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Trek Tuesday: Star Trek: The Motion Picture
March 5, 2013Posted by on
With the upcoming Star Trek Into Darkness set for release on May 17th, I wanted to go back and look at all the previous Star Trek films leading up to the twelfth installment. So, every Tuesday will be Trek Tuesday! We begin today with the first Star Trek feature film, aptly titled, Star Trek: The Motion Picture.
The ‘70s were a strange time for science fiction. Many films played with some big ideas, but they never came together in any meaningful way. I am thinking of movies such as Logan’s Run and Silent Running. Because of their uniqueness, however, they have become cult classics. Then Star Wars hit, and sci-fi was forever changed.
Not surprisingly, Paramount Pictures saw they had this Star Trek thing and realized they had a potential gold mine for a film series. The result was Star Trek: The Motion Picture. The movie seemed like a fusing of those cult sci-fi films referenced above with the Star Wars-style special effects. The end result makes the film a bit uneven. Given the behind-the-scenes trouble this film had, we should probably be grateful at how well it turned out in the end.
In it, Captain Kirk (William Shatner) reunites with his Enterprise crew to head off a giant space cloud from reaching and destroying Earth. V’Ger, as the cloud is known, is searching for its creator whom it believes is on Earth. I will defend this movie (particularly 2001’s “Director’s Edition”). I love the big ideas it plays with (the search for God being the search for self). It is the closest Star Trek will get to hard science fiction.
The film has some fascinating character studies which surprisingly holds up to multiple viewings. There is much to absorb from Kirk’s obsession to reclaim the Enterprise to Spock (Leonard Nimoy) finding balance in his life. The special effects are amazing for 1979. Honestly, it is tough to see something from this era still hold its own today the way The Motion Picture does.
That said, you have to realize this film is a product of its time. The costume design, the plodding nature of the narrative, and the awkward alien Decker/Ilia romance were all staples of ‘70s sci-fi. Because of that, the film can be hard to sit through at times.
Oh yeah, there is also this:
I do not know if director Robert Wise realized this, but he had a good story on his hands. Instead of developing it to its fullest potential, he bogged the movie down with linger shots of the V’Ger cloud and the crew’s reaction. I suppose it sets the tone well (especially with Jerry Goldsmith’s fantastic score), but I can put one to sleep it not in the right mindset.
Critics must have agreed, because Star Trek: The Motion Picture got blasted in reviews. Though it was a financial success (the highest grossing Trek film until 2009), there was a general sense of letdown. Perhaps people were hoping for more of a swashbuckling adventure more in line with the original series. Whatever the reason, it left a sour taste in people’s mouths. I still like this movie a lot. I comes just sort of greatness, but it is not for everyone.