Star Wars

  • Title:  Star Wars (aka Star Wars IV:  A New Hope)
  • Director:  George Lucas
  • Date:  1977
  • Studio:  20th Century Fox
  • Genre:  SF, Fantasy, Adventure
  • Cast:  Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Alec Guinness, Peter Cushing
  • Format:  Color, Widescreen
  • DVD Format:  R1, NTSC

“Your father’s light sabre.  This is the weapon of a Jedi Knight.  Not as clumsy or random as a blaster.  An elegant weapon, for a more civilized age.”  — Obi-Wan Kenobi

“The force is what gives a Jedi his power.  It’s an energy field created by all living things, it surrounds us and penetrates us, it binds the Galaxy together.”  — Obi-Wan Kenobi

“I want to come with you to Alderaan.  There’s nothing for me here now.  I want to learn the ways of  the force and become a Jedi like my father.”  — Luke

“I’m Luke Skywalker, I’m here to rescue you!”  — Luke

Hands down one of my favorite movies, ever!  Star Wars is the classic science fantasy film, mixing the cultural mysticism of Old Japan, with the classic tale of farm boy who wants adventure, then he becomes very important.

The film opens with a scroll revealing this is “Episode IV” like the old movie serials from the 1930s. This catches up on the plot for a “pre-quel” that in 1977 didn’t exist, but it explains the background for what’s going on.  We see an impressive, but small ship being chased and shot at — then a shot of a much, much larger ship chasing it.  The ship seems to go on forever.  It’s blasting lasers at the smaller ship.

Inside the ship we meet two ‘Droids (or androids), R2-D2 and C3PO.  R2-D2 communicates only in whistles and beeps (meant to suggest machine language) though we have an idea what he’s saying from C3PO’s responses.  C3PO, a “protocol” droid and translator, seems a bit like a bad butler.  The entire ship is swallowed by the larger one.  Imperial Storm Troopers in metallic white armor burst in. Vader strangles one of the rebels, and Princess Leia is stunned unconscious.

R2-D2 and C3PO leave the ship in an escape pod.  Because the pod registers no life signs, the Imperial troops let it get away.  They land on a dessert planet.  Jawas, dessert scavengers, pick up the two droids.
The Storm Troopers arrive, thinking the “plans” are hidden in the pod, then find evidence of droids and tracks.

Meanwhile, the Jawas arrange their droids to sell.  Luke and his Uncle Owen take first C3PO and then R2-D2 from the Jawas and bring them back to their farm.

Luke stumbles on to part of Leia’s message while cleaning R2-D2.  He claims he’s the property of Obi-Wan Kenobi.  Luke discusses going to “the Academy” with Uncle Owen, but Owen wants him to stay and help with the harvest.  R2-D2 goes off on his own in search of Kenobi.

The next morning, Luke and C3PO search for R2-D2 and find him.  They’re attacked by Sand People.  Obi-Wan Kenobi rescues Luke, and the droids.  Obi-Wan fills Luke in on some of  his father’s history, and gives him a light sabre.  He starts to teach Luke about the Force, and they listen to Leia’s full message hologram.  Kenobi asks Luke to help go to Alderaan.  Luke says he can’t.  Then they find the Jawas attacked and destroyed, it’s meant to look like Sand People were responsible, but Obi-Wan realizes Imperial Storm Troopers were responsible.

On Vader’s ship they discuss the disappearance of  the plans, and Vadar strangles a man using the Force.

Luke rushes home, but the farm’s been destroyed and his Aunt and Uncle burned to death.  He returns to the Jawa site, meets with Kenobi, and vows to go with him, learn the ways of  the Force, and become a Jedi Knight like his father.  They head for Mos Eisley spaceport, the famous “hive of scum and villainy”. There they meet Chewbacca and Han Solo and book passage on the Millennium Falcon.  Luke sells his speeder to get cash.

Imperial troopers show up at the space port and there’s a brief laser gun fight.  The Millennium Falcon escapes the Imperial cruisers by making the jump to light speed and cruising into hyperspace.  During the brief trip, Obi-Wan Kenobi begins to train Luke in the use of  a light sabre.  When they arrive at Alderaan, it’s in the middle of  a meteor shower.  And the planet isn’t there.

We’d seen Vader coldly and calmly use the Death Star to destroy the entire planet, Leia’s home, and one she insists is peaceful with no weapons.  Obi-Wan Kenobi had felt the tremor in the force, the millions of lives silenced, and nearly collapsed, while aboard the Falcon, in hyper-space.

Back on the Falcon, they see a small moon near Alderaan, or what was, Alderaan.  Quickly, Luke, Han, and Obi-Wan realize it’s a space station and they better get out of there.  But they are pulled into a tractor beam.  When the ship lands, the Imperial Troopers think no one’s on board, as they had all hidden in Han’s smuggling compartments.

Obi-Wan Kenobi will take care of the tractor beam.  The rest are to check for info, but stay put.  However, R2-D2 plugs into a Imperial computer port, downloads data, and finds Leia and that she’s scheduled for execution.  Luke convinces Han to rescue Leia.  Han reluctantly agrees.  They rescue Leia, get caught by troopers trying to escape, and Leia blows a hole in the wall with a blaster rifle and they end up in the garbage compactor.  Luke calls C3PO for help and they barely escape.

Getting back to the Falcon isn’t so easy, with more blaster battles.  Everyone gets to the Falcon, but Kenobi is fighting Vader.  Luke sees this on the other side of the hanger deck.  Vader kills Kenobi, and Luke angrily fires at any Imperial storm trooper he can.  The Falcon escapes, after a space battle against TIE fighters, but Leia insists “they let us escape”.

She’s right, the Death Star follows them to the rebel base at Yavin, on a nearby moon. The rebels study the plans and come up with a plan.  Small, one-man fighters (X-wings), will fly through a trench and send photon torpedoes through a 2-meter thermal vent.  If placed directly, and perfectly on target, the torpedo will reach the center of  the moon’s reactor, blow it up and cause a chain reaction to blow up the entire Death Star.

Luke, Wedge, and two squadrons of rebel pilots, head for the Death Star to make their attack run. Meanwhile, Leia and the rebels watch battle screens and listen.  They watch as the Death Star comes closer and closer, knowing that when or if  it clears the planet, they are all dead.  And they listen as the rebel pilots, one by one, die — either in collisions in the trench, blown up by Imperial TIE fighters, or destroyed by anti-aircraft batteries on the Death Star.  Finally, it’s down to Wedge and Luke.  Wedge gets a bit cooked and has to pull out (but he survives).  Han Solo arrives in the Falcon, and destroys two TIE fighters, and clips Vader’s fighter so it rolls off  into space.  Luke disables his targeting computer, and let’s the force guide him to make the shot.  He succeeds.

Later he and Han reunite with Leia and are congratulated.  Both receive awards at a huge ceremony. Chewbacca is also honored and  R2-D2 and C3PO are present at the ceremony.

Star Wars is a fun movie – but it has a lot to say too.

The color palette is bright white, black, and grey.  There’s occasional pops of blue, orange, and brown. But mostly it’s white, black and grey – which gives the film an almost monochromatic look, even though it’s a color film.  And, the sharp whites and blacks add to the feel of being in space.  Despite the obvious fantasy elements of  the film, the star fields, uni-directional lighting and such, feel like space.  Even when R2-D2 is in the back of Luke’s X-Wing fighter, his normally blue markings look black because there’s no light in space to see the blue.

The plot, about an orphan who discovers he is meant for greater things also isn’t that different – after all Frodo Baggins and Harry Potter are also orphans.  The farm boy who longs for adventure, and finds it is an old idea, a classic idea.  And in part, Star Wars, is a classic fantasy tale – with a princess to be rescued and plenty of sword play and (blaster) gun battles.  We even have the old mentor, Merlin-like, teaching the young boy.

But far from being derivative – Star Wars brings all these elements together and cooks them up into something no one had seen in 1977, and the film is still popular, even legendary today.  Because of  the futuristic fantasy setting, it doesn’t feel “old”, unlike many science fiction films (or even buddy cop films or musicals or other genre films).  And that is because the film was made with so much care and precision and the young cast is brilliant.  The script is also brilliant – as the many famous quotes from it bare out. After all, who doesn’t know what “These aren’t the droids you’re looking for?” means or where “May the Force be with you” comes from?  It’s just a brilliant, brilliant film.

The film, like Raiders of  the Lost Ark (1981), is actually split into relatively short sections (again, inspired by movie serials), which allow for a more complicated plot and prevent any boredom from setting to setting.  Star Wars moves at a break-neck speed, and with surprising amounts of humor, although the overall tone is that of sheer fun adventure.

I saw Star Wars when it came out in 1977 – I was eight years old, and the perfect age to fall in love with this movie.  It, like the Indiana Jones films, inspired a life-long love of film.  It also inspired my interest in not only watching science fiction, but reading it.  And reading fantasy also.  A couple of  years ago I had the privilege of showing Empire and Jedi to my at-the-time eight-year-old niece and nephew (they’d seen Star Wars) and it was fun to see the films as new through their eyes.  Because I must admit, I’ve seen these three films so many times I’ve memorize whole sections of dialog from them.

Recommendation:  A must see!
Rating:  5 out of 5 Stars
Next Film:  Star Wars:  The Empire Strikes Back

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Star Trek IV The Voyage Home

  • Title:  Star Trek IV  The Voyage Home
  • Director:  Leonard Nimoy
  • Date:  1986
  • Studio:  Paramount Pictures
  • Genre:  SF, Action
  • Cast:  William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, James Doohan, George Takei, Walter Koenig, Nichelle Nichols, Mark Lenard, Jane Wyatt, Catherine Hicks, Robin Curtis
  • Format:  Color, Widescreen
  • DVD Format: R1, NTSC

“Give me one more day, sir, damage control is easy.  Reading Klingon… that’s hard.”  — Scotty

“Our own world is waiting for us to save it, if we can.”  — Kirk

“To hunt a species to extinction is not logical.”  — Spock

“No, I’m from Iowa.  I only work in outer space.”  — Kirk

At Star Fleet, a Klingon reports to the council twisting everything that happened at the Genesis Planet in the last two films, calling Kirk a terrorist who killed a Klingon crew and stole a Klingon ship, but worst of all saying that it was Kirk who developed the planet-killer weapon, “Genesis”.  Sarek arrives to attempt to defend Kirk and explain what really happened.  Kirk is found, in absentia, in violation of Star Fleet regulations.

Meanwhile, Kirk and his crew are on Vulcan.  Scotty is repairing the Klingon Bird of Prey, now re-named HMS Bounty.  The crew votes that they will return to Earth to face the music.  Spock has been in recovery, re-training his mind in a multi-tasking environment of three computers all asking questions at the same time.  He is stumped by, “How do you feel?”, which prompts a conversation with Amanda, his human mother.

Meanwhile, the USS Saratoga encounters a strange probe.  Before long, its signals are draining/attacking the ship and it is left with no power.  As this probe encounters other ships, both Klingon and Federation, it either destroys them or disables them – through these power drains.  The probe heads to Earth.

Kirk and company, with Spock, leave Vulcan and return to Earth.  Saavik is left on Vulcan.  But as they approach Earth, they receive a planetary distress call.  The call describes the mysterious probe, but also the storms and power outages on Earth.  Space dock itself has no power, and neither do orbiting ships or any ships near Earth.  The probe’s unusual transmissions are even attacking Star Fleet itself in San Francisco.  The message orders that no one approach Earth.  Kirk has Uhura and Spock analyze the signal — the two soon realize it’s whale song, specifically humpback whale song.  Kirk points out that because humpbacks are extinct – the signal cannot be answered.  Kirk asks Spock and Scotty about the possibility of time travel and transporting a couple of humpbacks to the future (Kirk’s time).  Although it’s very risky, they decide to give it a try.

The Bird of Prey HMS Bounty slingshots around the sun, arriving on mid-1980s Earth.  They land the cloaked ship in San Francisco Bay Park.  However, the ship is damaged and the dilithium crystals drained.  Kirk splits his small crew into three teams:  one will obtain radiation photons from a nuclear reactor aboard a naval vessel, one will find the whales, and one will find the materials to build a tank to hold the whales on the space ship until they can be released.

In “Old” San Francisco, Kirk sells his eyeglasses at an antique shop, they distributes the money to his crew as they go about on their assigned tasks.  He and Spock wander about wondering where they will find a pair of whales in a city.  But Kirk spots a bus advertisement for “George and Gracie” the humpbacks on display at the Cetacean Institute.  After a slight difficulty in obtaining transportation, they reach the Institute and join a sight-seeing tour lead by Gillian, a marine biologist with a specialty in whales. The two listen to her lecture, but Spock jumps into the tank to meld with one of  the whales – Gillian is incensed.

Later she meets the two as they are walking back to San Francisco from Sausalito,  she drops Spock in the park and has dinner with Kirk.  She informs him that the whales are to be released in the open ocean, because Gracie is pregnant – and no calf  born in captivity has survived.  Yet, if the whales are released in open ocean, they will be at risk from illegal and legal whaling.  However, Kirk isn’t able to convince her that he needs to safely transport the whales to the future.  She drops Kirk in the park where she dropped off Spock.

The next day, Gillian goes to the Institute – only to discover the whales are gone.  She returns to the park, and sees a helicopter lowering something into an empty space – where it disappears.  She literally runs into the invisible spaceship.

Meanwhile, the rest of  the crew hasn’t been idle.  Scotty and McCoy find a plexiglass manufacturer.  In return for Scotty’s formula for transparent aluminium, they receive the plexiglass they need to make a whale tank.  Sulu transports it by helicopter.

Chekov and Uhura find the Naval base, and locate the “nuclear wessel”, the USS Enterprise.  They get on board and Chekov starts collecting photons/radiation.  In takes awhile, however, and their presence trips an alarm.  Uhura is beamed up in time, but Chekov is not.  He runs off, is captured, escapes, runs off again, and falls.  He’s sent to a local hospital under police guard in critical condition.

Uhura finds Chekov through the emergency calls.  Kirk, McCoy, and Gillian rescue Chekov.  McCoy causes some havoc, giving a woman waiting for dialysis a pill to re-grow her kidney.  Also, upon being confronted with doctors who plan on exploratory surgery to fix Chekov’s cranial fracture – he locks them in a closet and puts a doo-dad on Chekov’s head which cures Chekov quickly.  They escape the hospital and return to the ship.  Kirk attempts to say goodbye to Gillian, but she throws herself  into his transport beam.

The Bird of Prey HMS Bounty takes off and pursues the whales following the radio transmitter code Gillian gives them.  They place the ship between a whaler and the whales and successfully beam them aboard.  The ship then attempts to return to the twenty-third century.  It’s a bumpy ride, and upon returning power is an issue, because the probe is still there.  The Bounty crash-lands into the ocean. Kirk has everyone abandon ship and orders Spock to protect the crew.  He goes to the hold, which is filling with water.  He orders Gillian and Scotty to also abandon ship.  Gillian points out he has to get the whales out or they will drown (being mammals).  Kirk sets about manually opening the hold, and succeeds in getting the whales out.  He also gets out himself and joins his shipmates on the barely floating, slowing sinking space ship.

The whales frolic, and eventually answer the probe’s whale song.  The probe stops its attack of  communication waves, and leaves.  Calm and power return to Earth.

Kirk and company return to the Federation council chamber, now dry and dressed, to face judgement. When Spock is asked why he’s there, he responds that he stands with his shipmates.  The charges are read out, but dismissed in light of the crew saving the planet and the Federation.  One change remains – that of disobeying orders, levied solely at Admiral Kirk.  He pleads guilty.  For this he is busted back to Captain and given command of a new Enterprise.  The crew goes with him.  Kirk points out that they have “come home”.  Gillian joins a science vessel.  Spock has a conversation with his father and tells him to tell Amanda that he “feels fine”.

I really enjoyed Star Trek IV when it came out, but I feel it hasn’t really aged well.  There are strange anachronisms (such as Kirk’s huge Klingon communicator, much larger than a cell phone), and the constant swearing – amusing when the film came out, somewhat annoying now.  A great deal of the humor just doesn’t work as well.  There are also some major gaps of logic and intelligence.  For example, Kirk, Spock, and Uhura almost instantly figure out the probe’s communications are whale song, aimed at humpback whales.  Yet no one on Earth or in Star fleet could figure this out?  Why?  Second, of all the people send to the nuclear naval vessels – Kirk picks Chekov – someone likely to bring suspicion on himself simply by being there.  Though he does have the second highest level of science training after Spock.  They did explain Scotty’s giving away the transparent aluminium formula (how do you know he didn’t invent it?) though it is a non-invention paradox.  When Spock notes to Kirk that the glasses he sells were a gift from Dr. McCoy, Kirk responses, “And they will be again, that’s the beauty of  it,” meaning this to is a paradox (where did the glasses come from if they are now trapped in a time loop?)  The capture of leaking radiation to somehow re-charge the ship’s dilithium crystals also made no sense – If  the reactor was leaking, wouldn’t the sailors be in danger?  McCoy also wrecks a lot of havoc in the hospital, though his motives are clearly humanitarian.  Finally, Kirk’s “sentence” is one of  the biggest examples of throwing Br’er Rabbit into the brier bush I’ve ever seen.  In other words, it’s a “punishment” that gives Kirk exactly what he wants – to be a captain again, rather than an admiral – and captain of a new Enterprise to boot.  They film also doesn’t showcase the friendship of Kirk, Spock and McCoy as the previous two films.  On the other hand, all of the bridge crew members have significant things to do – so there’s less of  a feeling of people just standing or sitting around doing nothing – or disappearing entirely for long sections of the film, but the film’s style still there’s no personal threat to any of our main characters (until Chekov is injured – and McCoy fixes him up quickly).  The threat, of course, is to all of  planet Earth – and involves an important issue, so that does work.

Recommendation:  See it!
Rating:  4 out of 5 Stars
Next Film:  Star Wars

Star Trek III The Search for Spock

  • Title:  Star Trek III The Search for Spock
  • Director:  Leonard Nimoy
  • Date:  1984
  • Studio:  Paramount Pictures
  • Genre:  SF
  • Cast:  William Shatner, DeForest Kelley, James Doohan, George Takei, Walter Koenig, Nichelle Nichols, Mark Lenard, Robin Curtis (Introducing credit), Christopher Lloyd, Leonard Nimoy, James B. Sikking, John Larroquette
  • Format:  Color, Widescreen
  • DVD Format:  R1, NTSC

“Mr. Scott, Have you always multiplied your repair estimates by a factor of four?”  — Kirk
“Certainly, sir.  How else can I keep my reputation as a miracle worker?”  — Scotty

“Sir, your son meant more to me than you can know.  I’d have given my life if it would have saved his.  Believe me when I tell you — he made no request of me.”  — Kirk (to Sarek)

“The word is no.  I am therefore going anyway.”  — Kirk

The film opens with a re-cap of the end of Star Trek II, including the death of Spock, his funeral, and the coffin landing on the Genesis Planet.  It then moves to the Enterprise bridge, a short time after the incidents in Wrath of Khan.  The trainee crew has been off-loaded on a Star Base, Saavik and Dr. David Marcus, are on a science vessel to explore the Genesis Planet, and Kirk and his crew are heading back to space dock at Star Fleet Command to have the ship refitted and repaired.  But Kirk feels haunted, and is mourning his friend.

Meanwhile, a Klingon named Kluge has purchased the Genesis data.  He destroys the vessel that brought it to him, even though he is in love with the female commander and vice versa.

Enterprise returns to space dock, and stands in awe of Excelsior, the command vessel of the next generation of  trans-warp ships.  Then there’s a security alert from Spock’s quarters.  Kirk hears Spock’s voice, but finds McCoy instead.  McCoy is a mess.

When the crew disembarks at the space dock, they find they are all given commendations and extended leave.  Enterprise, now twenty years old, is to be de-commissioned.  Only Scotty is given an immediate new assignment, Captain of Engineering of the Excelsior.  The crew is also told that Genesis has become a political firestorm, so it is Verboten, hush-hush, top secret.  They are to tell no one, anything about it.

Kluge watches Kirk’s tape about Genesis — it’s the same as Dr. Carol Marcus’s from the previous film, but shorter and with narration by Kirk. The Klingon then plans to take his ship to the Genesis planet.

Meanwhile, the USS Grissom, a science vessel, begins scanning the Genesis planet.  The Commander points out something metallic is on the surface.

On Earth, Kirk, Sulu, Chekov, and Uhura drink to absent friends.  Sarek arrives and the others leave. Sarek is upset not only by the loss of  his son, but that Kirk left him there, on Genesis.  Kirk is confused. Sarek explains about the Katra, the Vulcan soul, which can be placed inside another at the time of death. Kirk knows nothing about this – but  explains about the glass wall between he and Spock.  Sarek and Kirk review (at great pain to Kirk) the video logs of Spock’s death in the engine room.  This gives us one alternate take, from Spock’s pov looking out at Kirk, rather than Kirk’s pov looking at Spock in the chamber, and a fast-forward in reverse of the relevant scenes in Star Trek II.  Kirk spots Spock mind-melding with McCoy.  Sarek agrees that Spock probably placed his Katra in McCoy, which also explains his weird behavior.

Kirk attempts to get permission from Star Fleet to go to the Genesis planet.  McCoy, separately, tries to book passage on a civilian freighter or ship bound for Genesis.  McCoy is arrested for his trouble and placed in a Star Fleet lunatic asylum.  Kirk’s told, “no, absolutely not”, even when he explains he holds Spock’s soul in his hands.  Kirk, with help from Uhura, Sulu, and Chekov, rescue McCoy.  Then, with Scotty’s help they steal the Enterprise, leaving the sabotaged Excelsior in the dust.

Kirk and his skeleton crew make for the Genesis planet. Meanwhile, Saavik and Dr. Marcus find a Vulcan child on the planet. He screams in pain, and cannot speak in either English (Federation Standard) or Vulcan. Dr. David Marcus quickly realizes the planet is unstable, it’s aging rapidly, and it will soon rip itself apart. Saavik realizes that Spock is aging with the planet.

The Grissom attempts to contact Star Fleet to obtain further instructions about what to do about Spock and the planet. However, the Klingon Bird of Prey spaceship arrives and completely destroys the Grissom. The Klingon Commander, Kluge, wanted the ship disabled not destroyed and he kills the gunner who made the “lucky” shot.

Some Klingons beam to the planet, they find Spock’s coffin with it’s evolved microbes.

Kirk, meanwhile, overhears Star Fleet’s futile attempts to raise the Grissom. He has Chekov attempt to contact the vessel itself but he’s unsuccessful. He arrives at the Genesis Planet, but the Grissom is no longer there (since it was destroyed) and the Bird of Prey is cloaked. The Klingons on the planet’s surface find David, Saavik, and Spock and take them hostage. Kirk again tries to contact Grissom and of course gets nowhere.

Kirk fires as the Bird of Prey decloaks. However, because Enterprise is running with a skeleton crew, largely on automatic control, and has yet to have been fully repaired, it has no shields. Soon, Kirk has no real control over his own ship. Kluge then mentions his prisoners on the planet. Kirk talks to Saavik and David. Saavik lets him know Spock “is not himself but he lives”. A Klingon attacks David (Kirk’s son) and kills him. Kirk collapses in grief.

Kirk, Scotty, and Chekov activate the destruct sequence on Enterprise. Kirk and company beam to the planet, while the Klingon boarding party beams to the Enterprise. The Enterprise is destroyed, while Kirk watches. Kirk and company reach Saavik and Spock. Kirk goes to David’s body. Saavik tells Kirk, David died to save them. Kluge beams down to confront Kirk. Sulu, Chekhov, McCoy, Saavik, and Scotty are beamed up to the Bird of Prey. Only Kirk and Spock are left with the Klingons on the unstable planet’s surface. Kirk fights Kluge as the planet breaks up around them. In the end, Kirk kills Kluge, he goes to Spock and they are beamed up.

Kirk and his crew take the few remaining Klingons on the Bird of Prey prisoner then head to Vulcan. When they arrive, they are met by Sarek and Uhura. Sarek asks that his son’s Katra be re-fused into his body, since Spock lives. McCoy agrees to have this done, despite the danger. McCoy survives the procedure and Sarek more or less tells Kirk that Spock will be alright. Kirk sees Spock, Spock looks questioningly at his crew mates, as if he doesn’t quite recognize them. However, he stops in front of Kirk and says, “Your name is Jim.” It’s implied Spock may have a long recovery ahead of him, but he will be alright.

Despite the loss of Spock at the end of the previous film, The Search for Spock, actually starts much lighter than the previous film did. There’s a certain amount of humor in many of the lines, and the secondary characters actually have things to do (if briefly) and get good lines as well. As it becomes apparent that the Enterprise is to be decommissioned, and that due to Vulcan spiritual beliefs and telepathic abilities, as well as the power of the Genesis Planet, Spock’s new body and his soul can be re-united the tone of the film becomes more serious. However, there are several great character moments after this change in tone. Kirk twice declares his loyalty to Spock and that he would even give his life for his first officer and friend. McCoy also admits that he misses Spock and that he can’t lose Spock for a second time. So, again the film emphasizes the characters and their relationships.

Again, a villain from the original series, the Klingons, is brought back. Christopher Lloyd is a superb as Kluge. John Larroquette, completely unrecognizable under his Klingon make-up, is also excellent as Maltz, Kluge’s right-hand man, even though most of his lines are in Klingon. And, yes, this is the film that introduces Klingon as a functioning spoken language (this would be refined in Star Trek VI The Undiscovered Country). Unfortunately, Kristie Alley is replaced with Robin Curtis as Saavik. Nothing against Robin Curtis – but I prefer Kristie Alley in the role. I have no idea why the production crew switched actresses, I’d have to do some research to find out, which I’m not going to do, years after the fact – I wish they had kept Alley. Curtis is very bland, while Alley had a special something in the role.

Overall, I enjoy this film too. It’s the “middle” piece of a trilogy, but I still think it’s really very good. And it’s very much Star Trek, in that it’s about the sacrifices a close-knit group of people are willing to make for each other.

 
Recommendation: See It
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
Next Film: Star Trek IV The Voyage Home

Star Trek II The Wrath of Khan

  • Title:  Star Trek II The Wrath of Khan
  • Director: Nicholas Meyer
  • Date:  1982
  • Studio:  Paramount Pictures
  • Genre:  SF, Action, Drama
  • Cast:  William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, James Doohan, Walter Koenig, George Takei, Nichelle Nichols, Kristie Alley, Ricardo Montalban
  • Format:  Color, Widescreen
  • DVD Format:  R1, NTSC

“Jim, I’m your doctor and I’m your friend, get back your command.  Get it back before you turn into part of this collection [of antiques], before you really do grow old.”  — McCoy

“You are my superior officer, you are also my friend.  I have been and always shall be yours. — Spock

“As a matter of cosmic history, it has always been easier to destroy, than to create.”  — Spock

This is the film Star Trek fans wanted and deserved instead of  Star Trek The Motion Picture (1979). The film focuses on the main characters of Kirk, Spock and McCoy, includes the bridge crew as well (including Scotty) and brings back a villain from the original series.

The film opens with a female Vulcan named Saavik in command of a Starship. Behind her, Spock walks around, observing.  She’s on a “routine” training mission, when she receives a distress call from the freighter Korbayashi Maru. To help the freighter, she will have to cross into the Romulan Neutral Zone, a violation of  treaty. She does so anyway, and is immediately attacked by three Klingon fighters, a deadly attack that kills off  the entire bridge crew.

But then lights come up, and Kirk steps out of the smoke and lights, to “grade” her performance. It had been a simulation – the infamous “no-win scenario” character test that all potential command candidates must take at Star Fleet Academy. McCoy informs Saavik that Kirk took the Korbayashi Maru test three times. Later, when Saavik asks what Kirk did, he tells her that he re-programmed the computers to allow a winning result. Saavik then points out this means Kirk has never faced death. Kirk counters he doesn’t believe in no-win scenarios. But the no-win scenario, and facing true death will be a theme of the entire film.

On Earth, Kirk is facing his birthday, without  the  joy  such  an  occasion usually brings.  He receives gifts from Spock and McCoy, but Spock  is soon off  to his command of Enterprise and her trainee crew before McCoy even arrives.  McCoy, noticing Kirk’s attitude, urges him to stop flying a desk and get back to active duty.  Kirk considers this.

Meanwhile, Chekov and Capt. Terrell are looking for a suitable life-less planet to test the Genesis Device, a new scientific breakthrough if it works. They find a dessert world with anomalous readings and go down to take a look.  On the planet, Chekov finds a wrecked Botany Bay and freaks.  But it’s too late, they are captured by Khan and his men.  Khan takes the young of two Ceti eels and places them in the two men’s helmets, which he then screws onto their spacesuits.  The eels go into their ears, allowing Khan to control the two men and get classified information from them.  He takes control of  their ship, the Reliant, then travels to the research lab in charge of  the Genesis project.  Dr. Carol Marcus, and her son, David, are in control of  the project.

Kirk boards the Enterprise, with Spock as Captain, Saavik as trainee first officer, and the crew we know from the series:  McCoy, Scotty, Uhura and Sulu.  They head out of space dock in an impressive and beautiful sequence, for a routine training mission.  But soon they get a garbled message from the Genesis Project research lab.  Kirk is concerned because he was close to Dr. Carol Marcus once, and we will learn, David is his son from his relationship with Carol, though the two men have had no relationship at her insistence.  Kirk takes McCoy and Spock into his office to show them the highly classified Genesis research tape.  Genesis, or new life from lifeless matter, is a type of terraforming that can create an entire planet, sun, and ecosystem.

Spock gives command to Kirk, who orders the Enterprise make best speed for the research lab. They are attacked by the Reliant.  With shields down, Enterprise was helpless, and Scotty’s nephew, Peter, was killed in the engagement.  Other trainees are killed as well, and Kirk and McCoy are visually and understandably upset by this.

Kirk manages to escape the Reliant, makes his way to the research lab, and he, Saavik, and McCoy beam over. On the lab, they discover most of the scientists are dead.  Carol and David, however, are alright.  They soon discover Chekov and Capt. Terrell as well.  Chekov fills them in a bit about Khan, but not all the details.  They beam down to the Genesis Project Cave in the interior of the planetoid that the lab orbits.

Once in the Genesis Project cave, Terrell and Chekov reveal they are still under Khan’s control.  But Terrell commits suicide rather than kill Kirk as he is ordered.  Chekov simply collapses in pain and distress, and the eel oozes out of  his ear.  Khan beams up the Genesis Device to the Reliant.   McCoy begins treating Chekov, who slowly recovers now that the eel is out of his ear and brain stem.

Carol takes the group to see the Genesis cave, a lush forest that even has a sun-like light source.  Saavik and Kirk discuss no-win scenarios.  Kirk then whips out his communicator and contacts Spock and they are all beamed aboard Enterprise.

What follows is really a sub-hunt between Kirk and Khan; Kirk on the Enterprise and Khan on the Reliant. They hide and chase each other in a nebula, because Kirk still doesn’t have scanners or shields and he wants Reliant to have the same disadvantages.  During the engagement, Spock points out that Khan’s fighting style suggests two-dimensional thinking.  Kirk nods, then drops the Enterprise, before coming up behind her, and finishing her off.  Knowing he’s beaten and dying, Khan ignores the “prepare to be boarded” order and ignites the Genesis Device.

The Enterprise had been moving and fighting with impulse power only, and now they need to get out of there quickly.  For, if they are caught in the Genesis Wave, the ship will be destroyed and everyone will die.  Kirk calls down to engineering for more power, and more speed, but engineering’s been hit.  Then he notices Spock has left the bridge.

Spock meanwhile, has arrived in engineering.  Scotty’s injured, McCoy is trying to help, and the engineering core is leaking radiation.  Spock goes to enter the core area to fix it, but McCoy stops him.  Spock distracts the doctor, then knocks him out with a Vulcan neck pinch.  He begins to quickly try to repair the warp core, in a glass chamber, surrounded by deadly radiation.

Kirk arrives, sees Spock slumped over, and has to be held back by McCoy and Scotty, before he enters the chamber and floods the room with radiation.  Spock, slowly, goes to the door.  He reminds Kirk, “The needs of  the many…” and Kirk answers “…outweigh the needs of the few or the one.”  But Kirk, as happy as he is that his ship and crew have now survived, mourns the one he has lost.  Spock then reminds Kirk, “I have been and always shall be your friend,” gives him the Vulcan salute, and tells him, “Live long and Prosper”.  Kirk places his hand on the glass, their hands meet, and Kirk slumps with Spock to the floor, though they can’t physically touch.

Spock, also, when McCoy was knocked out, said to him, “Remember”.  Kirk breaks up while eulogizing Spock at his funeral, then the body is ejected into space, but the torpedo coffin lands on the Genesis planet.  Kirk and Carol look at the planet from the Enterprise bridge, amazed at the beauty.

Star Trek II in many ways might be the best of  the Star Trek films.  With the death of  Spock, it certainly is the most emotional.  But it also deals with emotions and feelings… revenge, fear of growing old and useless, fear of death, fear of  losing those close to us, friendship, and confronting failure.  These are all universal feelings. The film is really good.  Yes, many of the familiar catch phrases are there, but they aren’t used to simply be cute. Rather, Spock’s sayings, especially, become the centerpiece of the film.  It’s a film about friendship first, and the setting is just that — window dressing.  Similar issues could be addressed in any historical setting, such as an early 19th Century British Royal Navy vessel.

Recommendation:  See it!
Rating:  5 out of  5 Stars
Next Film:  Star Trek III The Search for Spock

Star Trek (2009)

  • Title:  Star Trek (2009)
  • Director:  J.J. Abrams
  • Date:  2009
  • Studio:  Paramount Pictures
  • Genre:  SF, Action
  • Cast:  John Cho, Bruce Greenwood, Ben Cross, Simon Pegg, Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Winona Ryder, Zoë Saldana, Karl Urban, Anton Yelchin, Eric Bana, Leonard Nimoy, Chris Hemsworth, Jennifer Morrison
  • Format:  Color, Widescreen
  • DVD Format:  R1, NTSC

“Emotions run deep within our race – in many ways more deeply than in humans.  Logic offers a serenity humans seldom experience, the control of feelings, so that they do not control you.”  — Sarek

“Your aptitude tests are off the charts so what is it?  You like being the only genius-level repeat offender in the Midwest?  ….  But you feel like you were meant for something better.  Something special.  Enlist in Star Fleet.”  — Christopher Pike

“Damn it, man, I’m a doctor, not a physicist.  Are you actually suggesting they’re from the future?”  — McCoy
“If  you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.” — Spock, quoting Sherlock Holmes (Sir Arthur Conan Doyle)

Abrams’ re-boot of  the Star Trek franchise re-casts everyone with a very, very young command crew. However, this crew, barely graduated from Star Fleet Academy, earns their stripes in the midst of disaster and war, so one can forgive how young and inexperienced they really are.  Moreover, the film emphasizes the immediate connection between Kirk and McCoy and the somewhat more difficult road to friendship between Kirk and Spock.

The film opens with a bang, when George Kirk’s ship is attacked by the Romulan, Nero.  George manages to evacuate the ship and protect the unarmed and unshielded shuttles by fending off Nero’s attack, but he loses his life in the process.  However, his wife survives the attack and James Kirk is born. Yet, we don’t see Kirk’s mother again.  A few years later, young James Kirk is a hellion – borrowing a car before he can really drive, driving fast and hard, and then destroying the car and nearly himself. Meanwhile, Spock undergoes typical Vulcan training – a enriched media multi-tasking experience where students are tested in individual pods.  However, he is also taunted by his school mates.

We next meet Kirk as a young 20-something (probably between the ages of 18 and 24), a townie who goes to a bar near Star Fleet’s recruitment center to pick up women.  This doesn’t go well when a couple of bruisers from security beat him to a pulp.  But he does meet Christopher Pike who gives him a different view of his father’s death.  Kirk decides to join Star Fleet.

Spock also, is at a turning point.  He’s accepted into the Vulcan Science Academy, but when the acceptance committee remarks that it’s “amazing” how well he’s done despite his “handicap” of being half-human, Spock turns down the position and instead joins Star Fleet.

Back at the academy, Kirk is preparing to take the Kobayashi Maru test for the third time.  The “no-win scenario” test is built as a test of character.  Kirk manages to win by changing the parameters of  the test.  He’s brought up on charges of cheating.  But before anyone can do anything, an emergency distress call is received from Vulcan.  All cadets are sent out on ships to assist.  Kirk, McCoy, Uhura, Spock, Chekov, and Sulu all end-up on the newly-built Enterprise, under Capt. Pike.

Arriving near Vulcan, the Enterprise encounters Nero.  As before with the USS Kelvin, Nero attacks, then invites the Captain onto his ship.  Pike, who did his dissertation on the loss of  the Kelvin, knows he’s walking into a trap, but also knows there’s nothing else to do.  But he has Kirk, Sulu, and an Australian space jump to a drilling platform the Romulans have placed on Vulcan that is also blocking transporters and communications.  The Australian dies, but Kirk and Sulu manage to shut off the transporter / communications blocking and stop the drill itself.  They are rescued, but it’s too late for Vulcan – the Romulans have injected Red Matter which will turn the planet into a Black Hole.

When Spock realizes this he beams down to Vulcan to rescue the Elders of his planet, including his parents. He rescues Sarek and a hand full of others, but Amanda is killed.

After this tragedy, Spock is understandably a little off-balance, and he falls back on calm logic — ordering that the Enterprise rendezvous with the rest of the fleet in order to plot their next move.  Kirk argues vehemently that they must do something to stop Nero, that they have no time to return to the fleet per standing orders.  Spock over-rules him, and then kicks him off  the ship via a life-pod.

Kirk lands on a frozen planet and encounters an unconvincing CGI monster (the only sequence in the entire film I didn’t like) then takes shelter in a cave. There he meets Spock Prime and learns the plot. Far in the future, Spock had been tasked with using Red Matter to turn a Supernova into a Black Hole and thus saving the planet Romulus.  But, he was too late and Romulus was destroyed.  Nero saw the destruction, went berserk and decided to make Spock suffer by destroying Vulcan.  He time-traveled back to the past, destroyed the USS Kelvin, and twenty-five years later Spock arrived, having followed him through the Black hole.

But what shocks Spock more than anything else is that Kirk can’t stand Spock’s younger self and that Spock can’t stand Kirk.  Spock gives a hint of  what their friendship means through his mind-meld with Kirk (while also explaining what’s going on).  They leave the cave and hike through the snow to a Star Fleet outpost and encounter Scotty.  Spock gives Montgomery Scott the equation for Transwarp Beaming, which Scott discovered, thus creating a non-invention paradox.  (EG — If  Scott discovered it but hasn’t yet, and Spock gave him the info to discover, which he then discovered – then where did the equation come from?)

Kirk and Scott beam onto the Enterprise, and Kirk provokes Spock into an emotional reaction to take him out of command.  He then orders a direct warp to Earth.  At Earth, Nero is using the drill to attack near San Francisco (home of Star Fleet) and destroy Earth with Red Matter.  Kirk and crew stop him and rescue an injured Pike.

Upon returning to the Academy, Kirk is given command of the Enterprise, and Pike retires.  Kirk’s crew will include Spock as first officer who is convinced to do so by Spock Prime and Scotty.

I loved this film when I first saw it, and I still love it now.  Karl Urban is a wonderful, angsty Bones McCoy, still smarting from his divorce, though they changed the origin of Kirk’s nick-name for him.  Chris Pine mimics Shatner’s body language, but gives us an edgier Kirk, still smarting from the loss of his father. Quinto’s Spock is much more emotional, especially after the loss of his mother, a parent he was quite close to.  It’s interesting that in Abrams’ re-imagining of  Star Trek – both the principles have lost a parent. When I saw this film in 2009 I wanted a sequel, and it looks like one might be coming in 2013, we’ll see.

This film also has some wonderful special effects sequences in space – the space dock, the launch of  the Enterprise and other ships, even the destruction of Vulcan are all realized well.  And I liked all the classic characters:  Sulu and Chekov are both great, the classic trio of McCoy, Kirk, and Spock, though young and new at their jobs, are already showing the hints of great friendship, and Scotty is amusing and promising.  Uhura has been updated to be confident, bright, and an expert in xeno-linguistics.  She’s also having an affair with Spock, but you can’t have everything.

Recommendation:  See it!  Highly Recommended.
Rating:  Five out of  Five Stars
Next Film:  Star Trek II The Wrath of  Khan

Stardust

  • Title:  Stardust
  • Director:  Matthew Vaughn
  • Date:  2007
  • Studio:  Paramount Pictures
  • Genre:  Fantasy, Romance, Comedy
  • Cast:  Claire Danes, Charlie Cox, Michelle Pfeiffer, Robert DeNiro, Mark Strong, Peter O’Toole, Ricky Gervais, Henry Cavill
  • Format:  Color, Widescreen
  • DVD Format:  R1, NTSC

“Nothing says romance like the gift of a kidnapped, injured woman!” — Yvaine

“I admire you dreaming.  Shop boy like me, I could never have imagined an adventure this big in order to have wished for it.”  — Tristan

“You know when I said I knew little about love?  Well, that wasn’t true.  I know a lot about love, I’ve seen it.  I’ve seen centuries and centuries of  it. And it was the only thing that made watching your world bearable.  All those wars.  Pain and lies.  Hate. Made me want to turn away and never look down again.  But to see the way that mankind loves…  I mean, you could search the furthest reaches of the universe and never find anything more beautiful.”  — Yvaine

Stardust reminds me of The Princess Bride, at times.  It is a very funny, enjoyable fantasy film, filled with romance in both senses of the word.  The film begins in the Victorian village of Wall, so named because of the brick wall separating the town from the nearby forest.  Part of  the wall has a hole in it, it’s fallen down, and this place is guarded day and night – no one crosses the wall.

One day a young man, out for adventure, crosses the wall.  There he meets a young woman, slave to a female merchant.  The young woman tells him she is a princess, tricked to be slave to a witch.  He cuts the silver cord binding her to the merchant’s wagon, but the cord grows back and re-seals itself.  The young man and the woman spend the night together, and the young man returns to Wall.

Nine months later, a baby appears on the now older man’s doorstep.  The story skips ahead again, and the baby is now a young man, Tristan.  Tristan is not a very successful young man in the traditional sense, but he works in a local shop and has fallen for Victoria.  His rival for Victoria’s hand is Humphrey, an upper-class fop, but nevertheless someone Victoria sees as a better catch.  Tristan convinces Victoria to go with him on a picnic.  He treats her to champagne (a new experience for Victoria) and rich foods.  Tristan tries to convince Victoria to accept his hand in marriage.  Learning that Humphrey is going “all the way to Ipswich” to buy Victoria a ring, Tristan vows to go to London to make his fortune. Then a star falls.  Tristan tells Victoria he will bring her the star, to win her hand.

Later, Tristan talks to his father, who tells him of his true origins, gives him a letter from his mother, which is wrapped in a candle.  The letter says the “fastest way to travel is by candlelight”.  Father and son light the candle and Tristan disappears.

Tristan lands in a crater.  At the center of  the crater is a beautiful blond woman, Yvaine, the star.  Tristan ties her to him with the piece of magical cord that was also in the baby basket, and intends to bring her back to Wall.  They begin a series of  adventures.

Meanwhile, the King of Stormhold (the magical kingdom beyond Wall) is dying.  He has seven sons, but three are already dead.  A fourth is killed, as the King deactivates his royal ruby necklace and throws it out the palace window.  It was this necklace that knocked Yvaine out of  the sky, and which she found and placed around her neck.  The ghosts of the dead princes, form a “peanut gallery” making comment and even fun of the actions of the living remaining princes.  The princes are also all named by their number: Primus, Secundus, Tertius, et cetera all the way to Septimus.  Septimus (Mark Strong) quickly dispatches one brother, and then Secundus is killed by a wicked witch.  So it’s Septimus who becomes the main villian, pursuing Tristan and Yvaine.

The other villains are three witches, who want to capture Yvaine and cut out her heart – for eating the heart of a star conveys eternal youth and life (though using magic uses up this “star power”).  Lamia (Michelle Pfeiffer) is the witch who eats the last of their previous star’s heart, becoming youthful, and goes in search of Yvaine.  Each time she uses her magic, she loses some of her youth and beauty… becoming old and wretched by the conclusion of the film.

Thus Tristan and Yvaine are pursued by two groups:  Septimus because he wants his father’s ruby necklace so he can become king, and Lamia because she wants Yvaine herself to kill her for her heart. Tristan thinks that he wants to bring Yvaine to Victoria, and thus win her heart with his gift.

The film thus follows the path of each of these three small groups.  And it is beautifully shot, in gorgeous countryside, with great costumes and sets, competent effects, and good storytelling.

After meeting a group of pirates, lead by Captain Shakespeare (Robert De Niro) and their flying galleon, which captures lightening to sell, Tristan and Yvaine fall in love.  They leave the ship, have more adventures, and finally reach an Inn near Wall.  They spend the night together at the Inn.  Tristan wakes early, the next day, cuts off a piece of Yvaine’s hair and goes to see Victoria in Wall.  He speaks with Victoria, gives her his gift, but she rejects it as “worthless”.  Humphrey arrives, but Tristan scares him off with the swordplay he learned from Capt. Shakespeare.  Victoria they opens her gift, but is dismayed that it’s “mere stardust”.  Tristan, who’s already rejected Victoria because he loves Yvaine (he’d only gone there to lord it over her how successful he now was) realises that if Yvaine follows him across the wall, she’ll die.  He races back to stop her.  But everyone else is proceeding to the Wall too.  Septimus is there to take the ruby necklace from Yvaine.  Ditchwater Sal is there with her servant girl (who is really Tristan’s mother and Septimus’s sister), and Lamia is there as well.  Lamia attacks and kills Ditchwater Sal, freeing Tristan’s mother, but she captures Yvaine (thus accidentally saving her life, because she does prevent her from crossing the wall).  Tristan arrives after the battle of the two witches, as does Septimus, and they both head for the witches’ palace.

There, in a fantastic battle, Septimus is killed by Lamia; but Lamia’s two sisters are killed by Tristan. Lamia uses Septimus’s body as a sort of golem to fight Tristan.  Tristan finally manages to defeat him, frees Yvaine, and is nearly tricked and killed by Lamia.  However, his mother steps in, fills in Yvaine and Tristan as to who he is, and in the end, Lamia is defeated.  Tristan becomes the new king of Stronghold, with Yvaine ruling by his side.

Stardust is a wonderful film — fun, imaginative (as one would expect since it’s based on a Neil Gaiman novel), full of humor, magic, close calls, escapes, etc.  The peanut gallery of the ghosts of dead princes add a twisted, dark humor to the piece.  Again, the film is based on a novel by Neal Gaiman, so one would expect that.  All the actors are fantastic!  Robert De Niro plays decidedly against type, as a tough pirate captain, who is much happier helping Tristan and Yvaine to dress appropriately and teaching them both how to dance, and in Tristan’s case how to sword fight.  He’s very funny, yet sympathetic.  I highly recommend this film and I also think it’s very appropriate for children (aged, oh, about 10 or 12 and up), yet enjoyable for adults.

Recommendation:  See it!
Rating:  Five out of  Five Stars
Next Film:  Star Trek (2009)

Spiderman 2

  • Title:  Spider-man 2
  • Director:  Sam Raimi
  • Date:  2004
  • Studio:  Columbia (Marvel)
  • Genre:  Fantasy, Action, Drama
  • Cast:  Tobey McGuire, Kirsten Dunst, Alfred Molina, James Franco, Ted Raimi, Bruce Campbell
  • Format:  Color, Widescreen
  • DVD Format:  R1, NTSC

“Being brilliant’s not enough, young man, you have to work hard.  Intelligence is not a privilege, it’s a gift and you use it for the good of mankind.”  — Dr. Octavius

“The power of the sun in the palm of my hand.”  — Dr. Octavius

“My Rosie’s dead.  My dream is dead.  And these monstrous things should be at the bottom of  the river, along with me.” —  Doc Ock.

I preferred the title sequence to this film over the sequence for the previous one.  The sequence looks like actual comic book panels and catches the audience up on the plot from the previous film.

In Spider-man 2, Peter Parker is once again the nerdy guy with bad luck.  His commitment to being Spiderman, causes him to lose his job as a pizza delivery boy, to run into trouble at college, where he’s late or misses classes entirely, and even to be late on his rent.  He even loses the chance to impress MJ (Mary Jane Watson) by missing her performance in a play (which looks to be The Importance of Being Earnest, though it’s never mentioned by name).  To add to his troubles, Aunt May’s house is in foreclosure.

Possibly because of all this stress, Peter is beginning to have problems as Spiderman, with his web failing, and later his powers failing.  Several times in the film, Peter literally takes a fall as Spiderman.

For a college science report, Peter meets Dr. Octavius, a brilliant scientist, working on fusion power.  At the opening demo, Peter’s there to take pictures for the Bugle, but things go wrong.  The magnetic field breaks, the fusion reaction acts like a giant magnet, and chaos ensues.  Spidey arrives to try to help, but Dr. Octavius’ wife is killed by shattered glass, and his activator arms (“smart” metal arms activated by the doctor’s own brain) are fused to his spine.  Worse still, the inhibitor chip that prevents the nanotech in the arms from taking over the doctor’s brain, is damaged.  When a surgical team tries to remove the fused exoskeleton, Doc Ock attacks them, and a new supervillain is born.

Peter and Aunt May try to get a re-fi loan, but she fails due to her lack of  income.  But, while there, Doc Ock attacks the same bank, and even kidnaps May.  Peter, as Spidey, saves his Aunt, and fights Ock. The pictures from the fight make their way to the Bugle, and it’s Hoffman (Ted Raimi) who comes up with a name for the new villain – Dr. Octopus, which Jonah Jameson shortens to “Doc Ock”, blaming Spidey of course.

But Peter is still having problems balancing his life, and since his Spidey powers keep failing him at inopportune times, he gives up being Spiderman, and even throws away the suit.  A garbageman sells the suit to Jameson at the Bugle who keeps it as a trophy.  Although Peter’s life becomes simpler, crime rates skyrocket, and Peter feels guilty when he walks past crimes in progress and does nothing.

Peter tells May an edited version of the truth about the night Uncle Ben died, after May had blamed herself. At first May seems angry at Peter, but later she comes to her senses and patches things up, letting him know she loves him.

Doc Ock goes after Harry Osborn, who’s still obsessed with destroying Spiderman, whom he blames for his father’s death.  He sends Doc Ock after Peter, saying Peter will led him to Spiderman.

MJ kisses her new fiance (Jameson’s son John, an astronaut) upside down.  From the look on her face, she’s still in love with Peter or Spiderman.  Peter and MJ meet at a cafe’.  Peter tries to apologize and tell her he’s straightened out his life, but Doc Ock throws a car through the plate-glass window they are sitting near.  Peter saves MJ’s life but doesn’t get to kiss her.

Peter’s powers return, he takes back his Spidey suit, and there’s a huge F/X CGI fight between Doc Ock and Spiderman on a train.  Spidey manages to just barely stop the train full of people from falling off the track, but he’s now without his mask.  Normal people hand him hand-over-hand back into the car, when Ock threatens again, all the people stand between the villain and Spidey.  A kid gives Peter his mask back.

Ock brings Spidey to Harry, Harry gives Ock the Tridium (an ultra-rare element used in Octavius’ fusion reactor).  Harry’s about to kill Spidey, but when he pulls off  his mask, he’s shocked to discover it’s Peter. Spiderman must then rescue MJ and stop Doc Ock’s fusion reactor before he blows-up half of New York.

Spiderman and Doc Ock have their final confrontation.  Despite his plans to make it work, the fusion reactor again becomes a huge magnet, causing havoc. Doc Ock is electrocuted, and he and the reactor core are dropped in the river.  Spidey saves MJ during the battle, but she sees him without his mask. Peter explains to MJ that they can’t be together.

MJ plays the runaway bride at her own wedding, and goes to Peter to tell him they should make a go of  it anyway.  Meanwhile, Harry is hearing the voice of the Green Goblin.  He breaks a mirror and discovers a secret lab with the mask, glider, pumpkin bombs, and enhancing formula.  Will he take it?  Only the sequel can tell.

I found Doctor Octavius to be a strangely compelling and sympathetic villain.  His own personality breaks through the Doc Ock madness much more often than say, the Green Goblin’s (who’s just nuts, even when he tries to act sane).  Even after he’s become Doc Ock, he’s still trying to get his fusion reactor working – something to benefit “mankind” (well, OK, it should be “humanity” but that’s how Octavius puts it).  And he never seems to realize that it’s the lack of working magnetic containment that causes his experiment to fail.  He also loses everything:  his standing as a scientist, his wife, his sanity, and eventually his life.  At times, compared to what Doc Ock goes through, Peter Parker seems like a whiny teenager, which goes to show you just what a good actor as villain can due for a piece.

Recommendation:  See it, it’s better than the first one.
Rating:  4 out of 5 Stars
Next Film:  Stardust