In the wake of George Lucas's STAR WARS phenomenon and a decade-long outcry from fans for more adventures of Captain Kirk, Mr. Spock and the rest from the cult series Star Trek, Paramount put everything they could into STAR TREK: THE MOTION PICTURE. They rounded up everyone from the show's main cast, including a reluctant Leonard Nimoy. They hired the great Robert Wise (THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL, THE SOUND OF MUSIC) to direct. They even brought in Orson Welles to narrate the original teaser trailer. STAR TREK: THE MOTION PICTURE was not just a movie but an event. When it was released, there was a sense of celebration that seemed to last about ten minutes, and then everybody noticed that STAR TREK: THE MOTION PICTURE was a lot less fun and exciting than your average Star Trek episode. "Star Trek: The Motionless Picture" it was called in some circles. Too much emphasis on special effects and not enough on the beloved Trek characters, who spent most of the film sitting around looking at the Enterprise's view screen. All the costumes boringly redesigned, the ship's bridge depressingly bland. Vincent Canby of The New York Times likened it to a "high school class's 10th reunion at Caesar's Palace. Most of the faces are familiar, but the décor has little relationship to anything you've ever seen before."
TS:TMP spends huge chunks of time lingering over the special effects, especially the newly designed Enterprise itself, yet it takes nearly an hour before we have our first Kirk - Spock - McCoy scene, in which we have what amounts to the movie's only laugh line. (Remember when even the most serious Star Trek episodes had funny moments?) Otherwise, the plot does not much room for the lead trio to do much interacting, or much of anything else. Basically, ST:TMP is about a spaceship traveling to a huge space cloud to see what is at the heart of it. Nothing of much interest happens on the voyage and when the ship reaches its destination, it is up to the two non-series characters (played by fine newcomers Stephen Collins and Persis Khambatta) to wrap things up while, Kirk, Spock and McCoy stand around and watch. Of course they do.
Yet, ST:TMP has been unjustly maligned over the years, even by me. While it is not a great Star Trek film for fans who love the interplay between the characters, it is a fine and thoughtful piece of science fiction, resembling in many ways Kubrick's 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY. Robert Wise was proud enough of it to do a director's cut later on in which he trimmed some sequences and enhanced some of the special effects. The resulting version, on which this review is based, is tighter, less ponderous and just as cerebral as the original. It's not a fun movie, or adventurous, but, like the best Star Trek episodes, it makes you think.
ST:TMP has its fans, including myself, but perhaps the best thing about the film is that it spawned five more movies based on the original series - four of them outstanding - as well as several new good to excellent Star Trek series on television, one of which spun off into its own series of fine films. - JB
IN SPACE, NO ONE CAN HEAR GOOD MOVIE QUOTES
"Spock, you haven't changed a bit. You're just as warm
sociable as ever."
"Nor have you, Doctor, as your continued predilection for irrelevancy demonstrates."