Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Moore and Braga were “candid” on the DVD about the story’s weaknesses—its convolutions, and the holes in the concepts and the plot. They certainly did Captain Picard and Patrick Stewart no favors. Picard enters crying, gets head-butted and generally beaten up by the gray-haired Soren, and is the comparative self-righteous prig in his scenes with Kirk, where he is always reacting and setting up Shatner for the best lines. Kirk is the protagonist of their scenes—all Picard gets to do is assist him in woodchopping and cooking eggs. In general Shatner as Kirk pretty much steals the movie whenever he’s on screen, and his scenes have the most energy. (On the other hand, though Picard needs Kirk to gang up on Soran, he winds up coming to Kirk’s aid, not once but twice during the fight.)

Even though Stewart appears tired in the film (and in fact he was—he’d just finished shooting the two hour TNG finale in which he was in virtually every scene) his acting is outstanding, as usual. But it wouldn’t be until the next movie that the real Captain Picard emerged.

As Soran, Malcolm McDowell portrayed a villain who was a counterpoint to Kirk in wit and cunning. McDowell said he played Soran as a kind of drug addict, the drug being the Nexus, and otherwise as a normal person who happened to do bad things. That’s in keeping with some of McDowell’s early roles, such as in A Clockwork Orange. I hadn’t seen him on film in awhile, but it seemed to me he adopted a deeper voice than before—perhaps channeling James Earl Jones. But this voice and his way of practically whispering key lines were effective in making Soran quickly alternate between seeming likable and scary. You could sense what Soran was once like, and what he had become.

Soran was not quite the operatic villain Khan was. A more complex adversary like Soran can still be effective, if those complexities are explored. But Picard’s only encounter with him is while running around on rocks with the sun in their eyes, and Kirk never even meets him until their fight.

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