Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979)


Dave’s 3-Word Review:
What a disappointment

Picture this – two years has gone by since the release of the original Star Wars film. People were going nuts about the series, couldn’t have enough of it…heck people even went to the theaters multiple times buying several tickets, leading to the eventual purchase of the VHS, DVD, Blu-Ray, and digital copies…then there were the video games and toys…it’s a big deal. Obviously, Star Trek wanted in on some of this action, but they had been off the air for ten years, so what better way to make a reunion special than to make a feature film? Unfortunately, the pressure was on and stakes were high, they had big competition, sandwiched between two Star Wars films. Still, they decided to go all in and make Star Trek: The Motion Picture.

So, after ten years of being absent from the television airwaves, they decided that the best and most epic story to provide was a malevolent cloud, something that can easily be defined as just…a thing in outer space wreaking havoc. Well, there is plenty enough mystery surrounding its intentions to enlist fear, so Captain Kirk comes back to the Enterprise to whoop this alien cloud’s behind. Along the way, the audience gets to “enjoy” plenty of visual shots of vibrant array of colors and the Enterprise’s crew in awe of everything they see, literally two and a half hours’ worth.

The first thing that will come to your mind while watching this film, and long after finishing it, is the fact that it is so…so boring. The movie is just under two and a half hours, but feels much longer because of a ridiculous amount of filler shots. Those of you who have already seen the movie probably understand where I am coming from. There is a scene near the beginning of the film that portrays the first shot of the U.S.S. Enterprise for the first time in ten years. It literally goes from one shot of the Enterprise to a look of awe on Kirks face, back to another shot of the Enterprise, back to a look on Kirk’s face for what feels like 15 minutes. Picture this – they are on one of those transporting space-busses, going incredibly slow, all around the enormity of the Enterprise, and showing Kirk’s amazed face back to the Enterprise so many times its ridiculous. I mean… get on with it! I understand it’s a big thing, and it is emphasizing as much, but there comes a time when you just look at your watch and think…this is out of hand! That’s not the only time this happens in the movie either. The other obvious section this happens in is the space cloud. Going about 2 MPH, the crew of the Enterprise just takes everything in until they reach the center of the cloud, to which they continue to just…look at things…this takes something like 45 minutes to just…look at stuff. The movie would be fifteen minutes if they actually focused on plot rather than to show us…stuff.

The reason why this film is such a disappointment is because it was the first time we have seen these people in the last ten years, and it was just after the explosive first Star Wars film, and it was only a year before Epire Strikes Back was released. It’s clear to me that they were under quite a bit of pressure, so they decided to be flashy with everything and just show us some visuals…but let’s be frank, the visuals were pretty bad. They were okay here and there, for sure, but you could easily compare some of these visuals to 2001: A Space Odyssey, which came out a decade prior to this…it was lacking pretty harshly in that department.

Unfortunately, the disappointment doesn’t stop there! Apparently, they had the falsely-held assumption that nobody but Star Trek fans would really care to see this film. There was no apparent attempt to reintroduce the characters to a brand new audience. For lack of a better explanation, they expected the audience to already know everything that needed to be known beforehand. Get real, it’s been a decade since the original Star Trek series ended, and Star Wars was only a baby at this stage. These two were barely even adversaries at this point, and it almost seems like Star Trek: The Motion Picture didn’t even try. Also, this isn’t a huge point, but the actors were already getting pretty old at this point, it might have been a good idea to introduce new blood…Bones and Scotty were pushing 60 years old already. Though, I do understand the appeal of the characters, which brings me to my next point.

This was clearly a reunion film, because yes, people adore these characters. What’s not to love about them? They bring an unparalleled level of charisma to the screen. Out of the entire movie, they helped it achieve what level of success it did get, and more, seeing how there was (now) 11 sequels which spawned from it, and several TV series as well. It’s not bad; it actually had a decent plot hidden deep in its core, but the filler material which spanned most of the movie really drowned out the goodness that was hidden beneath the rest. I wouldn’t even be surprised if the script itself was only thirty pages or so, because there is less dialogue in this movie, and more wide-eyed actors and actresses looking at the trippy visuals. great…really…but it lacks so much substance that you’d be surprised. It absolutely did not need to be 2.5 hours long, that’s just absurd.

Did it have great visuals? At that time, maybe at parts, but for the most part no. Did it have a fascinating story? Hidden deep under the muck, possibly. Did it bring back the characters that we love? If anything, that’s what this movie did right. The thing is, under our modern expectations towards film, had anyone had the urge to go back and watch these Star Trek films for the first time, there is a strong possibility that this would be the first and only one they watch, because many would actually view this movie as, well, terrible. It’s not captivating.

Under normal circumstances, I would suggest to rent the first movie in a franchise, even if it is terrible, because it is the first film. It has all of the character development and history that is needed in order to watch the next film…in this case that isn’t so. This may be the first Star Trek movie, but it isn’t the first Star Trek story.  For that, you’d have to go back and watch three years of a sixties TV show, which most people aren’t willing to do. So I would definitely say to skip this movie because it isn’t necessary. You are perfectly capable of enjoying the second film without seeing the first.

3 thoughts on “Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979)

  1. Sweet review about this movie Dave. The boarding of the Enterprise was a bit long and tedious. I wish I would have known I can skip the first one when I first started watching these.


    1. Thanks, man, yeah there was a lot about this movie that I had issues with. To think – after 10 years from the show’s departure, it had to be a heck of a disappointment when it first was released…right?


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