Eye For Film >> Movies >> Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979) Film Review
Oooh, a difficult one this. Very difficult indeed. Unless you are particularly patient, or are a hardcore Star Trek fan this is going to take some effort to stick with. It doesn't seem like a Trekkie movie. Nowhere near as much fun as Wrath Of Khan, or First Contact. Not as much humour as The Voyage Home. In fact, there is no humour at all. Something that cripples the film badly. Everything is very straight-faced and sincere. To introduce someone to Star Trek with this film would be a bad idea.
Being the first Trek product since the original series one might expect the familiar campy storylines and beaming down to "M-class" planets - a bit of desert 10-minutes drive from LA - but there's none to be had. Veteran director Robert Wise has crafted a film very much in the style of his original version of The Haunting. His w-i-d-e-s-c-r-e-e-n compositions are beautiful and he really manages to lift Trek from the small screen to the cinema screen. It was a hard undertaking, but he set the standard for nine sequels to date.
The plot has a giant alien force destroying three Klingon ships on its direct course with earth. If the Federation doesn't stop this thing, it will blow up the planet. Admiral Kirk leaves his sunny San Francisco home to assume command of the Enterprise from Captain Decker and stop the alien menace. But Decker has a chip on his shoulder. The new Enterprise is not finished yet and he doesn't appreciate Kirk moving in on his territory.
Very slowly the original crew return and are in command of their posts again and there is a weird new navigator, a bald-headed, celibate alien woman named Ilia. Decker seems to have a thing for her. For some reason.
Once they reach the mysterious alien mass, the crew learns its name is Vger. Ilia is kidnapped and replaced with an android. Spock is driven to tears as he finds TOTAL logic in Vger actions and motivations. This is all sub-subtext and the actual explanation behind Vger might not come as a surprise to most. Once they fly inside Vger's mass of clouds and orifices it takes a healthy hour for the damn thing to be fully revealed.
To criticise a film for its length may be an ignorant thing to do. Audiences today are too satisfied with any plot lasting less than 100 minutes. This is not a good sign. Films with the scope and, dare I say it, class of Star Trek: The Motion Picture need their full and proper running time. Coherent storylines can be sacrificed for fast paced, exhilarating storytelling, or a dull, seemingly endless narrative can be the result of a big story being fully fleshed out. It's difficult to achieve both length and pace. Sadly, this film doesn't. But it looks very good, is well directed and has the balls to bite off more than it can chew.Reviewed on: 06 Jun 2002