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Star Trek: The Motion Picture is the first film in the Star Trek series,
most successful series in movie history. After all, the fact that a movie
series can hold the public's interest for 21 years (and nine films) and
the whole Star Trek concept is alive and well after over 30 years says
something about the genius of Gene Roddenberry, Star Trek's
People seem to cricitize this film heavily. Some of the criticisms of the film that I have heard in my discussions with people include phrases such as "frightfully boring," "way too long," and "chronically lacking in action." However, if that is all you saw in the film, then you clearly missed out on the film's beauty. This film is not about guns, explosions, blood, or machismo. It is about the philosophical relationship between logic and emotion.
The film is masterfully directed by Robert Wise, the academy award winning director of "The Sound of Music." The film reunites the original cast of the Star Trek series with a few new faces ... Stephen Collins as "Capt. Decker" and Persis Khambata as "Lt. Ilia". It also recaps the events that have transpired in each original series character since the television series in the late 60's with a sensitivity to newcomers to the Star Trek universe. It effectively introduces newcomers to Star Trek without insulting the intelligence of those of us who are thoroughly familiar with Star Trek.
The plot features an intelligent, logical entity that calls itself VGER. VGER is an innocent entity with one mission ... "learn all that is learnable... transmit that information to the creator." VGER in its incredible journey has in essence gained knowledge that spans the very essence of the universe. VGER now has set a course for Earth in an attempt to share its knowledge with its creator. VGER believes that its creator is on Earth.
VGER becomes a threat to life on Earth when its destroys three Klignon vessels and a Federation space station with incredible destructive power. To counter this threat, Admiral Kirk takes command of the Enterprise and leads the Enterprise in an intriguing battle with this alien entity.
While battling this alien entity, Admiral Kirk, Spock, and the rest of the crew learn about the relationship between human logic and emotion. They explore philosophical issues such as "Is this all that I am?" and "Is there nothing more?". I believe Spock summarizes the quest for answers to these questions by his statement about two-thirds of the way into the film that indicates that "logic alone is not enough". They eventually learn to appreciate the unique attributes that make us human ... "our weaknesses ... and the drive that compels us to overcome them."
In conclusion, this film has a great plot, great special effects, and excellent music and cinematography. Definitely see it if you are truly interested in taking a philosophical journey into the essence of what makes us human.
It's amazing how many Trekkies I meet describe Star Trek the Motion
Picture as "A good sci-fi film, but an awful Star Trek movie."....And
that's when they're feeling generous!
This statement can't be farther from the truth. The story is well written and director Robert Wise makes the characters believable. The movie is not filled with the goofy jokes and ridiculous Shatner back-flip fight scenes that some Trekkies seem to enjoy. Instead, the battle with the mysterious alien entity reveals the dynamics and inner conflicts of the crew. Spock realizes that pure logic alone cannot answer all, but must be coupled with emotion in order to tap into our creative imagination and see the possibilities of our universe. Kirk is portrayed as a daring and brilliant captain, who learns that as a leader he needs to rely on the expertise of those around him. He is a more believable figure who is fallible and struggles to learn from his mistakes.
The Enterprise is not envisioned as an easy to fly wonder ship that requires no more than the main Trek cast to run, but as a complex machine that needs precise tuning of components balanced by a crew of hundreds. The scene where Spock and the engineering crew struggle with balancing the mathematical models needed to program the warp engines convey the real dangers of space flight.
Additionally, both the visual and audio effects add to the impact of this movie. For a film made in '79, before the advent of believable CGI, the special effects are superb. Believe it or not, I've noticed special effects scenes in Independence Day taken directly from Star Trek:TMP footage (scan the shots of the inside of the mother ship (ID4)when Will Smith is making his escape run).
All in all, the ingredients of good character development, believable conflict, and hard science make this movie the true precursor to Star Trek: The Next Generation. Unfortunately, Star Treks III, IV, and V avoid the hard work this movie required and depend on the silly antics of its maturing crew.
This was an under-rated film in the first version, and it is improved a
great deal with the changes that Robert Wise made just a few years
before he passed away. There has been a backlash against this picture,
mostly for two reasons; it was not Star Wars, and it was not what
people expected of Star Trek.
If you put these expectations aside, and if you also have some attention span and willingness to relax into a picture this is a remarkable experience. I often here people use words like boring, too long etc. Well yes, if we are expecting a quick-hit, film that can be digested in 90 minutes like a TV show, this is not that type of film. If we apply these standards to Lawrence of Arabia, 2001, Blade Runner, Bridge on the River Kwai, or Citzen Kane (which Robert Wise edited, none of these films would have ever been made.
If you put Star Trek The Motion Picture in context of it's scale and the craftsman involved you start to appreciate it's quality and elegance. Robert Wise does not need qualification. He brings an elegance and texture to work and life in space that StarWars has not put to screen to this day.
Star Wars even now seems like nothing more than an impressive exercise in effects and sound. It is always reminding us that it is a movie. ST-TMP on other hand departed into an "immersive experience" developed by Robert Wise, with the amazing talents of Doug Trumbull and John Dykstra, and the enormous contibutions of Jerry Goldsmith. Likewise, the photography, the scale of the sets and the editing of the film all contribute to a immersive world that saturates the viewer into the film.
You gain a lot of knowledge and appreciation of this film and the experience that they achieved by watching the Director's Edition DVD and listening to Wise, Trumbull, Dykstra, Goldsmith and others discuss the production. This was a uniquely creative and enormous effort, and considering the technological limitations, the demands of the studio, and the many demands of the Star Trek Bible that qualified the creation of the movie. I am pleased to see that other reviewers here have come to appreicate this movie many years later. I encourage the skeptics to find the time to relax and watch it on the biggest screen you can find.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
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 story lines 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 story lines 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.
I think Orson Welles said it best in the trailers for this film.
"It will startle your senses. Challenge your intellect. And change your perception of the future....by taking you there."
Indeed it will and does.
Let me start off by saying, by all means: You don't have to be a fan of Star Trek to get into this movie. I'm not. Just watch it, and the motion picture will do the rest. I've been told countless times that Star Wars is the greatest Sci-fi film of all time. I'd like to correct those people. Star Wars is the greatest "action and special effects sci-fi film" of all time. Nothing more....and nothing less. I'm a big fan of Star Wars. It was my favorite sci-fi movie--even beating out Alien, 2001, and Starship Troopers.
That was until I saw this film. I remember right after watching Star Wars that I felt good inside because it was a rush that one can only get--from eye candy. Star Trek: The Motion Picture gave me a different rush--a more profound touch that made me realize movies can have a deeper meaning. Much like 2001, this deals with life....actually more about the "meaning" of life. The purpose of existence. Some of the best quotes in cinema history can be traced to this film. My favorite line is from Spock. It pretty much sums up the theme of Star Trek: The Motion Picture
"Each of us, at some point in our lives, turns to someone - a father, a brother, a God - and asks, "Why am I here? What was I meant to be?"
One thing that really stands out in Star Trek: The Motion Picture is the musical score by Jerry Goldsmith that makes me wonder if it was blessed by God. Star Wars could never get me to buy the soundtrack on CD. This movie has. I wonder why this didn't win an Oscar for best score.
Now to the plot:
When three Klingon (Alien) Starships are attacked and erased from existence by a vast giant omnipotent cloud, drifting in space; a close by Star Base finds out that not only is the cloud headed directly towards them, but is also on a direct path for Earth. The Star Base in question (The Epslion 9) sends a message to Star Fleet for a Starship to be sent and prevent it from reaching Earth.
The only Starship in enough range to stop the cloud in time is none other than the famous Enterprise from the infamous 1960s television series. The Starfleet legend and hero Captain Kirk and the rest of his crew from the also famous five year mission of the show, make a comeback for one last mission (and many more later, but those are other movie reviews).
Before the crew can start on their mission, they patch up old wounds put aside their anger for each other to face the menacing unknown that awaits them, realizing this may be the last time they speak to one another...alive.
Not much is known about the cloud or why it is erasing everything in it's path from existence; other than what Spock, the science officer of The Enterprise, has sensed from it....
"It only knows that it needs, Commander. But, like so many of us, it does not know what."
Suspense eats away at you when the final showdown between The Enterprise and the intelligent vast cloud finally comes. And the movie doesn't stop their. Like I said, the movie talks about the meaning of life.
If you can, buy the director's cut on DVD or VHS. This IS the most beautiful science fiction movie you will ever see.
This DVD version has improved and restored and made Star Trek: TMP a
pleasure to watch rather than a chore. You're less inclined to hit
fast-forward in those lengthy scenes.
This movie will resonate well with mature-age viewers because the story is
not what you would expect from today's action packed cinema. I
the movie more as I got older. Bob Wise explains on the DVD that
was extremely rushed and had no time to preview the film with an audience
that would now after 20 years, tell him to tighten the opticals and
emphasize characters. This is precisely what he has done in the DVD
and its magnificent.
Aesthetically, the DVD version shows you the best Star Trek: The Motion Picture can possibly look. Film is sharper; color is dead on however there is still a lot of film grain present unfortunately. My guess is they cleaned the original negative up as much as they could but it had deteriorated so much in storage, or was badly preserved. Certainly looks better than my bad pan/scanned VHS copy.
The DVD truly shines with its brand new sound mix. This isn't your standard stereo to 5.1 DVD conversions like they are doing for movies pre 5.1; they have gutted it up and added new stuff. The original release was so rushed that very little in terms of ambient sound and special effects audio elements were done on the sound mix amongst other production elements. For this DVD they went back to the original audiotapes and remixed them digitally.
Goldsmith's score sounded fantastic when it originally came out now sounds even better on the DVD version. It's tremendous, you will hear what your suppose to hear now with the added advantage of 5.1 surround sound. Goldsmith score truly has a chance to soar now by stretching into a clean high fidelity 5.1 environment rather than being squeezed onto a mono or stereo track. Bass kicks in often especially on big musical cues. You'll hear nifty panning and those surrounds and subwoofer will definitely get a workout. In instances they isolate different parts of the orchestra through different speakers, mainly the bass and percussion.
Most onstage dialog was re-recorded afterwards because of onstage noise due to mechanical devices etc; this is now common practice in the industry. The result is cleaner dialog that comes prominently out of your center speaker. The dialog audio is good, but on occasion it shows a mild muffled and tinny quality probably due to age of material or analog technology of the time, nevertheless I guarantee you, the average viewer will like it, I'm just being picky. In short the movie will sound almost as good as if the movie was made recently.
Not only having rebuilt the original audio they have put in more surround elements, like ambient bridge noises and computer voices. Not sure why they changed the `Intruder Alert' voice, I don't mind but I guess it was because they rushed the sound mix in the 70's and chose that voice as a last minute thing. There are other elements that have been changed, for the better I would say.
The DVD contents have been remastered with Wise's overseeing. There are too many subtleties to comment on so shall briefly discuss a few. Before opening credits you are treated to Goldsmiths V'ger/Love theme, a nice touch. Then you hear the bombastic Star Trek Theme. Newly done credits over moving starfield.
First main new special effect is the Vulcan landscape, tilting from sky to the surface. Then cuts to a new matte painting of the beautiful orange sky. Originally Spock shields his eyes and in the reversal, not only is there no sun there is little sky visible. The new matte painting now fits in nicely.
San Francisco sequence has been redone, 3 new matte paintings that better show the futurized city, Golden Gate Bridge and a bigger shuttlebay.
When they get into V'Ger they encounter a weapon heading towards them that is suppose to dissipate, in the original it simply disappears instantly, now we see a new visual that shows it dissipating just before it hits the ship.
Later we see a probe heading towards the ship on the viewscreen and then through some hokey editing it appears on the bridge. This has been replaced with an improved FX shot showing the approach of the entity on an exterior shot.
A new 'Wing Walk' sequence. Breathtaking new CGI's that show the away-team walk from the hull to the V'Ger stage, some using the original live action shots. New FXs for the most part are based on original storyboards. They didn't go overboard with the effects which is good, Bob tells us that they made FX that they could only do in the 1970's, unlike Star Wars whom George Lucas went overkill on new FX when he redid his in the 1990's.
There are trims, some rearrangements of shots for the better. E.g. Ilia/Deckers exchange of looks, Kirk's `Oh My God', his second `Viewer Off.' I suspect they had to edit within Jerry's score, or have to also edit Jerry's score to accommodate the new editing, if so they have done it very well, I couldn't notice. Some lengthy scenes remain in its entirety, e.g. flying up to the enterprise, I don't blame them for not trimming them, some are sentimental.
The 2 DVD's come with a plethora of information. Audio commentaries by the director, 2 special effect's guys, an actor and the composer guide you through the director's edition. Text commentary by Okuda gives even more scene specific info. Disc 2 gives you most of the trims, deleted scenes from the TV and Theatrical release not used in the DVD version and an outtake of an abandoned visual effect. Plus 3 documentaries about the abandoned TV series ST:Phase II, Directors edition DVD and the movie itself. Plus advertisements/trailers plus storyboards.
A MUST BUY FOR FANS! You'll Love It!
I recently watched this movie for the first time in ten or fifteen
years. When I was younger I thought this one was even worse than Star
Trek V, because as bad as "The Final Frontier" was, at least it had
some action and colour.
The version I just saw wasn't the new Director's Edition, just the old video, but I was still completely surprised by just about everything -- partly because I hadn't seen it in so long, and partly because it's so totally different from all the following Trek movies. I even kinda liked the silly space pajamas everyone wears.
After this, the movie series turned to action-oriented stories, a more militaristic look and feel, and infinitely less challenging concepts. True, the pacing of "Star Trek: The Motion Picture" drags in parts, and the behavior of its stars is a little cold and stiff. But instead of treating us with space battles and phaser shootouts, it gives us long, loving shots of the newly revamped starship Enterprise, and instead of rather tawdry plots grounded in mundane reality, it takes us on a metaphysical voyage into an unknown, bizarre, and palpably huge alien device. The relationship of the three main characters has changed a little after several years apart, and they're each getting used to things all over again: Kirk has to deal with the unfamiliar new ship; Spock, after trying to purge his emotions, must confront his human half; and McCoy is "shanghaied" out of retirement for the trip. Decker and Ilia, the new characters, provide enough interest that they were virtually resurrected as Riker and Troi in Star Trek: The Next Generation.
The sense of scale is important. The cloud surrounding V'Ger is gigantic, and the ship at the heart of the cloud is a whole world to itself. The Enterprise must fly into the cloud and communicate with the ship, and it's the only time in any of the ten movies that the heroes actually confront something new and unknown. This was a staple of the original show, and some of the best episodes of the spin-off series. The subsequent films were content with setting their battles and chases in space, but "Star Trek I" actually wants to explore that space. The question at the centre of the film, posed by Spock, is "Is this all we are? Is there nothing more?" Kirk, Spock, and V'Ger are all searching for an answer to that question.
However, the thing that definitely drags the film down is the sound. The red alert blares every other minute, and mechanical computer voice-overs announce just about everything they possibly can. In the process of updating the ship, they've emphasized the computers and mechanics of the vessel in a way they never had before or since, and the effect is jarring and interesting at the same time. The Enterprise is much more of a physical ship traveling in space, and less of a device to facilitate storytelling.
The visual effects are amazing enough to warrant some digital cleaning, and the movie should be seen in widescreen, preferably on a large television.
It's too bad that this movie wasn't more of a success, because I would like to see more Star Trek in this style. After many years and many TV shows, I admit I've gotten a little tired of space battles.
UPDATE: I recently watched the Director's Edition DVD. The sound effects are fixed, and the film has been re-edited to tighten the pace ever so slightly. The changes made are not on the level of the Star Wars special editions, but they do make the movie more watchable. It's a little more coherent now, and I like it even more.
"Star Trek: The Motion Picture - The Director's Edition"
"Star Trek: The Motion Picture" is by far the most important of the series and in my opinion also the best. This Director's Cut has improved and tightened the 1979 theatrical release to create a truer version of the director's original vision. In most cases Director's Cuts ruin the original Motion Picture they set out to improve, yet this film is the exception. What Robert Wise did here was very necessary and it has been accomplished with great reverence for the original material. This is now the authoritative version of "Star Trek: The Motion Picture" and justly so.
What I admire about this first incarnation to the big screen is the faith that Robert Wise obviously has for his audience. Scenes are purposely slow which allows the atmosphere of the film to wash over the viewer like a warm bath rather than being bombarded by action and explosions as in the second of the Motion Picture series.
There are obvious references to Stanley Kubrick's 2001:A Space Odyssey (1967), which I admire because to want to aspire to those heights and nearly succeed can only be regarded with respect.
I have to say that the production design by Harold Michelson has never been bettered. The scope of his sets gives real life and location to the interior of the Star Ship Enterprise. The gathering of the whole crew in the lounge for example or Kirk emotionally trapped in his quarters by the dark glass sliding doors. The bridge of the Enterprise has never looked, sounded or functioned better. (It would have been nice to hear the old sliding door sounds!)
A criticism would have to be levelled at the costume design, which I found uninspired, dreary and slightly camp. Decker's skin-tight body suit reveals more than modesty should allow! I suppose underwear is obsolete in the 23rd century? Kirk's sleeveless white shirt is quite off- putting, as I couldn't stop staring a William Shatner's extremely hairy arms. Yet these are my only criticisms. I really enjoy this film and have done so since its release. This version finally completes an unfinished work and improves upon it to such a degree that Trekkies will have to reevaluate yet again which is the best of the Motion Picture series. As for me apart from the original series this is Star Trek's finest hour!
Watched this one after few years, didn't remember what it was all
about. Oh yes, it was the one with "V'ger"...aka amazingly beautiful
Persis Khambatta...with her head shaved. Most beautiful bald woman I
can think of right now...
The film is about huge unbeatable "cloud" approaching and threatening Earth, only thing standing in between is Enterprise with it's legendary crew. It appears I enjoy the film more and more each decade I see it again.
I thought there was slightly too much time used on introduction and drafting of old crew, but once the "action" began it kept me on edge of my seat all the way through. Don't think that "action" I mention was fighting and shooting, it wasn't. Perhaps lack of silly fighting makes (all too) many people to say that this film was too long and slow paced. Well, I disagree - this is exactly the kind of science fiction I love, you are given chance to use your own imagination. Some say pacing and the film is similar to Kubrik's 2001...I won't argue against it.
The film had amazing special effects for it's time. No, not amazing, incredible. But don't watch it for special effects only, the real interest of this film lies in the nature of the alien "cloud" and Enterprise crew trying to figure it out and trying to cope with it. Special effects were used as a tool to launch YOUR imagination, as they should be.
This film is probably closest to spirit of original series, without much campiness though. A thinking man's Star Trek film. What a wonderful treat. They don't make films like this any more.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Like a slug-paced parade that never ends (and that's just the first
half-hour), iconic director Robert Wise brings to the big screen the
beloved characters from that wonderfully cheesy '60s sci-fi TV show
that, although it didn't last very long (three years), snowballed into
an even larger cult following throughout the '70s, enough to merit a
"motion picture" - too bad it had to be this one.
William Shatner as Captain James T. Kirk returns to the Enterprise with a solemn, angry air, as does McCoy, even grumpier than Kirk... And finally Spock - duller than even a Vulcan should be... As they set out to intercept a giant mysterious cloud heading to earth to... blow it up.
A boring side-story involves the new young Enterprise commander (whom Kirk must replace), portrayed by the milky Steven Collins, and a very sexy bald chick who's as grumpy as the rest of the cast... especially when she becomes a robot, or something.
And most of the film has the crew standing on the bridge, gazing out in awed-wonderment at all the expensive, and impressive, special effects - the only thing somewhat worthwhile. But the eye-candy gets stale quick since there's nothing "solid" to chase it with - and we're FINALLY led to an incredibly lame "twist" ending that tries hard for Kubrick-esquire wonderment but ends of pretentiously stale.
If this were a condensed forty-five minute episode of the original series it'd still be a throwaway, lacking the mysteriously brainy chess-match aura that made the show so endearing, interesting, and fun.
The next film, THE WRATH OF KHAN (which actually has a title), is where the film series should've started. Not only is there a palpable villain, but the three leads are actually likable, and the classic side-characters, including Scotty, Uhura, Sulu, and Chekov, have more to do than stand around looking... familiar.
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