Monday, June 20, 2011

#318. Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979)

Directed By: Robert Wise

Starring: William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley

Tag line: "The Human Adventure is Just Beginning"

Trivia:  Originally, this film was to serve as a Two-Hour premiere for a new Star Trek TB series called "Star Trek Phase II"

For the record, I'm not a Star Trek groupie; I’ve never attended a convention wearing pointy ears, nor can I recite the Pledge of Allegiance in Klingon. Having said that, I must also add that I’ve yet to see an episode of the show that didn’t utterly fascinate me. Star Trek may have become a way of life for some, but for the rest of us, it's simply a great bit of entertainment. 

Having abandoned the Captain’s chair for a loftier position at Starfleet Headquarters, Admiral James T. Kirk (William Shatner) now finds himself itching to return to active duty, and when a crisis threatens the safety of the entire planet, he gets his chance to do so. Kirk must take command of his former ship, the Enterprise, which has just undergone a complete overhaul, and lead her to the edge of the solar system to head off a large energy cloud, which is on a collision course with earth. Along with this external threat, Kirk must deal with a few internal ones as well, namely his strained relationship with the current captain of the Enterprise, William Decker (Stephen Collins), who was relegated to second in command when Kirk re-entered the picture. Decker feels Kirk’s lack of experience with the newly updated vessel is a detriment to the mission, but with Spock (Leonard Nimoy) and Dr. McCoy (DeForest Kelley) also along for the ride, most believe the Enterprise is back in very capable hands. 

Originally intended as a 2-hour pilot for a new Star Trek television series, Star Trek the Motion Picture instead launched the cinematic phase of the popular 60's sci-fi show. A successful combination of old and new, Star Trek the Motion Picture maintains the energy and close-knit relationships established during the show's 3-year run on NBC, while simultaneously updating the technology for a modern (thus more demanding) audience. This particular journey begins with a great bit of nostalgia, as Admiral Kirk, accompanied by his former chief engineer, Montgomery Scott (James Doohan), travels by way of shuttlecraft to the Enterprise, which is in dock. As the shuttle slowly ascends into the docking bay, we’re greeted by the familiar sight of the great ship, looking much the same as it did when Kirk was in the captain's chair. But the nostalgia ends once we step on board, because this Enterprise has been enhanced in every way imaginable, so much so that Kirk, who commanded the ship for five years, has to ask for directions to get from one end to the other. This new Enterprise belongs to Decker, who oversaw the enhancements that took the better part of 18 months to complete. Bitter at losing his command, Decker goes so far as to openly challenge Kirk, believing his inexperience with the new Enterprise could place the mission in jeopardy. Sure enough, Kirk’s unfamiliarity does lead to a few close calls, but Decker is there each and every time to bail him out. It’s this joining of old and new that separates Star Trek the Motion Picture from the television series that inspired it; on this particular voyage, the Enterprise needed both Kirk’s expertise and Decker’s technological skills. One without the other would have surely led to disaster. 

The world created by Star Trek is a very appealing one, preaching of a future where hatred and poverty have all but been eliminated, and humans exist solely to further their knowledge of the universe. It is a veritable utopia, and while I've made clear the fact that I'm no Trekkie, or Trekker, or whatever the correct moniker may be, I certainly understand how others could be. After all, with violence and hostility leaping from our TV screens each night on the evening news, is it really so strange that fans of the show keep their heads in the stars, dreaming of a bright future?


Klaus said...

I have mixed feelings about this film. On one hand, I recall never being so excited about the release of this film - having grown-up with the original series, and on the other - recall being underwhelmed by the lack of imagination in the story. Despite the latter, it was such a treat to see the television cast back together on the big screen.

While far from the best movie in the franchise - it was certainly the most important - at least until the J.J. Abrams 2009 reboot.

DVD Infatuation said...

@Klaus: I can certainly relate to your opinions. I myself have gone back and forth with this movie. For a long time, I found it incredibly boring, and one of the lesser entries in the franchise. But I've slowly developed an appreciation for it over the years, to the point that I actually do enjoy it now.

MarkusWelby1 said...

Quite possibly one of the most boring films ever made. I argue constantly with a friend who loves this. I'll take the watered down Abrams universe with more action. I'm a fan of most of the Trek films....but this one...snooze.

DVD Infatuation said...

@MarkusWelby1: Thanks for stopping by, and for the comment.

There was a time when i also found the film boring (though I admittedly never found it to be one of the most boring ever). I've since learned to appreciate it more, primarily for its joining of old (Kirk, Spock, etc) and new (updated Enterprise, new second in command). Even without much happening besides, it proved enough to hold my attention after several viewings.

I know a lot of people who would agree with you, but this first film has kinda grown on me over the years!

Again, thanks for the comment. It's appreciated.

Anonymous said...

I have mixed feelings as well, though I confess I do appreciate it more than I did at the time. Back then, I thought it was slow, and mostly humorless, and largely recycled from ideas and plots from the show.

Since then, I think I appreciate what they were trying to do, though I agree with Klaus that the really good movies were coming later.

It was interesting recently to go back and see some episodes of the original show (which I hadn't seen since they were broadcast at the time). The general message of the show was usually "Kirk is the best, Kirk is right," and the point of the movies is usually on the teamwork of Kirk, Spock, McCoy, etc. So, you're right, this movie represented a shift to showing Kirk as a leader of a team, not a solo star with supporting cast.

DVD Infatuation said...

Thanks for stopping by!

I, too, agree with Klaus that the best Star Trek films came after this one. Still, it's engaging enough to hold my attention.

I've also been watching the original series as of late (all 3 seasons have been released on stellar blu-ray sets), and your point about it moving from "I" to "we" with Kirk is an interesting one (not to mention valid). Watching those early episodes, you can see where some of the cast's resentment of Shatner materialized!

Thanks for the intriguing comment, and have a good day!