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Film Review: Star Trek: The Motion Picture

Updated on December 21, 2016
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Review written by: Jason Wheeler, Film Frenzy Senior Writer & Editor.


In 1979, Robert Wise released Star Trek: The Motion Picture, based on the 1966 televison series Star Trek created by Gene Roddenberry. Starring William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, James Doohan, Walter Koenig, Nichelle Nichols, George Takei, Persis Khambatta, and Stephen Collins, the film grossed $139 million at the box office.


While the starship Enterprise is undergoing a refit, a large cloud of energy is moving through space towards earth. Starfleet dispatches Enterprise to investigate and James T. Kirk, newly promoted admiral and Chief of Starfleet Operations, takes command. Kirk brings back McCoy and Spock returns to replace the science officer killed from a malfunctioning transporter.


Star Trek: The Motion Picture is a moderately decent film that presented audiences with a first look at the series since it went off the air a decade prior and the biggest factor in the film's favor is its impressive visuals. There's more than a few sweeping, grand shots of ships and the blackness of space really feels empty. Every aspect of the energy cloud seems threatening and looming, giving it a real air of dread about it. There's also the scene with the transporter malfunction. the camera gives a long, hard look at the transporter beams as they come online, display that there's a problem and fade out, all while cutting to Kirk, Scotty and the others in the transporter room trying to fix the problem. However, that's where the problems start as it keeps cutting from the team to the beams multiple times to really hammer in that there's a problem and the scene just goes on for far too long. The overall feeling is that the film doesn't know when to move on with the scene. This happens quite a bit in the film and most times, it results in the characters just standing agape at special effects for a few seconds. These effects are done very well, but it presents too many opportunities for the viewer to be pulled away from the overall film.

Effects that lingered too long was only one problem out of many that caused the film to have pacing problems. It’s obvious that the filmmakers were trying to shoehorn the hopeful pilot of the series that never happened as the plot of this film, stretching out what should have been an hour or hour and a half into two and a half hours. On a smaller level, the aforementioned transporter room scene could have been cut by about half a minute. This really explains why there’s scenes where characters stand around and look at special effects for too long past their welcome: they’re padding out a movie longer than it should be.

Yet, none of this is to say the film is a complete write off. The plot itself is actually fairly decent, with Kirk basically getting the old crew back together, going so far as to draft McCoy back into service, to investigate the V’Ger. What they find is quite interesting with the probe gaining consciousness due to the amount of knowledge it consumed and brings in quite the dichotomy between humans society and the artificial machines they create and the machine society and the humans, or carbon units, they create. It also presents a strange concept to think about in how this machine society evolved and progressed. The ending also might function as a call forward to later in the series. V’Ger seeks to merge with the creator, so Decker volunteers to, merging with the Ilia Probe and V’Ger. It results in what Spock calls, the birth of a new form of life, which eventually disappears. While V’Ger and the Probe aren’t ever seen again, what results from that birth might actually be The Borg.

2 stars for Star Trek: The Motion Picture

the postings on this site are my own and don't necessarily represent WNI's positions, strategies or opinion

Awards won

Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films Saturn Awards

  • Best Special Effects

DVD Exclusive Video Premiere Awards

  • Best New, Enhanced or Reconstructed Movie Scenes (for the director's edition)

International Film Music Critics Awards

  • Best Archival Release of an Existing Score

Nominated for

Academy Awards

  • Best Art Direction-Set Decoration
  • Best Effects, Visual Effects
  • Best Music, Original Score

Golden Globe Awards

  • Best Original Score - Motion Picture

Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films Saturn Awards

  • Best Science Fiction Film
  • Best Actor (William Shatner)
  • Best Actress (Persis Khambatta)
  • Best Supporting Actor (Leonard Nimoy)
  • Best Supporting Actress (Nichelle Nichols)
  • Best Director
  • Best Music
  • Best Costumes
  • Best Make-Up
  • Best DVD Classic Film Release (for the director's edition)

DVD Exclusive Video Premiere Awards

  • Best Overall New Extra Features, Library Title
  • Best Audio Commentary
  • Best DVD Menu Design

Hugo Awards

  • Best Dramatic Presentation

The Stinkers Bad Movie Awards

  • Worst Picture


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