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Neil Middlemiss

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Star Trek: Generations is almost a very good movie, but it lands firmly in realm of “just good enough,” where it couldn’t quite match the best of what the series was able to conjure. The larger theatrical budget may cover some of the script and concept weaknesses, but not completely. The original series crew struggled in its first outing on the big screen, too, before finding its footing with their second film. The same would be true for The Next Generation crew. Still, as with The Motion Picture, there’s enough to admire and enjoy in the inaugural excursion. Unlike 1979’s The Motion Picture, however, Generations lacks grandeur and ambition. Rushed to the big screen following the show’s end, the showrunners, Brannon Braga and Rick Berman, barely had time to catch a breath. They needed time to rejuvenate and refill their creative tanks. The fact that they couldn’t do so shows in the finished product. Still, despite all its flaws, Generations does entertain.



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benbess

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This is my favorite of all the Next Generation movies by a wide margin. I loved it when it came out, and still feel the same way today. I really appreciate the emotional journeys of Data, Picard, and the other crew members. Seeing Kirk and Picard together worked for me. Malcom McDowel is also great from my pov as Soran, having such a wonderful mix of misguided evil and humor. I love Soren's speeches: "They say time is the fire in which we burn. Right now, Captain, my time is running out. We leave so many things unfinished in our lives. I know you understand."

And also the longer interaction with Picard:

Picard : What you're about to do, Soran, is no different from when the Borg destroyed your world. They killed millions too. Including your wife, your children.
Dr. Soran : Nice try. You know there was a time that I wouldn't hurt a fly. Then the Borg came, and they showed me that if there is one constant in this whole universe, it's death. Afterwards, I began to realize that it didn't really matter. We're all going to die sometime. It's just a question of how and when. You will too, Captain. Aren't you beginning to feel time gaining on you? It's like a predator; it's stalking you. Oh, you can try and outrun it with doctors, medicines, new technologies. But in the end, time is going to hunt you down... and make the kill.
Picard : It's our mortality that defines us, Soran. It's part of the truth of our existence.
Dr. Soran : What if I told you I found a new truth?
Picard : The Nexus?
Dr. Soran : Time has no meaning there. The predator has no teeth.

And Picard's final thoughts still work for me....

Picard: Someone once told me that time was a predator that stalked us all our lives. But I rather believe than time is a companion who goes with us on the journey, and reminds us to cherish every moment because they'll never come again. What we leave behind is not as important how we lived.

And the classic expression of Data with his emotion chip as the saucer section hurls toward the planet: "Oh S---!"
That got a huuuge laugh on opening night!

star-trek-generations-movie-poster-27x40-in-1994-david-carson-patrick-stewart.jpeg
 
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Bryan^H

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I'm with Ben on this one, my absolute favorite of the TNG films. It is the most cinematic Trek feature since the motion picture in my opinion. It's just great. I can't wait until Tuesday.

Great review Neil.
 

Josh Steinberg

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A hundred million years ago, while I was in high school, I took a summer film program across the country with the intention of completing a short student film to be used on my college applications. One of my classmates there, Matt, happened to be the son of David Carson. We were totally geeking out over film stuff at the orientation and he mentioned that his father directed, probably not thinking anyone would recognize the name or credits, but of course even in my teenage years I did. The class wound up having the “end of semester” party at Carson’s house (he wasn’t home at the time). I never did get to meet David Carson (not that I expected to) and to this day I have no idea if my classmate had gotten permission from his dad to throw a party or just took advantage of his dad being away on a shoot - it’s a good story either way :)

Matt appears briefly in Generations as Picard’s son in the Nexus. He also stars in my first ever 90-second silent 16mm short. (I leave it up to you to determine which was the more memorable credit.) When we went to shoot that little short, Matt brought in a viewfinder for me to use that Generations cinematographer John Alonso given him - Alonso had used it on a variety of productions going back to Chinatown through Generations.

I have had a pretty good life filled with some neat job opportunities and random encounters with cool people, but in terms of work, I’m not sure anything will ever quite top shooting my first piece of motion picture film with the aid of equipment used on the Star Trek Generations set, loaned to me by someone who was actually in the film. I’ll treasure that experience as long as I live.
 

Adam Lenhardt

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I'm with Ben on this one, my absolute favorite of the TNG films. It is the most cinematic Trek feature since the motion picture in my opinion.
I would agree that it's more cinematic than the later movies with the TOS cast, but it's significantly less cinematic than First Contact in my opinion.

There's a lot I really like about it. I think would have been been remembered as a classic if they'd stuck the landing with Kirk's death. As it stands, the final act is just really anticlimactic.

But I do love how this movie passed the baton from the TOS cast to the TNG cast. And using Guinan, notoriously long-lived, as a means to bridge the two time periods was brilliant. I love the poetry of how Kirk was brought into the future, and the sacrifices both captains must make to uphold their duty.
 

Tino

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Great review!

I have a soft spot for this film as it was so awesome to see our favorite chapters on the big screen for the first time.
 

cineMANIAC

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I'm not a "trekkie", not by a long shot, but I do enjoy these films as fun sci-fi entertainment. In the back of my mind I know they derive from cheezy TV shows (well, at least the original series did), but the cinematic counterparts were all rousing adventures that work very well as standalone films IMO. Generations was and remains my favorite TNG entry. Trekkies may find fault with it but, to me at least, it's grand scale and highly entertaining.

My copies of all 4 films are due today, a full day early. Would've had them yesterday but my building isn't open on Sundays.
 

Jason_V

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I have an extremely rare weekend alone coming up. Assuming the four TNG movies get upgrades on iTunes between tomorrow and the weekend, the dog and I are going to marathon Generations, First Contact, Insurrection and Nemesis. I have held off watching any of them in the last year in preparation for this moment. (And I'll be able to watch all of them on the living room 85" TV and not the very serviceable but not "massively huge" 45" TV in my office.)
 

Sam Favate

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In the early days of the internet for me (early spring 1994), I discovered an AOL message board dedicated to Star Trek. To my surprise, there were people there in the know relating to the ongoing productions. (Ron Moore would later establish his own board on the forum, called Ask Ron Moore, which was a great resource.)

Anyway, I will never forget a flurry of messages leading up to the TNG finale. We knew the first TNG movie was coming in the fall too, so this was an exciting time. One day a message popped up from one of these "in the know" people and it said, in no uncertain terms, that AGT (All Good Things) was going to be much better than the feature film. (Was it Ron Moore? I have no idea. He was, however, co-writer of both.)

I saw AGT and loved it. I thought then and still do that it's a great finale. It pulls off the magic trick of successfully ending a successful series, something that all too often is beyond even the best writers.

Several months later, I saw Generations and my excitement for it overtook me, and I loved it. I probably saw it seven times in the theater. I even dragged my father to it, who was not a Star Trek fan. (He commented, "Why is that robot laughing so much? He's going to ruin the movie!")

With the dispassion of time, I think it is a middling movie at best. The writing, I'm sorry to say, isn't good. There are massive plot holes, and many of the characterizations fall flat. Spiner's over-the-top performance with Data is yet another example of him letting loose and going too far. I hate that they crashed the Enterprise; it's anti-climatic after having seen so many near misses on the show, and it seems to be done because "this is a movie, let's go big."

I don't like Malcolm McDowell's character. He speaks in a gruff whisper the entire time, and is dressed all in black -- as if the audience wouldn't know he's the villain. Very cliched.

I hate the death of Kirk. It's handled so poorly. Again, they seem to have worked backwards from the decision to kill him off, and that's not how good writing works. Shatner, however, is terrific in the role. One of his best performances since The Wrath of Khan (his best).

The movie looks beautiful, although the sun-drenched look in Picard's ready room was a bit much. (They don't have shades in the 24th Century?) I also don't like the drab DS9/Voyager uniforms used in the film; the TNG costumes had color and vibrancy; the others were dull. I also hate the decision to kill off Picard's family -- off screen, no less! Those characters, whom we fell in love with in TNG's "Family," deserved better. The is the worst bit of writing in the film: "Picard gets notice that something happens and it affects him for the rest of the film." Show, don't tell, boys.

When TNG was at its best, knocking it out of the park week after week, a friend of mine said to me, "Can you imagine when they start making movies?!?" We were right to expect so much more from the first TNG movie. Fortunately, we'd get it with the second.
 

cineMANIAC

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I skimmed through parts of GENERATIONS and thought the PQ was barely better than a Blu-ray. Granted, I didn't watch the whole film but I assume it's consistent throughout. Don't know when I'll get to the rest of the series but I hope the overall PQ improves with each successive film. I do love how all of these look together on my shelf. I always prefer the standalone versions over box sets whenever possible.
 

benbess

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....I saw AGT and loved it. I thought then and still do that it's a great finale. It pulls off the magic trick of successfully ending a successful series, something that all too often is beyond even the best writers....

I agree that All Good Things is fantastic! Watched that one at least a dozen times in the 1990s, and maybe another dozen since.

From my pov, the good two-part episodes of Star Trek count as movies in my mind. This means that for me the first Star Trek movie was The Menagerie, parts I and II, from way back in 1967 (and large parts, of course, from way back in 1965).

For Next Generation Encounter At Farpoint is stilted, because the writers and actors hadn't found their ways yet. But most of the rest of the two-parters on Next Gen were really good mini-movies or TV movies, including The Best of Both Worlds, Redemption, Unification, Time's Arrow, Chain of Command, and especially All Good Things. Maybe there's another good two-part episode "movie" that I missed? Anyway, from my pov that's at least six good Next Generation movies before Generations.

The same holds true for me for Voyager and DS9. I love most of the two and even three-part episodes of those shows. I just wish at least those Voyager and DS9 "movies" could be remastered from the OCNs, as happened for Next Gen.

all good things.jpg
 

Josh Steinberg

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For Next Generation Encounter At Farpoint is stilted, because the writers and actors hadn't found their ways yet.

Also because they commissioned a pilot script from Dorothy Fontana that was meant to run only one hour. Gene Roddenberry then expanded it to two hours by adding the Q subplot, not because there was anything wrong with Fontana’s script, but because it was an opportunity for Gene to get an extra screen credit and royalty payment as arranged by Gene’s lawyer. This resulted in Fontana losing a significant amount of pay. It was apparently a very underhanded thing, and was one of the things that led to Fontana and David Gerrold resigning from the show in disgust.
 

JC Riesenbeck

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I hate the death of Kirk. It's handled so poorly. Again, they seem to have worked backwards from the decision to kill him off, and that's not how good writing works. Shatner, however, is terrific in the role. One of his best performances since The Wrath of Khan (his best).
"It was fun" is IMO one of the worst final death utterances in film history.
 

Adam Lenhardt

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Also because they commissioned a pilot script from Dorothy Fontana that was meant to run only one hour. Gene Roddenberry then expanded it to two hours by adding the Q subplot, not because there was anything wrong with Fontana’s script, but because it was an opportunity for Gene to get an extra screen credit and royalty payment as arranged by Gene’s lawyer. This resulted in Fontana losing a significant amount of pay. It was apparently a very underhanded thing, and was one of the things that led to Fontana and David Gerrold resigning from the show in disgust.
It speaks to what a boys' club writing staffs still were in the late eighties. There's an argument to be made that Fontana was second only to Roddenberry when it came to shaping the original series. For her to be invited back and offered the same job title she had decades earlier was insulting on its own. If she had been a man, she would have been offered an executive producer credit on TNG without a second thought. As it was, she was essentially serving as both a writer and the story editor for the first season of TNG.

It speaks to how strong her case was that Paramount settled her WGA arbitration so quickly and so favorably to her.
 

Sam Favate

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I watched this last night on 4k. It looks great, but I stand by my comments from Apr 4. I’ll also add that the humor in this film fails. Like ST V, it’s too obvious. The audience knows the punchline every time before it happens. Also, Soren is a mustache-twirling villain. His cruelty towards Geordi is only there to show you how bad a person he is, but there‘s no need for a scientist who just wants to get to his personal paradise to be so terrible.
 

Adam Lenhardt

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Star Trek: Generations does have wonderful ingredients working in its favor. Director David Carson and cinematographer John Alonzo lean into the cinematic canvas to create an aesthetic that’s filled with brooder lighting, and strong color and light contrasts. While it may push that to extremes at times, it punctuated the visual aesthetic for this crew’s first big screen adventure.
While TNG pushed things too far with the flat lighting that (mostly) obliterated every possible shadow, once this film makes the jump to the 24th century it pushed things too far to the opposite extreme. One begins to wonder if they disconnected all of the lights aboard the Enterprise-D, as nearly all of the illumination comes from the planets and stars visible through the ship's viewports. The HDR on the UHD disc makes the heavy use of shadow even more of a problem than it was on the earlier releases.

That being said, it does find its way visually as it goes on, and most of the second half looks beautiful.

The visual and special effects work is strong. The Nexus ribbon is both beautiful and original, the saucer crash sequence is spectacular with old school practical effects enhanced with visual effects and all edited tightly.
I was really impressed by how well the visual effects held up nearly three decades later. I still prefer the physical miniatures to the CG ships. And the Nexus just looks cool.

There's also something just really special about movies made in the mid-nineties. It was the apex of celluloid filmmaking, before digital took over. Movies looked even better than movies shot on film today, because there were so many more options for film stocks and there were so many more labs with deep benches of expertise. The exteriors in this movie, in particular, are gorgeous with natural colors and beautiful contrast and saturation.

Star Trek: Generations does suffer, however, from several limiting factors. Billed and talked up as an official passing of the torch from the original to the next generation, William Shatner’s Captain James T. Kirk features heavily in the opening and closing acts. It’s always a treat to see Kirk on the big screen, and we get nice moments with James Doohan’s Scotty and Walter Koenig’s Chekov in the opening prologue as well. But Picard and his crew had already taken that torch, the mantle had already been passed as we hear Kirk himself reference in his closing narration at the end of Star Trek IV: The Undiscovered Country – the original crew’s last cinematic hurrah. Yes, this was Enterprise D’s first big screen outing, but they were more than capable, and draw enough I’d argue, to deserve a big screen outing without needing to feature any of the original cast. As a lifelong adoring Star Trek fan that almost feels like heresy to write, but featuring old cast added to the challenges and criticism this film faced (Kirk’s fate, for example, was not well received, though many have since come to terms with what we got).
I loved the passing of the baton, and getting to see Kirk and Picard interacting and teaming up. I don't think the problem was in the concept, just the execution. The scenes in the Nexus are wonderfully written and performed. The problem is that Kirk's "death" saving the Enterprise-B in the first act is far more heroic and satisfying than his actual death in the last act.

I do agree that The Undiscovered Country is the grand sendoff for the TOS cast. This is more like a coda for a few of the characters.

The film also has a distracting factor from the unusual and inconsistent transition of crew uniform styles. While the film begins with the crew wearing the uniforms we’d seem them in since the start of the third season, the crew begin switching to new uniform designs found on the current Trek show, Deep Space Nine (and on Star Trek: Voyager the following year). It may seem like a small thing, but slowly migrating the uniform styles for different characters, but not all, looks bizarre, and since they all get brand new uniforms in their second film, a waste of time in retrospect.
I get this criticism, but the messiness of the hodge podge between the TNG uniforms and the DS9 uniforms and the mix of TV sets and new film sets is one of the things I like about the movie. It bugs me when something makes the jump from TV to the silver screen and they redesign everything for the scope and scale of the movies. It interferes with my suspension of disbelief. Even though this is lit dramatically differently, and there are some tweaks to some of the sets like the bridge, it feels like the same world as TNG. And it makes sense that when an interstellar organization with thousands of ship across half a galaxy switches to new uniforms, there would be a bit of a prolonged transition period. We never got to see that before, and this movie captures that moment.

Malcom McDowell makes for an interesting villain. A bad guy with a British accent will never fail you, but I do wish we’d seen more from his character than evil plot defenses. Given his reasoning for wanting to return to the nexus, a better script would have provided some shades of grey in his villainy.
I think the movie needed to do a better job of establishing that wiping out a planet with a quarter of a billion people on it was the only possible way that Soran could get back inside the Nexus. As it stands, I found myself wondering why he didn't intercept the Nexus at another point in its route that wasn't in an inhabited solar system.

William Shatner is effortlessly good as Captain Kirk, and particularly compelling in the scenes opposite Patrick Stewart. Stewart is by far the better actor, but Shatner inhabits the Kirk role in a way that’s utterly compelling and he owns their scenes together.
One thing that really struck me this time around is how much Shatner commits to giving a supporting performance. It's not his movie, and he knows it. The difference between the opening sequence aboard the Enterprise-D and his scenes at the end of the movie is notable. It's the most selfless I've seen him be as an actor, putting the needs of the story above his own ego.

Finally, we have Whoopi Goldberg’s Guinan, one of the great supporting roles in all Trek, and one that Goldberg also effortlessly inhabits.
When you're taking TNG to the big screen, of course you're going to bring your Oscar winner along for the ride. I thought it was brilliant how the movie used the El-Aurians to bridge the two time periods. McDowell didn't want to play an alien with a lot of makeup and prosthetics, and the El-Aurians are one of the few species that appears externally identical to humans. And TNG already established that they're extremely long-lived.

I did find it interesting that Whoopi went uncredited in this movie. Under normal circumstances, the obvious choice would have been to give her the "And" credit. But the nature of this particular story meant that was always going to go to Shatner.

With the dispassion of time, I think it is a middling movie at best. The writing, I'm sorry to say, isn't good. There are massive plot holes, and many of the characterizations fall flat. Spiner's over-the-top performance with Data is yet another example of him letting loose and going too far.
Data really grates on me in this movie. I didn't feel like his faux pas with Crusher was enough of a reason to finally utilize the emotion chip, and once it became clear that it was compromising his ability to perform his duties, he should have removed it, well before it got fused in there.

I hate that they crashed the Enterprise; it's anti-climatic after having seen so many near misses on the show, and it seems to be done because "this is a movie, let's go big."
You're not wrong. But I love that sequence. The saucer crash in particular is so well done.

I hate the death of Kirk. It's handled so poorly. Again, they seem to have worked backwards from the decision to kill him off, and that's not how good writing works.
It made sense to kill him off; if they'd kept him around you'd have two beloved captains competing for the chair. That being said, there had to be a better way to do it than a damaged gang plank.

I also hate the decision to kill off Picard's family -- off screen, no less! Those characters, whom we fell in love with in TNG's "Family," deserved better.
I didn't mind it. The feature films represent a new chapter in Picard's life, and the deaths of his brother and nephew were a way to trigger some introspection about what that new chapter should look like.

"It was fun" is IMO one of the worst final death utterances in film history.
Especially because the line right before it ("Least I could do, for the captain of the Enterprise.") would have been a pretty respectable one.

I’ll also add that the humor in this film fails. Like ST V, it’s too obvious. The audience knows the punchline every time before it happens.
I agree completely.
 

JoshZ

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While TNG pushed things too far with the flat lighting that (mostly) obliterated every possible shadow, once this film makes the jump to the 24th century it pushed things too far to the opposite extreme. One begins to wonder if they disconnected all of the lights aboard the Enterprise-D, as nearly all of the illumination comes from the planets and stars visible through the ship's viewports. The HDR on the UHD disc makes the heavy use of shadow even more of a problem than it was on the earlier releases.

The dim lighting was mostly done for pragmatic purposes. The Enterprise-D sets were built for television and wouldn't entirely hold up to scrutiny on a movie theater screens, so Alonzo tried to hide them in shadow.

The dimness was very apparent during the theatrical release. After seeing this in the theater, a lot of people joked that the Enterprise crew must have forgot to pay their electric bill.

Prior video releases brightened those scenes slightly so they wouldn't look as distracting. The UHD's HDR grade is more like what I remember from the theater. Whether this is a good or bad thing may be a matter of opinion. Having just compared them, I tend to feel that the 2009 Blu-ray struck the best-looking balance for contrast. (Unfortunately, it has other problems with DNR and sharpening that undermine that.)

The UHD looks overly dark. Meanwhile, the new Blu-ray from the same scan has different grading and actually looks washed-out with milky blacks. That one looks the worst for contrast on my screen.
 

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