Prediction: Jonathan Frakes will be the first former Star Trek cast member to win an Oscar for best direction. Though he won't win for Star Trek 8, he'll go on to do impressive work in the future. Frakes' sure direction and the wonderful ensemble acting of Star Trek 8 carry the movie. Sure to the past trend, the even-numbered Star Trek movies continue to blow the odd-numbered movies out of the water.
Using the Borg as the big screen bad-guys was a good idea, but mixing in two Star Trek cliches in the movie (time travel and another I choose not to mention here) could have come close to sinking the ship. That said, if the Star Trek writers were going to dabble in the past again, why not "resurrect" Zeframe Cochran (a radically different Zeframe Cochran from the one present 30 years ago, but... ;-> ), the man who both invented warp drive and initiated Earth's first contact with aliens? The view of mid-20th century Earth as dystopia was kind of depressing, but not nearly so bad as assimilation plan the Borg wanted to unleash. The Borg go back to the past to prevent Cochran from launching his primative warp drive ship, and, of course, the crew of the Enterprise follow along to stop them.
At one point, pretty early in the movie, it almost looks like the Enterprise has everything under control. While the Borg damaged Cochran's test ship the Enterprise destroyed a Borg ship and found Cochran's test ship (cleverly built in an abandoned missle silo). However, the Borg had managed to sneak onboard and start assimilating the Enterprise and its crew. That leaves Picard, Data, Crusher, Worf and some "red shirts" on the Enterprise to duke it out with the Borg, and Riker, Troi and Geordie on the Earth to find Cochran and make sure his damaged warp ship takes off as planned.
The acting is just great, including James Cromwell (Babe, and some STNG episodes) and Alfre Woodard (Cross Creek, Grand Canyon). Woodard does more with her eyes than many actors can do with their whole faces. Another great bit of casting was Alice Krige as the Borg queen, as malicious a character as Star Trek writers have ever created. When I reviewed Generations two years ago, I said:
Generations lurches off your screen with lots of destroyed space ships, massive plot holes, and a few really great scenes mixed in just to make it frustrating. Patrick Stewart and Brent Spiner are so good it's like they're in another movie. All the women characters are completely and frustratingly wasted. The direction is also wildly erratic....
This time, everyone in the cast is terrific, though Stewart and Spiner still outshone the other actors. The female crew members were a little stronger, but I still would like to see more of Sirtis and MacFadden in a Star Trek movie.
While I found the plot a little stupid, it was a more logical story than Generations, and the dialog was sharp. My plot quibbles might be more because I've seen so much Star Trek and read so much science fiction over the years. I'm not sure if a "novice viewer" would have more plot quibbles or fewer. To their credit, the writers did turn almost ever Star Trek cliche they used on its ear, particularly in a climatic scene late in the film between Woodard and Stewart. And many scenes used in the trailers and commercials were taken out of context in an unusual fashion - the movie would then go off in a wholly different and wonderful direction. As with most Star Trek movies, there are wonderful comic bits that are fun, but these didn't ruin the flow of the movie.
The special effects, particularly the opening shot in the movie, are just first-rate.
This movie is definitely worth your time, and rates a strong 8 on the IMDB rating scale.
I hope that when they start to write the next Star Trek movie that they think about creating an original story, and one without time travel. Between all the time travel in this movie and in the recent TV shows, it's a science fiction cliche I'd like to see less of.