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STAR TREK V : THE FINAL FRONTIER, 1989
Movie Review

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STAR TREK V,   MOVIE POSTERSTAR TREK V, 1989
Movie Reviews

Directed by William Shatner
Starring; William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, James Doohan, Walter Koenig, Nichelle Nichols, George Takei
Review by Thomas Marchese


SYNOPSIS:

Capt. Kirk and his crew must deal with Mr. Spock's half brother who hijacks the Enterprise for an obsessive search for God.

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REVIEW:

Momentum in the Star Trek franchise was high in the aftermath of the blockbuster success of Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home: the original series was enjoying a new wave of success in reruns, the television spinoff, Star Trek: The Next Generation, was a highly successful first-run syndicated series and Paramount had commissioned a fifth film. Unfortunately, the odd numbered curse on the series would rear its ugly head with movie number 5.

Star Trek V: The Final Frontier was a catastrophe from start to finish. What kicked this cinematic mess into play was Paramount making a promise to William Shatner that guaranteed he would direct the next film, if he agreed to appear in TVH. While a more than competent actor and television director, Shatner is by no means a filmmaker.

Shatner conceived of a story and film that would be a grand sci-fi epic to match Star Trek: The Motion Picture in its scale and ideas. The story would have the Enterprise crew searching for God and instead finding the Devil. Both Gene Roddenberry and Harve Bennett objected to the concept, feeling that it ran contrary to the Star Trek ethos of avoiding theological issues, and Paramount felt it was too serious and lacked the fun and adventure of the last movie. Shatner prevailed, however the studio appointed screenwriter David Loughery to write the script and infuse it with fun and humour.

Lougheryís resulting screenplay was uneven, convoluted, campy and half-baked. The Enterprise crew are on shore leave, when they are suddenly summoned to free political hostages taken on a desolate planet called Nimbus III. The crew learn that the hostage situation was merely a scheme orchestrated by a renegade Vulcan named Sybok (revealed later to be Spockís half-brother), to lure a starship to Nimbus III to transport himself and his followers to the mythical planet of Sha Ka Ree, which is located at the centre of the galaxy.

Sybok is an amalgam of televangelists and religious fundamentalists. He believes that God resides on Sha Ka Ree, the reason for his desire to journey to the planet, and converts people to his cause by granting them enlightenment through releasing their inner pain. Sybok succeeds in converting the Enterprise crew, with the exception of Kirk, Spock and McCoy, who attempt to overthrow him while en route.

Meanwhile, a Klingon vessel learn of the Enterpriseís mission and its bloodthirsty captain conspires to tail the ship in order to terminate Captain Kirk (Kirk was demoted in rank at the conclusion of The Voyage Home as punishment for his insubordination in The Search for Spock), a much loathed enemy of the Klingons.

Sound REALLY cheesy and confusing? Thatís because it is!

As Loughery completed the script, a Writers Guild of America strike had begun, lasting from March to August of 1988, and he was unable to perform rewrites. Unknown how long the strike would last, all the studios rushed films into production with tight schedules, regardless if they were ready or not. TFF was one of those films.

In addition to a screenplay that was in dire need of revision, another hindrance was Paramount allotting the same amount of money for the budget as TVH. It would seem logical, as Spock would say, with the phenomenal success of the previous film and Star Trek enjoying a new wave of popularity, that the studio would allot a bigger budget for the next movie. However, Paramount pinched pennies with the franchise, as they felt larger interest could be attained on their investments if the films were made cheaply. That approach worked with the three previous films, and if it ainít broke, donít fix it.

The budget constraint hampered Shatnerís grandiose vision of Final Frontier, and sacrifices were made in the production, particularly the special effects. Industrial Light & Magic did not participate this time around. There are conflicting stories of why that was. The first being that the company was maxed out with the special effects for two other upcoming summer blockbusters, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade and Ghostbusters II, and they could not take on another movie. The other story is that the money designated for the SFX was insufficient to cover ILMís costs. Thus the task was assigned to another company that was smaller and not as experienced, causing the effects to suffer. The special effects are of the quality of the original series, which by 1989 standards were crude and laughable.

The Final Frontier may have been made with the best of intentions, but overall itís a silly and incoherent embarrassment. Despite all the politics and setbacks Shatner had to contend with during production, his direction is misguided and sloppy. The regular cast are in fine form, but the supporting players range from over-the-top to wooden. The humour lacks wit and is just plain stupid and campy. Adding to the camp factor are the scenes on Nimbus III and aboard the Klingon ship, which come off as an atrocious cross between Star Wars and Mad Max.

Not surprisingly, TFF was critically lambasted upon its release in June 1989. Following a strong opening weekend debuting at number 1, the movie sank like a stone thereafter, ultimately only grossing half of what The Voyage Home had grossed, and was quickly overshadowed and forgotten with the release of the biggest of all the blockbusters that summer and the highest grossing movie of that year, Batman.

In 2003, William Shatner lobbied Paramount to make a directorís cut for the upcoming two-disc special edition DVD, as Robert Wise had been permitted to do for the two-disc special edition of The Motion Picture, to make the film as he envisioned it. The studio refused and the film was released in its original version.

Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, together with the latter day Star Trek: Nemesis, is considered the worst of all the Star Trek movies, and rightfully so. Many Trekkies refuse to even acknowledge its existence.

However, the original cast would return for a sixth and final installment that would have them bowing out in a rousing and well-deserved blaze of glory.

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