Star Trek: The Motion Picture

Yesterday I watched the original Star Trek movie, simply named “The Motion Picture.” It was released in 1979. It was the only Star Trek movie I had not seen. I have watched all the others at some point in time.

I should mention that I watched the movies in an odd order. The first movie I watched in the series was part 4. I saw that in the theater back in the day when it came out in 1986. I later watched part 5, then 6. I will say that Star Trek 6 is my favorite of all the movies. I saw it in the theater as well, and it is excellent. Years later, I rented part 2, which is very popular among the fans. After that, I went on to watch part 3. I have also seen Generations, the other movies with The Next Generation cast, and the more recent franchise reboots. I think the new ones are great.

I had never watched the original movie because I always thought it looked kind of dated, and it was too long. The runtime is 2 hours and 10 minutes, which I find to be ridiculously too long. My uncle warned me about it years ago. He told me that I probably wouldn’t like it. Among other things, he cautioned that the special effects were bad.

Now having seen it, I enjoyed the movie. I liked it more than I thought I would going into it. That said, the movie moved incredibly slowly at times. They could have cut 30 or 45 minutes off of the film and still told the story. No kidding. The ultra-slow camera pans and drawn out space scenes were unbearable at times. I don’t know how the editing department got away with the amount of fluff that padded this movie.

The special effects were far better than I expected. I was quite impressed with them. For a movie made in the late 70s, the effects and imagery were stunningly good. (There’s a catch. More on that below.)

The sound effects and background music were a bit much. I thought that the music was dubbed too high in the sound mix in a lot of places. It was almost a distraction at times.

The plot was relatively simple. I didn’t find it all that interesting early on, but I think it had a good payoff at the end. It was a clever idea. The big element that this movie lacked was a starship battle of some kind. The Enterprise launched only one photon torpedo that I recall, and that was to get out of a worm hole. I would have liked to have seen a space battle at some point.

The cast looked a little older than I expected, considering that this was the first movie in the series. The acting was pretty solid. William Shatner acted like a jerk for the first half of the movie, which seemed a bit out of place for his character.

I didn’t care for the uniforms in this movie. The colors were dull and not very exciting. The occasional usage of short-sleeved uniforms was totally uncalled for. I didn’t care for that at all. The uniforms were designed much better in subsequent years.

After watching the movie, I listened to the Film Sack podcast (episode 200) where they discussed the film. They talked about how unnecessarily long the movie was, among many other things. Overall, they didn’t care for the movie, and even went so far to say that Star Trek 5 is better than this one. I would probably agree with that, even though it’s common knowledge that Star Trek 5 is pretty dumb.

Getting back to the topic of special effects, I found out some important information while listening to the podcast. It turns out that the movie I watched yesterday on Netflix is the director’s cut, which was released in 2001. When the movie was re-released at that time, the studio remade the special effects using 90 CGI images and sequences. With that in mind, it’s no wonder I was impressed with the effects. I don’t know what the original movie looked like when it came out.

Overall, I liked the movie. I am a fan of Star Trek in general and I can’t believe I went this long without seeing this movie. I’m glad I watched it, but I couldn’t imagine sitting through those long drawn out two hours again.

Star Trek: The Motion Picture

Author: Craig Tisinger


2 thoughts on “Star Trek: The Motion Picture”

  1. Interesting review. You’ve got me wanting to rewatch. I don’t know if I’ve seen the director’s cut, and I tend to like slow pans and other atmosphere-setting devices. Music can kill a movie. Many years later I realized I loved 2001: A Space Odyssey and Star Wars largely because of the music! It so perfectly establishes the emotional frame.

    I’m currently rewatching Star Trek: Next Gen. They hit their stride in Season 4 — plus Wesley Crusher is mostly absent hehe. I realize I mainly didn’t like how they styled the character, but Wheaton does an admirable job with the role. But I digress.

    My point is that almost every time I rewatch media I see it in a new way, depending on my mood and the ways I’ve changed since the last viewing. So it stays fresh. This is good news.

    — “Uncle” Jake

  2. I always thought that they should have ended the movie series or at least come back to the new V’ger-humanoid hybrid. How they evolved and what they experienced.

    It’s been a while since I have seen the movie–I’m betting I didn’t see the director’s cut–but the characters were not as endearing to me. I really count on the interaction and relationships among the crew, and that had to be re-established after years of being apart.

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