perhaps, but not the character anybody wanted to see.
I think within the context of the themes of TMP that a cold and distant Kirk makes sense, but it was just unsatisfying for Trek fans to endure.
That's applying hindsight after thirty years of Trek "franchise" movies, series and other media, other science fiction successes, the changing face of Hollywood filmmaking and on and on. Not to mention thirty years of largely negative fan reaction to TMP. The world was a very different place when TMP was made. There were three seasons of the Star Trek
series which you could catch in varying order depending on your local TV station. And 22 episodes of a "Saturday morning cartoon," as most people thought of it. The series episodes were all over the map, from action to drama to comedic.
The decision was made to make TMP more of a drama, more of a science fiction parable, which had been a reasonably successful approach for science fiction movies. Yes, Star Wars
had been a huge success with a lot of action, but "Close Encounters" had also been a huge success as more of a character-based movie. The action-blockbuster template had not taken over Hollywood at the time, and plenty of serious dramatic films did well in the '70s.
The decision was also made to give the Kirk and Spock characters inner conflicts which may have made them seem removed from the TV version of the characters for some viewers. People may not agree with that choice, but it was a perfectly valid choice. The segment of the audience with strong opinions on how Kirk or Spock "should" act was very small, and if they were the only ones the film appealed to, it would have flopped. TMP was approached as a stand-alone feature with some big ambitions, and no one knew if there would ever be another Star Trek feature film. One can argue that the execution did not live up to those ambitions, and on may counts I agree. But to argue that there was some readily-understood quintessence of Trek in 1979, which TMP violated in some way, doesn't really apply to the context in which the filmmakers made the choices they made. And they made a film that was ultimately successful by most standards.