For an entire decade, every year that a Star Trek sequel debuted in theaters, James Cameron also released a film of his own. From 1984 to 1994. That coincidence might seem to warrant a reaction like “So what?” if it weren’t for the additional observation that they do an uncannily good job predicting the next film each other would release. For example, Cameron’s 1984 film predicts what the 1986 Star Trek film would be about, just as the 1984 Star Trek film predicts what Cameron’s 1986 film would be about. And it keeps going: 1986 leads to 1989, which leads to 1991, which leads to 1994, which leads to one more film each.
Join me as we go through a dozen films by some amazing filmmakers, and the surprising similarities they share.
Star Trek III: The Search for Spock > Aliens
In Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, Admiral James T. Kirk and his crew return to the Genesis planet created at the end of the previous film. They go to rescue a friend, but they get ambushed by Klingons. Kirk’s son reveals that he used a dangerous material to create the planet, which leads to many lost lives, including his own. Kirk destroys his own starship shortly after several Klingons beam aboard. He engages in hand-to-hand combat with the Klingon captain, kicking him off a cliff into a lava pit after he grabs Kirk’s shoe. In the end, the heroes escape aboard a Klingon Bird of Prey right before the planet explodes.
In Aliens, Ripley and space marines return to the planet discovered at the beginning of Alien. They go to rescue colonists, but they get ambushed by aliens. Ripley learns that a company man named Carter Burke used a shady strategy to make money off of the alien planet, which leads to many lost lives, including his own. An alien sneaks aboard a dropship, kills the pilot, and causes it to crash. Ripley and a few survivors get away on a second dropship right before a nuclear explosion kills every living thing on the planet. Ripley then gets into a power loader and engages in hand-to-hand combat with the Alien Queen. She drops the Queen into an airlock, and the Queen gets sucked out into space after trying to hold onto Ripley’s shoe.
The Terminator > Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home
Time travel factors heavily into the plot of James Cameron’s first real film, The Terminator. A killing machine travels back in time to murder the mother of the man who, in the future, will save mankind from evil machine overlords. The father of that man also goes to the past, but his goal is to protect her. At one point, the Terminator tries to talk his way into a police station where the mother and father are in custody. But when he is denied entry, he resorts to cruder means to cut his way through to her.
Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home was the first film in the series to feature time travel. Kirk and his crewmates travel back in time to bring a mother and father whale into the future to save mankind from being annihilated by an alien probe. A protective cetacean biologist also goes into the future to keep an eye on the whales. At one point, a member of Kirk’s crew gets injured and taken to a hospital for emergency surgery. Kirk, Dr. McCoy, and the biologist manage to talk their way past the police on guard in order to rescue him. But when a small mistake blows their cover, they have to run for it.
Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home > The Abyss
Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home is an ensemble film that gives all of the main and supporting characters something important to do throughout the film. Its plot involves aliens that inadvertently drain power from humans’ vessels and other technology. Significant portions of the film take place underwater. Kirk and Spock watch horrifying video footage of people illegally slaughtering whales. During the climax, the main characters emerge from their submerged Klingon vessel, and Kirk gets demoted from admiral to captain.
The Abyss is Cameron’s best ensemble film with lots of interesting main and supporting characters who play important roles throughout the film. Its plot involves underwater aliens that temporarily drain power from humans’ undersea vessels. The aliens show Bud Brigman horrifying footage of war atrocities and other human-caused suffering. At the end of the movie, the characters magically emerge from their deep-sea oil rig onto the ocean surface without dying in a show of force by the aliens to tell the navy who’s really in charge now.
Aliens > Star Trek V: The Final Frontier
Over the course of her first sequel, Ripley gets betrayed by Burke, surrounded by aliens, and obliged to face off against the Alien Queen by herself. In addition, Ripley deals with great personal grief over the death of her daughter. At the climax, she thinks Bishop has abandoned her, but he pilots a ship to rescue her from the Alien Queen in the nick of time.
Over the course of Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, Kirk gets betrayed by his crew, captured by foreign intruders, and forced to flee from a powerful alien presence by himself. Nearly every character confronts deep personal pain, notably McCoy, who took his father off life support. At the climax, Kirk doesn’t think his friends can help, but Spock mans a Klingon vessel’s gun to obliterate the alien presence hunting him.
Star Trek V: The Final Frontier > Terminator 2: Judgment Day
In Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, good guys transform into bad guys and vice versa. These include hostages, Kirk’s crew, and Klingons. Kirk tries to rescue a group of ambassadors who have actually become followers of the bad guy who captured them, Sybok. But Sybok just wants to go to the center of the galaxy to meet his maker, who turns out to be not at all what he expected. It’s an evil reflection of himself. Sybok sacrifices himself, and then Kirk and Spock are able to defeat his evil doppelganger.
In Terminator 2: Judgment Day, another copy of the evil Terminator from the first film comes back as a good guy this time. The Terminator gets to meet his maker, who turns out to be not at all what one might expect. He’s a kind family man who never meant to hurt anyone. He certainly didn’t mean to create an evil AI computer that would nearly eradicate humanity. In the end, the Terminator defeats a more powerful T-1000 and then sacrifices himself.
The Abyss > Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country
The Abyss starts with the destruction of a U.S. submarine. The film has a powerful Cold War theme front and center as the United States and Soviet Union spar over rescue efforts. Lt. Coffey, suffering from a rare pressure-induced disorder, tries to sabotage the first contact between humanity and underwater aliens, but in the end, peace is achieved.
Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country starts with the explosion of an important Klingon moon called Praxis. Its destruction has a devastating effect on the Klingon Empire, playing out much like the Chernobyl explosion, which contributed to the end of the Soviet Union and the Cold War. A secret cabal of Federation and Klingon leaders seeks to thwart peace talks between the longtime foes they’re supposed to represent, but in the end, peace is achieved.
Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country > True Lies
In Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, Klingon and Federation conspirators aim to metaphorically nuke peace talks by killing high-ranking leaders. This leads to Kirk getting framed by a Klingon (General Chang) for the murder of a Klingon ambassador. Kirk pretends to be interested in a shapeshifting girl to help him and McCoy escape from prison, but she lures them into a trap. However, she gets vaporized before Kirk and McCoy get beamed to safety aboard the Enterprise. Kirk exposes the conspirators on his own ship and then shoots torpedoes to obliterate the treacherous Chang who tries to bar his way to the peace talks. Chang gets off a great one-liner before he dies, “To be, or not to be.”
Harry Tasker, the main character of True Lies, is a spy who pretends to seduce a two-faced woman to get information about terrorists who are planning to nuke the U.S. But she lures him into a trap and captures him and his wife. However, he escapes, and the bad woman falls to her death while he lifts his wife to safety aboard a helicopter. He then commandeers a Harrier jet to rescue his daughter who has been taken captive by the main terrorist who captured him and his wife earlier. The main bad guy gets tangled on one of the Harrier’s missiles, and Harry says a perfect one-liner before firing that missile into a helicopter full of terrorists, “You’re fired.”
Terminator 2: Judgment Day > Star Trek Generations
In Terminator 2: Judgment Day, a familiar face (the Terminator) from the future returns to the past to save mankind. Sarah Connor sees a vision of a city destroyed in a nuclear explosion. She alone goes to Miles Dyson’s house to try to kill him before he creates Skynet in order to prevent Judgment Day. In the Special Edition, we see Sarah and her son John Connor remove the Terminator’s computer chip from his head and modify it to make it so he can learn from humans and eventually become more human himself. He learns to understand the purpose of crying by the end.
In Star Trek Generations, a familiar face (Kirk) from the past comes to the future to save a planet called Veridian III and a new Enterprise crew in Star Trek Generations. We see the Enterprise-D crew killed in a planet-crushing shockwave immediately after Captain Jean-Luc Picard and the villainous Dr. Soran enter a rift in space called the Nexus. Picard recruits Kirk before returning to Veridian III to prevent the disaster. An android named Data asks his friend Geordi La Forge to insert an emotion chip into his head so he can feel emotions. It doesn’t go well at first, but by the end, Data discovers the ability to shed tears of joy.
Star Trek Generations > Titanic
Soran is obsessed with reliving a fleeting experience he had of true joy when he briefly fell into a mysterious rift in the fabric of space called the Nexus at the start of Star Trek Generations. He’s been chasing the Nexus for nearly eight decades since then, looking for a way back in. Kirk sacrifices himself to free the Enterprise-B from certain death. Picard mourns the loss of his brother’s family, and he regrets the fact that he didn’t have children of his own to carry on his family legacy. After getting hit by a barrage of torpedoes, the Enterprise-D separates its two sections, and one explodes and the other crashes onto a planet.
Titanic begins with a group of modern deep-sea explorers obsessed with finding the priceless Heart of the Ocean jewel aboard the sunken Titanic, thinking it will make them rich and famous. Instead, they find clues about the woman who wore it once, Rose. She gets to relive a fleeting experience she had of true love with a young man named Jack who she met aboard the Titanic more than eight decades ago. Jack sacrifices himself to save her from an icy death. Rose mourns the loss of Jack, but she rejoices in the fact that she married someone else, had children, and lived to a good old age. After crashing into an iceberg, the Titanic breaks into two pieces and sinks to the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean.
True Lies > Star Trek: First Contact
True Lies was James Cameron’s last R-rated movie as of 2021. Harry isn’t honest with his wife about being a spy, and he disobeys direct orders to keep tabs on terrorists in order to investigate his wife’s potential infidelity. Because of that recklessness, they both get whisked away by terrorists to an unknown location, though Harry pieces together where they are eventually. The terrorists want to critically damage the U.S., but Harry is able to stop them with a Harrier attack.
Star Trek: First Contact was the first movie in the series to receive a PG-13 rating. Picard isn’t honest with his crew about his close connection to the Borg or his true motivations for fighting them. He disobeys a direct order to take part in a battle with the Borg near Earth, and that reckless decision leads to the Enterprise getting transported to an unknown time period in the past. Data quickly ascertains the exact date, which helps them figure out why the Borg are there. They want to wipe out the Federation by preventing mankind’s first warp-speed flight and subsequent first contact with aliens. Data and Picard manage to stop them, and the test flight goes as planned.
To Boldly Go Where One Man Had Gone Before
Admittedly, this is the point where Star Trek and James Cameron part ways. Their next films came out in different years (1996 and 1997, respectively), mainly because Cameron is a perfectionist who took an extra year to work on editing his film Titanic. It’s hard to argue with the results, though. It went on to become the highest-grossing film of all time, a figure finally topped by his own film Avatar 12 years later. Star Trek has gone through a number of transformations in the 25 years since First Contact. Wherever else it has traveled, it’s fun to realize that for a solid decade, Star Trek boldly went where one man had gone before, and vice versa.
This is the Deja Reviewer bidding you farewell until we meet again.
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