What with all the digital content at moviegoers’ fingertips, it can be difficult to get bodies into theaters. As Noel Murray at The Dissolve points out, one solution to our always-on culture could be to offer “more one-of-a-kind live performance elements to the theatrical experience.” Bringing moviegoers to other venues, like drive-ins and outdoor screenings in the summer, are attractive options, but they’re still pretty casual, and it’s even easier to whip out your iThing midway through and start playing Candy Crush without anyone noticing.
The folks behind the “Star Trek” franchise are setting up some seriously classy events for fans in the hopes of luring them to venues where your little glowing white screen will get you more than a few glares. People in London, Houston, San Diego, Philly, Toronto, and even Lucerne, Switzerland, will get a chance to see “Star Trek” and “Star Trek Into Darkness” accompanied by live orchestras in big fancy concert halls. Naturally, “Star Trek: Live in Concert” will play in San Diego during Comic-Con, although whether or not this will lure fanboys and fangirls out into the sunshine is anyone’s guess.
If you’re really into seeing movies with live performances, you’ll want to bookmark Movies In Concert, which tracks events all over the world. You can also check out StarTrek.com for official dates.
Gallery | Ranking Every ‘Star Trek’ Movie, From Best to Worst
- 1. ‘Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan’ (Nicholas Meyer, 1982)
Janet Maslin famously started her review of “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan” with the sentence: “Well that’s more like it.” After the critical and commercial disappointment of the plodding “Star Trek: The Motion Picture,” original series creator Gene Roddenberry was reduced to a creative consultant role (he infamously pushed for a sequel that had the Enterprise, via time travel, intervening in the Kennedy assassination), and Nicholas Meyer, who had just come off the ingenious “Time After Time,” boarded as director (and, depending who you talk to, writer too). This sequel is brilliant through-and-through — from the fake-out opening that had much of the crew brutally killed, to its wonderfully downbeat ending — possibly enlivened by the fact that, following the failure of the first film, they never thought they’d be invited back. The Bones-McCoy-Spock dynamic is particularly well mined, with William Shatner, already paunchy and old, employing a charming looseness that never tips over into goofiness (that would come later).
- 2. ‘Star Trek’ (J.J. Abrams, 2009)
For a glittery, big-budget rejuvenation of the ailing “Trek” franchise, director J.J. Abrams and his confederates mined “Star Trek II” for many of its elements (a sequence based around the Kobayashi Maru test, a villain hell-bent on revenge, weird worms and Spock reading the text that started off the series at the end of the movie), while adding enough new blood and discarding/rearranging enough dense mythology to come across as something exuberantly fresh and new. Surprising in a number of ways, Abrams utilized time travel and alternate universes to present a fresh “Star Trek” experience that was snuggling comfortably alongside canon, while still getting to recast the entire crew of the Enterprise (perfectly, we might add). Abrams also swapped out the occasionally dull philosophical bent of previous “Trek” outings for one more purely based around pulse-pounding adventure. The results were nothing short of breathless, turning a stale franchise into something vital and relevant once again.
- 3. ‘Star Trek: First Contact’ (Jonathan Frakes, 1996)
The best of the “Next Generation” crop of movies — this feature, like Abrams’s “Star Trek,” jettisoned much of the cumbersome philosophical mumbo jumbo to deliver some much-needed adrenalized thrills. Truthfully, it still doesn’t wholly work. There is some mythological nonsense that could trip up non-fans and the plot, which, like a number of the “Trek” movies, involves time travel, can charitably be described as “overstuffed.” But this is easily the most stylishly told (by actor Jonathan Frakes, going where both Leonard Nimoy and William Shatner had gone before) and fun of the latter movies, with the cast having a blast with the material (particularly Patrick Stewart — love the sequence where he goes into the holodeck and guns down some in-Borg-ious bastards in a jazzy speakeasy) and a genuine sense of gleefulness present in every frame; an absolute (if uneven) joy.
- 4. ‘Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country’ (Nicholas Meyer, 1991)
Nicholas Meyer, the director of “Star Trek II,” returned for the sixth installment (the last with the original cast, it turned out), which handily refashions the traditional “Trek” narrative into a gripping murder mystery and “wrong man accused” story, inspired in part by the political climate of the time (and a suggestion by Nimoy about what would happen if “the Berlin wall came down in space.” It’s so genius it almost pains us. For much of the movie, Kirk and McCoy are exiled to a prison colony while the rest of the Enterprise tries to piece together why some Klingon dignitaries were murdered during an important peace summit. Plus, Christopher Plummer plays a Shakespeare-quoting Klingon (the movie’s subtitle is a Shakespeare reference, even — so classy!)
- 5. ‘Star Trek Into Darkness’ (J.J. Abrams, 2013)
The movie hasn’t opened yet, but it’s still one of the best. We’ll keep our comments to a minimum, but know that it also borrows from “Star Trek II” (including having Carol Marcus be a major character) while still forging its own path. And Benedict Cumberbatch as the mysterious villain John Harrison handily steals the show. Don’t be fooled by the “Into Darkness” suffix, though, this is just as bright and springy as its Abrams-helmed predecessor.
- 6. ‘Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home’ (Leonard Nimoy, 1986)
Maybe the most accessible of the original crop of “Trek” movies, this one saw the Enterprise (once again) traveling back in time, this time to ’80s San Francisco to assist in (gulp) saving the whales. This is a pretty silly conceit, for sure, and the environmental message is spelled out, highlighted, and double-underlined. Still, the frothiness of the concept allows the actors to really have fun; this is easily the funniest “Trek” movie of them all, playing largely like a “Splash”-ish fish out of water comedy (it was directed by Nimoy, who at the time was a pretty in-demand filmmaker). “Khan” architect Nicholas Meyer had a hand in the script, and many fans feel that this, and not the overwrought “Star Trek III: The Search for Spock” as the true successor to “Khan.” Unfortunately, its goofiness set a precedent for the following film, which didn’t turn out nearly as well…
- 7. ‘Star Trek: Generations’ (David Carson, 1994)
Worlds collide in “Star Trek: Generations,” which features both Captains Kirk and Picard in a tale of time travel and alternate dimensions — and god knows what else. It’s got a nifty premise, though, which allows for both Captains, separated by hundreds of years, to interact freely, and gave android Data (Brent Spiner) an emotion chip for the first time, allowing him to feel. Malcolm McDowell shows up, too, as a crazed baddie, and some of the more rousing aspects of the film are often undone by television director Carson’s stiff direction. Sure it’s overly long and clunky, but it’s kind of amazing anything about this worked.
- 8. ‘Star Trek III: The Search for Spock’ (Leonard Nimoy, 1984)
Even if it does undo most of the good work of “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan,” this third “Trek” adventure still entertains and occasionally thrills, and is notable for being a direct continuation of the previous film, something that no other two movies have really attempted. There are a number of memorable moments, including Sulu getting a moment to showcase his inner bad-ass, and Christopher Lloyd playing a Klingon villain so over-the-top you wonder if his performance would even be able to squeeze into the infinite vacuum of space.
- 9. ‘Star Trek: Nemesis’ (Stuart Baird, 2002)
The last of the “Generation” movies is also the second best (after “Star Trek: First Contact”); in this unfairly maligned movie, Picard comes face-to-face with his young Romulan clone, played by a young British actor named Tom Hardy (!) Also exclamation point-worthy: that this film was written by Pulitzer Prize-winner John Logan (who is also a “Trek” super-fan), and that Logan decided to include (of all things) a dune buggy chase, another Data (subtly named B-4), and an evil Romulan played by Ron Perlman. Yessssssss. This movie is insane, in the best possible way, and remains the most painfully underrated entry in the entire canon. (And here’s where the hate mail starts.)
- 10. ‘Star Trek: The Motion Picture’ (Robert Wise, 1979)
Directed by old-school Hollywood filmmaker Robert Wise (“The Day the Earth Stood Still,” “West Side Story”), “Star Trek: The Motion Picture” is a lumbering epic. And a totally boring one. Directly influenced by both the television series (canceled 10 years earlier) and more modern sci-fi, like “2001: A Space Odyssey,” you can tell that “Star Trek: The Motion Picture” cost a lot of money and was very beautifully shot, but at 132 minutes, it’s overly long by at least a half hour, way too talky, leisurely paced, and rarely engaging beyond a purely superficial level. It proved that space could be incredibly dull.
- 11. ‘Star Trek V: The Final Frontier’ (William Shatner, 1989)
William Shatner, inspired by the comedic styling of “Star Trek IV,” made things even broader in the following film (one he co-conceived, as well as directed and starred in). This includes, among other things, a scene with Scotty saying, “I know this ship like the back of my hand” (or something) and then getting beamed by a beam that he should have known was there, more horrible wigs than you could find at the Horrible Wig Depot, and a lengthy subplot about Spock’s magical rocket boots. A number of interesting plotlines are introduced (Spock’s evil, cult leader brother; a search for God at the center of the universe) but are never developed into anything even remotely noteworthy.
- 12. ‘Star Trek: Insurrection’ (Jonathan Frakes, 1998)
Once again directed by cast member Jonathan Frakes (from a script by longtime “Next Generation” writer Michael Piller), “Star Trek: Insurrection” is a shambling embarrassment. From the plot, which involves a community of space hippies and the fountain of youth, to the bad guy (a plastic surgery-obsessed F. Murray Abraham — no seriously, he looks like a giant wad of bubblegum popped and covered his face), to another lame romance for Picard, most of “Insurrection” is a terrible waste of talent and time. And the visual effects, which were not handled by Industrial Light & Magic, the studio responsible for the franchise’s effects from the beginning, add insult to injury. Woof.
See All Moviefone Galleries »