The Final Frontier was expected to be one of the summer's biggest movies and a sure hit, despite its appearing in a market crowded with other sequels and blockbusters such as Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Ghostbusters II and Batman. Never before had so many sequels been released at the same time. Analysts expected The Final Frontierto make nearly $200 million.
Marketing included an MS-DOS computer game, part of an increasing trend of game tie-ins to movies. J.M. Dillard wrote the film's novelization, which was on The New York Times Best Seller list for four weeks. Paramount sold Star Trek-branded apparel through catalogues, and Kraft made a Star Trek-branded marshmallow dispenser. While Star Trek had a built-in fan market, marketing tie-ins were risky at the time and even high-grossing films could not guarantee success of related merchandise. Unlike other summer blockbusters, Star Trek had no mass-market appeal and no major food or beverage promotions, but sold pins and posters in theaters, bypassing retailers.
In its first week, The Final Frontier was number one at the domestic box office. Its $17.4 million opening on 2,202 screens beat the $16.8 million total of The Voyage Home and made it the best Star Trek opening weekend to that point. The Voyage Home, however, had played in only 1,349 theaters at a time with lower ticket prices. In its second week The Final Frontier tumbled 58% to make $7.1 million; in its third week it grossed only $3.7 million. It had a wide release of ten weeks, shorter than that of any Star Trek film before it.
The Final Frontier grossed $49,566,330 in the domestic box office for a global total of $63 million. The season proved to be another record-breaker for the film industry, with domestic summer box-office revenues of $2.05 billion. The Final Frontier was the season's tenth-best-grossing film, although it failed to make expected returns. It and Pink Cadillac were the early summer's biggest box-office disappointments.
Critical response Edit
Critics generally gave The Final Frontier poor reviews. The film holds a 21% rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 43 reviews, with the critical consensus "Filled with dull action sequences and an underdeveloped storyline, this fifth Trek movie is probably the worst of the series." At Metacritic, which assigns a weighted average out of 100 to critics' reviews, The Final Frontier received a score of 43 based on 16 reviews.
Rob Lowing of The Sun Herald called the film "likeable but average". The Chicago Sun-Times' Roger Ebert and The Washington Post's Rita Kempley gave the film negative reviews, calling the film "a mess" and "a shambles", respectively. The New York Times's Caryn James considered the film to be disappointing to fans and non-fans alike, while Chris Hicks of the Deseret News disagreed, feeling that the film approached issues in the same vein as the television series and that fans would enjoy it. Ansen and Lowing considered Shatner's direction during action sequences weak, with Lowing adding that the second half of the film felt directionless. Hicks wrote that the film's broad humor gave the film an inconsistent tone. In contrast, Chris Dafoe of the Toronto The Globe and Mail called the film "the most intentionally funny" episode of the film series. Christian Science Monitor's David Sterritt stated that at its best, The Final Frontier showed "flashes" of the humor that propelled The Voyage Home, and Lowing deemed Shatner's direction at its best during comedic moments.
... the humans and the Klingons seem to join sides after an off-camera speech by a former Klingon leader who had been put out to pasture. Since this leader is identified as having been badly treated by the Klingons in his retirement, how did he suddenly regain the authority to negotiate a truce? And do we really want to see the mighty Klingons reduced to the status of guests at a cocktail party?
Critics such as Newsweek's David Ansen judged the principal characters' performances satisfactory; "these veterans know each other's moves so well they've found a neat comic shorthand that gets more laughs out of the lines than they deserve", Ansen wrote. Stan James of The Advertiser wrote that Warner was wasted in his role and most characters lacked any "drive and motivation". In comparison, Luckinbill's Sybok received praise from critics such as USA Today's Mike Clark, who wrote that "he has the voice and stature of the golden screen's most scintillating intellectual villains", although he felt that he never seemed threatening or suspenseful. James considered Sybok the most "distinctive, compelling villain" of the series since Khan Noonien Singh in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.
The special effects were generally considered poor. Murphy wrote that the film fell apart after the arrival at Sha Ka Ree, where the "great special effects that graced parts I through IV are nowhere to be seen". Ebert's review agreed, saying that the visuals managed to inspire awe ever so briefly before dissolving into "an anticlimatic special effects show with a touch of The Wizard of Oz thrown in for good measure". Kempley wrote the Enterprise's objective was "to pass through an impenetrable (Ha!) swirl of what appears to be cosmic Windex, beyond which is the planet Shockara, home of God, or perhaps California shot through a purple filter."
Bennett blamed part of The Final Frontier's failure on the change from a traditional Thanksgiving-season Star Trek opening, to the sequel-stuffed summer release period, and the diffusion of Star Trek fan viewership following the premiere of The Next Generation. Winter felt they should have recognized the film's plot was too reminiscent of V'ger from Star Trek: The Motion Picture and that the search for God was a mistake; while he felt many parts of the film were good, they "smoked [their] own press releases" and nearly killed the franchise. Initially, Shatner believed that the film would get a positive response. In the morning after the opening night, he woke Nimoy up to tell him that the Los Angeles Times had given The Final Frontier a positive review. Soon after a local television reporter also gave the film a good review, and Shatner recalled that he incorrectly "began sensing a [positive] trend". He later agreed that the film nearly ended the film series, and looking back on the film called it a "failed but glorious attempt" at a thought-provoking film that did not come together.Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry considered elements of this film to be "apocryphal at best", and particularly disliked the idea that Sarek had fathered a child (Sybok) with a Vulcan before Amanda. Nevertheless, the film is considered canon.Even George Takei expected the film as a disappointment because "the script seemed rather a muddle...as if three separately interesting stories force-sealed together into one" which "made for a confusing and ultimately tiresome two hours".
Considered a critical and commercial failure, the poor performance of The Final Frontier jeopardized the production of further Star Trek features. Bennett was given the go-ahead to begin work on his own prequel concept that would have cast new actors to play the main cast at Starfleet Academy. Loughery worked with Bennett on a story inspired by Santa Fe Trail.When Paramount president Ned Tanen resigned, support for Bennett's prequel idea evaporated. Paramount instead wanted another film with the original cast, and Bennett decided to leave the franchise. Winter remained with the production and The Wrath of Khan director Nicholas Meyer returned to direct the original cast's final movie, Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country.