Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979)

To think this this film came out when I was just one year old, just like Star Wars which came out a year before I was born, makes me God Jim...I'm old!

I've never been a huge Star Trek fan and never will be in all honesty. I did always enjoy the films with the original classic crew but never got into any of the TV series, especially the new stuff. I always preferred the Star Wars franchise for many reasons but mainly because it always looked so superior in virtually every department. This first Trek movie really does show the difference between the two franchises which both appeared in the same era, not taking anything away from Star Trek but it always did look more fake and plastic looking.

The effects in this first movie are a mixed bag really. The sequences towards the finale inside V'Ger don't look too bad (nice 2001-esque fantasy lighting effects), various spaceship shots look nice throughout and the costumes although drab don't age too badly. For the most part this film has aged badly if we're brutally honest about it, I don't wanna keep comparing it to Star Wars but there is a clear difference in quality which still stands to this day.

What I did always like about Trek was the way it tries to be realistic or at least approach things in a realistic fashion. I'm Not sure if they are merely homaging or copying '2001' but you can clearly see the influences in one sequence as we are treated to a grandiose panorama of the Enterprise as she sits in her docking bay accompanied by a stirring Trek instrumental score. This epic approach is a far cry from the flashbang blaster fire and roaring starcruisers of a certain George Lucas affair. Star Trek is definitely aiming at the grown-ups here, the real sci-fi enthusiasts who name Kubrick's space opus as their holy bible...which Wise clearly did too.

I do like the way Wise gave the film a slow pace. Lots of character and background building alongside plenty of mission dialog and technical problems that might occur in reality for such a scenario. Its all classic Star Trek as you would remember from the original series but on a sexier scale with props that actually do look kinda real. In fact there's even more politically correct...goody directive...Federation type babble than you can wave a stick at, and Shatner loves his speeches.

The film was criticised for this slow unadventurous style but personally I like it, its one of the more realistic Trek movies offering exactly what you got with the original TV series...but prettier. I still to this day don't really understand why some folk (even Trek fans) don't like it. The main aspect of this film I like is the plot, yes the plot. Seems straight forward enough as the team are sent to intercept a mysterious alien phenomena heading towards earth, but I liked how the plot has its intriguing twist at the end. Again just like the classic show you get the danger and mystery with a cute little twist to keep you on your toes. Its not groundbreaking but it just makes you think a little, right up to the very end you're unsure what the hell will happen. How Kirk will save the day and what's the deal behind the alien cloud thing, that's good story telling right there methinks.

The continuity from the TV show to the big screen was handled well I thought although I'm no Trek expert. You have all the crew doing what they are best at of course, some new crews members (redshirt fodder perhaps?), plenty of well known typical Trek visuals and sounds, the crew handle most of the action from the ships bridge via the good old big screen on the wall and the Enterprise looks slick with a bit of spit n polish to tart it up for the big screen.

Sure its not an in your face phaser fest with hand to hand fights against large lizard men but I for one thought the serious route was a good way to go. The film is more of an exploration adventure, it takes its time, slowly builds up, lots of space don't know what their on about half the time but it just sounds good...I use my realism card again. It feels like a point n click strategic adventure game for your PC...I guess?

One of the oddest things when you think about it was the fact Wise directed this. You tend to remember Robert Wise for the Hollywood epics 'The Sound of Music' and 'West Side Story' which are two of the greatest musicals ever made probably. So its kinda funny to think he directed the first Star Trek movie, then again he did direct 'The Andromeda Strain' and 'The Day the Earth Stood Still' so he did have some good sci-fi experience.

Overall the special effects look fuzzy in places, lots of beige colour schemes going on with the ship and crew, plenty of nasty bluescreen evident I'm afraid...but its still very enjoyable sci-fi. Star Trek has its own little niche of being semi-serious and approaching everything logically but still utilising just enough fantasy to make it a charming pleasant ride.