Star Trek: The Motion Picture
Star Trek History Retrospective
Star Trek: The Motion Picture
Director: Robert Wise
Writers: Gene Roddenberry, Alan Dean Foster, Harold Livingston
Cast: William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, James Doohan, George Takei, Majel Barrett, Walter Koenig, Nichelle Nichols, Stephen Collins, Mark Lenard, Grace Lee Whitney, Jon Rashad Kamal, Marcy Lafferty, Persis Khambatta
Synopsis: When a destructive space entity is spotted approaching Earth, Admiral Kirk resumes command of the Starship Enterprise in order to intercept, examine and hopefully stop it.
MPAA Rating: Rated PG for sci-fi action and mild language
Note: In honor of the upcoming movie, "Star Trek Into Darkness", I've taken it upon myself to review every film adaptation ever conceived to lead up to my review of the new Trek movie; with the notable exception of the 2009 reboot, since I already reviewed it.
Bits and Pieces from "The Cage" pilot: Featuring Captain Pike
To boldly go where no man has gone before...
Over the years, "Star Trek" has become one of the greatest science fiction franchises of all time. Whether you like it or not, there's no denying the success the franchise has had over the years, nor is there any dispute about the impact it's had on pop culture either. Although the original series only lasted for a few seasons, it garnered a strong cult following over time after it's inevitable cancellation. Many fans claimed the show was simply ahead of it's time, and demanded to see more.
At one point, there was even talk about possibly reviving the TV series in what would've been called "Star Trek Phase II." However, in light of "Star Wars" cinematic success at the time, "Star Trek: The Motion Picture" was conceived instead. After years of waiting, audiences finally saw James Tyberius Kirk and the rest of the enterprise reunite again. This time featuring state of the art special effects that could surprisingly still hold up to this day.
Although I can't say I was a huge fan of the original series, I did grow up watching a lot of the films, and it's many spin off shows (i.e. "Star Trek: The Next Generation", "Deep Space Nine" and etc). However, I have to admit that it was interesting seeing this movie for the first time, as I've only seen it's sequels when I was younger.
The movie takes place years later after Kirk is promoted up to Admiral, and has long since been dreaming of the day he could command another starship again; namely the enterprise. Unfortunately, a mysterious threat emerges in space that seems to be heading towards Earth. The federation sends out the Enterprise to intercept this new threat to investigate it, and take whatever actions are necessary. Captain Decker (Stephen Collins) is set to lead the mission, but Admiral Kirk (William Shatner) orders him to step down, as he feels the mission would be better if he was in charge instead, due to his vast years of experience serving as Captain of the previous Enterprise. Thus, he forces Decker to take a temporary rank deduction of Commander, while Kirk resumes the rank of Captain.
Although it's clearly established early on that this Enterprise's construction is vastly different from the one that Kirk is familiar with, the film also establishes that Kirk doesn't know all of the new ship's capabilities. This leads to quite a bit of conflict between the characters. Decker feels that Kirk could jeopardize the mission, due to the fact that not only hasn't he been in command of a starship for years, but also feels Kirk's lack of knowledge about the new ship could put everyone's lives in danger.
Meanwhile, Dr. McCoy suspects that Kirk's decision to take over command of the Enterprise again is more about his own ego than anything else; while Kirk struggles to argue otherwise. Although I may get a lot of heat from fans saying this, it would be hard to argue that Kirk is even remotely qualified to lead the Enterprise in this situation.
I mean let's be honest with ourselves here. They clearly establish early on that Kirk doesn't know anything about the new Enterprise's capabilities; which proves Decker's point. In one scene for example, Kirk orders to have the ship go into warp drive immediately before engineering can finish their simulation tests. Although Scotty (James Doohan) warns Kirk about how the warp engines might not hold up, Kirk orders to have to have warp drive anyway considering the dire situation to intercept the new alien threat.
The end result? The ship is put into unnecessary danger, which could've caused a lot of casualties. Thankfully, Decker's familiarity with the ship's redesign manages to save the Enterprise from harm; thus continuing on their mission. On the surface of things, one might wonder why the hell Kirk even needs to be there? After all, Decker is supposed to be the captain anyway, and he's more familiar with the ship. Heck, the first forty minutes of the movie prove that Kirk isn't even fit to command the new Enterprise. Therefore, do we really need Captain Kirk to be on this mission?
The short answer to that is arguably "yes." Although Kirk's decisions early on in this film seem questionable, and a bit egotistical as well. Heck, even if you go back and watch the reruns of the old TV series, one might think that Spock is more qualified to be in command considering he's the smartest and strongest person onboard. However, that's not what makes Captain Kirk who he is.
Most fans will tell you that Kirk has always been something of a gambler. A man that may not always use logic to save the day, but he's a man that knows how to improvise to get the job done. He takes the risks that nobody else would take, and he's the type of guy that doesn't believe in a no win scenario, so he'll always be willing to fight to the bitter end. Granted, at the beginning of the film, it may seem like Kirk is in over his head, but as the story progresses, audiences see the Captain that has save the day countless times before. Improvising on the sly, and using whatever he can for an advantage to save the world. In the end, you have to admit that Kirk is admirable in that respects, as this film adequately shows. Plus, when McCoy and Spock keep him in check, it seems there's no obstacle Kirk can't overcome.
Needless to say, all the actors play their parts rather well. Granted, there's no Oscar worthy kind of performances here, nor is there anything that I would say is memorable. However, for the kind of story this movie tries to tell, it's fairly decent for what it happens to be.
Although the new character named Ilia (Persis Khambatta) does come off as being a bit strange if I'm to be honest. No, it has nothing to do with her being a bald girl, as I could care less about that. However, some of the things she says just seem kind of weird. Granted, they establish that she's not a human being from Earth; hence it explains her behavior. In her first scene for example, we can clearly tell she used to share some sort of intimate relationship with Commander Decker at some point. But when she gets introduced to Captain Kirk, her first response to him is "My oath of celibacy is on record Captain", in a very stern voice almost suggesting she's mad at him.
Now, I can understand if Kirk was sexually harassing her in that scene, then that would make perfect sense. However, in context to the scene itself, it doesn't make any sense. All Kirk said to her was that he had the utmost confidence in her abilities, after meeting her, and then she mentions her celibacy? I'm sorry, but how the hell is that even important in the damn movie? And for that matter, why the hell should the viewers even care? Granted, I'm not a die hard trekkie to where I can honestly say I'm familiar with all the alien races that "Star Trek" has, so if I'm missing something here, then I do apologize.
But from a casual Trek fan's point of view, it just seems weird, and a bit misplaced. There was no reason why that line had to be there, nor does her celibacy crap have anything to do with the main story from a narrative perspective. Oh well...maybe she saw Kirk's starfleet records where it states various examples of him seducing a lot of alien girls in the past, and didn't want to take any chances with him. Hm...I guess her bringing that up out of nowhere does make sense.
Moving on. It's been said by a lot of film critics that "Star Trek: The Motion Picture" does bare the same feel of the classic science fiction movie, "2001: A Space Odyssey." Which I have to admit, it does seem that way at times, as the movie tries to become more of an experience type of film. However, as the infamous Nostalgia Critic pointed out in his review of this movie, that's not what "Star Trek" was about. No, it was more about a mixture of ideas and interesting characters meshed together.
Sadly, this film doesn't develop any of it's characters in an interesting way, so it's hard to ever get fully invested into the movie. Granted, a lot of the ideas in this story are very interesting, and the visual effects are arguably some of the best that I've ever seen in a "Star Trek" film. Unfortunately, the movie drags a lot as well, so if you're not a big fan of the franchise, then I wouldn't count on this being the one that changes your mind. If anything, you might get bored watching this movie.
Overall, I wouldn't call "Star Trek: The Motion Picture" a bad film per say, as I've seen worse before. However, it could've been a lot better. But, as I said earlier, the ideas are very intriguing, and if you're a "Star Trek" fan, then you might still want to see it for nostalgia value at the very least. My only advice is to not expect too much out of it. In the end, I'd have to give this film a two and a half out of four. Not a great Trek movie, but it's worth checking out if you're a fan of the franchise. If you're not a fan, then I'd stay away from it at all costs.