Director: Robert Wise
Cast: William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, James Doohan
Have I Seen it Before: There’s something about this movie that makes it feel like I’ve never quite seen it all the way through. Like they are still making the movie as I’m watching it.
Did I Like it: Now, that above thought could be taken as a dig about its interminable runtime. It’s only just over two hours, but it feels like 40 years passes from the prelude to the final warp effect.
But it’s worse than that. The film’s plodding pace is a matter of accepted film and Trek canon. Given the rampant, directionless egos (mostly in the form of Gene Roddenberry) that tried to come together to make the film, it’s a minor miracle that any moment in the film works, even if the whole isn’t quite the sum of its parts. The movie spends a befuddling amount of time featuring characters looking out windows or at viewscreens, but the expression on the face of Kirk (Shatner) as he sees the newly re-fit Enterprise for the first time is one of the best performances the actor has ever given.
Other movies—and even movies in the science fiction genre—have a similarly deliberate pace. Blade Runner (1982). 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968). When I finally got a chance to see 2001 on the largest screen possible, the film transformed before my eyes. While most of Star Trek was meant for the smaller screen, maybe when I finally saw this first film in the way it was meant to be seen, it would improve.
Sadly, it does not. I’m struck by and expanding realization that Kubrick truly knew what he was doing, as even on the big screen, this film can't embrace the majesty of its more traditional special effects, or the weirdness of its more oblique imagery. The star gate via the monolith is a panic inducing experience, whereas the V’Ger is cheap and predictable. The Discovery seems like a real spaceship, whereas there are shots (and there are many, loving shots) of the Enterprise where the distant edges of the ship blink in and out existence.
How a film could be edited this poorly under the auspices of Wise, one of the greatest editors in the history of the moving picture is beyond me.
Maybe the voyages of the various crews of the Enterprise are better left to the small screen.
Maybe the odd-numbered films aren’t very good.