Review 80 - Movie no.1
The One with the Giant Cloud
And so, 10 years after the last time anyone had seen a new episode of Star Trek, comes The Motion Picture. I'm sure if you're reading this, you know the basic back story, but in a nut shell, Trek had become popular again through syndication and a 2nd Trek series was mooted. However, with the success of Star Wars and 2001, it was decided to take Star Trek to the big screen and give it a budget worthy of it's name.
And...it wasn't brilliantly received, by critics or most fans. The tone floored most people and their expectations were not met for what a Star Trek Feature film should look like and more importantly, FEEL like. To be honest, that was my view of it until when I watched the Directors Cut for this blog. Maybe it's because I'm older, but I was really impressed by this film. Let's explain why:
In what was a brave (if possibly foolish move), the writers decided to not have the cast as they were a decade ago. Normal time has passed for them and us. Kirk is an Admiral in what is essentially a desk job, McCoy has retired and Spock is on Vulcan, about to undergo a ritual to purge human emotion. None of them are in a good place and the theme of belonging and going home again carries through the whole film.
Kirk essentially bullies his way back onto the Enterprise and ousts Decker (who I believe is meant to be the son of Commodore Decker from "Doomsday Machine"), a Captain who is not a bad guy or weak, just someone who happens to be in Kirks way. Kirk is lost on this newly refitted Enterprise (more on that later) and Decker has too continually guide him through the new systems, not maliciously, but he does seem to take a grim satisfaction in correcting Kirks flawed commands.
Kirk recalls McCoy (in a lovely scene in the transporter room with Rand as well, though her cameo kind of throws you as her relationship with Kirk is so different, but it's good to see her back), who isn't happy and isn't sure of Kirks command of the Enterprise.
Spock comes back next, his ritual abandoned by the voice he hears from V'ger, a being of extraordinary scale and power, heading for earth to destroy it. He is cold and logical, nothing like the Spock we knew and loved from the show. Kirk is not happy, neither are his friends, and the whole mission seems in jeopardy.
Then things start to click, as he uses his instincts to get past the first defence of the cloud and Spock starts to tune into V'ger. At this point, when they start to go deeper into the cloud, the film does drag and even in the slightly edited directs cut version, it is still too long. But having said that, the sheer size and scale of V'ger does come across and I think the potential patience breaking scene is worth it.
The rest of the crew don't really have large parts to play. Scotty has a lovely scene with Kirk at the start as they fly round the newly refitted Enterprise. This is also a very long scene, but my God, it still holds up. Out of all the films, this give's the ship character and treats it with the love it deserves. Especially as up to now, all anyone had seen of her was stock footage in TOS. Here we see her from every angle, larger than life. Kirk and Scotty have always shared a special bond to the ship. Scotty looks after her and patches her up whilst Kirk commands her, but she has touched both their hearts.
Chekov, Sulu and Uhura have their standard roles and even Chapel has a nice walk on part. it's disappointing there wasn't more for them to do though. Of course, we have 2 new characters, Will Decker and LLia, who are basically a template for Riker and Troi. I found their relationship arc rather boring and because you know they're never seen again, it's hard to invest.
This film has brought so much to the Star Trek universe; The Klingons are the one's we know and love today, with a different language and of course, the bumpy foreheads. The opening scene with the 3 Klingon cruisers is brilliant as well. The music is also superb and it's no surprise TNG nicked it for their theme tune.
Of course, it is a flawed fim. The first hour works fine for me, but once they enter the cloud it does drag slightly, especially with the LLia robot learning to love. The uniforms are also awful, though thankfully Kirk changes his half way through. The main problem I have is Spock, and to a certain degree the relationship with the Trio. They continue the antagonism between them for far too long, Spock especially as his sudden personality switch after melding with V'ger come's very near the end. Bones is also sidelined after an impressive debut.
I haven't really discussed the end, mainly because the twist is the whole part of the last hour. Once you know it, it's really just a lovely, slightly psychedelic journey you're on. V'ger is of course Voyager 6 , a probe sent years ago into deep space and came back as an all powerful being. This is very similar to "The Changeling", but at least I believe this ship could destroy solar systems. And there's no harm in dipping into your back history.
There has never been another Star Trek film that has has the epic scale, the vast special effects and the patience and indulgence to tell the story it wants to tell. It's probably the closest Star Trek has ever came to Art which is perhaps why it divides people into Love or Hate. Me, I loved it, for this is a flawed masterpiece.
Overall Star Trek Franchise Rating so far: 225/405