For many moviegoers, “Star Trek” came into their lives when the new 2009 film came out featuring Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto, with little care or interest having been paid in the original space exploration series. However, with every new film that comes out there are always those brave souls who are willing to boldly go out on a limb and make the first big leap back into the film franchise’s distant past.
Star Trek: The Original Series got its first big movie break in 1979, but sadly that big leap led to one of the most disastrous flops in the franchise’s history, and started the odd number curse where every odd-numbered Star Trek film fails miserably. It all began with “Star Trek: The Motion Picture,” but is it really the snooze fest everyone claims it is or is it a forgotten gem just waiting to become a cult hit? Let’s find out.
As the story goes, a massive alien spaceship enters into Federation space and causes all sorts of intergalactic panic after blowing up several Klingon ships and a few space stations as well. The USS Enterprise (NCC-1701) is soon called into action and former captain James T. Kirk (William Shatner) is tasked with the mission to save the universe from danger by assembling his old crew and commanding the iconic ship once more.
The film was considered state of the art back in 1979, so be prepared to sit back for days on end as the camera ever so slowly pans in on Captain Kirk approaching the USS Enterprise, or the vessel making its way through the belly of the mysterious V’Ger. Also, prepare for plenty of shots of the crew looking lovingly at each other during these scenes in an attempt to communicate admiration for one another, while raising the movie’s suspense levels. I believe no Oscars were handed out following the film’s release!
People mistakenly assume a movie has to have lots of action scenes and explosions to be interesting, but they also misunderstand the fact that too much of these elements can cheapen or demean the integrity and intelligence of the movie. There’s a time for fast pacing and a time for slow pacing but this movie never found out the difference and decided to take turtle speed takes of flashy visuals, floating spaceships and dated 70’s special effects to hopefully bowl over an audience less used to special effects. However, the visuals only works successfully if the special effects are sophisticated and crafted well enough that they can withstand the test of time, and heaven help us.. they do not!
Furthermore, Star Trek has never been about its realism, it’s the cast of characters and the exhilarating experiences and discoveries they encounter that make the series worth coming back to film after film, episode after episode. But this movie goes against everything it stood for: the cast is wasted, and I think that the expectations of the audience who turned out to see the movie in 1979 would have been higher than simply being shown a drawn out version of a season two episode of the original TV series first broadcast in 1967, called “The Changeling”. While the story was absolute sci-fi genius, the 132 minutes running time is much too trying on a modern audience well used to stunning cinematography.
On the plus side, I must say it was good seeing the old crew/biddies back in action again. However, this was probably the last time they were truly able to straddle the bridge of ‘age’ being merely a state of mind to being a state of body.
I give “Star Trek: The Motion Picture” 1 and a half stars out of 4.