Sunday, March 6, 2016

Top 10 List - Pre-Reboot Movies Part 2

Last post (not counting the news update), I ranked the bottom 5 of the ten pre-reboot Trek films. Today, we look at the top 5. I expect this list to be a tougher one to figure out, and I suspect that there will be a bit more disagreement, but that is the fun of things. 

Before we take a look at #5 I just wanted to provide a link to the website that helped me decide and sort out the different movies. is a great website for people who love movies and have some spare time on their hands. Check it out at

And now, #5

5. Star Trek III: The Search for Spock - There is an old saying that in the original 10 Trek movies, all the odd number movies were inferior to all the even number movies. There are two exceptions to that rule, in my opinion: the 10th and the 3rd. Star Trek III may not be as gripping as the Wrath of Khan or as fun as the Voyage Home, but it is a worthy movie with many strengths. This movie is the second in a compelling three-part adventure. With Leonard Nimoy at the helm as director (his first of two), Spock's presence was felt throughout. Kirk and McCoy both have some great moments, while the rest of the crew each gets their moment to shine. One of the greatest strengths of this movie is the supporting cast. While the debate will likely never be settled over who was the better Saavik, Robin Curtis plays a great Vulcan. Dame Judith Anderson came out of retirement from films for her role as the Vulcan Priestess. Mark Leonard returns as Spock's father, Sarek, bringing his typical poise and dignity. Especially fun are the Klingons, who since the films began were barely a footnote. There is a barely recognizable John Laroquette as Maltz, Steven Liska as Torg, and the ever wonderful Christopher Lloyd as the evil Klingon Commander Kruge. Lloyd plays his villain perfectly with a balance of cruelty and sophistication. Added to that is Merritt Butrick returning as Kirk's estranged son. The theme of sacrifice to save a fallen comrade is hit home in the exchange between Kirk and Sarek when discussing what saving Spock cost Kirk. Kirk says "If I hadn't tried, the cost would have been my soul". So while this movie may not be the greatest, it is still great. 

4. Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country - This movie was meant to be both a farewell and a celebration. Star Trek was 25 years old, and the original crew were about to take their final voyage. TNG was amidst the height of its popularity and the obvious heir to the franchise. DS9 was on the horizon, and it was time to give Kirk, Spock, and company their proper send-off. Sadly, the passing of Gene Roddenberry cast a somber shadow over the celebration. Star Trek VI is a near-perfect film for the franchise. Everything checks off. Great story with a timely social commentary, check. Fun script with proper balance of seriousness and humor, check. The original crew at their finest, check. My favourite features of this movie include the supporting cast. Mark Leonard returns as Sarek, David Warner as the Klingon Chancellor, and Michael Dorn as Worf's ancestor of the same name. Most impressive is Christopher Plummer as the Shakespeare-quoting General Chang, likely one of the greatest villains to ever tangle with Kirk. I also like having Nicholas Meyer back at the helm as director. I have always felt that Trek is best directed by those who get it, and Meyer definitely gets it. Leonard Nimoy was also greatly involved with the story and production. I also love how they moved the characters on, especially giving Sulu his own command. It is a fitting closing chapter of an important part of Trek history. While Gene had some issues with the story, he did get to see the movie before he died, and gave it his blessing.

3. Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home - One of the most successful (both financially and critically) movies of the franchise, Star Trek IV brings Trek to one of its highest points. The end to a great trilogy sees Kirk and company travel back in time to 1980s San Francisco. Leonard Nimoy returns to the director's chair. The story of environmental conscience can be overdone and become bogged down in preachy cliches, but this movie finds the right tone. I believe this movie also is the best at using humor. It is great seeing the elite of Starfleet out of their element in our day. Of particular note is finally getting Walter Koenig's Chekov to really exercise some great comedic talent, but Spock's befuddled nature, too much LDS, and the punk on the bus are all great entertainment. Everyone gets their moment. While having a great villain makes a movie great, this one doesn't need it, and this is one of the refreshing elements of this movie. While conflict is always a necessary plot device, in this movie the conflict comes with our past. The message to care for the Earth and the creatures that inhabit is timeless, for life on Earth will always be interconnected. I also enjoyed Catherine Hicks as the marine biologist that the crew must work with to save a pair of humpback whales. Most of all, after two movies with a darker theme to them, this is such a light-hearted escapade that everyone can enjoy it.

2. Star Trek: First Contact - While most of the TNG films ended up in the bottom 5, the number 2 spot belongs to their strongest contender. This movie is one great action adventure that delves deeper into Trek lore. While going back to our present day is fun and nostalgic, I like the idea of visiting a part that is still in our future that establishes an important moment in Trek history: first contact between Earth and extra-terrestrial life. While Generations seemed like a way for the Next Generation crew to take the torch from Kirk and company, First Contact was an opportunity to paint a new look for the Picard and his crew. We have a new Enterprise, bigger and better than ever. The crew gets new uniforms (which are later picked up by the DS9 group). We also see what is arguably the greatest enemy of TNG come alive on the big screen with a new look. Yes, the Borg have returned and they are going to pull all the stops to assimilate this pesky Federation. All the fish-out-of-water fun that made the Voyage Home so enduring is here as Riker, Troi, and Geordi try to help Zefram Cochrane (played by the always talented James Cromwell) launch the first warp-capable space vessel. Added to this is likely one of the most intense action stories as Picard, Data, and the rest of the crew fight against the zombie-like Borg from assimilating the Enterprise. they come face-to-face with the Borg Queen, portrayed with delicious coldness by Alice Krige. The Queen brings great depth to an already terrifying race. This movie also has many elements that I love in a great Trek story. There is humor (drunken Troi, as an example), suspense, and great drama. Patrick Steward takes Picard to new heights (or depths, possibly) as he gives an Ahab-like obsession to our normally composed captain. While many shows cause trauma to their characters, this shows that Picard is still healing from his experiences with the Borg, even though it was years ago. Data also gets growth as he becomes the favored of the Queen. The two of them have an amazing chemistry. Throw in so many well-placed and appropriate throwbacks to the Trek universe (look for Barclay, Ogawa, the EMH, the USS Defiant, and Ethan Phillips as a hologram give nods to almost every part of what was then the current Star Trek world). The soundtrack might be my all time favourite, and Johnathan Frakes shows us that his amazing directorial skills translate equally well on the big screen. This was the last movie that I saw several times in the theatre Still, it was not quite enough for it to beat out...

1. Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan - Several years ago, a classmate of mine said that Star Trek sucks, and I could not show her anything trek that she would like. I pulled out this movie. She took it all back. On, this movie is my #1 of all time. I have no idea where to begin with it. Everyone is firing at warp 9. Nicholas Meyer directs an amazing story he helped create. Going back to an original series episode, "Space Seed", Meyer brings back Khan Noonien Singh, once again played with brilliance by the incomparable Ricardo Montalban. This is the villain to beat all villains. He has a reason to be evil. He shows no mercy. He is multi-dimensional. He is intelligent and passionate. He is calculating and eloquent. I would put Khan against any villain anywhere and anytime. Add to this a sweeping saga of revenge peppered with the theme of dealing with one own's mortality, and you have a phenomenal movie. I also enjoyed the acting. I know, Shatner often is the butt of many "can't act" jokes, but I think he does quite well in this movie. This movie will make you laugh, cry, scream in horror, and applaud. The ending brings so much depth to our beloved characters as for the first time in Trek history we deal with the loss of a beloved character. Spock's ultimate sacrifice touched fans deeply, and this was before all details were leaked onto the internet months before the film was released. We had no idea whether Spock was gone for good or not. I think his service at the end was one of the most emotional and touching scenes in Trek history. I remember being a very young boy and crying over it in the movie theater. To this day I cannot listen to "Amazing Grace" being played on the bagpipes without remembering this scene. So much of Trek lore can be connected to this story. The Kobyashi Maru, the Vulcan soul, Genesis, the Eugenics wars, and more. and I would be remiss if I hadn't included the famous cry of rage that fans echo every chance they get; "KHAN!!!!!!!!" I think there is a very good reason that JJ Abrams revisited Khan and the aspects of this movie in his second reboot feature, and that is because it is just rich. As I said before, whenever someone wants to see a good movie, I show them this. Trekkie or not, people connect to this movie. 

So there are my Top 5. Let me know what you think.

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