In '79 we didn't mind seeing how all our favourite characters were brought back together. Roddenberry and Wise chose to show the idea that time had passed since the end of the Enterprise's five-year mission and that our heroes had drifted apart and were no longer in sync with each other. Hence we had to see them reunited and rediscovering their place with one another.
I am reminded that another successful movie from around the same time, The Blues Brothers
, spent considerable time "reassembling" characters from a story that nobody knew.
There seems to be something about the dynamics of that kind of situation that interests people.
Unfortunately just as everyone is beginning to gel again there's nothing of character substance to replace it. Sadly they had an inkling of an idea, but they chose not to explore it: Decker's friction with Kirk. It really comes down to Decker acquiescing to Kirk too easily. The best example I can give of how this could have played out is a 1950's war film called Run Silent, Run Deep. In RSRD Burt Lancaster is a young up-and-coming commander recently granted command of his own submarine. Everything is turned on its head when an older officer (played by Clark Gable) is given command for an important mission and displacing Lancaster. The tangible tension amongst the crew as well as friction and resentment between Lancaster and Gable is exactly the sort of thing that could have worked for ST-TMP.
Good point. While I agree an internal conflict would have been good for drama, it would be a lot harder to pull off in TMP. In RSRD Lancaster is introduced as basically the good guy and underdog and the audience has a lot to identify with in him. Gable is introduced as also a good guy but maybe a little off-balance after having his last boat sunk from under him, and the audience doesn't really know whether his obsessive focus on one mission will pay off, or if he'll go too far and Lancaster will have to bail him out.
Not much chance of that in TMP. Decker basically has the status of a "guest star" to the audience and they're never going to sympathize with him against Kirk, nor really question who'll be right in the end. Even internally, anyone who's anyone in the crew lines up behind Kirk without question; only one whining nobody ensign voices any objection. Unlike RSRD, where the new captain starts with no support from anyone except for his own yeoman whom he brought with him, and Lancaster who is too professional to not back up his CO. A few more dissenting crewmembers may have raised the tension a little, but really Decker's position was a non-starter.
If anyone is interested and has the MGM HD movie channel, Run Silent Run Deep
will be shown on June 10, 10 pm Eastern.
ST-TMP struggles with another issue of context. In the '70s and '80s we were getting a variety of SF films. Today there is an expectancy to be something of a roller coaster adventure that overloads the senses and not much time spent on any exposition or introspection. ST-TMP chose not to emulate Star Wars released two years earlier. Whereas SW was a rollicking adventure TMP aimed for something different. I don't think it's too cerebral, but it certainly seems so compared to something like SW. Roddenberry and Wise appear intent to aim for something other than another a shoot-em-up adventure and I don't think they were consciously trying to emulate 2001: A Space Odyssey.
Yes, that context is so important. Expectations of SF films were a lot different then. Star Wars
, of course, broke the mold. But a lot of people saw that as a victory for the genre
, not the formula
. TMP was a big spectacle with mind-blowing effects, like 2001
, and 2001
had been very successful. Also, I don't think there were a lot of good action-SF scripts around yet that were not shameless ripoffs of SW. The direction that GR and Wise took was not a clear dead-end then, as some people now seem to think.
Back to TMP, the biggest problem for me was always that there are character arcs and potential character arcs, but, Spock's aside, none of them amount to anything.
I like TMP but definitely have to agree. The framework is there for some really nice character growth, but the audience really has to fill most of the blanks on their own. I give them credit for at least setting it up, which is more than I can say for some of the other films.
But the real thing that’s bugging my ass this early in the film is the idea of the Enterprise as a training vessel. Putting clues together from within the film the refit E isn’t more than about ten years old since its refitting in TMP.
I don't read too much into that. Historically, serving warships have been used for peacetime training cruises of cadets/midshipmen. In the 1920s and '30s a number of US battleships assigned to the East Coast were used that way. Not exactly the newest front-line units, but certainly combat-worthy and part of wartime plans.
At this point what strikes me is that we seem to be seeing a version of Star Trek as filtered through someone’s eyes perhaps not familiar with what had come before and they’re convinced Star Trek has to be something else to be accepted. Hello??? We’re here because Star Trek was successful being what it is and not something else. This is akin to Tim Burton making a couple of movies that are unmistakably his but they also just happen to have Batman in them. This is someone’s idea of a seafaring adventure dressed as sci-fi that just happens to have Kirk, Spock and the Enterprise in it.
Yes. Despite being a huge success, TMP as a production had run out of control and the studio felt it had dodged a Heaven's Gate
-type bullet. GR et al wouldn't be trusted with something that big again. The new team were experienced pros, plugged the existing characters into a clean-slate movie and delivered a fine, marketable and ultimately successful product. It was basically a re-set button situation, though. Why is Kirk fretting about wasting away behind a desk again? Didn't he work all that out in the last movie?
As a standalone film TWOK is pretty strong. As part of something that even then had considerable history behind it, not so much. But that is my devoted-fan-from-childhood perspective, and I have a hard time faulting the movie on that basis alone.
These reviews have been great with a lot of good points to start discussion. In my opinion.