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Star Trek: The Motion Picture Movie Review

story cloud james leonard

1979 – Robert Wise –

Based on the popular original Star Trek television series, this first big-screen adventure for the crew of the starship Enterprise promises early on to be a huge spectacle of a movie, but unfortunately Star Trek: The Motion Picture raises expectations a little too high and then fails to meet them. The story's plot has potential as an epic adventure: A vast, mysterious cloud surrounding a colossal star vessel is heading for Earth, destroying everything in its path, and Admiral James T. Kirk (William Shatner) takes command of the Enterprise to intercept the vessel and uncover its secrets. The potential of the story, however, is lost in self-indulgence and a weak, uninspired resolution.

Visually, the film includes some intriguing sequences. The vessel inside the cloud (later identified as V'ger) is fascinating for its vastness and elaborate design. However, interesting visual effects like this often become the focus of the film rather than the story. In fact, it often seems that every elaborate special effect becomes a subject of concentration, whether it is the long, silent voyage through the cloud (intercut with shots of the crew staring in amazement) or the introduction of the newly refurbished Enterprise (a painstakingly long sequence that seems to want to make sure we get a glimpse of every angle of the ship). The overall effect of this visual self-indulgence, along with the generally somber atmosphere created by the film's pacing and the too-serious performances of the cast, is of a self-important movie trying too hard to be a big, epic picture in order to contrast with its television origins.

One of the interesting aspects of Star Trek is that it likes to delve into philosophical, ethical, and occasionally metaphysical questions. The Motion Picture promises such an exploration when the V'ger entity reveals that it is searching for its creator. The quest represents a search for a higher level of existence and answers to life's most complex questions. As Mr. Spock (Leonard Nimoy) points out, such a quest is not limited to V'ger. Unfortunately, very few answers are discovered in the story. The conclusion poses an interesting question about man's desire to find and merge with God or some higher intelligence, but the statement is somewhat unsatisfying after all that has come before. The Motion Picture was followed by The Wrath of Khan (1982), The Search for Spock (1984), The Voyage Home (1986), The Final Frontier (1989), and The Undiscovered Country (1991).

Cast: William Shatner (Admiral James T. Kirk), Leonard Nimoy (Mr. Spock), DeForest Kelley (Dr. Leonard “Bones” McCoy), James Doohan (Commander Montgomery “Scotty” Scott), George Takei (Lieutenant Sulu), Majel Barrett (Dr. Chapel), Walter Koenig (Security Officer Chekov), Nichelle Nichols (Lieutenant Uhura), Persis Khambatta (Lieutenant Ilia), Stephen Collins (Captain Willard Decker), Grace Lee Whitney (Janice Rand), Mark Lenard (Klingon Captain), Billy Van Zandt (Alien Boy), Roger Aaron Brown (Epsilon Technician), Gary Faga (Airlock Technician) Screenwriter: Harold Livingston Cinematographer: Richard H. Kline Composer: Jerry Goldsmith Producer: Gene Roddenberry for Paramount MPAA Rating: G Running Time: 132 minutes Format: VHS, LV Awards: Academy Awards 1979: Nominations: Art Direction/Set Decoration, Score (Jerry Goldsmith); Golden Globe Awards 1980: Nominations: Original Score (Goldsmith) Budget: $15M Box Office: $82.3M.

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