We are one week out from the release of Jigsaw. Said Lionsgate offering is, of course, the eighth installment in the Saw franchise and the first new one since the series came to an alleged end in 2010. But in this nostalgia-based and IP-driven culture, you can’t keep a once-popular franchise down for too long, especially when a movie like Jigsaw isn’t terribly expensive. And its arrival comes on the heels of a new Star Trek series on CBS All Access, itself the first new Star Trek show since Enterprise went off the air in 2005. What do these two items have in common? Well, not much except for the strange (and I’m assuming entirely coincidental) similarities between the Saw franchise and the Star Trek feature film franchise. So, without further ado, in honor of the eighth Saw movie, here are eight bizarre similarities between Star Trek and Saw.
The first film stands apart from its sequels.
Star Trek: The Motion Picture is a long, meditative and somewhat existential sci-fi drama that is more concerned about exploration and answering big questions than in thwarting a villain’s evil plot. And in terms of the uniforms, the tone, and pacing and the structure, it is almost a separate animal from the more streamlined and action-packed Star Trek sequels that would follow.
And while James Wan and Leigh Whannell’s first Saw isn’t exactly on a higher artistic plane, it is something of a grim, moody and variation on Se7en. It also which features a number of name actors (Cary Elwes, Danny Glover, Monica Potter, etc.) and a structure that is somewhat different from the sequels, which makes sense since we only discover the identity and motivation of the villain in the film’s twisty expository climax.
The first sequel sets the template.
Both Saw II and Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan set the tone for what was to come. With Nicolas Myer’s action sequel, we got the modern uniforms, the emphasis on aging heroes doing their best in their twilight years and propulsive, action-filled adventures. Star Trek II also established the modern continuity that would follow through at least through Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, to the point where folks could theoretically miss the first film and still follow along.
And Saw II set the stage for every sequel that would follow, complete with a John Kramer (Tobin Bell)-centric plot, a curtain raiser involving a grisly trap and plot that divided its time between Jigsaw’s victims and the cops attempting to hunt him down. And while Saw II does eventually reference the first film, it does so in the form of a plot twist, leaving it as a mostly stand-alone sequel that itself launches a firm continuity with reoccurring plot threads and major characters who would transition from one movie to another.
The second, third and fourth installments set up an unofficial trilogy.
It’s no surprise that Paramount/Viacom Inc. tends to sell DVD or Blu-Ray packs of The Wrath of Khan, The Search For Spock and The Voyage Home. Said three-film saga tells a strictly connected tale that deals with Khan’s attempt to use the Genesis device, the crew’s attempts to recover a seemingly deceased Spock and then an attempt to travel through time to save the world in a mission that eventually brings Kirk back to the Captain’s chair.
And, partially because they are directed by the same guy (Darren Lynn Bousman), Saw II, Saw III and Saw IV form an unofficial “death of Jigsaw” narrative. Heck, like Star Trek II, Saw II ends with its key character seemingly dead, only to say “Nope, he’s still around” in Saw III. Nonetheless, Saw III climaxes with Jigsaw’s apparent murder, while a time-hopping twist in Saw IV keeps its dead protagonist around. It’s only by Saw V that the filmmakers had to figure out how to make a Saw movie without John Kramer.
Part 5 was a whiff while part 6 was a return to form.
Whether you think it’s a disaster or merely a flawed-but-underrated sequel, Star Trek V: The Final Frontier is not among the most-loved Trek movies. It was a box office disappointment, earning $52 million domestic after The Voyage Home earned a then-series high $109m 2.5 years prior. The William Shatner-directed “search for God” drama was a failure, but Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country was both a more conventional Star Trek movie (Kirk versus the Klingons, with heavy topical subtext), it was also a return to form in terms of quality as well.
Ditto for Saw V, as the filmmakers struggled with centering a Saw movie around newly revealed apprentice Hoffman (Costas Mandylor). The picture feels cheap and disjointed, with much of the running time involving folks merely walking down one dark hallway and looking at random files. More than any prior sequel, Saw V felt like a direct-to-DVD version. And while it did fine at the box office, it ironically kneecapped Saw VI, which itself was a glorious return to form. With a Kramer-centric narrative and Hoffman being put to good use in the B-plot, this “Jigsaw versus the health insurance industry” makes Star Trek and Saw both franchises where part 6 is the best of the bunch.
Part 6 works as a series finale, even if part 7 kept things in the air.
Star Trek VI is absolutely intended to be the last movie for the original crew, and its final scene (“Second star to the right… and straight on till morning.”) gets me every time. But three years later, Star Trek Generations brought back Captain Kirk and a few other original cast members for a sci-fi actioner that blended the original crew with Picard and the rest of the Star Trek: The Next Generation cast.
Saw VI also operates as a kind of series finale, or at least the end to a three-part “after Jigsaw dies” trilogy that sees Hoffman trying to be Jigsaw’s apprentice and trying to avoid the attention of various nosy cops. It (spoiler, I suppose) ends with Jigsaw’s ex-wife (introduced in Saw III) seemingly killing Hoffman with the facial bear-trap gadget that was itself the key selling point of the first Saw. But Saw: The Final Chapter showed that A) Hoffman survived and B) Hoffman wasn’t remotely down for the count.
Part 7 is a passing of the torch entry.
As noted above, Star Trek: Generations and Saw 3D were both sequels where newer cast members interacted with series vets in a kind of passing the torch fashion. Whether or not Saw 3D was intended to be the finale before Saw VI bombed the year before, it still ended on a skewed note where essentially all of the old characters were killed off, save for one surprise cameo from a vet from the very first Saw movie.
And so, it was with Star Trek: Generations, which bridged the gap between Star Trek and Star Trek: The Next Generation, with a narrative that eventually teamed Captain Jean Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) with Captain James T. Kirk (William Shatner) and climaxed with Kirk’s heroic death. Aside from Leonard Nimoy’s extended cameos in the first two rebooted Star Trek movies (ironically Nimoy turned down Star Trek: Generations), Star Trek: Generations was the last time we saw any of the original cast on the big screen.
The even-numbered entries are better than the odd-numbered entries (kinda-sorta).
Here’s my dirty secret: I didn’t like the first Saw movie. Sure, I admired its low-budget ambition, but it felt like a first-draft screenplay that never got a rewrite, with scenes that didn’t belong save for their value in the marketing and thrill-spilling casting (gee, Michael Emerson and Tobin Bell aren’t in this movie for no reason) that tipped its hand way before the end game.
So, it was a surprise that I enjoyed Saw II that much more. I liked the Donnie Wahlberg vs. Tobin Bell dynamic, the violence was clever without being unbearable, and the film had what I’d still argue is the best plot twist of the franchise. And, yeah, fans will generally argue that Wrath of Kahn, Voyage Home, Undiscovered Country and First Contact are better than The Motion Picture, Search for Spock, Final Frontier, Generations and Insurrection. Star Trek Nemesis is awful and while I like Star Trek into Darkness more than Star Trek and Star Trek Beyond, I know I am in the minority.
The Saw quality rankings are a little more complicated. Saw II is, I’d argue, better than Saw and Saw III and Saw IV are about equal (better character work in Saw III, but more Tobin Bell in Saw IV). Saw V is awful, Saw VI is the franchise best, and Saw 3D is perhaps the worst film in the franchise. So, will Jigsaw continue the franchise’s even/odd pattern? Find out whenever the embargo drops.
Jigsaw is totally a remake of Star Trek: First Contact.
I have seen Jigsaw but am still under embargo until… well, I need to ask them about that. But I can tell you that the Borg show up, there’s time travel involved and Data finally gets laid! Of course, this means Saw: Insurrection is going to be terrible while Saw: Nemesis (featuring a clone of young John Kramer) will be a series low point followed by a total reboot.