Movie Name: Star Trek: The Motion Picture
Studio: Paramount Pictures
Release Date(s): December 7, 1979
MPAA Rating: G
A strange cloud has appeared in space, first devouring a Klingon vessel and appearing to be on a direct path to Earth. The only vessel that can confront the entity in time is the recently redesigned U.S.S. Enterprise. Taking control of the ship from Captain William Decker (Stephen Collins), Captain James T. Kirk (William Shatner) begins to reassemble his Enterprise team including Doctor Leonard “Bones” McCoy (DeForest Kelley), Montgomery “Scotty” Scott (James Doohan), Pavel Chekov (Walter Koenig), Uhura (Nichelle Nichols), Hikaru Sulu (George Takei), and a returning Spock (Leonard Nimoy). When the entity takes possession of a a Deltan navigator named Ilia (Persis Khambatta) and identifies itself as V’Ger, the Enterprise must discover what V’Ger is seeking before the Earth is doomed.
Directed by Oscar winning Robert Wise, Star Trek: The Motion Picture returned the popular cult Gene Roddenberry series to the screen years after cancellation of the series. The movie was met with mostly negative response but still did well at the box office due to rabid fans, and now is often reviewed a bit kinder than at the release. It was nominated for Best Art Direction, Best Visual Effects, and Best Score.
Star Trek: The Motion Picture was a long time coming to the screens. There had been plans to restore Star Trek to television but the success of big budget sci-fi films like Star Wars and Close Encounters of the Third Kind led to a scrapping of that idea and a big budget picture. The movie has since been retooled with cleaned up effects.
This picture is quite dull, but for some reason I think it is kind of interesting. The movie is very heavily influenced by 2001, A Space Odyssey and often has long periods of no dialogue or effects-heavy scenes (like Spock flying into the heart of V’Ger). I think the effects are rather clever and interesting, but I can see how those seeking action would be a bit turned off. The movie is more of a science-fiction film based on ideas instead of fantasy like a Star Wars film, but many viewers wanted more action. This was remedied when the sequel (and what many consider the best Star Trek film was released in 1982.
I do have to say that getting the “old gang together” was kind of fun. The characters of the series always had a weird stand-offish team quality that worked well together and it does seem to continue to this film. Kirk, Spock, and McCoy of course fill the heart of this movie, and Ilia and Decker feel a bit like intruders in the film. With the Ilia and Decker heavy plot, the characters that many loved got a bit sidelined and that was unfortunate. It was also nice to see the return of Grace Lee Whitney as Janice Rand who just disappeared from the original Star Trek series after figuring in rather heavily in the first season. Here Rand doesn’t do much, but it is nice to see her character back as almost the “missing” Star Trek team member.
I think that Star Trek: The Motion Picture should be given a second chance. Yes, you can probably fast forward through a lot of it, but people who aren’t fans of the series might actually enjoy this film a bit more than some of the other films. Despite the critical complaints, Star Trek did continue on and this film was followed by the superior Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan in 1982 (and established the “every-other-one is good” idea in regards to Star Trek films).