Tuesday, April 10, 2007

In terms of production, Generations made more use of striking locations than previous Trek films. David Carson’s direction and the editing were crisp and effective. There are differing opinions on the lighting-- unusual for a Trek film, and specifically different from the lighting within the Enterprise-D as seen in the TNG series. Some viewers see this lighting—particularly the contrast of light and shadow—as one of the film’s artistic strong points. When I first saw it in a theatre, it looked like a problem. Projection in ordinary movie theatres is not always ideal, and the shadowy areas were very dark. Even on my DVD now, the contrast between light and dark appears exaggerated. So I don’t think it really works, especially inside the Enterprise, where it seems too extreme to be realistic.

The lighting is just about perfect, however, in two key scenes: the soft outdoor light when Picard and Kirk are talking on horseback, and the bright sunlight streaming through the ruins of the Enterprise when Riker and Picard are talking at the end of the film.

The choice of the rocky Valley of the Sun for Veridian 3 did make for some striking shots, but overall I thought it was bothersome. The starkness of the landscape may have seemed “alien,” but we’ve seen this kind of barren landscape repeatedly in Trek films. It has the quality of Vulcan in Trek I, III and IV, and of the Shakaree planet in V. Moore and Braga said they originally conceived of it as a jungle, which would have been visually better as well as more thematically appropriate (time as a predator.) This location looked lifeless. (Perhaps its contrast to Kirk’s Nexus landscapes was part of the point.) Even visually, it was too bright, too harsh to keeping watching for long. It was also so “perfect” that some backgrounds looked more like matte paintings than the real mountains they probably were.

The important effects, however, were very effective: the Nexus ribbon, the Enterprise-D crash. Both Enterprise ships looked great, inside and out. The Stellar Cartography effects may be a little dated now, but the set is still impressive.

Many TNG fans, myself included, were troubled by how little most of the Enterprise-D crew got to do in this movie. We were used to seeing more character interaction. DeForest Kelly once said that Trek films are a collection of moments, and they all got at least one (though Dr. Crusher did seem shortchanged.) But there was the excuse that a lot of time was given over to Kirk and the opening Enterprise B scene.

Still, despite all these misgivings, I still enjoy watching this movie. On first viewing I loved many of the scenes separately, and I loved Dennis McCarthy’s music, especially the opening and the theme. And I was very taken with the time metaphors, and Picard’s last speech—which I don’t hesitate to say I have recorded and memorized. I’m come to appreciate more aspects of this movie on subsequent viewings, and to forgive its flaws.

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