Star Trek V: The Final Frontier review by Mike Long

By now, we are all accustomed to movie series, as Hollywood continues to churn out film after film whose title is followed by a Roman numeral. In most cases, as the series continue, the films deteriorate in overall quality, but this wasnt the case with the Star Trek films. (Yes, I know that this is highly debatable, but its my review and thats my opinion.) As the series progressed through the first four feature films (alliteration rules!), the movies continued to grow in worth, culminating with Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, the film which was able to take the Star Trek franchise into the mainstream. So, it stands to reason that Star Trek V: The Final Frontier would be even better. Unfortunately, the film is a giant backwards, into a place that no filmmaker wants to go.

Star Trek V: The Final Frontier opens shortly after the finale of Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. (We learn on this DVD that its actually 19 days afterwards.) Most of the crew of the Starship Enterprise, Captain James T. Kirk (William Shatner), Spock (Leonard Nimoy), Dr. McCoy (DeForest Kelley), Chekov (Walter Koenig), and Sulu (George Takei) are taking a well-deserved vacation, while Mr. Scott (James Doohan) and Uhura (Nichelle Nichols) are attempting to get the latest incarnation of the Enterprise into working condition. Meanwhile, on planet Nimbus-3, a Vulcan radical named Sybok (Laurence Luckinbill), has taken intergalactic delegates hostage. The crew of the Enterprise is scrambled and heads to the planet to help resolve the situation. Once they arrive, they find that Sybok has amassed an army and takes control of the Enterprise. Sybok plans to use the starship to pierce the Outer Barrier of the universe and find God. At the same time, a Klingon ship is pursuing the Enterprise, giving Kirk and his crew two enemies to fight.

Whenever Star Trek V: The Final Frontier is discussed, two points are usually made; 1. That the film isn't very good, and 2. That this should be blamed on director William Shatner. Following the success that Leonard Nimoy had enjoyed with directing Star Trek III and IV, Shatner wanted his turn in the director's chair (and, if I'm correct, demanded this in his contract negotiations). And, if one views the film was a purely technical point of view, Shatner did an OK job. The movie is in focus and there are actually some creative shots here. So, Shatner definitely isn't the worst director ever.

No, the problem with the film lies in the story, which Shatner did have a hand in conceiving, along with producer Harve Bennett, and screenwriter David Loughery. Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, simply put, is very boring, and especially when compared to the prior three Star Trek films. Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan was a great sci-fi/action film. Star Trek III: The Search for Spock was a sci-fi film which had a very serious and dramatic focus. Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home was one of the greatest hybrid films ever made, as it deftly combined sci-fi, action, and comedy with a poignant political message. Star Trek V: The Final Frontier attempts to emulate these three films and fails miserably. The movie's greatest sin? The villain, Sybok, isn't even a real villain. Khan was a fantastic villain in II, and the crew had to race against time in III and IV. Here, there is no real threat from Sybok, and the pursuing Klingons are simply vaguely drawn stereotypes and we feel no sense of menace from them as well. This lack of tension is combined with a weak story in which we never really know, nor care about what Sybok is really doing. Shatner does show that he has no understanding of pacing in Chapter 10, when the film comes to a screeching halt in a long, drawn out scene in which Sybok confronts, Kirk, Spock, and McCoy in a test of wills. He could have faced just one member of this trio to prove his powers, but going up against all three, one at a time, takes the focus off of the storyline, and leaves the viewer to think about other things. I know that there are plenty of die-hard Trek fans who are willing to forgive Star Trek V: The Final Frontier for its sins, but the bottom line is that the film simply isn't entertaining, and that's the greatest sin of all.

Star Trek V: The Final Frontier warps onto DVD from Paramount Home Entertainment in a newly created 2-disc Special Collector's Edition. This release replaces the previous, movie-only DVD, which was released in April, 1999. This new DVD features an anamorphic transfer, and the film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1. The image is fairly sharp and clear, but it does show some problems. The stability of the image changes throughout the film -- at times, the picture is fine, at other times, it's too dark, and still at other times, it's washed out. Given that a good deal of the film takes place on a desert planet, there is little grain here, although some of the effects shots display a noticeable amount. The colors are fine, although, once again, they appear washed out at times. Also, some scenes look quite soft. So, the transfer is OK overall, but it does display some defects. Now, I've yet to figure out what's going on with the audio portion of this DVD. The packaging claims that the main audio is a Dolby Digital 5.1 track, and that's what's the DVD player thinks it is. But, my receiver read the track as Dolby 6.1! (And I tried this in both of the DVD players which feed into my receiver.) So, I don't know what's going on here. This mystery aside, the track provides clear dialogue, and provides some nice surround and bass effects. But, the dynamic range on the track is off, and I found myself constantly adjusting the volume.

This Special Collector's Edition contains many special features, all of which will delight Trek fans. On Disc 1, we have an audio commentary with director/co-writer/star William Shatner, and his daugheter Liz Shatner, author of the book, "Captain's Log: William Shatner's Account of the Making of Star Trek V". This isn't the most entertaining commentary ever recorded, as both speakers are quite subdued, but as they were both intimately connected with the film (Liz was on-set chronicling everything), they impart a great deal of information about the making of the movie. We get even more insider info with the text commentary from Michael & Denise Okuda, who have provided these tracks for all of the Collector Edition DVDs. These tracks (which appear like sub-titles on the bottom of the screen) are indispensable, as they point out many facts about the film, and leave one wishing that every DVD contained something like this.

The remainder of the extras can be found on Disc 2, which has been broken up into sections. "The Star Trek Universe" opens with "Herman Zimmerman: A Tribute", a 19-minute featurette which profiles the production designer of Star Trek V: The Final Frontier. Next up is a 15-minute interview with William Shatner from 1988, in which he talks about the film, but mostly discusses the scenes shot in Yosemite National Park. There's always some touchy-feely extras on these DVDs, and we get two on this release. First up is "Cosmic Thoughts", a 13-minute segment which traces mankind's fascination with the sky and the cosmos, in relation to the search for Heaven. This is followed by "A Green Future?" (9 minutes), which examines the ecological points which are raised in the Star Trek films. The last part of this section is called, "That Klingon Couple" (13 minutes) and looks at actors Todd Bryant and Spice Williams, who played Klingons in the film.

The "Production" section is next and this opens with a 2-minute "pitch" from producer Harve Bennett, presumably recorded for Paramount's marketing team. Good luck. "The Journey" is a 29-minute making-of featurette which contains new and old interviews, behind-the-scenes footage and stills, and clips from the film (which some admit wasn't that well received.) There is a 10-minute segment of make-up tests, which includes sketches, models, and test-footage. In a related vein is "Rockman in the Raw" (5 minutes), which examines the abandoned Rockman character through sketches and test-footage. (Kirk was to fight Rockman at the end.) "Pre-Visualization" is a brief section (90 seconds) which shows the FX artists using action figures and models to plan shots. A press-conference from December, 1988 (13 minutes) is included here, in which the cast and crew discuss the film with the assembled press. The "Archives" Section contains a production still gallery and storyboards. There are 4 deleted scenes included on the DVD, none of which are very good. Finally, there are two theatrical trailers and seven TV spots. So, we've got a plethora of quality extra features backing-up a pretty lame film.


4 out of 10 Jackasses

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