Movie Review: Star Trek: The Motion Picture

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Captain James T. Kirk returns to the Enterprise and reunites its old crew in order to intercept and investigate a mysterious threat to Earth.

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Robert Wise, 1979

Essentially the plot of this movie goes thusly: when one super pretty ship loves another vaguely vaginal-looking pretty ship very very much, they come together and give birth to a higher intelligence. The film has a LOT of ship porn, so if you’re one of the fans who reeeeeally loves the Enterprise, this film will be a dream for you, with a sequence revealing the updated ship that last a full 8 minutes. As a vocal fan of the Star Trek reboot over the more idealistic original series and the subsequent movies, this film serves as a perfect demonstration of the pitfalls of the originals. This is – and I’m speaking as a former film student and lifelong film fan – the slowest movie I have ever seen. Long, lingering tracking shots of swirly blue special effects or William Shatner’s pensive face last for what seems like hours. There’s precious little for the central cast to do or say; they spend long scenes not saying much of anything, without even the chemistry they had on the show (apart from the odd loving “Spock!” cry from our good captain). Apparently some of the problems boil down to them not having a finished script or an ending when they began shooting the film, but it is honestly one of the slowest films I’ve ever experienced.

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Art by Matt Ferguson

The movie does look beautiful. Most of the effects are pretty rather than overly cheesy; the film was made in 1979, after Star Wars had changed the cinematic landscapde forever, and some of the shots in this film feel like they were influenced by Star Wars, though not the pacing or the action. The effects can’t quite live up to that legacy, but the models are pretty and there’s some nice imagery from legnedary director Robert Wise (the clothes are terrible, though). The famous Roddenberry idealism is in full force, with everyone using peaceful means and learning in order to discover the secret of the mysterious V’Ger and prevent it from annihilating all life on Earth. However, you’d think that any film with “annihilating all life on Earth” as a possibility would be able to build some tension or excitement, a feat which this film doesn’t manage. It’s fun to see the old crew back together, with a couple of new faces along for the ride, and the imagery is pretty and more than a little sexual (no seriously, they refer to the ending as “giving birth to a new form of life” or something similar, and it happens when a man and a ship merge inside a giant ship with an “orifice” that looks like a sideways vagina. This all really happens). This relationship is explored via the dad from Seventh Heaven, as the new Enterprise captain Decker, and the gorgeous Persis Khambatta as his ex-girlfriend and Deltan officer Ilia, who becomes a mouthpiece for V-Ger after she’s abducted into the ship. Which…actually means that aside from figuring stuff out, most of the plot doesn’t actually hinge on the familiar characters at all. It’s Decker’s actions that resolve the plot.  Spock gets a little action thrusting into the orifice (heh), but really the old crew are there to be familiar faces and for Sulu’s reaction shots.

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What kind of internet denizen would I be if I didn’t include a picture of the King of the Internet himself?

Some big questions are raised and explored, including those of spirituality and the advances of technology. There is some amazing scoring being done to try and move the film along by sheer musical power, but ultimately it’s a movie people waited a long time for in which not a lot happens.

Star Trek: The Motion Picture on IMDb

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