'Star Trek: The Next Generation' may not be quite as influential or as ground-breaking as the original 'Star Trek' series, but quality-wise it is every bit as good with a few improvements.
Like with the original series, 'Star Trek: The Next Generation' also spawned a series of films that are watchable in their own right but vary wildly in overall quality. 'Generations' is one of the weaker films based on 'The Next Generation' series, and to me one of the lesser 'Star Trek' films in general. There is plenty to admire here in 'Generations', but it is also frustrating that 'Generations' is as uneven as it is.
It is very easy to see why 'Generations' has got its mixed critical reception and why it's generally met with disappointment by 'Star Trek' fans. It has been mentioned for very good reason that Kirk deserved a better send off than he got here. Even as someone who isn't a fan of William Shatner's acting and who prefers Spock vastly of the original crew characters, it cannot be denied regardless that the character is iconic in the 'Star Trek' universe. Instead of an affectionate and heartfelt send off it ought to have been, it felt like a rushed tacked on cheat that reeked of the studio and producers wanting to get rid of the characters. Shatner's ego has nothing to do with it (if so he wouldn't have stood for such an indifferent treatment of such a character), like it wasn't with the failure of 'The Final Frontier' which with the budget hindrances and studio interference was doomed from the start.
More of a problem actually was Data's emotion chip subplot. Not only was it under-cooked in the writing and the explanations but it also felt well over-egged in how it featured in the film. It featured too much, and Data's ridiculously over the top behaviour (which Brent Spiner badly overdoes) and the humour that came with it embarrassingly contrived didn't help at all, instead further hindrances. It was lovely to see Chekov and Spotty again, they are played beautifully and have some humorous lines and interplay. They are underused however, seem out of character and their dialogue clashes with their personalities established in the original series, almost like there were other characters initially in mind.
Some of the story execution could have been better. There are many good moments here, mostly down to characterisation, but some of the narrative is a bit muddled and with some of the padding and some leaden pacing it did seem to me, and others, like an extended episode of the series rather than an expansive own entity. While there are instances where the lighting is very striking and atmospheric, there are other instances of either being too dark or too garish.
'Generations' has a lot to admire however. It is impeccably made, with rich and grand spectacle, elaborate settings, intimate and immersive photography and mostly first rate special effects (apart from the odd recycled one). The music score is very cleverly integrated into the film and works very well as music on its own. There is a mix of brassy pomp (like the fanfare in Kirk and Picard's first encounter), subtly intense mystery (the choral writing and synthesisers representing Picard's family discovery) and emotional lyricism (characterised by muted strings in Kirk's final scene). The sound effects are suitably eerie.
The script is problematic, like its over-emphasis on the poorly thought out emotion chip subplot and some overly talky philosophising, but has its good parts too. A lot of what Picard says is very thought-provoking, the interplay between Kirk and Picard is both funny and poignant and some of the best lines come from Soran (like his chilling taunts and interaction with Picard).
Likewise the story does have enough that's exciting, thought-provoking and compelling (even if it is bloated and unoriginal), and it's just about comprehensible (even with the Nexus stuff needing more clarity in places). It is very character heavy and is wisely driven by the characterisation and interaction. It's here where 'Generations' excels. Really enjoyed the interplay between Kirk and Picard, that reservations of them not gelling or the pairing not making sense were quickly forgotten. Picard's grief was also really quite moving, and Soran is a quite chilling threat which adds to the tension and suspense.
With the exception of Spiner (which was the result of bad writing), the performances are very good. Shatner surprisingly and remarkably reigns in the temptation to ham in a rare occurrence, and the charismatic, more restrained and affectionate approach was appreciated while also not forgetting to have fun. Jonathan Frakes was also great, while the Next Generations crew and Walter Koenig and James Doohan entertain hugely as well. Patrick Stewart brings effortless dignified gravitas to Picard, while Malcolm McDowell is on snarlingly evil form as one of the most interesting and best acted cinematic 'Star Trek' villains.
Overall, messy but with many things admiration-worthy. 6/10 Bethany Cox