The Captains: A Film by William Shatner – Review

The Captains, a film written and directed by William Shatner. Before your thought process resonates many things, I will guarantee that whatever comes to mind when by William Shatner” is together, it is far different than what you will encounter when watching this film. The premise of the documentary is to roughly go where no one man has gone before. Shatner goes around the globe traversing into the lives of captains’ past. He invites himself in, pokes at the live’s past, present, and future, and does more than just reminisce on the careers as captain of a star ship.

At first it seems quite ominous that Shatner is behind the chair of the production. Subtle piano playing in the background, profoundly nostalgic settings, quirky entrances, and that undefined warmth that Shatner embodies are things immediately noticeable in the documentary. But nothing is left unquestioned that Shatner is here to let the viewers into the lives of these actors that no one else has ever done, and it’s brilliant!

The likes of Chris Pine, Patrick Stewart, Avery Brooks, Kate Mulgrew, Scott Bakula, and Shatner himself are opened up in a way that normally is appreciated among actors and guild, but are brought onto the screen for avid fans to enjoy. If you could give the meaning of “a picture says a thousand words” then Shatner did just that. The picture he has painted in the documentary and the dialogue that goes along with it gives the fans a deeper appreciation to what it took to become a captain, play the role for so long, and where these actors were before they actually took the chair. I was really blown away on how different I thought this film was going to be. Never judge a book by its cover, unless you enjoy being unexpectedly surprised. This documentary was about the people who made the character. It was not about the life during the role as a captain, rather what made the man and woman who embodied the character so well.

What I believe you will enjoy the most is the feeling of underlining respect that these actors deserve, and any actor for that matter. Shatner strips away all the lights and glamour and manages to get deep into the souls and minds of these few. It’s like for all of you who go to conventions, especially you Trekkies, and see your favorite actor sitting at a panel on stage talking about what it is they are working on, or life in general. “How nice that person really is” or “how great would it be to meet him/her”. Shatner was able to do just that with this film. For example, Patrick Stewart is one of my favorite actors and captains. To understand how he grew up and began acting, the troubles he fought, and where he perceives life to this day, because of his role as a captain was really nice to see. It almost gave a sense of tranquility and a somber feel to the entire documentary as each actor detailed the same in front of the camera.

And how could any film about the Star Trek franchise become great without the fans. One part, probably one of the most emotional moments of the film, is with the fans. In particular, a scene where a fan with an apparent ailing to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), the disease that Stephen Hawking’s endures, is given the chance to meet with Shatner. It is not like there was a huge push to show this scene, it kind of just happens, which gives it the raw form of how these fans truly love the genre. From there on the actors of each specific franchise lead in to discuss matters of personal despairs, highlights, and life-changing attributes all because of being a captain.

There was a quote I found online through A reviewer mentioned that Shatner had found his new role to end all roles. I’d like to elaborate on that. I believe that Shatner might very well have found his last captain’s chair – as an interviewer. His attentiveness and passion are seen glowing out of him, or maybe that it is his Santa Clause rosy red cheeks and big-bellied gut that I am mixing it with. But truthfully, Shatner does an outstanding job being the captain of his own ship: director, writer, and partly composer to the music.

If you enjoy documentaries and even if you are not a fan of the Star Trek franchise, I encourage you to watch this film. It is on Netflix online stream and is ranked 3.7/5. IMDB ranks the film at a 7.6/10. Keep in mind though that the special feature extras are not included in the Netflix version. So in the great words of lieutenant commander Spock, “Live long & prosper”!

Grade: A

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