This movie is perfectly acceptable to watch. Although don't you have better things to do?
How do you review a movie when you are a fan of the franchise? It's cheating. I am already in a place where I like the movie because it is part of a larger concept that I enjoy. But I'm also picky because all I can do is compare it to the rest of the franchise. In celebration of Star Trek's 50th Anniversary, I decided to give this one a whirl.
A note of disclosure: I Live Tweeted this movie. I'm sure the fine people in charge of Star Trek's Twitter account were very patient with me letting loose with every thought that crossed my mind out of context. It was probably an odd choice to Live Tweet this one considering that the motion picture is considered to be one of the weaker entries in the franchise. But there is something about the 50th that screamed I should watch the first movie. (I could have Live Tweeted an episode, but I teach a film class. Two birds, one stone.)
There is an odd message to this movie. Portraying Captain Kirk, a pop culture talking point as a horrible jerk was a choice. I don't know what that choice was. Growing up, I always saw Decker as an adversarial character. In my mind, Decker had taken the Enterprise from the now Admiral Kirk. He is the man standing in the way of a perfect combination. Kirk's antagonism always was justified because I was watching from the point of view of a Star Trek fan. But Kirk is clearly in the wrong. He was written to be a bit of a jerk. It is the B line of the story. With a bit of distance, I saw the movie in the way it was supposed to be seen, with Kirk as a horrible person. But I don't know why the choice was made. He makes no real growth in this story. In fact, everything works out for him with this attitude. He gets the Enterprise back. In fact, the only time we get a character resembling the happy-go-lucky Kirk of the Original Series was after Decker could no longer get in his way. There is something truly psychotic about Kirk's closing words knowing the tragedy he experiences over the past day.
Cinematically, this movie feels like a bit of a crime. Between the extended establishing shots of either the Enterprise or the mysterious V'ger, the film is pretty threadbare. What is left is a direct knockoff of the visuals and plot points of 2001: A Space Odyssey. The two parts of me are at odds. At one end, I want to defend possibly the most gorgeous Star Trek movie in the franchise. I also want to destroy this film for stealing from Stanley Kubrick. At the end of the day, it is a cheap shot.
At the end of the day, this movie isn't great. This movie at many times isn't good. But I think I'll always like it. In many ways, it is a Star Trek film that I'll subconsciously like more than Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. I've seen Wrath of Khan too many times. Also, in many ways, The Wrath of Khan doesn't really hold to the mission statement of Star Trek. There is nothing really intellectually challenging about part II. The Motion Picture does feel like Roddenberry in the long run. It might be one of those issues that come with giving a creator too much freedom. The movie definitely feels like an extension of Roddenberry's philosophy, but with a budget that never told him to stop. I've read William Shatner's autobiography and read his thoughts on the behind the scenes of this movie. It was turbulent and apparently budgeted tightly, but this is astronomically more money than any of the episodes got.
I do love this movie, but I don't ask anyone else to jump on board. It is deeply flawed, but it is something special in spite of those flaws.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.