Ever since I was a young child, I have heard about "Star Trek." I saw references in movies, TV, music, and the many fans of the franchise that I have encountered. I always wanted to be able to participate in this craze. The only problem was that I could never understand the enthusiasm. I always thought the TV show was boring, and the movies all seemed like a drag. But yesterday, a reader on this site brought up the brilliance of the films, and I was set on giving them a chance. I went to Walmart, and I bought a double feature of "Star Trek I: The Motion Picture" and "Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan." Nighttime came, and I planted myself on the couch to begin the series. As I watched, I started to understand that I was not in the right place of mind when I was younger, because Star Trek was amazing beyond belief. The special effects took me to a different place, the stories were extremely engrossing, and the characters were exceptionally memorable.
"Star Trek I: The Motion Picture"(1979)
"Star Trek I: The Motion Picture" had me nervous as I began. A lot of critics and fans of the series called it a very weak film, and I thought it would be a terrible beginning to my experimentation. I mean how could I expect myself to get through a whole film series if the first installment was trash? To my surprise, I ended up seeing this movie as an underrated and magical experience. Right from the beginning, the beautiful music of my favorite composer Jerry Goldsmith filled my ears, and the visuals took effects to a distinct place that left me in awe. There were colors and waves in the sky, and intricate models of ships that all made me feel like I was floating through space. The film then took us to the inside of the ships, where the viewer encounters the "Klingons." I thought that the costumes and makeup of these creatures were really amazing, and it was a shame that they did not get more screen time. With all of these factors being my first impression, I was instantly hooked.
The plot of this movie was extremely interesting, as it had a suspenseful threat to it, and an uncertainty of a turnaround. An alien force is on a path of destruction, and after taking out three Klingon ships, it begins to make its way to Earth. The USS Enterprise takes it in their own hands to stop this catastrophe, and Admiral James Kirk takes charge to make it a success.
In this first installment, the thing that really blew me away was the special effects. With films like "Star Wars" and "2001: A Space Odyssey" already released, there was a lot of pressure to break new barriers in this field. There were so many times where I felt like I was in a different world while experiencing these tricks. The film industry has so much more access to computer art and such now, but none of that will ever touch this golden era for effects. To think of how much effort it took to make the sets, lights, visuals, etc is something that my mind can't even process. One of the coolest examples in my opinion was a scene where Spock's mind starts racing, and the colors and imagery just went absolutely berserk. This is a moment that has been stuck in my head ever since, because it was utterly brilliant.
I felt that another strong point to this film's greatness was the cast. Everybody was very natural in their roles, especially Leonard Nimoy as Spock. William Shatner did a very good job too, because he had a very passionate way about him, and his performance reminded me of some of the classic sci-fi serials. Another standout for me was Persis Khambatta as Ilia. Khambatta did two completely different styles of acting in the movie, and it could not have been an easy feat at all.
To say I don't understand why many people disliked this film would be a complete lie. One of the main factors of this is the extremely long run-time. At 131 mins, there are many scenes of flying around slowly, and a lot of lengthy dialogue. This didn't bother me personally, because I saw it in a different way. I feel like in times when you are nervous, life either moves very fast or very slow. In this scenario, the suspense of trying to get to this evil force is overbearing, and therefore the days would feel like years. I also felt that while the number of minutes was extensive, it didn't feel painfully dragged out at all. I was actually interested for the majority of the movie, and I could have winded out another half hour. Another reason why this film was disliked by many is the lack of action. I went in knowing this, and I looked for something deeper. In the end, I saw that this movie was really supposed to display emotional intensity instead of being violent. It is almost like a Cold War type of situation, because while there wasn't really any fighting, there was a great threat of danger to always have them worried.
I guess my only criticism is that the writers didn't focus more on the past relationship of Decker and Ilia. There was a great chemistry between the two of them, and after the revelation that she once broke celibacy for him, it felt wrong to only have a mere reference. Then the ending came, and Decker merged with Ilia's robot clone to make a new species. While this was an interesting twist, I felt that it took away from the fact that him and her human form were once in love.
Overall, "Star Trek I: The Motion Picture" was a really special film in my opinion. While it hasn't been the most acclaimed of the series, I was thoroughly entertained, and it made me very excited for the second installment. Luckily, I had this next film right in the palm of my hand, and I began it right away.......
"Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan"
The whole reason why I started watching "Star Trek" to begin with was to witness the alleged improvement between the first film and this one. I was extremely pumped to see what was in store, being I liked the original so much. This movie had everything that I love about science-fiction. Great action, acting, special effects, a story line that takes you through a journey of many emotions, and one of the most evil villains of all time. I completely agree with the statements I mentioned before, because this was a near-perfect masterpiece that beat the original by light-years.
The story of the USS Enterprise continues with a new villain.. Khan is an evil and powerful man that swears to avenge his wife by killing Kirk, and to steal a computer program called Genesis. The crew must protect their friend and technology, but in doing this, they have to fight for their lives at the same time. The thing that I love about the plot is that the story is so much more structured, which makes an unforgettably interesting product.
To make a movie of better quality, the filmmakers payed less attention to the special effects, and more on the acting, writing, and directing. Regardless, the film does not disappoint with its awesome sceneries, great models, and beautifully executed space fights. I think that this great balance showed a lot more maturity in film-making, and it is one of the many reasons why this is a masterpiece.
Another huge improvement in this film was the acting/characters. William Shatner gave a performance that was exhilarating, heartbreaking, and even sometimes funny. He really became the character of James Kirk in this movie, and he deserves high esteem for it alone. Leonard Nimoy really becomes much more likable as Spock in part two of the series. I liked him a lot as the stone-cold science officer of the first film, but he brought a new light of being a selfless and kinder man. Ricardo Montalban gave an Oscar-worthy performance as the main villain Khan. Montalban usually plays very easy-going and kind characters, but he brought a completely different side out for this movie. He was brutal, horrifying, and absolutely ruthless, which made him memorable for the many decades to come. Kirstie Alley also gave a great debut performance as Saavik. She was very natural in her role, and she proved her potential right from the start. Finally, I felt that George Takei improved a lot as an actor for this film. In the original, he was pretty emotionless, and seemed more like a space-filler than anything. In this installment though, you could really see a three-dimensional character in his hands, and I enjoyed him a lot.
Action was really not a big part of "Star Trek I: The Motion Picture," but this changed a lot for "Wrath of Khan." There were space-ship battles, laser fights, abuse of captives, and several deaths. I think this was a great move for the series, because there was a very different story line that called for more violence. For a PG movie, I was actually surprised by some of the bloodshed throughout, because there were some very gruesome shots. So while the battles don't make this sequel superior in quality, they definitely make it more enjoyable.
As a movie-watcher, the greatest thing about this movie was the ending. Spock's sacrifice of his life to save everyone else was absolutely heartbreaking, yet beautiful at the same time. The funeral scene is a tough one to watch, because there is so much authenticity in the emotions. Shatner's speech sounds straight from the heart, and to watch him choke up on his words makes any viewer with a soul tear up. These scenes did not come across as cheesy at all, making it cinema at its greatest.
"Wrath of Khan" is the "Godfather Part II" of science-fiction. It took an already great premise, and made it even better. It has been a long time since I have seen a film so perfect in the genre. It has me motivated to continue through the many installments of this saga.