Saturday, June 13, 2009

The Retrospective That Was Never On Time, Part 1

I'm gonna do it! I'm gonna watch every single Star Trek movie and report back here! As a non-fan, my insights shall be refreshing, eye-opening and perhaps more than a little erotic. Like Trekkies themselves, pretty much! This first installment's going to be a bit all over the place, as I've watched the first three on end and I got progressively drunker as the evening went on. The retrospective will probably be quite erratic, as it is my friend Rutger (many thanks for the above Photoshop!) who owns the films on Blu-Ray and I don't really care enough to spend any money or bandwidth on these masterpieces. But let us dive into that wonderful world of Starfleets and Klingons and monster dogs and angry latino gentlemen!

Star Trek: The Motion Picture

I had seen this one already years and years ago, but I remembered precious little of it. What I did know, was that fans often disparagingly called it "The Motionless Picture". I can see why. Robert Wise (The Haunting, The Day The Earth Stood Still -- a real director, not some studio hack!) wants AWE to be the keyword in this movie. And, to be honest, he succeeds. The first time we see the Enterprise in its dock, it's glorious. For a moment, you understand how much Kirk loves her. Even Shatner's underplaying this scene. And it works. For half a minute. Then it goes on for five more. And there you have it. That’s pretty much the movie’s problem. It’s got some damn impressive vistas, it just forgets to populate them.

Original series creator Gene Roddenberry was heavily involved in this film, and his vision of the future that Star Trek was to embody was supposed to be an extremely utopian one, with everyone being politically correct and non-violent and faggy at all times. In fact, so opposed to action and adventure was this man, that in the foreword of the novelization of this film he declared the entire original series non-canon. I invite you to read this fragment, as narrated by Kirk himself.

"Eventually, I found that I had been fictionalized into some sort of “modern Ulysses” and it has been painful to see my command decisions of those years so widely applauded, whereas the plain facts are that ninety-four of our crew met violent deaths during those years-and many of them would still be alive if I had acted either more quickly or more wisely. Nor have I been as foolishly courageous as depicted. I have never happily invited injury; I have disliked in the extreme every duty circumstance which has required me to risk my life. But there appears to be something in the nature of depicters of popular events which leads them into the habit of exaggeration. As a result, I became determined that if I ever again found myself involved in an affair attracting public attention, I would insist that some way be found to tell the story more accurately."

WHO THE FUCK IS HAVING FUN IN HERE? These star treks are serious business, sir! Then again, if you’re reading the novelization of a Star Trek movie, star treks probably are serious business to you. I’d say more power to you, but shit, people who read novelizations need as little power as possible.

Aaaanyways, Galactus is coming. Okay, so it’s not Galactus, but it’s a big fucking space cloud and it just zapped a Klingon ship. Starfleet decides they need Kirk and his Enterprise crew up in this bitch. Tearful reunions abound, except for Spock, who’s been chillin’ on his home planet of Vulcan the last few years generally being a space hobo. The Enterprise itself has been under the command of captain Decker, a man played by the dad from 7th Heaven, the show where Jessica Biel got her start. Three sequels later, 7th Heaven’s mom would appear in The Voyage Home. If that’s not the universe telling J.J. Abrams to put Jessica herself in his own sequel, I don’t know what is.

This was the first time I’d actually ever seen Shatner do Shatner. It’s pretty fantastic. I mean, you hear all the jokes, you see the impersonations, but nothing beats the real thing. During an ill-advised hyperspace jump, the ship is dodging asteroids. At one point, there’s an asteroid coming right their way, and Spock’s the only one who can do something about it (for some reason). Spock’s gone catatonic, though (for some reason). Kirk is not happy!

“Spock! … Spock! … Spock! … Spock! … Spock!”

He must say “Spock” about eight times in exactly the same tone of voice. Nowadays, perhaps only Nicolas Cage could pull off such a feat of thespianism.

In the meantime, space cloud probes the ship and commandeers bald hottie commander Ilea to serve as his herald. No surfboard, so she got pretty ripped off. The rest of the movie is spent trying to convince V’ger (as is the cloud’s name) and its herald that he Enterprise should not be destroyed, while simultaneously trying to get at the heart of this nimbus weirdus to see what exactly makes it tick. Not exactly the most dynamic fare, I’m sure you’ll agree.

Still, you have to admire the balls in making a huge and expensive space movie using well-known characters the year after Star Wars was released and not make it this big action spectacle.

NEXT UP: The Wrath of Khan!


  1. How long did it take you to photoshop your own ugly mug on that? (retorical question)