Star Trek: The Motion Picture (The Director’s Edition) (1979)

Directed by Robert Wise

Star Trek: The Motion Picture is essentially a movie for fans of Star Trek, especially those of us who grew up with the original series. If you’re among these people, it’s a pretty good movie. If not, it’s sort of okay but nothing to write home about.

As a movie, it doesn’t really stand up and this is largely because of the film’s historical context. This means:

The series was off the air and had been for quite a while; the fan base was growing and vocally anxious for more Star Trek – TV, movie, anything.

Star Wars and Close Encounters of the Third Kind had both been recently released and were hugely successful.

So … The result was a film that desperately wants to satisfy fans and, like the fans, is wildly in love with the idea of Star Trek. On screen, this led to introductory set pieces of each of the primary characters. And this is fine, though it makes some scenes seem a bit self-conscious and stagey.

More troubling, however, is the over-eagerness the filmmakers have to fill the viewer with awe over the new starship Enterprise and the alien. The scenes where we are shown the new ship and get to see the alien are incredibly long and tedious. In fact, the film overall requires a pretty good pruning.

(I honestly fell asleep watching the DVD the first time and remember waking up and saying to myself, “Oh yeah … I forgot about that boring let’s-take-a-long-look-at-the-ship scene.”)

The ending seems to owe a lot to Close Encounters in that there is a heck of a lot of light and a kind of inarticulate expression of awe over … well, something godlike and sort of spiritual. At least, it seems that’s what they were getting at. Barclay Rule of Thumb: if you have nothing profound to say it’s best not to pretend you do.

The best parts of the film are the character interactions and it’s unfortunate there wasn’t more of this and less “cool stuff.”

The DVD generally looks good. The Director’s Cut includes some CGI work and other tweaks to improve the film somewhat and to tool the film into what was originally intended. (Again – it’s too bad they didn’t do some editing while they did this.)

And there is quite a bit of bonus material on the second disc to make this a neat little package. Overall – nice 2 disc set for Star Trek fans. Kind of a dull evening for others.

Leave a Reply