I will freely admit that i’m most certainly a Star Trek man, and that i do indeed like and think that the series is (during its high points) superior* than that other major sci-fi series that nerds like me spend too much time and energy caring about. The primary reason for that is that while Star Wars is for the most part sci-fi fantasy and concentrates more on bringing big screen thrills, the best of Star Trek invites more thought and allegory (again during its best parts).
Also to my knowledge Star Trek fans haven’t made anything that looks this obnoxious**
Unlike Star Wars however my first exposure to Star Trek has been lost to time. I remember watching old episodes of TOS at my grand mother’s apartment every saturday morning. I also remember watching episodes of TNG and Deep Space Nine during that same time as well, so i really have no idea what was the first piece of Star Trek. However i can say with some certainty that the first Star Trek movie that i had watched was (just like my experience with Star Wars) Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country.
As for ST:TMP when i first saw it again is something of a mystery, if i had to guess, it would probably have been around the ages of 10-12, and what i mostly remember is how awful the movie looked. Not the special effects mind you but the production design, but we’ll get to that after:
When i say Star Trek generally invites a bit more thought than Star Wars this film is what i use as a primary example. Trans galactic travel, artificial intelligence, incomprehensible alien technologies, cloning, inorganic life, and trans humanism are some of the ideas present in this film, and they show a remarkable sense of imagination, and willingness to show that space as a setting can indeed be used to show far more than just laser beams and light speed.
Jerry Goldsmith provides a truly wonderful score, that is filled to the brim with memorable themes, and perfectly captures the sense of mystery discovery and excitement that the future may have in store for the people who will live in it.
Good god this movie looks awful. The most offensive display in the film would have to be with the costumes everyone wears. Gone are the colourful aesthetics of the Original Series and in their place we have grey unitards worn against grey back grounds on sets that look like they were designed with only a ruler and protractor. I mean ugggh, the film looks so dated as a result of its choices in aesthetics (honestly the series as a whole suffers from this) but this film pushes it to all new levels of atrociousness.
The special effects although truly on the cutting edge of cinematic technology at the time also suffer a bit from their age. While not they are not universally outdated they are most certainly uneven with some of the matte paintings (vulcan’s sky, V’Ger’s cloud) and early digital effects being outlandishly clunky and primitive.
Much ballyhoo is made about the 9 minute introduction to the re-fitted Enterprise and it is indeed just as excruciatingly boring to watch as everyone says it is, and is indicative to the problems of pacing throughout the entire film. Its only redeeming feature being that it functions as a music video of sorts to Goldsmith’s wonderful music. Despite the films glacial pacing ultimately the characters are more than a little short-changed, interesting new additions like Ilia and Captain Decker are sadly disposed of by the film’s end and the rest of the supporting crew are for the most part regulated to extended cameos.
My ultimate take on Star Trek: The Motion Picture it is a film bursting at the seams with genuine ideas that are worth contemplation, examination, and exploration. These alone made the film stay with me well after it had ended and is reason enough to recommend the movie to anyone who is in the slightest bit curious about it. However the film lacks any sort of substantive drama, and its over reliance on special effects, cold production design, and as a result its missing much of the original series’ timeless charm may indeed have many viewers falling asleep.
I would place myself somewhere in the middle of all this, and if it just had a bit more of that human element that made this series so watchable it would indeed rise to the top of the series, but sadly it doesn’t and as a result it’s merely a good watch.
OUT OF FIVE
**i have never seen Fanboys, and will never see it, and i do indeed judge it completely on the basis of the trailer which i am very much at peace with.
* I’m gonna have to retract that statement now, as a conversation that i recently had with another blogger has made me rethink this. Not that i have changed my mind about me prefering Star Trek over Star Wars, no no no, that will never happen. But that its superior, as there is plenty to ruminate on in the Star Wars series it just doesn’t interest me as much personally.