Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979 USA)

star trekThe film follows a familiar, if unspectacular, singular line framework – regular battles must be conquered along the way to ending where they do. The individual misunderstandings crew members have with each other need to be resolved, but it is remarkable how by the time the final act arrives, the story is willing to abstain from conventional conclusion.

We begin with the focusing on what will come to form as the film’s primary source for plight: a huge energy cloud thousands of miles away from an Earth, whose own measurements of time has seen it reach the 23rd century. We observe some spaceships passing by, our eye unsure on what to focus on as lingering shots of the crafts and the distinct turrets that stick up out of them capture our gaze more than anything. A cut inside reveals some ugly looking creatures using an alien language and distinct technology, technology they use to attack the large purple energy cloud before it itself wipes them out with relative ease.

The desired effect of lingering on space ships we have never before encountered, and therefore require time so as to become familiarized with them, to revealing the ugly creatures and concluding the process by having those creatures killed off, is an effective procedure establishing the hierarchy within this new world and immediately implements this glowing energy cloud at the centre of all the film’s tension and wonder. Director Robert Wise has effectively blended a slow-burning approach to telling a space adventure with an overall narrative framework of race-against-time.

The cloud is heading for Earth; it’s unstoppable; nobody knows what it is or what it wants and thus far, has only reacted aggressively to what it’s encountered. Luckily for Earth based space program organization Starfleet, the one ship nearby and able to head on out to intercept and investigate is the famed U.S.S. Enterprise – harboured at its sunny, welcoming, radiant and busy-bodied San Fransisco headquarters. Far away from the large, open, gloomy locales of the previous sequences. Said ship is, of course, headed up by its chief: a certain Admiral James Kirk, (William Shatner) somebody whom storms in unopposed and assumes control from acting captain Willard Decker, (Collins) creating much friction between the two.

The film also makes decent use of a back-burning item in the form of The Enterprise’s overall physical state, its potential to malfunction ominous when we recall what the energy cloud is capable of to fully functioning ships; the death of two people trying to use the transporter beams rather-a stark forcing home of this. The crew will form the nucleus of the ship’s diverse operators, successfully getting across a sense of the whole thing being a multicultural effort. Also along for the ride is Indian actress Persis Khambatta’s alien life-form named Ilia, who’s given a Lieutenant rank and shares a romantic history with the demoted Decker.

Wise shoots what feels like all corners of the ship, from all possible angles and compositions, as people stand around it on apparatus seeing to it: a literal repair job for what’s happening within the film, a metaphorical preparation/revealing job as the final touches are made and the big reveal is made. The film is a surprisingly remarkable piece of drama, with Wise wedging great peril out of the simplest of ideas such as being on collision course with a small but devastatingly effective asteroid. There are also some uncanny happenings during other encounters which are helped along by the special effects that greatly enhance the ominous predicaments. The film is engaging and solidin equal measure to work as both decent escapism and as smart, brooding science fiction drama.

But for those who hate it because of its slow pace this is the motion picture that still goes slowly where no one wants to go.

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