20 September 2012

Trek Review: Star Trek - The Motion Picture

After three seasons as a live-action show and a run of animated episodes, Star Trek made its big screen debut in 1979 with The Motion Picture. I'm not even entirely sure what the title means, but it's the only Trek movie title that doesn't really provide a hint to the story.

Star Trek The Motion Picture Poster

Three Klingon Battlecruisers come under attack by a strange cloud and disappear. Soon, Federation tracking station Epsilon IX meets a similar fate as the cloud continues on a course directly for Earth. Meanwhile, Spock is on Vulcan performing a sacred ritual known as the Kolinahr, but it is determined that his calling lies elsewhere.

Starfleet receives word of the approaching cloud and dispatches the newly refitted Enterprise, the only ship in range. Admiral Kirk takes command from Captain Decker and brings the old crew together, getting the ship ready to depart as soon as possible to intercept the cloud with maximum time before it reaches Earth.

Enterprise approaches cloud 

Star Trek on the big screen would have been a huge event for the fans of the series at the time. The Motion Picture was released two years after Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope and ten years after 2001: A Space Odyssey. It would appear that this is Paramount's response to Star Wars, but I would say that the film draws more parallels with 2001.

The Motion Picture is a movie of exploring and understanding the unknown in a way that Star Trek is known for and even though our familiar crew has aged in the time between the series and this feature, their reunion is well shown and the dynamics soon return. By the movie's end, things are familiar once again.

Enterprise Bridge

The film begins with an overture and a starfield to the strings and orchestra lead by Jerry Goldsmith, something that is never done these days. The film paces itself, allowing viewers to take in the visuals. This too, is something that wouldn't be done today. A six minute tour of the exterior of the new Enterprise would be wasted screen time for Gen-Y viewers! The Motion Picture does have its detractors for its pacing and lack of action, but this is not an action movie like Star Wars.

The story may feel recycled from the episode The Changeling, but the cinematic scope and feel is far grander than that episode was able to convey. The Enterprise dwarfed by this huge living machine known as V'Ger and the interesting internal workings are all amazing on the large screen.

I decided to watch this through in Director's Edition format, the ultimate and complete version of the feature from 2001. However there were a few scenes, particularly notable on the bridge which had some strange blurring appearing in the background and some of the space shots with the Klingon ships didn't look their best.

Vulcan from the Directors Edition

Out of interest, I played back some scenes from the recent blu-ray theatrical release and was absolutely amazed at how much more detail appeared and how crisp everything looked. It's a real shame that the Director's Edition has not yet been brought to high definition and I understand the reason is because the new special effects were shot in DVD resolution and not 1080, but if they ever do decide to take on the project, I'm sure it will be a hit with fans as the Ultimate Edition. We can only hope!

V Ger

As a fan, The Motion Picture is a must see. It sums up Star Trek perfectly even if it isn't action packed, edge of your seat viewing. This is the movie that brought Star Trek to the big screen and would spawn five sequels with Kirk and crew. As the tagline reads:

The Human adventure is just beginning...

My Rating: 6/10 or 3 Stars
Eleonor's Rating: 8/10 or 4 Stars


Adam Walter said...

I've always been conflicted about this film. On the one hand, it's my favorite in terms of special effects, mood, music, and filmmaking in general. But on the other hand, the cast seem very distant from each other and too serious compared to the series, which takes away the warmth Trek films had afterwards. It doesn't seem like a crew that's been together for so many years.

Major bummer when they didn't release the Director's Cut on Bluray. The film is SO much tighter and flows better, getting rid of that drawn-out, over long feeling.

Daniel said...

Quite a good point about the crew Adam. I'm not sure if it was intentional (probably not) but maybe explained since a lot of them appear to have been 'keeping busy' in the time between missions. It's bad enough we have the icy relations between Decker and Kirk, but with the others as well could be what doesn't help this film even further.

We can hope that one day, the Director's Edition will be fully realised in 1080...