June 11, 2014

Review: Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979)

“It's life, Captain, but not life as we know it.” – Commander Spock (Leonard Nimoy)

Director: Robert Wise

Writers: Alan Dean Foster (story), Harold Livingston (screenplay)

Producer: Gene Roddenberry

Studio: Paramount

Major Stars: William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, James Doohan, DeForest Kelley, George Takei, Walter Koenig, Nichelle Nichols, Stephen Collins, Majel Barrett,

It’s Star Trek, friends, but not as we know it. Short on action and long on meditations about life, it’s purpose and it’s creation, Star Trek was an ambitious movie that inexplicably made the universe we all knew and loved god-awful boring.

You would think that the Enterprise flying out to intercept an alien cloud that has destroyed multiple Klingon ships and a Federation outpost would have some great action scenes. Instead, you get Spock trying to mind-meld with the remains of the ancient (by movie standards) Voyager space-probe that is now the heart and mind of a massive life-form called V'ger. That would be a nice compliment to a concurrent action sequence. Instead it’s just more of the same.

I was too young to appreciate the letdown a lot of Star Trek fans felt when it came out in 1979. These are the people that fought and begged NBC to keep the show on television and were teased by rumors of a second television show. So when this came out and it played like a snooze-fest, they were understandably pissed off. Throw in the fact it cost close to $50,000,000 and you didn’t get half the action of one of the television episodes, it’s amazing they went back to the well for Wrath of Khan. Thank God they did, but it was a leap of faith by Paramount. By comparison, Wrath of Khan cost just $11,000,000. Sometimes less is more.

Not that the whole film was a bust. Some of the sounds were unique, like that crazy buzz when V’ger appears. I liked a lot of the special effects, especially the interior of V’ger. Jerry Goldsmith’s soundtrack was a good one. And you have to admire the scope of the movie, even if its execution was flawed.

Plus, you have to give credit to what Star Trek: The Motion Picture gave birth to:
  • 10+ more movies, including the new Star Trek reboot
  • Four more television series (and undoubtedly more to come)
  • Countless novels and tie-ins, video games and God knows what else

All that would never have happened without the first movie. In it’s own way, Star Trek: The Motion Picture was as influential on the science-fiction genre and entertainment in general as Star Wars was two years earlier. In some ways, maybe more so.

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