Tuesday, 6 January 2009

Star Trek: The Motion Picture

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Dir: Robert Wise (The Day the Earth Stood Still <1951>, The Sounds of Music, The Andromeda Strain <1971>)
Regular Cast: William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, James Doohan, Nichelle Nichols, George Takei, Walter Koenig, Majel Barrett
Additional Cast: Persis Khambatta, Stephen Collins
USA, 1979

Originally Seen: I think it was for the 25th or 30th anniversary of Trek, which would place it in the 80's and it was a family event to watch it along with a special that was on before or after the film. In all honestly, I mostly remember the feel of sitting on the cold blue floor downstairs.

Revisited: December 25 & 26, 2008

Reason to Revisit: For the Countdown to Star Trek Movie Marathon

Star Trek: The Motion Picture, as part of a film series, is a bit of an oddity. Coming in 10 years after the beloved TV series ended, it is one of the few films that is the first in the series that went on to many other successful films but isn't highly regarded on its own. I knew this coming into watching the film, along with my own memories of the it being so scant that all I could say was remembering it being slow, long and they showed the ship. A lot.

And it is. But that isn't all. It also barely feels like Trek. It has the cast of characters, the Enterprise, jokes about 'getting her ready in x amount of time' and a situation/anomaly to deal with but it leaves out some of the key things that bring Trek to life. What are these key things? Well for starters... we need some comic relief! Mild arguments between the crew, raised voices or even some hand to hand combat could have livened things up. But no, it's very evenly paced. It's also quite serious and scientifically oriented which leads to another missing link. Often 'Star Trek: The Original Series' used serious situations to convey a crafty social commentary message, which gave the viewer a picture of the future that was advanced not only technically but also morally in terms of equality. There isn't anything in the film that enhances that characteristic of the world. Nothing counters is, but nothing adds to it either.

I admit I think it took some guts to take the series into a different direction, but it wasn't one I would have picked. For those interested in the art direction of the universe, there are numerous shots of the ship, internally and externally. In detail and from afar. From many angles but almost all at one speed: slow.

I think it's only fair to place some context in terms of the pacing and effects. Although the pacing feels similar to 2001: A Space Odyssey, which predates it by a good ten years, Star Trek: The Motion Picture was released 2 years after Star Wars which featured a lot more high flying with ships, weapons and creatures. Those are two extreme of the genre, perhaps it fairer to note Star Trek: The Motion Picture was released the same year as Alien which also had a slower, albeit tenser, pace.

Don't worry - it's gets better from here on in. One of the good things about the structure of this marathon is that I can get this film out of the way quickly & swiftly, I didn't remember it very well and wasn't overly eager to watch it again. But now I get to move on to Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. Khan!!!!

Shannon's Overall View:

I was as I remembered it: slow and long
I'll likely watch it again
I'd recommend it for science-y sci-fi fans

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© Shannon Ridler, 2009

3 comments:

Reed Farrington said...

Shannon, I was wondering if you were going to comment specifically on changes that were made for this Director's Cut that you watched. But I guess not remembering the original movie on video which in itself was different from the theatrical release made it difficult to notice differences. Robert Wise seemed to think his Director's Cut was truer to his vision, but I guess you still found it slow.

I hope this isn't too much of a spoiler, but the scene where Kirk repeatedly tells Spock to sit sticks out in my mind. I guess that indicates how dreary the character dialogue was.

I think this film would only appeal to a mature, sedate individual who is into meditation and contemplation. I think that it's nice that a problem is resolved without resorting to violence.

Jamie said...

Thanks for sharing your first memories of this movie. I loved having that take on it.

One of the things I most remember thinking is that it was weird the focus was on characters that weren't the original crew - because the excitement was the opportunity to see the characters you so knew and loved.

I often wonder whether this was to test the waters of continuing the franchise with new characters. Discovering that the fans wanted more of who they knew, more movies continued with our old favourites, and Star Trek waited to expand to new characters years later.

Shannon the Movie Moxie said...

I'm not going in depth with the director's cut vs original - especially with this one I don't know it well enough. We'll see if that changes with Wrath of Khan as I know that film a lot better and this will be the first time (I think) I'll see the director's cut.

I'm not sure if the appeal strictly lies with mature & sedate. I can enjoy meditative film, like Gerry for example, but the main oddity with the this film is that it doesn't capture the Joie de Vivre of regular Trek Universe.

Very true Jamie, they did focus on the characters that weren't part of the original crew which was taking a big chance. I think in general we are only used to seeing new characters as the villians.

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