Film · Review

Girl on: Robert Wise’s ‘Star Trek: The Motion Picture’

It feels weird that they should make this a submarine movie, but thinking about it, it’s the only way to make this work. The filmmakers know not to waste too much time on the characters who’ve had a whole television program’s time for us to learn about, the opportunity to see Star Trek on the big screen for the first time shouldn’t be about faces, it should be about sets and models.

So the film takes its time, luxuriates in the pleasure of depicting these things, the first five minute fly-around of the Enterprise first teasingly concealed behind scaffolding as we move closer and closer, see the lights come on, marvel at the scope of the thing. It’s all about control panels and levers, high stakes decisions and being a person in the room when they’re made.

The whole thing is set up to avoid any sense of physical immediacy. It’s people watching images on screens and reacting to them. It’s the opposite of traditional filmmaking, instead of personal conflict made physical, physical conflict must be processed through the psyches of the people on deck.

Yet, when threat strikes, they all find it easier to retreat back into their roles, their enemy regards them as invasive carbon lifeforms aboard the ship — and they act so fully as its functionaries it is hard to disagree. Persis Khambatta and Stephen Collins star as two new characters, who seem to be there to inspire the rest of the crew to the values of humanity and love, but they’re placed so at odds with the original cast it you almost want it not to happen out of spite.

The villain’s an amorphous space cloud and it’s got more feeling than these fools, you get to the end and the reveal is so cute, it’s adorable.

For the most part unfathomable though, it’s a much better machine than a movie. The most visceral deaths happen in the dock when a teleporter malfunctions, there’s a whole five minutes dedicated to it. I don’t think anyone learns anything, or grows, or becomes a better person. Yet there’s still something strangely hypnotic about watching the dedication to completing this task.

The cast of Star Trek: The Motion Picture

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