[i]Star Trek: The Motion Picture[/i] - Movie Memories 30 Years Later
I can’t believe that its been 30 years since I saw this movie. It was a bitterly cold Saturday night, December 8, 1979. There was a line of 800 or so movie patrons that lined around the block of the KB Langley in Langley Park, MD. It was a midnight show that my older brother and I were attending as the previous shows had sold out prior.
As the previous show’s audience filed out, we could see much chatter, smiles and heavily clothed patrons filing out eager to get to their cars and brave the wintry mix of sleet and freezing rain to get home. As we were about to file in, an individual came out to inform us that the film had broken and we would have to wait before we could get in? Wait before getting in? It’s already in the single digits outside, its freezing raining outside, can’t they still fix the film while we are inside the warmth of the theater? Besides, customers would be spending more money on food and drink waiting for the movie to start.
Years ahead of the instantaneous reach of the internet, video, 24 hours news, all information regarding this much anticipated movie could be obtained only through fanzines such as Starlog, Cinefantastique and the like. Even in elementary school, the ad budget reached the very young with a teaser poster ad in Scholastic Weekly. There was an artist’s rendition of the refurbished Enterprise and at the bottom were glamour photos of the cast with the caption…“the human adventure is just beginning” and “coming this Christmas to a theater near you.”
Having grown up watching the classic series in tv reruns on a 20" Motorola tv console, the series was pretty much known to me and millions of others. Even during that time, the visual effects were pretty decent for its time and credible even up to that point.
The movie is epic. It is huge on the 60 ft widescreen in glorious Metrocolor. The production design is huge, the music and sound track are bombastic, yet intimate when it needs to be in the ambience of a large venue’s Dolby multi-track stereo system. There are no grandstanding acting moments as this is not Lawrence of Arabia or Ben Hur. This is, afterall, Star Trek. It is a journey of man throughout the stars. Yes, the movie can be tedious in parts like in the journey through the interior of Vger but I think those sequences add to its prowess and antagonistic quality. In an instant, the Enterprise could be assimilated by one of those plasma energy flares. Sitting near the front of the theater gave me the true sense of entertainment immersion, as if I was there with the crew and when the new Enterprise makes its first warp jump, the aural and visuals were so powerful and in synch that it literally made me snap back into my theater seat as if I were in a moving vehicle. This was my first sampling of the power of the cinematic experience.
It’s important to make mention of the much unrecognized fact that the character of Spock makes a dramatic transformation in this movie. No, he does not become the opposite of the stoic Vulcan and do a tap dance on the holodeck, but comes to terms with his human side. Remember that he is half human, with feelings from his mother’s terran side and half Vulcan, with its sense of cold unfeeling logic. For the entire run of the series, he has done his best to suppress his human side and to, at times, poke fun at his feeling crewmates for being human. When Spock is in sickbay after mind melding with Vger’s energy probe, he realizes that like himself, it is not enough to be this logical green-blooded intelligent automaton he was in the series. The fact that Vger cannot comprehend warmth of touch is beyond its comprehension. Much like Vger, itself, Spock realizes that the emotional component makes the man. Spock revels in this discovery to the point of laughing at himself. He is now comfortable being what Kirk called him in the tv series a “half-breed.” This scene and Spock’s admission sets up his character’s self-sacrifice actions in Star Trek II whether or not anyone will admit it. Spock has grown along with the rest of us.
With Star Trek: The Motion Picture the Trek movie franchise began and with this year’s success of JJ Abrams reboot, thirty years later, the human adventure truly is just beginning.