Note: In the following joint Blu-ray review, John, Eddie, Hock, and Justin all comment on the films, with John also writing up the Video, Audio, Extras, and Parting Thoughts.
Like a lot of people, as a longtime fan of the original "Star Trek" television and movie series, I found myself reluctant to embrace the "New Generation" crew. It was hard to think of anybody but Shatner, Nimoy, and the gang piloting the Enterprise. But the newer team of Stewart, Frakes, and company grew on me, and they soon, too, became family. So, now it's good to have their four motion pictures on disc in Blu-ray high definition video and audio. The movies have never looked or sounded better.
Reviewed by Yunda Eddie Feng
When "Star Trek: The Next Generation" ended its seven-year run in 1994, Paramount decided to continue the "Trek" movie line with the cast of "TNG" rather than the cast of "The Original Series". A decision was made to bridge the two casts with a crossover story, but only William Shatner (James T. Kirk), James Doohan (Scotty), and Walter Koenig (Pavel Chekov) wanted to return as their characters, with the others thinking that "Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country" had already given them a proper send-off.
At any rate, the winter of 1994 saw the demise of the Enterprise-D as the ship crashed on a planet while our Starfleet heroes saved the day once again. The new movie begins with the retired Kirk, Scotty, and Chekov joining the crew of the Enterprise-B as guests of its maiden voyage. Answering a distress call, the Enterprise-B stumbles upon an energy ribbon that apparently kills Kirk but has, in fact, taken him into a never-ending place of fulfilled dreams. One man, a scientist named Soran (Malcolm McDowell), tries to get back into the Nexus for the next seventy-eight years, and the Enterprise-D under Jean-Luc Picard's (Patrick Stewart) command must stop Soran from blowing up stars and destroying life on several planets.
The senior officers of "TNG" return, including First Officer William Riker (Jonathan Frakes), the android Data (Brent Spiner), Counselor Deanna Troi (Marina Sirtis), the Klingon Worf (Michael Dorn), Chief Engineer Geordi LaForge (LeVar Burton), and Dr. Beverly Crusher (Gates McFadden). Guinan (Whoopi Goldberg) makes a cameo appearance, too. The cast looks comfortable carrying a "big" movie, and the action sequences are exciting and well-executed. There's a tense space battle with the Klingon Duras sisters, and the Enterprise-D's crash is spectacular. However, all is not well.
Here's a list of the problems that I had with "Generations":
1) The distracting mix of uniforms: Extras without any dialogue wear uniforms from the first two or three seasons of "The Next Generation." Various crew members wear the uniforms found during Season 4-7. Still others wear the jumpsuit uniforms found during the early years of "Deep Space Nine" as well as the entire run of "Voyager." A real, important organization such as Starfleet would not be so poorly coordinated.
2) Inappropriate humor: Data's discovery of emotions produces several funny moments. However, they disrupt the flow of the movie and often run counter to what viewers should be feeling while watching certain scenes. Therefore, you end up laughing while the Enterprise is crashing to a planet's surface. This severely weakens the movie.
(The funny thing about my complaint about the movie's inappropriate humor is that, as a "Star Trek" fan, I enjoyed those moments. However, as a movie critic, I realize how the movie would've been better without it. The humor could've been used elsewhere or not used at all. Data in "Star Trek: Generations" is like Gimli in "The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers.")
3) The handling of Picard's longing for a family: In "TNG," Picard really had no use for families or children. Yet, in "Generations" the death of his nephew sends him into a catatonic state. The movie extends this uncharacteristic desire by making Picard's Nexus fantasy one in which he is the head of a family with three or four offspring. This inconsistency reeks of sentimentality and a desperate attempt to create pathos out of thin air.
4) The forced meeting between Picard and Kirk: There was no reason to connect this dot. We saw Spock, Dr. McCoy, and Scotty make appearances on "TNG," and those moments were either cute or relevant/important on a narrative level. Here, we have two captains meeting just for the sake of their meeting each other, so everything feels awkward. In fact, the way that Kirk dies is downright stupid and laughable, with the slightly overweight Shatner tumbling gracelessly while trying to be an action hero.
Eddie's film rating for "Generations": 6/10
The Film According to John:
I share Eddie's disappointment in "Generations." It tries too self consciously to connect the old "Trek" crew to the newer one, and it never quite makes the smooth transition from one to the other that it strives for.
Director David Carson, who had previously worked mainly in television, including doing some TV "Star Trek" episodes, tends to think the movie will have commercial interruptions every ten minutes, so he moves the story line along in little stops and jerks, everything very episodic in nature. There is a particularly balletic opening title sequence, but, unfortunately, things go downhill from there. For instance, we get an introduction that feels a lot like the very first "Star Trek: The Movie," providing a back story, followed by a lot of camera jiggling to simulate the rocking and exploding of the space ship, as we used to get in the old television series. Maybe Carson was consciously trying to tie things back to the old series; who knows. The fact is, the whole movie feels like little more than an extended TV show, something the Wife-O-Meter commented about early on.
Eddie mentioned Data's new emotion chip, which I found made him downright annoying. I know it is supposed to humanize the android and add a touch of humor to the film, but it does nothing to further the plot or the action. It's just a distracting side story and feels more like either filler or a rejected TV show premise.
The renegade Klingon gang also seems more than a bit melodramatic and unoriginal, and the heavenly Nexus business seems trite and sentimental. And what's with three-quarters of a century going by and the Federation still hasn't figured out how to detect a cloaked Klingon vessel?
"Generations" seems to drag on for at least a half an hour longer than it needs to, and by the time it was over, I was glad it was finished. It's true the action picks up a bit at the very end, but the end is a long time coming.
John's film rating for "Generations": 5/10.
Reviewed by Hock Teh
It was no surprise that when the "Enterprise" TV series was announced in 2001 (to replace "Star Trek: Voyager"), its story would be based on an era before the formation of the Federation, in the mid-22nd century, approximately a hundred years after Cochrane's historic warp flight. Instead of following basic "Star Trek" tenets and basing the new series further into the future (post "Voyager"), producer Rick Berman boldly went where no other "Star Trek" producer had gone before--backwards to an era where humans are on the cusp of space exploration. I consider 1996's "Star Trek: First Contact" one of the best films in the "Star Trek" franchise.
After the mess that was "Star Trek: Generations," long-time "Star Trek" writers Brannon Braga and Ronald D. Moore were given a chance to redeem themselves. This time starting with a clean slate, Braga and Moore are able to let their creativity and imagination take over and the final script reflects that bright spark immensely. Also, having Jonathan Frakes on board as the director of "First Contact" brings a strong sense of familiarity with all things "Trek" to the film. The winning combination of Rick Berman, Braga, Moore, Frakes and the rest of the "TNG" crew make "First Contact" more than just a "Star Trek" movie. It becomes a true sci-fi action adventure film with not only all the familiar trappings of the "Trek" universe at full bore but was also the excitement and experience of a "Star Trek" movie to non-Trekkies. This is mainly achieved through a story that brings moviegoers to the beginnings of the "Star Trek" universe and provides a good idea of what the "Star Trek" philosophy is all about, as per creator Gene Roddenberry's own vision.
Rightly so, the use of the Borg as the menacing new villain in "First Contact" gives the story an edgier and decidedly more dangerous context than relying on the usual suspects of Romulans, Klingons, etc. A foe that has a single-minded approach to annihilating entire species for the sole purpose of adding their biological and technological distinctiveness into its own collective, the Borg proves to be the most dangerous enemy yet to ever go against the Federation. First introduced in the second season episode titled "Q Who?" of the Next Generation TV series, this new big screen incarnation of the Borg has evolved significantly from its low-budget beginnings. Looking more like a scary, disembodied version of Pinhead (from "Hellraiser"), the new Borg look more intimidating but unfortunately still move like lumbering zombies. New this time around is the appearance of an individual, a leader in the Borg collective in the shape of the Borg Queen (Alice Krige), an unusual contradiction that could have weakened the story but instead pushes it into the realm of plausibility due in great part to the outstanding performance by Krige. An attractive yet frighteningly amoral character, the Borg Queen proves to be a worthy adversary who is only ultimately let down by her own glaring human-like imperfections, a flaw that the Borg think it has eliminated with its many previous assimilations.
Also explored further in this film are the previously unknown long-term effects and the emotional and mental scars of Captain Picard's (Patrick Stewart) past assimilation by the Borg in the "TNG" Season 3 cliffhanger episode "The Best of Both Worlds." Given that Picard still maintains a residual link to the collective gives him both an advantage against the Borg and an unpredictability that could undermine his own ability to command the Enterprise and her crew. Even the always-dependable Lt. Commander Data (Brent Spiner)--always striving to become more human like a futuristic Pinocchio--may have very nearly met his match in the Borg Queen, who tempts Data with the very thing that he seeks to attain--the ability to feel emotions and experience pleasure as a human being would. Ever ready with his innocent yet wry wit, Data's intellectual banter with the Borg Queen proves to be one of the highlights of this film, culminating with a great comeback line by Data, who proclaims, "Believing oneself to be perfect is often the sign of a delusional mind."
The two guest actors, James Cromwell and Alfre Woodard, who play Zefram Cochrane and Lily Sloane (Cochrane's assistant) respectively, provide some powerful and even amusing moments. Take, for instance, Cochrane's line when told that the Enterprise crew are space explorers from the future: "So you're all astronauts...on some sort of...star trek?" Or Lily's response when told about the Borg: "Borg? Sounds Swedish." Of course, not everything is light and funny. You just have to watch Lily as she tries to rationalize with Picard his orders for his crew to stand their ground against the Borg's advance even though he knows their chances for survival are slim to really appreciate the deep characterization of a revenge-fueled starship captain and a woman from the supposedly more barbaric 21st century. Cochrane, a revered character in the "Star Trek" version of Earth's history and lovingly known as the father of the warp engine and worshipped by millions, is sort of the antithesis of a hero in this film. Rather than portraying Cochrane as an iconic figure seeking the betterment of the human race, the writers make Cochrane plunge down from his idealistic perch, putting forward a tragically flawed man whose work on the warp drive was actually driven more by the economic returns than anything else. For the 24th century characters, the chance to meet the very person who is revered as a savior of the human race and to find him as flawed as everyone else, is both transformative and sobering. As Zefram so aptly puts it, "You think I want to go to the stars? I don't even like to fly. I take trains!"
The success of "First Contact" at the box office can be attributed to its two connected story lines that are equally interesting but vastly different in tone. The main story, which revolves around Picard's and Data's struggle with the Borg on the Enterprise are dark character studies that explore the upper limits of loyalty and rationality. As Picard rants so forcefully, "The line must be drawn...HERE!" We see a controlled man who is letting his previously contained rage against the Borg get the better of him and uncharacteristically spiral out of control. The other parallel story of Commander Riker and the engineering team making sure that Cochrane makes his maiden warp flight on the Phoenix provides plenty of lighthearted moments that contrast wildly with the main Borg story. Together, both plots play off one another beautifully, providing plenty of thrills, humor, and heart. "Star Trek: First Contact" is a rip-roaring sci-fi romp that is highly entertaining, with a crossover appeal that many other "Trek" movies lack.
Lt. Commander Worf put it best when he said, "Assimilate this!" before blowing away a Borg. "Star Trek: First Contact" is a fun ride.
Hock's film rating for "First Contact": 9/10
The Film According to John:
I'm not quite as enthusiastic about "First Contact" as Hock is, but I still enjoyed it immensely, and I have to say it's a huge step beyond "Generations."
The Borg make a formidable enemy, more dangerous and more ruthless than the Klingons or Romulans ever were. What's more, the movie handles the time-travel motif, which could have been old hat, in novel fashion, and guest star James Cromwell practically steals the show. In the movie, the Borg have assimilated all of Earth, and the Enterprise crew must return to the past to remedy the situation, with Cromwell playing an eccentric scientist who becomes the father of the warp drive and the idol of everybody on the Enterprise.
Directed by co-star Jonathan Frakes, "First Contact" feels better paced and more action-packed than its immediate predecessor. There is no longer so much lingering for sentimental reunions and gushy relationships. Unlike "Generations," this one actually establishes some tension and maintains a sense of suspense. There is genuine excitement present and more impressive special effects.
"First Contact" does what it sets out to do: It keeps us interested, intrigued, and occupied in an exciting adventure for its full 111-minute running time, and you can't ask more from it than that.
John's film rating for "First Contact": 7/10
Reviewed by Justin Cleveland
There is a very telling line early in the ninth film in the "Star Trek" franchise where Captain Jean Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) turns to his crew and asks, "Do you remember when we used to be explorers?" That brief beat is an indicative remark on the direction the "Star Trek" franchise had taken up until 1998. Rather than being a show about exploration and occasional conflict, the television programs "The Next Generation," "Deep Space Nine," "Voyager," and "Enterprise" had all entered into multi-episode wars that dominated the shows. Part of what drew me and many other fans to the original program was the sense of adventure and fun, the fact that we could meet a new, colorful, and weird alien species each week. But gone are the carefree days of Roddenberry… and now we were in the heavy-handed world of Brannon and Braga.
The plot of "Insurrection" begins when a malfunctioning Data (Brent Spiner) calls the crew of the Enterprise to a remote planet encompassed by a mix of dangerous gasses called "The Briar Patch." Data accidentally stumbled upon a plan to export the perpetually-young inhabitants of the planet in order to harvest the life-giving particles found only in the planets rings, thus necessitating Data's demise. Unfortunately for the antagonists of the story, Data doesn't do his due duty and die; rather he exposes the Starfleet observers to the world.
The antagonists of the film are a group of stretch-skinned aliens who are slowly dying, for whatever reason. Their skin is rotting on their bodies and their only chance of survival is harvesting the particles from the planet, a process that would render it uninhabitable, and resurrecting themselves. Kill a few...so that the majority may live.
The noble crew of the starship Enterprise, however, take issue with the plan and do what they do best...interfer. Picard and his motley band of interstellar travelers take a page from Captain Kirk and go against the direct orders of the Starfleet Council. A bit of insurrection, if you will. This installment reunites the cast in its entirety, even bringing back Worf (Michael Dorn), who had gone on to other permutations of the popular program.
During the main-run of the story a few subplots develop. The healing powers of the planet give Geordi La Forge (LeVar Burton) the use of his eyes for the first time in his life, and it gives Picard a sense of vigor he's not experienced since youth, turning his eyes toward a not-so-young woman named Anij (Donna Murphy, most recognizable from "Spider-Man 2"). That amorous feeling spreads to former lovers William T. Riker (director Jonathan Frakes) and the ship's councilor Deanna Troy (Marina Sirtis), causing them to rekindle something long thought dead (especially considering she and Worf were hooking up at the end of the series, but I digress). Perhaps the most touching subplot involves the aforementioned Data and his relationship with a young boy who teaches him one of the essential lessons of youth...the ability to play.
The main plot of the story is very dark and sinister, with a good mix of intrigue added in for good measure. The adversarial aliens in this story are, honestly, without good intention. They will get the elements they need from the planet by whatever means necessary. If that includes killing the surface dwellers, Ru'afo (F. Murray Abraham) will do it.
This entry in the "Star Trek" series is often considered the worst. A few reasons I can surmise include the somewhat silly moment in the story when Worf hits puberty (brought on by exposure to the planet) and his battle with a pimple. Many of the subplots retain that lack of tension and distract from the main story. The problem is that I don't feel as though the main story itself is strong enough or long enough to carry the complete film. "Insurrection" feels like an episode of "The Next Generation" spread out through a movie's run-time with a good amount of filler.
For good or for bad, "Insurrection" also doesn't feel like an entry into the "Next Generation" series; rather, it is a return to the more lighthearted fare of the original "Star Trek." The captain gallivanting around with a phaser, taking the fight to his enemies, is something that Kirk would do, but was never the modus operandi of the cultured Picard. One could blame his brash behavior on the effect of the planet, but by and large it feels like a gigantic character departure. Were this an entry into the previous series I doubt very much that anyone would have had a problem with the captain's actions. And were that true, I would really appreciate this movie as an entry into the "Star Trek" franchise; but as it stands, it doesn't feel like "The Next Generation."
No review of this movie would be complete, however, without mentioning the use of a joystick to control the Enterprise. I'm sorry, but who thought it would be a good idea to eschew the control scheme used for decades in favor of a little plastic joystick? What could have been a tense and dramatic scene with Commander Riker barking orders and trying to pull off a delicate maneuver turned into a machismo-laden scene out of "The Last Starfighter."
The acting is capable through the film, though a few actors feel as though they are skating through their parts, notably Gates McFadden (Dr. Crusher), who had little of substance to do in the film. Stylistically, the film is solid. The direction is capable, the designs acceptable, and the special effects impeccable. The best thing I can say about "Insurrection" is that it is fairly unremarkable. It's not a bad film, per se, just not a particularly good one.
Justin's film rating for "Insurrection": 6/10
The Film According to John:
Justin thought "Insurrection" was heavy-handed, and he's probably right. Certainly, the plot is more obviously philosophical than the other three entries in the "New Generation" series of motion pictures, and the filmmakers burden it down with some labored attempts at showing us differences between the ideal, the idealized, and the overly pragmatic. Yet these are among the same kind of esoteric ideas many of us remember from the original "Star Trek" TV series, making "Insurrection" a notable throwback to old-time "Trek" humanism. Heavy-handed, yes; nostalgic, yes.
Jonathan Frakes again directs, but this time the movie isn't an all-out action vehicle as "First Contact" was; it's more of a breather. Things start with a look at a small, rural, and apparently idyllic society that is actually quite advanced but has rejected technology for the simple life. Then we see Data going nuts, which is never a good thing, and before long all hell breaks loose. Picard sets out after Data, either to capture him or terminate him.
I liked the old-time story idea. I also liked the use of the continuous jerky camera to simulate movement, and I liked the fact that even the characters and action have an old-time "Trek" feeling to them. This is the sweetest of the four "Next Generation" motion pictures as well, with even the Captain feeling a youthful invigoration and romantic yearnings.
What I didn't care for was the predictability of everything. Like the old television shows, you know in advance exactly who is going to do what, when, why, and how. You can even predict who's going to die and when. I didn't care for the ending, either, which seems too pat, too conventional, too unimaginative.
So, while "First Contact" might have been the darkest of the "Next Generation" series, "Insurrection" is the lightest and most traditional, for good or bad.
John's film rating for "Insurrection": 6/10
Reviewed by Justin Cleveland
It's sort of sad and ironic that the release of "Nemesis" was overshadowed by the uber-geek event of the millennium, the "Lord of the Rings" saga. What once would have been a cause celebre, the unveiling of the next chapter of a beloved television series, was treated as a mere afterthought by those leaving the theater after their fourth viewing of "The Return of the King." And perhaps the worst part of all: After several mediocre-to-bad installments, "Star Trek: Nemesis" wasn't that bad; in fact, it was quite good.
Part of the problem of past "Star Trek" films was the inclusion of a large cast that suffered from growing egos. "Nemesis" suffers none of that; the focus is squarely on the captain of the ship, Jean Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart), with a subplot featuring everyone's favorite android, Data (Brent Spiner). It's fortunate, too, because Stewart is given the chance to stretch his acting chops as he never has before in the "Trek" universe. While he may still be stiff on the bridge, he's almost impish off, a charismatic figure that, it would be easy to see, would be a pleasure to serve with.
The film starts off by kicking the main plot into high gear with the assassination of the Romulan Council. Pattered after the Italian empire of the time of Christ, there is a large schism between the military and the bureaucrats who make the final decisions. The generals want to take the fight to the Federation, and though the Council has no love for them, they feel the timing is simply not right. So what is a frustrated military man to do? Assassinate the lot of them and usurp them with a previously unheard of slave class from the mines of a moon around Romulus. Of course.
That moment of Greek tragedy is followed with a wonderful moment of great joy: The wedding (finally) of Deanna Troi and Will Riker. Data sings, Picard gives a toast, and Worf (comically, of course, since that's all Klingons are these days, comic relief) gets smashed on Romulan ale. The first half hour of the movie is an adventurous romp, one that is seemingly without purpose. After the wedding, the Enterprise departs for Betazed, home planet for Deanna Troi, where another ceremony awaits, this one sans clothes.
The crew is interrupted, though, when they find signs of another android like Data on a planet that hasn't yet achieved warp drive capacity. This gives the crew a chance to break out the new "Star Trek" dune buggy. Named something far more "Trekkie," it's nothing more than an excuse to have Worf, Data, and Picard race around some desert dunes on a desert world that's conveniently close to the Romulan Neutral Zone. It actually reads more like a stage in a video game than a Hollywood movie scene.
The recovery is astonishing: Looking just like Data, the android is not nearly as complex. It instead acts like an idiot child, asking only "Why" but never comprehending the answers. And since the Enterprise is near the Neutral Zone and considering the recent tragedy on Romulus, Admiral Janeway (holy crap, you mean Voyager made it back to Earth? I quit watching after the second season) asks the Enterprise to make contact with the new government. It, of course, puts off the commencement of the wedding ceremony on Betazed for Riker and Troy; but last I checked the Enterprise wasn't a taxi service. I could be wrong.
Picard and a team makes first contact with the new ruling class of Romulus, the Remans. Long held as a slave class on the dark side of a mining moon, the Remans revolted and took power with the help of the military. They are lead by Shinzon (Tom Hardy), a human who looks strikingly like Picard in his younger days...and not without purpose.
The Remans, bent on destroying more than just the Federation (think wiping out Earth), quickly get into conflict with Picard and company. Personally, I really like the Remans. They are an angry, disgusting, and vile race, but one whose malice is justified. They hate because they were subjugated for so long that now they want to take it out on the universe. Furthermore, the designs for them as characters and their world are absolutely beautiful. Dark and angled, their ships simply look strong, belying the power they truly possess.
Atypically set on starships, "Nemesis" is perhaps the first "Star Trek" movie that feels as though it could actually happen. There is an obvious chain of command, and the residents of Enterprise know how to handle a conflict. In that vein it's closer to "Master and Commander" than an actual episode of the "Trek" franchise. Furthermore, the movie takes a lot of cues from "Star Wars," finally including single-person fighters (for the Remans) and treating these lumbering battle cruisers like the behemoths they are instead of a spry and agile craft. And, honestly, I never had any admiration for the Romulans and their warships before seeing this movie, but their portrayal in "Nemesis" has left them in a completely new light for me.
I liked a lot about "Nemesis," it's true. Data gets some great moments and a swan song (literally), and I think "Trek" was finally beginning to come into the new millennium where Roddenberry's ideals, though wonderful, were being updated for a new generation. But there are still some issues I take. As I mentioned, Worf is completely cast aside as comic relief in this movie, having only a couple of good battle scenes. One would think that the fearsome head of security would be given the chance to square off against the most powerful Reman, and not Riker. Furthermore, there is a scene where the Remans attempt a mind link to put a shunt between Riker and Troi. Though it is a disturbing scene, there is no point to it, save being a plot point later in the film. There are several threads like that left hanging, too, including how Shinzon created the Data-like android Bee-Fore.
The cinematography is good, the tone appropriately dark, and the action by and large magnificent in "Star Trek: Nemesis," plus it takes on the difficult psychological concept of nature vs. nurture. It's not only good for a "Trek" film, it's pretty good on its own merits as a film.
Justin's film rating for "Nemesis": 7/10
The Film According to John:
Maybe after 2002's "Nemesis," it was about time for the "Star Trek" movie franchise to take a break until 2009, when the studio would start over from scratch with the very beginnings of the "Star Trek" saga. Not that "Nemesis" is a bad film; it simply made a good send-off for the "Next Generation" crew and a good place to end.
As Justin says, "Nemesis" is a pretty good "Star Trek" film, even if it's not a great one. It's not a movie that would necessarily bring in new fans, although it should persuade old fans to pony up the dough for this new Blu-ray release. The movie seems to do everything right, everything we've come to expect from a "Star Trek" film, which is probably why it also feels somewhat formulaic. It's like watching your favorite aging action hero still swinging through the trees but looking a mite saggy around the middle. It's like the Bond series: No matter where one star ends, on a high note or a low, there is always a time to bring in a new leading man, a new director, a new look, and start afresh.
To direct "Nemesis," the studio called upon Stuart Baird, essentially a film editor who had only directed two previous pictures--"Executive Decision" and "U.S. Marshals"--and who would not direct another film as of this writing. He does a decent-enough job keeping the action moving forward at a steady clip, but he introduces little that is new or innovative to the proceedings.
Even if "Nemesis" is slightly old-hat, there is a lot to like about rehashing old times. I liked the opening scene with the Romulan Senate and Supreme Council getting done in by pixie dust or some such thing. I liked the warm, touching scenes of Commander Riker and Counselor Troi-Riker's wedding and reception. I liked Data's singing. I liked the duplicate Data and the cloned Picard as parallel story lines, both equally fascinating, as Spock might say; and I liked the philosophical ideas they suggest, as Justin mentioned. Moreover, I'd like any movie with Ron Perlman in it, whether he's sporting horns, riding a motorcycle, or buried behind a mountain of makeup.
OK, there's a lot about "Nemesis" we've seen before. It didn't bother me. As I say, it made a nice send-off for the crew. You'll find elements here from practically every "Star Trek" episode you can remember, with a particularly healthy dose of "Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan." Plus, you'll notice elements of "Star Wars," "Alien," "Excalibur," and even "Superman." Enjoy it.
It's also quaint that some of the same questions remain: Like how come every evil being and every evil spaceship actually looks evil, all dark and sinister and ugly? And why, after centuries, hasn't the Federation been able to detect and defeat an enemy ship's cloaking device or develop one of their own? And why don't their laser guns have automatic targeting mechanisms in them? They might as well be firing six-shooters the number of times they miss somebody at close range.
Well, I'm being silly. "Nemesis" is fun stuff, unoriginal or not.
John's film rating for "Nemesis": 7/10
Paramount video engineers present all four movies in their original 2.35:1 theatrical ratios on dual-layer BD50's, using MPEG-4 audio-video codecs. In 1080p high definition, the least impressive looking of the lot is "Generations," which is very clean but seems overly smooth, sometimes taking on the waxy appearance of a television broadcast. This may have been the result of the engineers applying a bit too much noise reduction, I don't know. Nevertheless, the colors are quite natural, with good black levels and deep contrasts. Faces come off a tad too dark and purplish at times, but the overall look of the image is one of fine dimensionality.
"First Contact" comes off better than "Generations," for whatever reason, displaying improved definition and detail. It's still a touch soft, but colors, as before, are quite realistic; hues are deep and solid; and black levels are strong enough to set them off properly.
"Insurrection" is something of an anomaly in the four-movie set: The picture quality varies from ordinary to excellent from scene to scene. When it's good, it's well defined, well delineated. Otherwise, it can be slightly soft at the expense of losing detail. Still, despite some apparent filtering, outdoor footage retains a good deal of its natural film grain. Most important, the colors are realistic, richly radiant without being too glowing or glaring.
"Nemesis" looks good, among the best in the foursome. The image is well focused; the colors are strong without being too bright; and there is a pleasant degree of natural film grain in vast expanses of land and sky to provide a realistic texture. Among the minor deficiencies: A touch of softness in some scenes and a glare in the desert shots, probably intentional to suggest the landscape's heat and intensity. Overall, the picture quality here is quite good.
There is not a lot to complain about in terms of the discs' audio. Paramount use lossless Dolby TrueHD 5.1 to reproduce the sound for all four movies, and it's mostly first-class. On "Generations" there are wide dynamics, impressive impact, fairly good surround effects, and tremendous bass energy. If there is anything at all of concern, it's that the impact and bass may be too much of a good thing, occasionally becoming overwhelming compared to the rest of the sound spectrum.
"First Contact" improves upon the situation by coming across as almost just as dynamically charged and robust, but better balanced overall. Bass is better integrated, and surround effects seem more plentiful and more effectively utilized.
"Insurrection" sports one of the best soundtrack's in the set, at least as impressive as "First Contact," maybe more so. Dynamics are wide without being overpowering; the frequency range is extended, making for more than enough deep bass; midrange dialogue is clear and distinct; and surround activity emanates from every speaker in the room.
"Nemesis" continues the excellence of the sound in the series, with especially impressive surround effects. I enjoyed the idea of noises emanating from all the speakers almost all the time, often noises that are subtle and almost subliminal. There are also moments of tremendous dynamic impact and thundering bass energy. Well done.
Each of the four main discs contains a feature film and its own unique extras, including a Blu-ray exclusive, the Library Computer, which is an interactive device that allows you to access information about characters, technology, locations, etc., while you're watching the film. Additionally, we get audio commentaries, featurettes, storyboards, picture galleries, and trailers, many of them in high definition. Then, we find BD-Live: "Star Trek I.Q." on each disc, if you have a BD player that can access the Internet; scene selection menus with from sixteen to thirty-one chapter stops; bookmarks; English, French, and Spanish spoken languages; English, French, Spanish, and Portuguese subtitles; and English captions for the hearing impaired.
In terms of extras on the individual discs, here's a run-down: "Generations" contains two audio commentaries, the first by director David Carson and TV series producer Manny Coto and the second by writers Brannon Braga and Ronald D. Moore. Next is a "Production" segment that includes "Uniting Two Legends," "Stellar Cartography," "Strange New Worlds," and "Scoring Star Trek" (HD). After that is a "Visual Effects" segment that includes "Inside ILM" and "Crashing the Enterprise." Following that is a "Scene Deconstruction" segment that includes "Main Title," "The Nexus Ribbon," and "Saucer Crash." Then, there is "The Star Trek Universe," which includes "A Tribute to Matt Jeffries," "The Engerprise Lineage," "Captain Picard's Family Album," "Creating 24th Century Weapons," "Designer Flashback: Andrew Probert" (HD), "Stellar Cartography on Earth" (HD), "Brent Spiner: Data and Beyond, Part 1" (HD), "Trek Roundtable: Generations" (HD), and "Starfleet Academy Brief: Trilithium" (HD). Finally, there are four deleted scenes, story boards, a picture gallery, a teaser trailer, and a theatrical trailer.
"First Contact" contains three audio commentaries: The first is by director and actor Jonathan Frakes, the second by writers Brannon Braga and Ronald D. Moore, and the third by producer Damon Lindelof and "Trek" writer and fan Anthony Pascale. Next is a "Production" segment that includes "Making First Contact," "The Art of First Contact," "The Story," "The Missile Silo," "The Deflector Shield," and "From A to E." After that is a "Scene Deconstruction" segment that includes "Borg Queen Assembly," "Escape Pod Launch," and "Borg Queen's Demise." Then, there is "The Star Trek Universe," which includes "Jerry Goldsmith: A Tribute," "The Legacy of Zefram Cochrane," "First Contact: The Possibilities," "ILM: The Next Generation" (HD), "Greetings from the International Space Station" (HD), "SpaceShipOne's Historic Flight" (HD), "Brent Spiner: Data and Beyond, Part 2" (HD), "Trek Roundtable: First Contact" (HD), and "Starfleet Academy Brief: Temporal Vortex" (HD). Finally, there is the "Borg Collective," which includes "Unimatrix One," "The Queen," and "Design Matrix," plus storyboards, a photo gallery, a teaser trailer, and a theatrical trailer.
"Insurrection" starts with an audio commentary by director-actor Jonathan Frakes and actress Marina Sirtis. Following that is a "Production" segment that includes "It Takes a Village," "Location, Location, Location," "The Art of Insurrection," "Anatomy of a Stunt," "The Story," "Making Star Trek Insurrection," and "Director's Notebook." Next is "The Star Trek Universe," which includes "Westmore's Aliens," "Westmore's Legacy" (HD), "Star Trek's Beautiful Alien Women," "Marina Sirtis: The Counselor's In" (HD), "Brent Spiner: Data and Beyond, Part 3" (HD), "Trek Roundtable: Insurrection" (HD), and "Starfleet Academy Brief: The Origins of the Ba-ku and Son'a Conflict" (HD). Finally, there is a segment on "Creating the Illusion" that includes "Shuttle Chase," "Drones," and "Duck Blind"; seven deleted scenes; storyboards; a photo gallery; a teaser trailer; a theatrical trailer; and a promotional featurette.
"Nemesis" provides three audio commentaries, the first by director Stuart Baird, the second by producer Rick Berman, and the third by the series' technical consultant, Michael Okuda, and his wife, co-"Star Trek" researcher and writer, Denise Okuda. Following those items is a "Production" segment that includes "Nemesis Revisited," "New Frontiers Stuart Baird on Directing Nemesis," "Storyboarding the Action," "Red Alert: Shooting the Action of Nemesis," "Build and Rebuild," "Four-Wheeling in the Final Frontier," and "Screen Test: Shinzon." Next is "The Star Trek Universe," which includes "A Star Trek Family's Final Journey," "A Bold Vision of the Final Frontier," "The Enterprise E," "Reunion with the Rikers," "Today's Tech Tomorrow's Data" (HD), "Robot Hall of Fame" (HD), "Brent Spiner: Data and Beyond, Part 4" (HD), "Trek Roundtable: Nemesis" (HD), and "Starfleet Brief: Thalaron Radiation" (HD). Then, there is a segment on "The Romulan Empire" that includes "Romulan Lore," "Shinzon & the Viceroy," "Romulan Design," "The Romulan Senate," and "The Scimitar." To conclude, we get fourteen deleted scenes, storyboards, production, props, a teaser trailer, and a theatrical trailer.
In addition to the four main movie discs, the set includes a high-definition bonus disc called "Star Trek: Evolutions." It contains seven recently made featurettes, totaling about seventy-seven minutes, covering the whole "Star Trek" universe, with comments from producers, directors, writers, actors, and fans. The titles and timings are "The Evolution of the Enterprise" (HD), fourteen minutes; "Villains of Star Trek" (HD), fourteen minutes; "I Love the Star Trek Movies" (HD), four minutes; "Farewell to Star Trek: The Experience" (HD), twenty-eight minutes; "Klingon Encounter" (HD), three minutes; "Borg Invasion 4D" (HD), five minutes; and "Charting the Final Frontier" (HD), which takes the viewer on an interactive journey through Federation Space and all of the "Star Trek" movies.
An attractive cardboard box encloses the five discs, which themselves are housed in separate, super-slim cases. A clear-plastic slipcover fits over the box to complete the package.
As with any set of movies, there are bound to be some among them a person will like or dislike more than others. The "Star Trek" purist will have to have all of them in any case. Let's just say it's good to have the "Next Generation" films in high-definition picture and sound, no matter if you're a fan.