Star Trek: The Motion Picture

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Star Trek: The Motion Picture
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To boldly go where this first movie of the popular television show can have rough beginnings.
Genre: Science Fiction
Adventure
Directed By: Robert Wise
Produced By: Gene Roddenberry
Written By: Alan Dean Foster
Harold Livingston
Based On: "Star Trek" by Gene Roddenberry
Starring: William Shatner
Leonard Nimoy
DeForest Kelley
James Doohan
George Takei
Majel Barrett
Walter Koenig
Nichelle Nichols
Persis Khambatta
Stephen Collins
Cinematography: Richard H. Kline
Distributed By: Paramount Pictures
Release Date: December 7, 1979
Runtime: 132 Minutes
Country: United States
Language: English
Budget: $44 Million
Box Office: $139 Million
Franchise: Star Trek
Sequel: Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan


Star Trek: The Motion Picture is a 1979 American science fiction adventure film directed by Robert Wise. It is based on the original Star Trek television series. All of the actors of the original show retain the roles they ahd played in the movie. The original plot of the film was going to be the pilot for the cancelled Star Trek: Phase II television series. The film released on December 7, 1979 and had a box office haul of $139 million on a $44 million budget. The film generally received mixed reviews from critics, audiences, and Star Trek fans. Director Robert Wise has since stated his displeasure with the film, stating that the theatrical version was a "rough cut" of what he wanted to make.

Plot

(Note: The film takes place four and a half years after the conclusion of Star Trek: The Original Series, in the year 2271.)

A Starfleet listening post known as Epsilon Nine has detected a massive cloud of alien origin. After is destroys three Klingon battle cruisers, they discover that the cloud is heading toward Earth. It is later shown that Epsilon Nine is also destroyed by the cloud. After sending word to Starfleet aboout the cloud, we learn the Enterprise is the ony ship in the area that is able to intercept and is undergoing a large refit. Starfleet assigns Kirk, now an admiral, back to the Enterprise' to intercept with the crew of the ship that consists of the original Enterprise crew, including McCoy and Sulu. Kirk takes command and places the former captain Willard Decker as second-in-command and moves the ship to intercept, but in the process of testing warp engines, the ship is pulled in a wormhole but breaks free at the last second. Afterword, Spock arrives on the Enterprise to help with the mission and the warp engines are fixed, allowing the Enterprise to intercept the cloud.

Upon reaching the cloud, the Enterprise enters it. Through the journey of entering it, a probe from the V'Ger cloud enters the ship bridge and attempts to analyze the ship computers. Spock stops it from doing so, leading the probe to attack Spock and abduct Illia. Later, the ship is trapped within the cloud. Afterword, an exact replica of Illia is brought to the ship. Later, Spock decides to leave the Enterprise in an attempt to find out what V'Ger really is and attempts to mind meld with it, but fails and is knocked back to the Enterprise to be rescued by Kirk. Spock tells Kirk that V'Ger is living machine. This leads to Kirk, Spock, McCoy, Decker, and Robot Illia to investigate the center.

At the center of the cloud, they learn that V'Ger is actually the lost Voyager 6 probe, which was lost in "what used to be known as a black hole." It was found by alien living machines that learned of the probe's purpose to return information to its creator seriously and gave it a large ship to do so and it received so much knowledge that it has gained sentience. To give what is has found, it insists the "Creator" must be the one to finish the final sequence. The crew learns that the humans are the Creator, and Decker volunteers to do the final sequence. He merges with the Robot Illia and a new lifeform is created and disappears, leaving the Enterprise over the surface of the Earth.

Bad Qualities

  1. As greatly detailed below, the main point of criticism for the film is that it is very boring from start to finish, as many of the scenes drag out for way too long, mostly when we have camera views of what is going on in space.
    • For example, when we see the space station hovering above Earth's atmosphere before Kirk is about to beam aboard, we get many shots of the station when one would have been fine. We also get many shots of the characters reacting to what is going on, which is very unnecessary. However, of all of the dragged out scenes, the most infamous is when the Enterprise enters V'Ger. We are given way to many views of the Enterprise going into V'Ger and we see every detail, when only two or three camera shots would have been fine between entering V'Ger and getting trapped inside of it. Another example is when the Enterprise is trapped in the wormhole and everything goes very slowly. This makes the film feel like it is based completely around the special effects.
    • This is partly because the script started out as the two-part pilot episode for an abandoned series called Star Trek: Phase II, and when that series was cancelled, they retooled the pilot into a movie script. This left them with only 90 minutes' worth of plot for a two-hour movie, however, so they had to use special effects to pad things out.
  2. Another example of the film being boring is that there are almost no action scenes at all. While it is true that the Star Trek franchise was more based on the heroes exploring the galaxy and contacting other life forms, there were a few occasional episodes that didn't completely follow this formula such as "Balance of Terror" and "The Doomsday Machine". The addition of any sort of action scenes, even if there was an extended tussle against the probe that killed Ilia, would have made the film feel a lot less long and drawn out.
  3. There are multiple plot holes and continuity errors in the film:
    • One of the biggest mysteries in the film is how the Klingons got their head ridges. Since the film takes place four and a half years after the original series ended (Season 3 of the original show was the third year of the five year mission according to the official timeline. The animated series is considered to be the last two years of the mission, despite being considered non-canon nowadays). Since the film takes place two years and a half after the end of the five year mission, this only allows the Klingons two and a half years to develop a different form, and evolution doesn't take that fast. It ended up taking until the final season of Star Trek: Enterprise until we actually got an explanation for this.
    • During the opening moments of the film, we are told that the refitted Enterprise is the only Federation ship in the sector to be able to intercept V'Ger before it reaches Earth. This makes no sense, since shouldn't Earth, which is the most important planet in the Federation and where most management is from, be a lot more protected than having only ship in the sector? Weirder still is that this problem wasn't in the original pilot script, where they sent another starship ahead of the Enterprise (though it was destroyed before the Enterprise could reach it), and Starfleet were holding the rest of their ships back in order to help evacuate Earth.
    • The Federation uses the metric system, but Dr. McCoy makes a remark about wondering if the inhabitants on V'Ger were ten miles tall.
    • Before the Enterprise embarks on their mission to stop the V'Ger cloud, Kirk shows a recording of V'Ger destroying the Klingon battle cruisers and the Federation space station Epsilon Nine. However, after we see the destruction of both of them, the video is still transmitting, despite being destroyed. While the Klingon ships can be excused for the explanation of being a probe near them, we aren't told anything like that about the station.
  4. There are some continuity errors with the film production.
    • Kirk's hair constantly changes throughout the film.
    • Spock destroys the computer console to prevent the V'Ger probe from retrieving the ship's data, but the console is back undamaged a few scenes later.
    • Spock's sideburns grow in length between the scenes of him on the bridge and when he is in sickbay.
    • At the end of the film, where we see McCoy and Spock wearing two different colored bands on their arms, and the bands the are wearing is reversed in the next shot.
  5. While the plot is good, it holds many similarities to the original series episode "The Changeling", since both that episode and the film revolves around and alien probe trying to find its creator.
    • On that same note, this film's plot is also very similar to the animated series episode "One of Our Planets Is Missing", and the plot of said episode has a shocking amount of more similarities than "The Changeling" did.
      • In the episode, a cloud is heading towards a planet and the Enterprise is the only ship in the area to intercept it.
      • The Enterprise attempts to reverse away from the cloud as it is being pulled in, but is consumed and trappped in the cloud, similar to how the ship is pulled in by V'Ger's tractor beam in the film.
      • The cloud turns out to be an intelligent being.
      • The Enterprise uses their scanners to get a full analysis of the cloud, although in the film they are not successful in doing so.
      • Spock attempts to communicate with the cloud to prevent it from reaching Earth, similar to how Spock attempted to mind meld with V'Ger but failed in the film.
    • In a similar way to that episode, many other episodes hold a similarity to the events of the film.
      • The V'Ger cloud is out to destroy anything in its path to reach the creator, which bears a resemblance to the planet killer weapon destroying all in its path in "The Doomsday Machine."
        • This event also happened in the episode "The Immunity Syndrome".
      • Spock attempts to mind meld with V'Ger in the film to understand it, which he did in a very similar way in episodes like "The Devil in the Dark."
  6. The camera shots can look blurry at times.
    • One notable example is when Kirk is talking to the crew and we have a camera shot of his head and behind it shows the background of the ship in a very blurry manner, which shouldn't be like that.
  7. The coloring of the sets, clothing, and ships in the film looks very monotonous throughout, save for the brief warp sequences.
    • For example: all of the starfleet uniforms have a white and grey color, with some color given to the armbands at the end of the film. The ships and other man-made objects also don't look appealing in color, as they are also very bland in color, with the exception of the dark green on the Klingon ships. Finally, there is a lot of blue at the second half of the film, as it is the only color that V'Ger consists of. All in all, this makes the film look wrong often and isn't appealing to the eye.
  8. While the special effects are very good in general, a few of them are obviously unfinished and some effects don't look right. For example, when we see Kirk and McCoy in the pod as they head toward the Enterprise in dry dock, we can obviously tell that the view of them inside the pod from outside of it was edited in.
  9. The acting and dialogue of the film is on the verge of being emotionless.
    • Almost all of the dialogue is kind of straight to the point and there isn't much humor, other than McCoy's humorous insults at Spock. On the note of the film's acting, it is a pretty mixed bag. Dekker and McCoy's performances are good, but it does not hold up well for the rest of the cast. William Shatner in particular has some trouble, as his lines can feel monotonous at times.
  10. There are many scenes and dialogue in the film that doesn't make it deserving of the G-rating and is more a PG-rated film. The d-word and "hell" are stated five and three times respectively. Some moments can also be somewhat intense for the rating, such as when Spock attempts to mind meld with V'Ger and goes through brief pain and is thrown back. Another possible example of intensity is V'Ger's destruction of the Klingon ships and Epsilon Nine, and the gruesome deaths of two Enterprise crew members in a transporter accident.
    • However, it should be noted that the future home releases were re-rated and given a PG rating.
  11. Troubled Production: Paramount, trying to cash in on the success of Star Wars, decided to convert a proposed Star Trek Sequel Series into a movie (mostly because the new Paramount TV network it was supposed to be anchoring got canned six months before the launch by Gulf & Western head Charles Bluhdorn, who feared the network being a major money-loser; in his defense, the last major attempt at a fourth network before then, 1967's Overmeyer/United Network, hadn't lasted long). Unfortunately, this left them in the unenviable position of assigning Gene Roddenberry as producer, because of the godlike cult of personality he'd built up among Trekkies/ers, despite the fact that he'd only produced one feature film before. (1971's Pretty Maids All in a Row which the Great Bird scripted and produced over at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Quentin Tarantino loved it — audiences and critics, not so much.) Their concern was justified.
    • Even when it was still supposed to have been the pilot episode for the series, Roddenberry and his cowriter, Harold Livingston, had been feuding. His replacement, Dennis Clark (Comes A Horseman) got along even worse with the Great Bird, and Livingston was back in three months. But despite Livingston having it in his new contract that Roddenberry couldn't do any more work on it than he already had, Roddenberry would do rewrites on the sly and then send them to the studio head.
    • Paramount's original budget was $8 million. The original director and producer were let go once Roddenberry realized that just the special effects alone that audiences would be expecting after Star Wars and Close Encounters of the Third Kind would cost that much, and possibly more. Robert Wise was hired as director and the film's budget doubled. He put shooting on hold while he had the sets and (yes) the costumes redesigned. But the cast, already under contract for the now-abandoned series, was still getting paid every week under regularly extended contracts, and finally Paramount said in late summer 1978 that principal photography had to start.
    • Nimoy, at the start of the whole project, was hell-bent against returning to Star Trek thanks to being caught up in his own feud with Roddenberry over not receiving merchandise royalties. While his character was going to be replaced with a Suspiciously Similar Substitute, Paramount realized they could not really make the movie without Nimoy, and Jeffrey Katzenberg, then a Paramount executive, flew to New York to quite literally beg Nimoy to return. Nimoy settled his lawsuit within a few days and was recast as Spock, but was still on really bad terms with Roddenberry.
    • Wise didn't want to shoot for more than 12 hours a day, saying he "lost his edge" after that. That might have been OK if he made efficient use of the time he was shooting. But on the first day, more than a thousand feet of film was shot, only for most of it to be thrown out. Only slightly over a page of script was deemed to be in the can. After only two days of filming the production was behind schedule for good.
    • Grace Lee Whitney (reprising her role as Janice Rand from the first season of the series) recounted in her autobiography that, following a practical joke on Wise that she took part in, Wise forbade the makeup department from providing its services to her. She noted that this is why it often takes a while for viewers to recognize the transporter chief as Rand.
    • The feuding between Roddenberry and Livingston continued, at the expense of the script. William Shatner, who titled his chapter on this in Movie Memories "Star Trek: The Emotional Picture", said the cast was getting revisions every two hours. And they hadn't even settled the question of what was going to happen in the third act, until two months had gone by and Leonard Nimoy began mediating between Roddenberry and Livingston at night after shooting.
    • Another delay was caused by the sets, particularly those of the Enterprise. While most of them had been built for the TV series, they were now set to be struck after the movie. Therefore it became essential to make as much use of them as possible. (Notice how many scenes take place in different rooms on the ship, like that one with Decker and post-abduction Ilia in the Rec Room, that don't really need to?) The script had to be written and rewritten around this ... and then there were the production problems. They had been built with the idea they would be lit for TV, and thus the movie crew had to spend hours more than otherwise expected figuring out how to light them for film. They also created problems like a lot of uniform belt buckles getting smashed against the bridge railing, and the transporter floor getting so hot that crewmembers' rubber-soled shoes were actually melting if they spent too much time on it when it was lit up from within.
    • Only after the wrap did Wise check on the special effects, of which he hadn't even seen a demo shot (which concerned him). It soon became apparent that the first special effects house, Robert Abel and Associates, couldn't get the job done. (In fairness, their efforts were harmed by the constant rewrites and lack of feature film experience, and Abel's team was stretched thin with their duties of set and costume design, and having to use Paramount's resources for unrelated commercials and bumpers for HBO due to their own financial issues.) Douglas Trumbull (2001: A Space Odyssey) and his former assistant John Dykstra (a founding member of Industrial Light & Magic) had been the original choices, and as their previous commitments had since either been completed, as was the case with Trumbull, or booted them from production as was with Dykstra (!!) they were brought onboard with only months to go. They had to work around the clock to get the job done. By now the film was so over-budget that Paramount executives were keeping a running tab each day of how much it was such. It was said that the reason the finished film relies so much on the effects was that someone at Paramount decided they had to show where all the money went.
    • According to Wise and Jon Povill, the associate producer, the released film was essentially a rough cut that no one had seen in its entirety before shipping. Wise completed the final cut a day before the premiere and had to take it with him to Washington. The reels were still wet when they were loaded onto the projector. While the film ultimately proved a box office success despite some claims that it wasn't, critics were lukewarm toward the film's overall sluggishness and lack of character. The experience left much of the cast drained, nearly derailed Katzenberg's Hollywood career (he survived to get to Disney), and Shatner feared the film would be a Franchise Killer.
  12. Not great direction by Robert Wise.

Good Qualities

  1. The film was a lot different from other science fiction films at the time, as rather than focusing more on action or horror themes, it is based around exploration and communication, which makes it one of the more unique science fiction films of the 1970s.
    • Not only that, it is also very faithful to the original show since the original show focused more on the exploration and adventure qualities rather than action, unlike the other Star Trek shows and films.
      • On the same note, the film is almost exactly what fans of the series wanted at the time of release, due to the original show being off air for ten years by the time the film released.
  2. The quality of the special effects in the film is undeniable, especially for a film that was released in 1979.
    • Many of the facets of the V'Ger cloud are greatly detailed, especially in the scene where the Enterprise heads to the center of the cloud and becomes trapped inside at the end.
  3. The score of the film is amazing and is considered to be one of the best Star Trek film scores as well as one of the best of any film.
    • This is most evident in the iconic and bombastic theme song at the beginning of the film and the Klingon theme.
  4. Luckily, all of the personalities of the characters are unchanged from their original series counterparts and they have not suffered from flanderization, unlike most bad sequels of good films or most bad episodes of good shows.
    • For example, McCoy is still as feisty as ever and Scott still worries about the shape of the Enterprise.
  5. The story concept is great, as it is about a dangerous cloud heading to Earth and the Enterprise being the only ship to help and must find out the cloud's motivation.
  6. Amazing cinematography throughout the film, such as when the Enterprise enters the cloud and we get to see just how small it is compared to everything else inside of it.
    • Another good example is when see the front view of the Enterprise for the first time when Kirk and McCoy are in spacedock.
  7. While the performances are a mixed bag some of the time, Leonard Nimoy and Stephen Collins do a good job as their roles of Spock and Willard Decker.
  8. The director's cut fixes a few problems, and the effects are slightly improved.
  9. As mentioned above, the plot is still good.
  10. The poster looks great.
  11. Without this film, we likely wouldn't have gotten any sequels.
    • And not only that, we also likely may not have gotten the revival of the franchise with Star Trek: The Next Generation. In short, this film is one of the main reasons the franchise still lives on today.

Reception

When the movie was released, Star Trek: The Motion Picture received mixed reviews from critics, audiences, and Star Trek fans. On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has a critic score of 41%, with the critic consensus being "Featuring a patchwork script and a dialogue-heavy storyline whose biggest villain is a cloud, Star Trek: The Motion Picture is a less-than-auspicious debut for the franchise"[1]. One positive review came from Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun Times, stating that "Such reservations aside, "Star Trek: The Motion Picture" is probably about as good as we could have expected. It lacks the dazzling brilliance and originality of 2001 (which was an extraordinary one-of-a-kind film). But on its own terms it's a very well-made piece of work, with an interesting premise"[2]. However, many of the other reviews were less positive. Gary Arnold and Judith Martin of The Washington Post felt that the plot was't fully realized to support the film's length[3]. Richard Schickel of Time magazine stated the movie was mostly just spaceships that "take an unconscionable amount of time to get anywhere, and nothing of dramatic or human interest happens along the way". Schickel also disliked the lack of strong villains and action scenes that are in Star Wars and that there was a lot of dialogue instead[4]. Due to the slow pacing of the film and the overuse of the same camera shots, fans have called the film many nicknames such as The Motionless Picture, The Slow Motion Picture, The Motion Sickness, and Where Nomad Has Gone Before[5][6][7][8]. Despite the mixed reception, the film was nominated for three academy awards: Best Art Direction, Best Visual Effects, and Best Original Score[9].

Trivia

  • It is the only Star Trek film to have a G-rating from the MPA.
  • This film is the only Star Trek film to have an overture before the beginning of the opening credits. It was also one of only two feature films (The second being The Black Hole) to have an overture from the end of 1979 to 2000. Interestingly enough, both films came out in the year 1979.
  • The character Willard Decker in the film is actually the son of Commodore Matt Decker from the original series episode "The Doomsday Machine".
  • When Captain Kirk assembles the Enterprise crew in preparation to face the V'Ger cloud, some of the extras used from the crew are actually real-life Star Trek fans. In fact, one of the is Bjo Trimble, who helped organize the letter writing campaign to keep the original Star Trek on air for another season.

Videos

References

  1. https://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/star_trek_the_motion_picture/
  2. https://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/star-trek-the-motion-picture-1979
  3. Martin, Judith (December 14, 1979). "Just a Pretty 'Trek'". The Washington Post. p. 18.
  4. https://web.archive.org/web/20090403200331/http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,920726,00.html
  5. http://www.thingthatdontsuck.blogspot.com/2010/07/star-trek-motionless-picture.html
  6. Hughes, 21-26.
  7. Vinciguerra, Thomas (February 10, 2002). "Video; What's New for Trekkies". The New York Times. p. 26.
  8. https://web.archive.org/web/20070212131556/http://www.reelviews.net/movies/s/st1.html
  9. "NY Times: Star Trek: The Motion Picture". Movies & TV Dept. The New York Times.

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