‘STAR TREK: THE MOTION PICTURE’
Please feel free to comment on my review.
The Motionless Picture
“The Human Adventure is Just Beginning!”
‘Star Trek: The Motion Picture’ (why wasn’t it called ‘Star Trek: The Movie’?!) was the first ‘Star Trek’ movie ever made for the cinema. It was also the first ‘Star Trek’ movie to feature the original cast from ‘The Original Series’. It was made in 1979, following the original TV series’ cancellation in 1969.
The movie was produced by Gene Roddenberry and directed by Robert Wise, who apparently directed ‘The Sound of Music’, one of the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical films in 1965. This was where the original ‘Star Trek’ cast began their series of feature films to be shown on the big screen.
I purchased the Director’s Edition DVD of ‘Star Trek: The Motion Picture’ for my parents and I over the Christmas holidays in 2004. It was after seeing ‘The Original Series’ in its three seasons on DVD. The Director’s Edition DVD is a 2-disc set, with the movie on Disc 1 and the special features on Disc 2.
Fortunately, my parents and I saw ‘Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan’ first before we saw this first movie of the ‘Star Trek’ film series. I decided we’d better go back to the beginning of the film series by purchasing the first movie on DVD before we watched the rest. It was a good decision on my part.
However saying that, I find ‘Star Trek: The Motion Picture’ to be the weakest of the film series and out of the six movies featuring ‘The Original Series’ cast. I’m afraid ‘The Motion Picture’ was a let-down for me, despite the spectacular special effects sequences and the great operatic music from it.
This movie to me is rather dull and uninspired all the way through. It lacked the story, action and pace that it required in a ‘Star Trek’ movie. I don’t think director Robert Wise understood what ‘Star Trek’ was about when he directed this. Not really ‘The Motion Picture’, but ‘The Motionless Picture’.
The story involves an alien menace called V’Ger that is approaching the Earth. V’Ger is in the form of a gigantic alien machine that manages to destroy three Klingon ships on the way. Starfleet Command becomes aware of this alien threat approaching. Only one starship can deal with it – the Enterprise!
James T. Kirk, now promoted to Admiral, takes it upon himself to captain the newly-rebuilt Enterprise to tackle the alien menace approaching Earth. Very soon, Dr. McCoy comes aboard and so does Mr. Spock, bring the old Enterprise back together again as they voyage on to face V’Ger itself.
Now whilst I have no objection to the story’s premise and concepts going on through this movie, I’m afraid I found the whole plodding of this film unbearable. Don’t get wrong, there are some really amazing, spectacular space sequences, including the long build-up to revealing the new Enterprise.
But most of the time, I wanted the film to move faster so that we could actually get on with the story. There were times when there were too many space sequences and things weren’t moving fast enough as they should. This includes the Enterprise’s long ‘trek’ through the tunnels of V’Ger itself.
Also, I get the impression that director Robert Wise likes lots of reaction shots of the characters when they see what’s going on as they travel through space aboard the Enterprise. A lot of the time, we see characters looking awed and going “WOW!” when they look on the Enterprise view-screen and this was tiring.
The design of the new Enterprise in the movie is very impressive, although it doesn’t have the same grandness and character that the Enterprise from the original series had. Certainly they have a bigger budget to work with on the movie, but I felt I couldn’t relax properly aboard this new starship.
With the new Starfleet uniforms…well, they’re adequate, but I’m afraid I found it difficult to see the distinction between the uniforms. It was difficult to find out what each uniform represented and they were quite drab. They don’t evoke the same coolness of the Starfleet uniforms in the TV series.
The major disappointment of this movie however is the lack of character development and story featured in the movie. A lot was focused on the special effects rather than the actual ‘Star Trek’ characters that I grew to love. The actors did amazingly well with keeping dialogue scenes enjoyable.
William Shatner returns as Admiral James T. Kirk, who assumes temporary command as Captain of the Enterprise. I’m afraid I found Kirk’s appearance in this ‘Star Trek’ movie underwhelming and out-of-character at times. He seemed to be arrogant and ignorant sometimes compared to the TV series.
From the movie, it seemed like Kirk was doing everything he can to get what he wants to get his old command of the Enterprise back and not let anything stand in his way. At times, he tended to be mean to Decker and even ignoring McCoy at times. This isn’t the best depiction of Kirk in the movie.
Leonard Nimoy returns as Mr. Spock, the Vulcan who returns to the Enterprise after hearing the consciousness of V’Ger whilst he was on Vulcan itself. Mr. Spock’s journey in ‘The Motion Picture’ is an interesting one, especially when he arrives out of the blue aboard the Enterprise assuming duties.
DeForest Kelley returns as Dr. Leonard ‘Bones’ McCoy. I’m afraid I found McCoy out of character in this movie too as well as Kirk. At times, Kirk and McCoy were at loggerheads with each other. This isn’t how the Kirk-Bones relationship should be, as they’re supposed to be good friends in the series.
I found the Kirk, Spock, McCoy set-up from the original TV series to be underwhelming in this movie. There doesn’t seem to be the same-old friendly banter between the ‘Trek’ trio in this movie as I expected from the TV series. Not enough time was given to develop this trio’s friendships further.
James Doohan returns as Lt. Commander Montgomery Scott (‘Scotty’ as many know him well). I liked some of the friendly exchanges Scotty has with Kirk, as they make their way towards the Enterprise. But most of the time, Scotty fulfils the functional role of engineer aboard the Enterprise.
George Takei returns as Lt. Commander Sulu; Walter Keonig as Lt. Chekov and Nichelle Nichols as Lt. Commander Uhura. I’m afraid I found their appearance in this movie very limited as they don’t have much to do, apart from their standard bridge roles. Majel Barrett also returns as Dr. Christine Chapel.
Surprisingly, Grace Lee Whitney returns as Janice Rand. I was pleased to see Janice Rand return to ‘Star Trek’, after she sadly left the show in Season 1 of the original series. She’s now a transporter operator, compared to being Kirk’s yeoman. But I’m afraid her appearance is also limited in this too.
Stephen Collins guest stars as Willard Decker in this movie. Decker was originally the commanding officer as Captain of the Enterprise. But he sadly gets demoted in the ranks by Kirk as temporary commander and executive officer. This upsets him when Kirk starts pushing around and taking over.
I felt sometimes that Decker got more treatment in terms of character development compared to the regular ‘Star Trek’ characters. Don’t get me wrong, it’s nice that Decker has an interesting journey to go in this. But it isn’t the best way when you’re re-introducing ‘Star Trek’ for the movies.
Persis Khambatta guest stars as Lt. Ilia, an alien Deltan navigator aboard the Enterprise. Ilia is another interesting character that gets development in the movie. She’s someone who has a clean-shaven head and once had a romantic affair with Decker a long time ago, until they sadly broke up.
Ilia unfortunately gets taken by the V’Ger alien presence. A probe sent by V’Ger in the form of Ilia soon visits the Enterprise. I sometimes got confused as to whether the real Ilia was trying to speak through the machine-like Ilia probe, especially when Decker was getting through to her emotionally.
V’Ger itself was an interesting alien menace that got revealed. There’s a long-build up to it, but it turns out that V’Ger is actually Voyager 6 sent from Earth many years ago. Apparently V’Ger is on a search to find ‘the creator’ and is sending radio signals to receive an answer. No response is given.
I must mention about the Klingons that feature in this movie. The Klingons have their new make-up design on their foreheads for the first time in this movie. This new Klingon make-up design is what is seen in future ‘Star Trek’ movies and in future spin-off ‘Star Trek’ shows like ‘The Next Generation’.
I am disappointed with the Klingons’ lack of appearance in this ‘Star Trek’ movie. They only appear briefly at the beginning, especially when they’re attacking the V’Ger cloud in space. The Klingon ships also don’t move fast enough, especially when they’re escaping from the cloud attacking them.
I love the new ‘Star Trek’ theme music composed by Jerry Goldsmith for this movie. This for me is the only best thing about this ‘Star Trek’ movie that I like. The ‘Star Trek’ theme music by Jerry Goldsmith would later go on to be the theme music for ‘The Next Generation’ series and rightly so.
The DVD special features on the Director’s Edition are as follows. On Disc 1, there a group commentary with director Robert Wise, special photographic effects director Douglas Trumbull, special photographic effects supervisor John Dykstra, music composer Jerry Goldsmith and actor Stephen Collins. There’s also a text commentary by Michael Okuda, the co-author of ‘The Star Trek Encyclopedia’, to enjoy on this.
On Disc 2, there’s a ‘Documentaries’ section containing three new retrospective making-of documentaries and featuring behind-the-scenes cast and crew interviews. The three documentaries are as follows; ‘Phase II: The Lost Enterprise’; ‘A Bold New Enterprise’ and ‘Redirecting The Future’. There’s an ‘Advertising’ section that includes Trailers and TV Spots. There’s a teaser trailer and a theatrical trailer for the movie and a ‘Director’s Edition’ trailer for the DVD. There’s also an ‘Enterprise Promo’ spot that promoted the new ‘Star Trek’ spin-off series in 2001 and eight TV Spots for the movie. There’s an ‘Additional and Deleted Scenes’ section that contains scenes edited out from the movie both in the 1979 Theatrical Version and the 1983 TV Version. There are 5 Additional Scenes from the 1979 Theatrical Version with trims and outtakes and 11 Deleted Scenes from the 1983 TV Version. There’s an ‘Archives’ section that contains storyboard archives on many sequences featured in the film. There are storyboard archives on Vulcan, on the Enterprise Departure and on V’Ger Revealed.
The special features on the 2010 DVD of ‘Star Trek: The Motion Picture’ are as follows. There’s a commentary with Michael and Denise Okuda, Judith and Garfield Reeves-Stevens and Daren Dochterman. There’s also ‘The Longest Trek: Writing the Motion Picture’; a ‘Special Star Trek Reunion’ and ‘Starfleet Academy: Mystery Behind V’Ger’.
So ‘Star Trek: The Motion Picture’ isn’t the best ‘Star Trek’ movie I’ve seen. It’s certainly the weakest out of the whole film series. It’s not the greatest start to the ‘Star Trek’ film series, despite the amazing space sequences and the visual effects produced to make the film spectacular on screen.
More was dealt with visual effects than on character development. The story and the film also tended to be slow. Thankfully this was the beginning of the ‘Star Trek’ film series, as things would get better later on. I’m sure the producers realised their mistake when voyaging forth in ‘The Wrath of Khan’!
‘Star Trek: The Motion Picture’ rating – 5/10
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