- Movie Rating -

Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979)

| December 7, 1979

Whether you happen to be a fan of the 60s TV show “Star Trek” or just a newcomer then it is very likely that the first screen adventure for the crew of the Starship Enterprise will leave you scratching your head.  Yes, the crew has been reunited and, yes, the basic story remains in the realm of the best of Star Trek, but the movie contains an almost fatal irony that is hard to ignore.

While the movie embraces the best elements of the TV show by employing a plot that is very much at the heart of human fallibility, the company of actors turn in performances that are wooden, lifeless and contain almost no nuance.  This is a very cold movie, almost bereft of any kind of warmth or humanity.

That’s a major problem because the best thing about the TV show were those interactions between Kirk, Spock, Bones, Chekov, Uhura, Scotty and Sulu.  Their adventures were never one-tenth as interesting as how they connected as a family.  But where is it here?  Where are the playful battles between Spock and Bones?  Where is the weird libido trip that Kirk is known for?  Where are the little pieces of dialogue that bind these people together?  It’s here in dribs and drabs but much of the dialogue is either combative or plot driven.  And that’s if one of the characters gets a line.  Many of the supporting players don’t even get lines, it’s all front-loaded to Kirk, Spock and Bones.

What is best to note about this movie is the way in which the visual effects have been heightened to give us a sense of space.  On television, the budget only allowed for cardboard sets and low-budget special effects, but now here we are in special effects fallout of Star Wars so the budget certainly goes on the screen.  We see the Enterprise set against the backdrop of the infinity of space so that the ship itself looks like tiny ant.  Those scenes are breathtaking and very often I was reminded of the stargate sequence from 2001.

The outward plot is one of those great science fiction stories in which there is a mysterious force that is about to wipe humanity out of existence but turns out to have a human connection.  That’s great, but inwardly, the drama going on inside the Enterprise feels half-written.  Much of it involves Kirk’s tiresome personal battle with the ship’s original captain, William Deckard (Stephen Collins) who was assigned the position due to his intense knowledge of the newly refurbished Enterprise.  Fine.  But the constant arguments between he and Kirk over who is really in command are repetitive and tiresome.

Star Trek The Motion Picture is a giant epic, a space opera that follows more closely to 2001 than to Star Wars, but again why is the dialogue so flat, so wooden, so plot-driven?  What happened here?  Where are the small jokes between the crew?  Where is the playful banter between Spock and Bones?  Where are Kirk’s legendary moments with the ladies?  It’s not here.  There is so much in this movie but so much that is lacking.

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
(1979) View IMDB Filed in: Uncategorized