Movie: "Star Trek: The Motion Picture"
Year: 1979
Rated: PG
Genre: Science Fiction / Fantasy
Directed by: Robert Wise
Writing credits: Rodenberry, Foster, Livingston

Reviewer: Max Burbank
Posted: 1/26/2009

Plot: Kirk and the gang make the jump to the big screen, a little fatter than they used to be but nowhere near as fat as they will become. And they’re just in time for Kirk to mess up a sentient computer just like he did every other episode back in the day, except now he has a weave and there’s this bald Indian chick hanging around.

Review: You need to have a near pathologic appreciation of the yin yang of Trek’s awesome horribleness to love this film, but if you do, good lord, this lumbering, shambling behemoth slow motion bus plunge of a movie is adorable.

If you’ve never seen this movie, pack a lunch. IMDB says it’s two hours twelve minutes, but frankly that’s impossible. Because it feels like years, and that’s if you like it. Good God, the scene where Kirk gets shuttled to the Enterprise alone has to take at least sixth months.

It seems impossible this movie was directed by the great Robert Wise, it’s so very inept and off base. The whole thing is just too damn big. In attempting to make the Enterprise realistically large they made the interior shots seem like the cast was hanging out in the Port authority bus terminal. They meant to make the costumes seem more like uniforms an earth of the future might actually ask it’s Starfleet officer’s to wear they made everybody dress in grey and white pajamas. They spent a fortune on Special effects, didn’t like what they got, hired someone new and spent another fortune and were so sure what they got was good, the wanted you to look at it forever, as if they were making “2001: A Space Odyssey”. Nobody who ever liked Star Trek on TV thought it was majestic and awe inspiring. They thought it was fun, and smart and goofy and thought provoking and they wanted more, but I guarantee you, no Trekkie, no matter how dedicated, ever thought “What I want is an Enterprise that looks real, and then I just want to look at it for at least twenty minutes. And when they meet up with an energy cloud, I want to look at that for forty-five minutes at least. And if possible, it should feel longer.

But for all its creaky sluggishness, I loved this movie when I first saw it and I still do. As a kid, I’d just waited so damn long for more Trek. I’d watched the reruns with my Dad so many times I could recite entire scripts, I was starving for Kirk and Spock and Bones to do something new, something I didn’t know was coming. I wasn’t even that disappointed to find the plot was a rehashing of one of the TV episodes, I was just so happy to see them again. But you know, it’s more than that. Everything that the second attempt, “Wrath of Kahn” did right, this movie did wrong. It’s ponderous and cold and yet somehow it’s still great. Sure the shuttle flight takes a week and a half, but every time you think you’ll die of boredom look at the Enterprise just sitting there, the camera cuts back to Shatner’s great slab of a face working through a laundry list of emotions. You keep thinking at any moment you’ll see the Gremlin from “Nightmare at 20,000 feet” on one of the Nacelles. And then there’s that moment where Bones gets beamed aboard against his will, and he’s got this big fake Grizzly Adams beard, and Shatner says “Bones… I need you” and thrusts out his hand, and then waits and then pulls it back and does it again. It’s the god damndest acting choice, it’s wooden and weird and perfect somehow and nobody else would have done it. And then Nimoy gets there, and does his whole “I have no emotions” thing, and the whole cast is all put out like somehow they forgot he was a Vulcan since the last time they saw him and you get to see the whole bridge crew get all pissy and its so uncomfortable you have to love it. And Persis Khambatta gets to tell everyone she took a celibacy oath and later after she gets taken over by V’ger (SPOILER ALERT!! The Alien threat is actually Voyager and it came back all goosed up by some unknown race so now it’s sentient and so vastly intelligent it calls itself V’ger cause the word “Voyager” on it’s hull got partially smudged by space soot.) and calls everybody ‘Carbon Units’, which is right up there with ‘Norman, coordinate’ for clunky ass bad trek dialogue.

It’s just sweet is what it is, like the beloved Uncle with Aspergers giving a toast at a wedding, and it goes on forever and involves long drawn out analogies no one could possibly follow and you wish someone would just take the mike away from him but they don’t and every word he says makes you love him more in a sort of agonized, masochistic way.

If you want to take that feeling and multiply it, buy the novelization. Rodenberry wrote it because he hated how the screenwriters messed up his original story and wanted people to know what he’d intended. It makes the movie seem short, slick, comprehensible and less unintentionally homoerotic.

Overall rating: WholeWholeWhole
(Scored on a 0.5 - 5 pickles rating: 0.5 being the worst and 5 being the best)

Reader Comments

Forum Virgin
Jan 27th, 2009, 04:50 AM
While I am more of a fan of the Next Generation treks, I love Star Trek 2 and 4. Awesome films. I actually as a kid never knew Star Trek one existed, just assumed Wrath of Khan was the first, despite the fact 2 was in the title. Yeah...I was a slow kid.
Jan 27th, 2009, 05:45 AM
There's a great story in Stephen King's "Danse Macabre", where he describes Harlan Ellison's experiences working on a script for this film. For Rodenberry, it was always about the Enterprise finding God, or God turning out to be a child, or both.

So yeah, give me KHHHAAAAAAAANNNNNNNN! anyday.
Retardedly Handsome
Jan 27th, 2009, 10:46 AM
I always liked when spock had to act more human. Like in IV or when they would travel to 1930's planet or nazi planet or gangster planet. This really has nothing to do with this movie because I've never seen it and never will.
is hopped up on goofballs
Jan 27th, 2009, 11:46 AM
I don't know, I'm a pretty big fan of this film. It's a good sci fi story that happens to be paced more like 2001 than Star Wars. That's not a bad thing, in my opinion.

Then again I'm not a big fan of The Voyage Home, and I really like Search for Spock, so maybe I just have really bad taste?
Can't touch this
Jan 27th, 2009, 05:11 PM
I notice the tag-line on that poster says "There is no comparison". Well, it sounds like a pretty good comparison would be riding a tricycle cross-country peddling with your knees.
Forum Virgin
Jan 27th, 2009, 05:13 PM
Being paced like 2001 is not the problem, it's just Star Trek isn't 2001. Damn this film is boring....
Bustin makes me feel good
Jan 27th, 2009, 08:27 PM
The film may be waaaaaay too long, but it sure is pretty to look at.
The Magnificent Bastard
Jan 28th, 2009, 03:13 AM
I loved this movie as a kid. And, I loved how pretty it was.

But, you know what? That feeling Max described is EXACTLY accurate. It's what makes this movie enjoyable.

Not only that, but I can think of a million other things I like for the same reasons (The movie "Troll", and 90s PSAs, for example).

I never realized I was a masochist. Thinks for helping me learn more about myself, Max.
Jan 28th, 2009, 09:55 PM
I love classic Star Trek. But that's all I love about the franchise.
King of the Monsters
Jan 29th, 2009, 07:21 PM
I liked this movie as well, even if it really takes itself a wee bit too seriously at times and pads certain scenes out to ridiculous lengths. With some scenes though, the slow, ponderous, pace works, like when they went inside V'Ger. Loved the concept of V'Ger, and just how powerful the damned thing was, and yet how simple it was at the same time.

Sure it got overshadowed by the later installments, but it was still f'n sweet.

But do you ever notice, in the movies, how many times Kirk's had to save the day against Godly beings?? V'Ger, that Whale-thing from Voyage Home, and that energy being posing as God in "Final Frontier".

Surprised he was never promoted much after the fact. I mean, you save humanity's collective ass twice from godly omnipotent beings who can easily destroy the Earth, I'd AT LEAST want a goddamn promotion. Then he went and bested a being posing as God himself, I'd be surprised if anything could get Kirk worried after that. :P
Fookin' up planets!
Feb 2nd, 2009, 04:39 PM
This movie gave me shingles when I was a child. And I kinda licked.