Hoo boy, this one ain't too good.
How bad is this movie? I own all of the Star Trek movies except for three: Part I, Generations, and Final Frontier. I owned I and Generations on VHS, and never really saw any reason to upgrade, even though I haven't owned a VCR in close to a decade and I've long since thrown out the tapes years ago. But Final Frontier I've never owned, which is weird because, bad as it is, it's more entertaining than Part I and makes more sense than Generations.
But it still sucks.
I wanted to be fair and give it equal ground for this review, so I decided it was finally time to add it to my Star Trek DVD collection. However, the cheapest I was able to find it at a used bookstore was 12 bucks. That's far too much for a copy of Final Frontier. So I rented it.
Yeah, this movie was as bad as I'd remembered, but it wasn't the horrific abomination most Trekkies would have you believe. I'd rather watch this than most episodes of Voyager or the worst episodes from The Original Series, Next Gen, etc. It isn't all that bad, per se, just really dumb, uneventful, unoriginal, lacking in capable direction, and treats the main characters with very little respect. But, you know, not that bad. It's better than Spock's Brain.
The main problem with the film is its lack of story and good direction. Only William Shater would come up with a story where Kirk fights God... and Kirk wins. Though, it wasn't actually God (spoiler!) which was a cop out that ruined what was an already stupid movie. If you're going to have the villain be god, follow through and have it be God. But, since you can never do that -- certainly not in a science fiction film -- don't have God at all. It just doesn't make any sense, nor does the idea of some galactic barrier than nobody had ever talked about before nor will anybody ever mention again.
The film also tries way too hard to be funny, which wouldn't be a problem if it was actually funny. Humor should always be a part of any Star Trek episode, but the tone should never go full tilt toward full on farce or slapstick. Voyage Home was the funniest Star Trek film of all, and it's also the best, so humor doesn't mean the film doesn't take itself seriously. Final Frontier doesn't take itself seriously, and the humor doesn't come from having the characters say witty things, nor does it come from putting our heroes in absurd situations. The humor in Final Frontier is at the expense of the character, who's buffoonary becomes the butt of the jokes, as though the studio refused to believe viewers would take senior citizens seriously. Even though a lot of the jokes are funny, they are out of place and harm the overall tone of the series.
So what works? I enjoyed the camping framing sequence. It was funny and well done, and contained a tone and point of view that was lacking in the rest of the film, though there was far too much slapstick. I also liked the irony that the "Planet of Galactic Peace" was actually some barred wasteland where everybody was completely miserable. And I liked Laurence Luckinbill as Sybok. He was a really good actor who was given a pretty good role. I don't even mind that he was revealed to be Spock's half-brother, which so many Trekkies have refused to accept as cannon. I'm ok with it. Vulcan's are long-lived, so it's easy to accept that Sarek has been in a few relationships that resulted in off-spring. And it's been pretty well established that my boy has a thing for Earth chicks.
But, all things considered, this is a pretty dumb movie, with too much slapstick, poor direction, bad special effects, and a story that goes nowhere, never makes sense, and falls apart at the end. So, it's like a bad episode of Star Trek, but even the bad episodes are worth watching. The best compliment I can offer is that it's still Star Trek, so that's enough for me.
But it shouldn't be enough for, you know, anybody with more discerning taste.