Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979)

11 Feb

star-trek-the-motion-picture

Smith’s Verdict: **

Reviewed by Tanner Smith

“Star Trek,” the TV series created by Gene Roddenberry, is a delight. It’s a great mixture of neat science fiction, creative ideas, and memorable characters. No one would ever link it to something like “Star Wars,” which is about nonstop sci-fi action and thrills. With “Star Trek,” the characters and story always came first. It’s not about tense action and stunning visuals. And what “Star Trek” is certainly not is an out-of-body experience, like Stanley Kubrick’s great sci-fi epic “2001: A Space Odyssey.”

Unfortunately, when world-renowned director Robert Wise decided to direct a first film adaptation of the series, he thought to bring to appeal to the “2001” or “Star Wars” crowd, since elements of each film are noticeable. When you put them both together, it kind of distracts from the notion that you’re watching a “Star Trek” movie, and the first one, at that. Even though it has its moments that feel like a “Star Trek” union, the film has a lot of moments that make the film as a whole into a grand space opera. At times, it’s thought-provoking and visually impressive, but mostly, it’s a bore. It has a slow pace and doesn’t even try to give us a rousing adventure, let alone that “Star Trek” lighthearted character interaction that was the best part of the show.

Instead, we have long (and I mean LONG) sequences in which we’re supposed to marvel at something. They are long, slow, and undoubtedly supposed to create for us a visual marvel and an out-of-body experience. The tone of this film is all wrong. Those memorable characters, including Admiral Kirk, Mr. Spock, Dr. McCoy, and such, are trapped in a “2001” wannabe, and are not at home here.

I can’t fault the technical aspects of “Star Trek: The Motion Picture”—the visuals are outstanding, the special effects are top-notch, and the Jerry Goldsmith music score that pulses throughout this movie has a haunting feel. And in keeping in spirit with “Star Trek,” there are some clever ideas here. In particular, the central conflict—a space anomaly known as V’ger—is pretty interesting as it makes its way with destruction, and Kirk and crew have to find it and face it. Actually, once we get to the reality of V’ger, the movie finally starts to feel like a “Star Trek” story some of the time. The origin of V’ger produces some food for thought.

But when you have to stare at the visuals and listen to that music score for minutes at a time, you care less and wonder why anyone thought to create “Star Trek: The Motion Picture” with this sort of treatment. The result is a sometimes-intriguing but mostly-sleep-inducing mess that results in an out-of-body experience into dreamland. Those expecting a “2001” kind of movie is obviously not a “Star Trek” fan; those expecting a “Star Wars” type of movie is going to be disappointed; and those expecting a “Star Trek” movie will be disheartened.

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