Review by Logan
My journey as a trekkie began later in life. I didn’t grow up on it, because no one else in my family was a sci-fi geek. It took a while for me to get my hands on it, but when I started watching The Original Series, I decided I had to go back and watch the movies. Then, my friends, I made a critical newbie mistake.
I watched Star Trek: The Motion Picture first.
The first Star Trek film takes place as a loose sequel to The Original Series. An immensely powerful alien force is approaching Earth, wiping out everything in its path. In an act of desperation, Admiral Kirk reassumes command of the U.S.S. Enterprise, charged with, well, saving the world.
It all sounds great. The original cast, the original ship, higher stakes, a p0werful alien force, everything should work. Except it doesn’t. Instead of feeling like a high-stakes film, the movie trudges along at a slow pace, feeling like a regular Original Series episode stretched out to its 2-hour run-time, but without enough plot to actually justify that.
That’s not to say it doesn’t have some interesting things to it, however. Newcomers Decker and Ilia do add a lot to the show, particularly the former’s clashes with Kirk. Ilia’s part in the story becomes more interesting and nuanced as the film progresses, and the ultimate reveal of what this mysterious alien force actually is does intrigue me quite a bit. But with all of that said, I’m still left saying that it’s a story that would have made a good episode on Star Trek: The Original Series, but is just not enough material for a full-length film.
But then that brings me to the material itself. Because were it not for how slow the film is, I would have thoroughly enjoyed it. If it were a regular length episode of The Original Series, it might have become one of my favorites. Why is that?
The thing that makes Star Trek as a saga so great is that it uses fantastical science fiction stories to illuminate certain truths about humanity and the human experience. Allusions to that can be found all over the saga’s shows and films, and the same thing happens here. It’s interesting and it’s compelling because it asks one of the most important questions that can be asked. And, as per usual, it happens in a conversation between Kirk and Spock. Spock, speaking of the alien force says: “It knows only that it needs, Commander. But, like so many of us… it does not know what.”
This is a theme that’s employed in many of Star Trek’s early stories. It brings to light the question of direction: how do we know what we want, what we need, and where to go? This is exactly the sort of thing that can work as a great springboard for questions about spirituality and worldview. Does your worldview have the answer to these questions? Or at the very least an answer to why every generation asks these questions?
For what substance there is to this film, it’s thought-provoking and interesting. But yet again, I must take a step back and look at the film in its entirety, and consider creative and artistic value as well as thematic concepts and worldview. In that perspective, I cannot say it’s a good film. I cannot say it’s a bad film, either. It is and will remain a highly flawed film that can be enjoyed by avid Star Trek fans, especially those who insist on watching all of the films in order.