Thursday, May 2, 2013

Review: Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986)

What starts off on a stronger push towards a well-defined universe, with grit and a portrayal of Starfleet run by competent people again, ends more in less in a diversionary area where the Crew (and us?) gets to have some fun for a bit. That is Good or Horrible, depending who you ask... You're asking me? Oh. Uh.

We are still firmly in "The Adventures of..." territory, but at the very least I find myself admiring how strong the continuity is between these films. Months after the previous adventure, Spock is still acting a little weird from his sabbatacle from life and trying to re-educate his brain, the crew is in exhile on Vulcan and still piloting that Klingon vessel from the last film, and the Klingons are still pretty pissed off at all that shit that happened regarding Genesis and appealing to Starfleet to get them all incarcerated. Which isn't really all that unreasonable a request.

As the crew heads back to Earth to take part in their punishment, a strange vessel heads towards the planet, a lot faster than last time, knocking out electronic equipment, ionizing the atmosphere and generally causing a ruckus. Kirk springs into action, working with the available information on the alien probe and makes an incredibly wild leap for the solution: they must travel back in time via a slingshot around the sun and retrieve a whale from the 80s.

Yep. The Voyage Home is "That one with the whales," for the uninitiated. For a long time, I thought that this was "That horrible one," and while it certainly didn't make a lot of money and it isn't talked about too often, that unflattering reputation belongs to the next one. Well, so I hear. Joy.

So... whales. It gets weirder, in the sense that this is the "Assigment: Earth/City on the Edge of Forever" episode, so... 'but good' is what I mean. That bespeckled joy I spoke about in the Original Series reviews is abundant in this film. Our gang of intrepids adjust to modern San Francisco life and jokes fly at their expense and at the expense of those unlucky enough to cross their path. And, of couse, they have to convince one person that they are who they say they are and get back home. No one considers warning everyone about the Eugenics Wars in the next decade.

Bottom line: is it good? Well, it isn't bad. The movie has no real villain (unless you count the Whaling Industry), only a problem that needs to be solved, and there isn't even much of a ticking clock element either. The obstacles only amount to people standing in their way, and one extended stretch where Chekov, the useless bastard, needs to be rescued. I'm okay with all that because it is well-written enough to keep me from getting angry, with people asking logical questions and reacting to the weird stuff like actual human fuckin beings. Good and good.

The weak side of it is just how goddamned strange it is, that it was made and that it took this route to smooth things over with the Klingons and return Kirk to Captain status in an identical Enterprise. It ties up loose ends even more than The Search for Spock tried to, and it weirds me out the more I think about it. I can't say that I'm not pissed about being reminded AGAIN that time travel is so easy, and the script certainly isn't interested in exploring the mechanics or the ramnifications of doing it, explaining everything away with a predestination paradox. And I can't say I'm not annoyed at all how they exaggerate the importance of the whales by reverting to pure propoganda. But... it's okay. I'm okay. It's fine, mostly. Yep. How are you?