Star Trek: Generations (1994) (part 11 of 12)
They ride off into a flash of white light, leaving us to ponder the possibilities of how, and whether, you can leave the Matrix—er, the Nexus, and suddenly we’re back to the Enterprise crashing and Soran shooting at the rocks where Picard noticed the force field gap. It’s no surprise, given the structure of the later TNG films, that this plays a little bit like the opening to the conclusion of a two-part episode from the series.
This is where the alternate ending kicks in, but we’ll get to that later. In short, the ending was beefed up a bit in order to have more action/adventure, and to give Kirk a better sendoff. What they decided to go with isn’t all that great either, but then again, take a look at the filmmakers we’re talking about here. It’s an underachievement all-star team! I’m just glad it didn’t end with a sing-along before the end credits.
The flashback stops as Soran steps onto the bridge, and someone steps in front of him. Instead of Picard, Soran finds himself staring at Kirk. The moment is ruined when Soran asks, “Who the hell are you?” Picard, coming up behind Soran on the other side of the bridge, has to tell Soran it’s James T. Kirk. C’mon, even deranged future Romulans recognize James T. Krk.
Soran makes a run for it. Picard goes to stop the missile launch while Kirk handles the villain. Kirk pursues Soran, but Soran gets the drop on him and makes a reference to his supposed death before Picard, having abruptly decided to abandon the missile to double-team Soran, intervenes. The three men grapple. Picard, the wuss, gets knocked back while Kirk and Soran duke it out on the bridge.
After some jockeying around for position, Kirk lands a solid punch to Soran’s face that sends the villain sliding down the mountain, where he hangs on by a rope for dear life. Kirk and Picard banter a little bit before resuming their tasks, but Soran, using his control pad, cloaks the missile launcher before they can do anything. Aha! That’s why it had a cloak!
The rope Soran is hanging from slips and he falls down a bit, dropping the control pad. It clatters to the metal bridge below. Yes, the bridge. Just seeing it makes me angry. Kirk and Picard get to the bridge, and Picard notices Soran is no longer hanging onto the rope.
They proceed undaunted, and of course Soran pops up to fire a few blasts at them, hitting the bridge just as Kirk is running out onto it.
The bridge is blown in half, with the pad on one side and Kirk on the other. Soran notices the ribbon approaching and breaks off his attack, while Picard tries to pull Kirk to safety. He succeeds as the ribbon gets closer, and Kirk tells Picard to take care of the launcher while he gets the control pad, adding in a nice little bit where he tells Picard to “Call me Jim.” It’s a nice little moment, though Picard’s reaction of awed gratitude is a little too fanboy.
Kirk shimmies his way down the bridge as it sways and buckles. He makes a huge leap to the other side and grabs the control pad, uncloaking the launcher just as the bridge gives way, sending him unceremoniously crashing down the rocks.
We barely have time to register what has just happened, since Picard is now fiddling around with the control panel of the launcher. Soran appears and roars at Picard to get away from the launcher. Picard leaps down to safety as Soran gets there, only to discover that Picard has set the locking clamps in place.
Resigned to his fate, Soran can only look up as he realizes he’s screwed.
That’s the end of Soran, and now all we have to do is say goodbye to an old friend.
Yes, not only does this film blow up the Enterprise, it also kills off Kirk, not once but twice. Picard finds Kirk under the bridge, mortally wounded. They have a nice little moment together with Kirk saying, “It was… fun.” He dies after cryptically uttering a rather prim, “Oh my.”
I’m sure this death was intended to be kind of apt—he died on the bridge, get it? Well, under one, anyway—but it’s not exactly the heroic, sacrificial death you’d expect for Kirk. Sure, technically it’s sacrificial. He’s dying to save the billions of people on Veridian IV, but you can’t tell me anyone remembers that at this point in the movie.
Adding salt to the wound: it undoes the only thing ever previously said about his death, the pseudo-premonition that he would die alone.
So Kirk’s death is kind of a letdown, and not a really good way to off the character. But on the other hand, maybe nothing would have been satisfactory. It’s pretty clear they were going for something similar to the second film with Spock dying, but there you had a much better script and director. Here, Kirk’s death is limp and unsatisfying. It was apparently unsatisfying for William Shatner as well, as he’s brought Kirk back to life in a series of novels, two of which I have read and enjoyed.
Now, the sequence with Kirk and Picard lasts for about twenty minutes. And yet the film was sold as this grand fusion of the two generations. To be frank, I don’t find eighteen minutes at the beginning and twenty at the end with only nine of those last twenty devoted to an actual joining of the two generations to be an altogether satisfying result.
It’s quite sad, given they had a really great opportunity to do something special. I guess that’s what you get when Rick Berman is in charge. Let’s wrap this up, shall we?
Cut from Kirk’s last moments to Picard burying him under a cairn as a shuttle craft flies by. This cairn is up on a ridge, nowhere near the gully where Kirk died, so that means Picard hauled Kirk’s dead body halfway up the mountain in order to bury him. Okay.
Picard logs a report stating that casualties were light from the crash, three ships are helping with rescue operations, and the Enterprise itself is beyond salvage. Well yeah, one would think. The star drive blew up, and the saucer section plowed into a planet.
There’s a scene reuniting Data with his cat, in which Data cries after deciding to keep the emotion chip. Fun fact: Brent Spiner doesn’t like cats at all.
And then we get one last scene with Picard and Riker that sums up the movie, giving us more of what the franchise does worst. No, not humor, the other thing. Vague philosophical mumbling.
Not helping matters much is that the scene plays out like a replay of the series finale’s last scene, only without the other five cast members. It has a very small-screen feel to it, right down to the small-screen way the sequence is filmed, dead-on and looking toward the back of the ruined bridge set.
They sift through the remains of Picard’s office, and Picard is back in his TV uniform for some reason. They cast aside priceless souvenirs of past missions and find Picard’s family album. Riker gets wistful about the ship, noting that “she went before her time”, which cues Picard to hammer home This Week’s Lesson—I mean, the closing of his character arc for the movie, which, to be honest, was overplayed and dragged the movie down like an anchor.
Well, I guess that’s deep and thoughtful, in a way. I mean, he’s a bit on the old side and bald, so he must have some wisdom. Right?
This leads to the requisite joke from Riker about planning to live forever, and they beam out of the scene. The three rescue ships jump into warp, and after 117 minutes, the film finally ends.
Overall, in spite of the massive lost opportunities, the film is far from the worst thing Trek has ever done. As I said before, it has some good ideas, but when it comes to execution, the filmmakers just whiz it right down their legs. Even the stuff that’s done right has an element of wrong to it, and that makes for what can only be described as a bad movie.
Next up: The DVD special features!