Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979)

Director: Robert Wise

So, since the new Star Wars film is due out, SBS2 are countering it with the first 9 Star Trek films. I, obviously, watched the first one tonight, though out of sheer perversity I watched my own copy of it rather than the TV broadcast…though to be sure I suspect the lack of ad breaks was the only real advantage of doing so. Then again, this IS Star Trek: The Motion Picture we’re talking about, an ad break would’ve been something actually happening… Indeed, there seems to have been far more action off-screen than on it; years of trying to get a film going, then the studio opting for a new TV series, then changing their minds again after the success of Close Encounters, months of shooting, gigantic budget blowout… and all for some fairly average reviews at best. And, frankly, the ho-hum reception of the film wasn’t exactly unjust, cos it’s not really very good. The film’s problem is that, ultimately, it was blown up somewhat from the proposed new TV series pilot for big screen treatment, and “big screen treatment” seemed to mean taking it with the seriousness of 2001 or Solaris. Basically, it’s a lot less fun than it probably would’ve been as a TV episode, and also more than twice the length (the network would’ve insisted upon it moving on at more of a clip). On the plus side, a stupid amount of money—even the original budget was, I think, far more than was ever spent on the entire original series—was thrown into the production and you do see the benefit of that on the screen; if nothing else the effects work is still pretty marvellous to behold. It’s just unfortunate that this isn’t the case with the rest of the film (the main actors were largely unhappy with the script’s ho-hum characterisation and their, frankly, kind of awful uniforms—goddamn but THOSE haven’t worn well). There’s nothing actually wrong with the plot; a space probe returning to Earth centuries after checking out the rest of space isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Maybe it would’ve fared better as the TV episode it was originally meant to be.

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