an extra person in there, and Starfleet will not let anyone near Genesis – so of course Kirk and crew break all the rules by breaking McCoy out of where he is being kept, sabotaging the brand-new Excelsior,  and stealing the Enterprise to head to Genesis.  They get there, but suddenly have to battle some Klingons lead by Christopher Lloyd (yes, that Christopher Lloyd – Doc Brown), and they learn the planet is destroying itself.  The Klingons kill Kirk’s son (a scientist researching the planet), and Kirk tricks almost all of the Klingon crew into beaming over to the Enterprise while he and his crew beam down to the planet after setting the self-destruct on the Enterprise.  Kirk loves his ship more than anything, so this leads to Kirk saying to McCoy, “My God Bones, what have I done?”  To which McCoy responds, “What you’ve always done – turned death into a fighting chance to live.”  

They grab Spock, defeat the remaining Klingons, and beam up to the Klingon ship, where the only one left guarding it is John Larroquette (yes, that John Larroquette).  They head to Vulcan – deliver both the mind and the body, and wait as the Vulcans perform the re-joining ceremony, which works – sort of.

Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home was released in 1986 and picks up where the previous film left off.  The crew is on Vulcan, preparing to go back to earth to face all kinds of charges after their antics to save Spock.  Spock is undergoing Vulcan mind re-training, and after a brief conversation with his mother about how he feels – he decides to head to earth with his crew.  Meanwhile, a strange probe that looks like a giant tin can is soaring through space towards earth giving off some crazy signals that shut down everything it encounters.  It’s disabling ships, space stations, you name it.  One of the disable ships sends a warning to earth, where Sarek, Spock’s father is working.

The crew board their stolen Klingon Bird of Prey and head back, but get a distress signal from earth, warning them to “avoid the planet Earth at all costs…”  Well, Kirk won’t stand for that nonsense and immediately they start working on how to solve this.  They listen to the probe’s signal, and Spock realizes that because it is aimed at the oceans, it would sound different underwater – when Uhura accounts for that, Spock realizes it is the language of Humpback Whales – which are extinct in the 23rd century.  This results in Spock and McCoy arguing ideas in front of Kirk – and then they decide the best solution is to sling shot around the sun at warp 9, going back in time to pick up some whales and bring them to the current time so that they can answer the probe.  Sure, that’s the best idea. 

This results in the crew of the Enterprise knocking around 1986 San Francisco looking for whales.  Much hilarity ensues, which is why this is one of the fan favorites.  Kirk takes up cursing and Spock gets confused by “exact change”.  Chekov and Uhura look for nuclear ‘wessels’ (at the height of the cold war) for a power source to re-crystalize the dilithium crystals that power their stolen Klingon ship.  McCoy, Scotty, and Sulu look for transparent aluminum to build a whale tank before it is invented, and in the process - give the formula to the man who would eventually invent it.  Kirk also meets Gillian – a woman working at the Cetacean Institute, where they happen to have two humpback whales (George and Gracie) in a confined space, ready to be beamed up.  They learn the female is pregnant when Spock jumps in the whale tank and mind melds with her - possibly one of the very best sequences ever filmed - just for Shatner's reaction shot - and Nimoy's sexy legs.

Eventually they have to race against the clock – Chekov gets captured, the whales get suddenly released, and they're not sure about the power for the ship.  They finally get everything where it needs to be, defeating some 1986 whalers in the process, and take Gillian with them as they head back to their own time. 

As soon as they arrive, the probe’s signals disable the ship, it lands in the bay, and immediately starts to sink.  The crew escapes, and Kirk has to swim to the back to let the whales out before they drown.  They get out – communicate with the probe – and earth is saved!  Starfleet sends a ship to pick up the crew, and they get ready for their trial.  Due to the fact that they saved life as everyone knows it – the charges are all dropped, except for one: disobeying a direct order – and only Kirk gets punished for that, resulting in him being demoted from Admiral to Captain, which is where he wanted to be anyway – having spent the beginning of Star Trek II complaining about having nothing to do.  The movie ends with the crew being given a new ship – and realizing that Starfleet built them a brand new Enterprise.

Directed again by Leonard Nimoy, this one is the warmest of all the movies – and really settles into the friendships between the crew.  Nimoy was able to use a shorthand with the actors having known them for so long.  Everyone seems to be having a really good time in this movie, and it translates through to the audience.

  • William Shatner plays Captain Kirk exactly the way you want your Kirk, completely over the top and confident.  Back in time to get whales?  No problem, let’s do it!

  • Leonard Nimoy’s Spock in this particular movie is slightly more subdued than in the others.  Having spent so much time with the very human crew in the years leading up to his ‘death’, he had loosened up a bit for a Vulcan.  In this movie, he is still recovering from his ‘death’, and so is a little more Vulcan than the crew is used to him being.  They are constantly trying to reconnect, and get him to remember that he used to be more fun. 

  • DeForest Kelley plays “Bones” McCoy, and is the human heart of the crew.  He really wants to talk to Spock about the encounter they shared, but Spock is not certain there’s a way to relate it.

  • James Doohan plays Montgomery “Scotty” Scott – the engineer, who does spend some time yelling about dilithium crystals in this, but that’s how you like your Scotty!

  • George Takei plays Hikaru Sulu, who has the best time in old San Franciso when they go back in time, since he was raised there.  He has no sword fighting in this one, but he does get a pretty nifty jacket.

  • Walter Koenig plays Pavel Chekov, and there’s a ton of humor gained from his terrible accent in this.  He’s pleasantly confused for most of his capture.

  • Nichelle Nichols plays Uhura, and there is no fan dance in this one, but she is still pretty fantastic.  She is upset when she has to leave Chekov behind.

  • Jane Wyatt plays Spock’s mother Amanda, and she played her on the original show as well.  She helps remind him that his human half is as important as his Vulcan half.  Mark Lenard plays Sarek, Spock’s father – and he has a wonderful moment at the end when he almost Vulcan-apologizes for being originally against Spock’s decision to join Starfleet.  I love the below picture, and I imagine it sits on Sarek's ambassador desk in a very simple frame - as Vulcans would never have anything ornate.

  • Robin Curtis plays Saavik very briefly in this movie – she plays her all through III, even though she was played by Kirstie Alley in II (yes, that Kirstie Alley).

  • Catherine Hicks plays Gillian – and here’s where that Stephen Collins trivia comes in from earlier.  That means that both parents from Seventh Heaven were in Star Trek movies.  There you go.  She’s perfect as the frazzled whale-caretaker who has to turn to Kirk for help when her coworkers betray her.

Overall, this is one of my favorites, but – to be fair – I love this one, II, VI, III, and V – almost all of them!  This is the best one to watch for a Leonard Nimoy tribute.  Well, maybe II is, but then you have to deal with Spock’s death and funeral – and while those scenes are brilliant – they make me cry every single time I see them.  Now that we’ve really lost him, I’m not sure I could handle those.  So watch IV instead – it will definitely make you smile!

Bonus Video 1:  The Ballad of Bilbo Baggins – this is probably the best thing ever.

Bonus Video 2:  The commercial with two Spocks from when the Abrams movie came out – maybe the second best thing ever?

Bonus Video 3:  Cast interviews…

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