Star Trek: The Motion Picture is one of those imperfect films. No matter how many versions, there’s no way to fix one thing without breaking another–or it might just be broken all together. For example, I don’t know if I’d ever realized how focused director Wise is–during the first hour–on William Shatner’s slightly dangerous desire to get back on the Enterprise.
While it continues to pop up occasionally throughout, it eventually goes away. Wise and screenwriter Harold Livingston apparently just couldn’t figure out how to make Shatner sensibly irrational in his actions. So, instead of Shatner’s obsession angle, the picture becomes a muted romance between Stephen Collins and Persis Khambatta. It had room for both things–poor Leonard Nimoy isn’t so lucky. His subplot gets jettisoned particularly forcefully in Wise’s director’s cut.
The film still has a lot going for it. The acting from Shatner is outstanding (the way he sells looking at the Enterprise is peerless), DeForest Kelley is great, James Doohan doesn’t have enough to do but he does it wonderfully.
Wise takes a long, long time with the film. Douglas Trumbull’s special effects work is awesome and the film might feature Jerry Goldsmith’s finest score. The long special effects sequences, set to Goldsmith’s music, are transfixing. Not sure what else they’re meant to accomplish but it’s enough.
Wise has a number of good shots, but he’s better with actors than the action.
Even with a heavy front, Motion Picture needs a much longer finish.