Monday, January 7, 2013

William Shatner Makes A Legitimately Awesome Documentary With The Captains!

The Good: Amazing interviewing, Shows impressive appreciation for the fans and fan base.
The Bad: Some early cuts (Interviews with Avery) where Shatner does not give subjects enough space to respond.
The Basics: The only documentary (so far) that illustrates real appreciation for the Star Trek franchise, William Shatner interviews The Captains very successfully.

Recently, I sat down and watched Trekkies (reviewed here!) and I loathed it. I was offended as a fan and as a member of a subculture by how exploited the fanbase was. So, when The Captains came up for me as a recommendation for me to watch, I was much more hesitant to watch it. Then, I noted that William Shatner wrote, directed, and appeared as the interviewer in the film. I decided to give it a fair shake.

The Captains is wonderful (mostly) and it is the definitive documentary for fans of the Star Trek franchise and those who truly want to understand what a serious enterprise the Star Trek is. It is entirely appropriate that only William Shatner could get each of the actors (and actress) who played a captain in the Star Trek franchise to open up about both their feelings about the roles, fame, and existential matters. Instantly, The Captains became my second favorite documentary, second only to Fahrenheit 9/11 (reviewed here!), largely because of the quality of the material captured.

William Shatner interviews Patrick Stewart, Avery Brooks, Kate Mulgrew, Scott Bakula, and Chris Pine, as they are the only people in the world who have a similar frame of reference for what he went through as an actor on Star Trek. In the course of traveling around the world to meet with Patrick Stewart (Star Trek: The Next Generation), Avery Brooks (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine), Kate Mulgrew (Star Trek: Voyager), Scott Bakula (Star Trek: Enterprise), and Chris Pine (the film Star Trek). In traveling around to discuss the roles each played before their stint in the Star Trek franchise and their history since, Shatner works his way toward a personal epiphany (though, given the order of the filming, he hits it pretty early making most of the rest of the process pointless) and exposes a side of each of the actors that fans cannot get by going to Star Trek conventions.

Shatner, after an initial bout of cutting his subjects off (albeit in an entertaining way), settles in for interviews that range from the intriguing to the downright profound. Over the course of discussing the effect of shooting Star Trek, Shatner nearly brings Stewart, Mulgrew, and Bakula to tears as they discuss their failures in relationships (both marital and parental).

The Captains largely succeeds because William Shatner was friends with Patrick Stewart and Kate Mulgrew before the documentary and he hits it off with Scott Bakula and Chris Pine exceptionally well. The weakness of the documentary is in the segments with Avery Brooks. In fact, with Brooks, Shatner illustrates his only failure of research; Brooks was interviewed many times during and after the series was over wherein he discussed how he wanted to quit the show, but continued in order to set a positive example for his son. As the interview with Brooks flounders, Shatner tries to address the effect filming Star Trek: Deep Space Nine had on his family life, but Shatner fails to regroup with any sort of play on that publically-available information.

The rest of The Captains is magical. Kate Mulgrew turns the interviewing table on Shatner when talking about issues of mortality and Shatner gets an exceptional interview out of Patrick Stewart when discussing the effect of filming the series on his marriages. Shatner has access fans cannot (credibly) get and he uses it incredibly well to get uncommon answers to incredible questions. Part of the filming for The Captains was done at a convention I attended, so there was a significant geek out factor for me on a personal level, but far more than that, it was pretty incredible to get new information from the stars (having been to more than a hundred conventions, watched all the DVD bonus features, etc., it’s a rare thing to surprise me in that way).

More than just being insightful for fans of Star Trek, The Captains is an intriguins expose on the rigors of acting and the effect the media and fans can have on performers. William Shatner may be forever known for Star Trek, but he makes a credible documentarian and The Captains could well be the start of another incredible phase in his career.

For other documentaries, please check out my reviews of:
Trekkies 2
The Furious Gods: Making “Prometheus”


For other film reviews, please visit my Movie Review Index Page for an organized listing of all the movies I have reviewed.

© 2013 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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