Them! launched what would be Hollywood’s version of the Godzilla movie, expressing our atomic-age fears via giant bugs and insects instead of rubber lizards. This particular sub-genre has been largely forgotten by our collective movie memory, but Them! remains as an example of 1950s sci-fi done with a style and self-confident maturity that the category often lacks.
Almost since the days of Star Trek: The Next Generation in the mid-eighties, the powers that be at Paramount had been threatening to do a new Star Trek television series or film that would follow the hallowed characters of the original series through their early days at Starfleet Academy, sort of a Star Trek version of Muppet Babies. However, the idea of casting younger actors in the iconic roles of Kirk, Spock, and McCoy always seemed to carry the faint whiff of sacrilege, like a female pope or eating a cheeseburger with mayonnaise.
Remakes are rarely a good idea. Remakes of classics are even less likely to be a good idea. They rarely improve on the original and more often, to be blunt, they suck. But up with it I’m willing to put if it means that, from time to time, we get a remake like this one, which takes everything that was good about the original and turns it around so it is relevant to the present.
After being tripped up by their own mistake of letting William Shatner direct a Star Trek feature, the powers-that-be at Paramount did the only wise thing: They brought back Nicholas Meyer, director of installment number two, The Wrath of Khan, still the gold standard among the ten Star Trek movies.
While this sixth movie doesn’t rise to the same level of Khan, it comfortably leaps into second place among the Trek feature films. Continue reading
Star Trek: The Motion Picture‘s spiralling production costs and lukewarm reviews must have left a cold feeling in pit of the Paramount brass’ collective stomachs. Fortunately the box office returns were good enough to justify at least thinking about a sequel. If nothing else, it would help amortize the production costs of the first film across more than one movie.
To keep costs in check, they assigned the film to their television production division. To direct, they hired Nicholas Meyer, whose only other directorial credit to date was the well-received thriller, Time After Time. Both decisions proved fortuitous. Literate, focused and not awed by the Star Trek legacy, Meyer proved to be just the hand to keep the film on course.
Day four of my own little Robert Wise Film Festival
The most common complaint about the more recent Next Generation Star Trek movies is that they seemed more like run-of-the-mill TV episodes shot on a big-screen budget. While a valid criticism, this is most literally true of this first cinematic outing for Gene Roddenberry’s then-cult television hit.
The plot for Star Trek: The Motion Picture borrows liberally from the original series episode called “The Changeling,” about a space probe named Nomad that comes back, vastly enhanced by some alien race and programmed with a low tolerance point for human imperfection. At the time of its release, some retitled the film, “Where Nomad Has Gone Before.”
The similarity to an existing story is only one weakness. Continue reading