I must have been around ten when I first saw Star Trek: The Motion Picture. I had watched pretty much all the episodes. At that time, of course, there was no other series (other than the animated ones-ick), no other series. This would, in Bond-like manner, lead to nearly a dozen other Star Trek films, and finally one more that is scheduled to break the usual creative control (which lead to pedestrian TNG films).
I recall this being a rather spooky film, a bit scary. Now I realize that much of that was inexperience watching films. The more you get scared, the harder it is to get scared.
This was Star Trek as inspired by 2001. Of course, some fans point to the episode The Changeling about a robot that is to destroy imperfections, which is a small-scale version of what the film is about. (The joke goes that the film is called "Where Nomad Has Gone Before", playing on the name of the robot, Nomad, and the famous Star Trek phrase "Where No Man Has Gone Before").
As much as it tries to deal with heady plots and themes of God and what the meaning of life is, it is still, at its heart, derived from a television series, and as ardent as its fans were and are, you can't be too experimental, too way out there as Kubrick was in 2001. Indeed, Kubrick was perfectly happy having drones as characters, where the strong character is HAL, and by a long shot.
ST:TMP (as the original is known) has both too much exposition (Spock has to explain everything) mixed with long stretches of nothing. The opening of the film is a starfield with music lasting some five minutes. The entrance to the Enterprise in dry dock goes on about ten minutes. The Enterprise maneuvering into V'ger's interior is one special effect shot after another, with the crew mostly looking agape at what they're seeing, and that last minutes too. Perhaps half an hour of the film has no dialog.
Despite that, these long sequences are pretty brave for a film that decided to put all its special effects on the screen.
There's also a lot of funny things you notice. For example, there's a ton of wardrobe changes. Kirk easily wears half a dozen outfits, as does Spock and McCoy. Dekker alternates between wearing a one-piece gray uniform to a two-piece uniform. And, man, does everyone look spectacularly young.
The film is more of a visual feast for the eyes, than something that is particularly awe-inspiring. There's the final scene where Dekker unites with V'ger. I suppose I should give it credit that it almost makes sense (but not quite), especially with his desire to unite with Ilia.
There are a few things that don't hold up so well. One is the big distinction the film makes between machines and people. Indeed, there's a ton of "mechanism" bias. Dekker, who is about to have feelings for the Ilia probe, is informed she's just a mechanism. The crew is amazed V'ger has achieved consciousness, even if plenty of idiot humans have achieved it just fine, thank you.
Surprisingly, I thought Ilia had a lot more lines. She barely has any before she becomes a probe.
There's a particularly silly scene where Spock decides to journey into the interior, and somehow, in random wandering runs into, well, another Ilia probe? That looks like a mannequin. And then he's tossed back to the Enterprise, where Kirk is in a spacesuit outside the ship, what, hoping Spock comes back?
There are some gaps in logic. McCoy who's been out of Starfleet for a while knows the name of an ensign (to be fair, one would imagine, in the future, there would be something that would automatically tell you the names of other people as you meet them). Nurse (sorry, Doctor) Chapel seems to know Ilia, even though she's only been aboard barely a day.
The Enterprise alternately can and can't communicate with Starfleet when inside the cloud. It flits this way and that way, as the whim of whatever the plot requires.
There's a ton of tiny missteps (the oddly blurred scene when Spock first comes aboard, where half the background is blurred out, to odd effect, where one of the bridge officers has his arms crossed doing nothing in particular, except giving the background some interest).
It's decent, but not quite as awesome as I recall.
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