Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979) - Runtime: 132 minutes
Starring: William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley
Director: Robert Wise
The first movie based on the TV show is generally considered okay by most fans and pretty much everyone else. I would have to agree - there's nothing entirely wrong with the movie, but the sum of its parts didn't quite add up to a good movie.
The story involves Kirk coming out of "retirement" and taking command of the Enterprise again so they can stop a mysterious alien menace that seems intent on destroying anything in its path, including Earth. This is pretty standard fare for science fiction and the story itself I found intriguing. In fact, the reveal at the end of the movie was satisfying, it's just that it takes so damn long to get there. In between the opening scene of a bunch of Klingon starships getting wiped out by this huge monstrosity of a thing, it takes a full two hours before anything significant happens.
Normally I'm fine with slow movies and slow build-ups, but Star Trek takes the cake this time. There's at least a good 10 or 15 minutes of what I call "Enterprise Porn." Wherein the movie takes these long pans around the actual spaceship with the same great-but-gets-annoying-after-10-minutes Star Trek theme playing in the background. No dialogue, no action, just long and lovingly angled shots of the Enterprise. It's completely unnecessary and I was hoping to see the movie pick up the pace after they choose to intercept this alien menace. But nope, more boring scenes of officer in-fighting and some other nonsense that I can't remember now.
The bright side of the movie is it's ideas and themes. I really loved where the movie was going and how it ended - there's a lot of philosophical ideas floating about in this movie. Unfortunately those heavy ideas are weighed down even more by the pacing and just seemingly poorly written characters. Which brings me to my last point: it seems to me you really can't enjoy this movie unless you've watched the original series. Kirk and Spock have been battle-tested and have been through some heavy shit together and the movie seems to imply all these adventures. But without prior knowledge, I really didn't get references or the looks the crew gave each other. Which made me sad, but I really don't feel like watching a 50 year-old television show which may or may not be the greatest thing ever.
In the end, the movie was dull and boring, brought only to life once in a while by its themes. You most definitely can skip this one if you're trying to watch all of the Star Trek movies.
Rating: Not Worth Paying For!
Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
Starring: William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, Ricardo Montalban
Director: Nicholas Meyer
What's considered the magnum opus of all Star Trek movies, The Wrath of Khan is considered a classic and if anyone wants to get into this franchise, this is where you start! True, I should have started here, but I'm a completionist and I cannot help but watch things chronologically. I'm much like a Vulcan in that regards. And the movie is pretty good - I don't think if I watched this movie any earlier that it would have converted me into a Trekkie, but I'm still interested in seeing the next part of the trilogy.
The story is centered around Khan (duh-doy), a genetically-altered human from the 20th century (SIDE TRACK: And this is where I don't get Star Trek. They mess with time too much! Khan is from 1996. And back then, they had spaceships and genetically altered human mercenaries! I know the original show was made in the sixties, so it's easy to assume that crazy ass spaceflight and genetics could have reached that level of sophistication, but this movie was made in 1982 and it seems to me that they could have bumped up everything timewise. Even the new movies are this way and I just don't like it. At all. But that's my brain - I would have just started the main series set in 2400 or something silly and only backtrack to maybe the near future, like 2075 or something. That way you don't look stupid when you talk about space travel happening in the 90s. END OF SIDE TRACK)
Anyhoo, Khan is a bad guy and wants revenge on Kirk for abandoning him and his crew out in the middle of nowhere. He's definitely and big whiny pants. But evil, nonetheless. And he sabotages a civilian project meant to terraform planets to make them habitable. Shit gets out of hand and it's up to Kirk and the Enterprise crew to take care of business.
This was a fun movie - you find out Kirk is a father and Spock goes through some shit that I wish on no Vulcan. Montalban is excellent as the mullet-infested Khan and is probably the best thing about this movie. Some of the stuff is so outrageously over the top you can't help but smile. The acting in particular is just cheesy enough that it seems to be acknowledging its own flaws.
But there's a lot of heart to this movie and once again, I really enjoyed the themes and plot of this movie even more than the previous one. It's just an all-around good science fiction piece and you finally start to care about these characters. And the Enterprise Porn does not last as long this time around!
Rating: Rent It!