Star Trek: The Motion Picture Stars William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy and is Directed by Robert Wise
Review: Director Robert Wise keeps the story small in Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979) in order to accentuate the crescendos throughout. William Shatner and Stephen Collins give strongman performances as Admiral Kirk and Captain Decker, respectively, and Leonard Nimoy gives the equally quirky and lanky one as Spock.
I’m diving headfirst into the Star Trek movies – a deep franchise with lore that I know absolutely *zilch* about going in. Growing up, I felt this sense to choose sides, picking Star Wars over the aforementioned and refusing to ever give these other movies a chance by way of brand loyalty. And I’m sure you’re probably thinking that’s the worst excuse you’ve ever heard to avoid watching a beloved set of movies, but that’s just how my mind operated, and in a way, I’m kind of glad I waited to check these out until I was an adult.
Now of course growing older and having different perspectives on the Star Trek franchise (particularly the original two run of films that came out before I was born in 2000) as I age probably would’ve added layers to these films, but for at least the first movie – Star Trek: The Motion Picture in 1979 – I’m okay living with the fact that I waited because it’s such a methodical, insecure chamber piece worrying about the horizon beyond.
Adjusting to Star Trek fresh off the high of seeing Star Wars for the first time in the late 1970s would’ve been too much of a stretch for me. A New Hope is expansive, traveling to different ecosystems and meeting an assortment of slimy creatures that help build out the abundance of open space and bustling sets. There’s an obvious sense of wonder with the first few Star Wars movies, which certainly grabbed me as a kid and roped me into spending hundreds of dollars on toys and video games.
Reviews for Movies like Star Trek (1979)
I can’t speak for my younger self, but I’d imagine Star Trek: The Motion Picture wouldn’t have done that. It’s shockingly insular and small-scale, and with boiling tension and themes much too heady to fully understand until you grow into your teens. In terms of content and density, I would liken The Motion Picture to Close Encounters of the Third Kind or 2001: A Space Odyssey – movies that use practical effects and theatrics to hold you to the bitter end when it realizes it better start wrapping things up.
And the conclusion foretells a waning sense of time and anxiety, not too unlike the same anxieties we have in modern day about artificial intelligence. Eventually everyone (and everything) gets replaced by something new. You get pushed out by powers stronger and more capable than you. And perhaps that’s the same case for the effects in this movie, but much like those exact same visual effects, you stamp your time in history and leave your mark.
Director Robert Wise keeps the story small in order to accentuate the crescendos throughout. William Shatner and Stephen Collins give strongman performances as Admiral Kirk and Captain Decker, respectively, and Leonard Nimoy gives the obviously quirky and lanky one as Spock. There interactions and confrontations are enough to hold you over until the ridiculous reveal, which is knowingly hilarious both then and now.
I’d imagine these movies get more outlandish and closer to codified science fiction canon as the franchise moves on, but a slower first outing allows you to get your bearings. It’s not Star Wars, and the presentation of “one or the other” that I felt I grew up understanding as such feels irrelevant now. I’m excited to move through these movies to see how they expand on the building blocks in the first Star Trek, which I contest is a solid film.
Watch Star Trek: The Motion Picture on Max and VOD
Star Trek: The Motion Picture Cast and Credits
William Shatner as Admiral James T. Kirk
Leonard Nimoy as Mr. Spock
Stephen Collins as Captain William Decker
DeForest Kelley as Dr. Leonard McCoy
James Doohan as Montgomery Scott
George Takei as Lt. Commander Hikaru Sulu
Walter Koenig as Commander Chekov
Nichelle Nichols as Commander Uhura
Director: Robert Wise
Cinematography: Richard H. Kline
Editor: Todd C. Ramsay
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