ST-TMP: your first time...

Discussion in 'Star Trek Movies I-X' started by Warped9, Mar 1, 2014.

  1. Greg Cox

    Greg Cox Admiral Premium Member

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    I met Wise briefly in the early eighties. He lamented that much of his budget had already been spent by the time he signed onto the project. I got the impression that he basically jumped aboard a moving vehicle.

    He no doubt did the best he could under the circumstances, but I would rate TMP below his other genre films: The Haunting, The Andromeda Strain, The Day the Earth Stood Stood Still, The Body Snatcher, and even Curse of the Cat People.

    Hard to compare TMP to The Sound of Music or West Side Story. Talk about apples and oranges. :)
     
  2. Brutal Strudel

    Brutal Strudel Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    The Special Longer Version is an abomination, like the extended cut of Dune (another ambitious SF film that fails to fully realize its vision; I love it but I can't honestly say it's even good), which was so bad David Lynch took his name off of it; it's an Alan Smithee film, written by Judas Booth. The only thing the SLV of TMP puts in that should have been in the original release was Spock's tear. I can't imagine why they cut that.
     
  3. Brutal Strudel

    Brutal Strudel Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Harvey, about the "passive observer" complaint: I understand your point but, to me, that's a plus. Never before have we seen Kirk and company in this far over their heads, not even when faced with actual "gods." I love how TMP doesn't make destroying Vejur or defeating Vejur the crux of the story. Instead, our heroes have to learn all they can about Vejur. Despite the urgent, "save the earth" motive of the mission, in no other Trek film do we see the ENT engaged in such raw exploration. And the result is an apotheosis so beautiful it could serve as the basis for a cult twenty times better than that Scientology shit.

    Nope. Sorry. TMP is the best. The best, I say!


    :vulcan:
     
  4. Harvey

    Harvey Admiral Admiral

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    David Lynch's Dune. Some people like it, I guess. I haven't seen the longer version, but I've seen the theatrical cut, which Lynch saw fit to leave his name on, and it's a terrible mess.
     
  5. Brutal Strudel

    Brutal Strudel Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    I love it but I won't defend it.
     
  6. Warped9

    Warped9 Admiral Admiral

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    There are some interesting parallels with the Trek films.

    In terms of tone, visually and story wise, TMP is somewhat reminiscent of "The Cage" as if Robert Wise clued into what GR initially set out to do back in 1964/65. They both seemed to have the idea that their depiction of the future should be a bit more low-key so that audiences would be likely to take their story more seriously. Hence the softer, more muted colour palette and somewhat more detached form of characterization. By the time Star Trek went to series more emotion, more colour and more energy had become part of the formula, but without really sacrificing the so-called cerebral element.

    TWOK followed TMP in much the same way, but this time around a lot of the so-called cerebral element was thrown away as well as the muted palette. And that continued throughout much of the films. It can be argued that perhaps TOS went a bit too colourful, but in context of the times it worked. It would be interesting to know if NBC had asked GR to "brighten it up" for the second pilot and series or if GR decided that on his own.

    With TWOK I do think they went too far the other way. Instead of a measured change on approach Nick Meyer went 180 degrees. He changed the overall look and feel too much, but again a lot of that is waved away by many because of the increased energy and character.

    TFF looked to be an effort (like third season TOS) to get back some of that more cerebral element, but it was a botched affair. For various reasons the promise of TFF is never realized beyond a glimpse of what it could have been.

    And that's reflected in how I rated those films:
    ST-TMP - 4 out of 5 - Good, but not great, with a boatload of intelligence, but not quite enough enthusiasm.

    STII-TWOK - 3 out of 5 - Okay and occasionally good, but not great because it's mostly enthusiasm without enough balance of intelligence.

    STV-TFF - 2 out of 5 - Poor, but not wholly bad. Lots of enthusiasm and way too much extraneous silliness smothering a respectable story idea.
     
  7. Maurice

    Maurice Vice Admiral Admiral

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    As I've mentioned elsewhere, Wise in 1980 said felt the film could be cut by six minutes "at least!".

    TGT has int he past slipped me occasional nuggets of info about the production, including a "don't quote me" email from someone at Paramount who basically said TMP was the only major production on the Paramount lot at that moment and so every department tried to get a piece of it, which also helped make the budget bigger than it probably would have been otherwise. Lots of politics there with Paramount's ideas about what to do with Magicam and the Abel relationship, etc.

    As to the "passive observer" issue, it is a problem. I mentioned this in another thread...
    As just one example of where the characters stop doing anything and wait for the next decision point in the story. We should have gotten a sense that the whole ship was engaged in trying to solve the problem, from communcation to what they can learn about the Intruder without pissing it off.

    One other thing that's always bugged me about the script is that they tip their hand about what V'ger is waaaaay to early. The Klingons report "Believe luminescent cloud to be enormous powerfield surrounding alien vessel", and Epsilon Nine reports "Definitely something inside there" and then Kirk says "We believe there is a vessel...at the heart of the cloud." So, when Spock later turns and says "Captain. I believe there is an object at the heart of that cloud." Instead of being s "ooooh" moment it's a "yeah, and?" moment. Later Spock refers to "the V'ger orifice" minutes before he discovers that the vessel IS V'ger. Oops.
     
  8. Brutal Strudel

    Brutal Strudel Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    I never got the way they stressed "there is definitely an object in the center of that cloud" so portententously. Yeah, we know, the lobster-headed, barking Klingons told us. And you make an incisive point that the movie would have been improved by having more active science and exploration vis-a-vis Vejur. Not a perfect movie, just my favorite.
     
  9. Greg Cox

    Greg Cox Admiral Premium Member

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    Structurally, there's a problem in that, once the setup is accomplished, the vast majority of TMP takes place aboard the ship,without them beaming down to any interesting locations or settings. Which can make all those bridge scenes seem a bit visually monotonous and claustrophobic. You need more variety and, yes, color and excitement.

    By contrast, in WoK, you also have the desert wastes of Ceti Alpha V, the spooky confines of the Regula space station, the lush natural beauty of the Genesis cavern, etc.

    Speaking from experience, I often try to get the captain and crew off the bridge as fast as humanly possible, so I'm not stuck with talking heads staring at a screen.
     
  10. Brutal Strudel

    Brutal Strudel Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    BTW, I think that TWoK is quite cerebral in its own way, a character-driven (and most non-SF great literature and film is character-driven; see: Hamlet, The Great Gatsby, CHUD) way very consistent with regular production TOS, particularly Season 2. TWoK has some very interesting things to say about age, mortality, the failure of good intentions and, yes, the age-old theme of obsession and revenge. It wallows in literary allusion, fitting for a movie based on a show with several titles drawn from literature, Shakespeare especially, and sequel to an episode that ends with Kirk and Khan communicating their grudging admiration for each other with a reference to Milton. Hell, the title Meyer wanted was TUC, which would have been a better fit here than in Six. TWoK is the closest silver screen Trek has ever come to feeling like cathode ray tube TOS. My preference for TMP is in no way a slight of it.
     
  11. Greg Cox

    Greg Cox Admiral Premium Member

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    Fair enough. And I certainly respect TMP's ambition, even if I find many of the later movies more compelling and rewatchable.
     
  12. CorporalCaptain

    CorporalCaptain Admiral Admiral

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    Sure do. I was 13 at the time.

    I was let down by it. It looked great, but ultimately it was boring. My opinion has largely remained unchanged over the years, but it has become more nuanced and qualified.

    TMP's reach exceeded its grasp. Originally, my assessment was that aspiring to be like 2001 was completely misguided. However, within the past ten years or so, I've changed my mind. It could have actually been a great film, but not under the script it was shot. It needed at least one more rewrite (!).

    Another factor is that after the step up to TWOK, the film franchise suffered a collapse that it didn't begin to recover from until STXI. It wasn't always strictly downhill, but the trend overall was ever downward. STIII was a definite step down from both TMP and TWOK, which is why I say it began there. TVH was good fun, and broadening the audience was great for Trek in general. TUC was a definite and welcome step up from the near nadir of STV. However, each step up was followed by multiple steps down. Of the TNG films, only FC deserves mention, and even it has a lot of problems.

    So, by comparison, TMP has stood up quite well. Perhaps it is in this way, of my seeing TMP as being comparatively good, of seeing the glass as half-full instead of half-empty, that today I see TMP more for what it reasonably might have been, and tend to factor that into my judgment of it. In seeing the glass as half-full instead of half-empty, it's somehow easier to imagine how the glass might have looked even fuller.
     
  13. Warped9

    Warped9 Admiral Admiral

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    I have to agree that the TMP script could have used one more rewrite.
     
  14. HaventGotALife

    HaventGotALife Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    I don't think this is a problem with the film. I point to 12 Angry Men as an example. 8 minutes of the movie wasn't around a black-and-white table. It is nothing but dialogue describing a crime and good acting. I think Star Trek could've done the same thing. I've always been drawn to stories like telling one across a campfire.
     
  15. Brutal Strudel

    Brutal Strudel Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    "Balance of Terror" seldom leaves the bridge.
     
  16. CorporalCaptain

    CorporalCaptain Admiral Admiral

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    12 Angry Men did not consist of the characters simply staring out the window and saying things like, "I wonder how many people fit into that skyscraper over there...."

    There were a lot of good bottle episodes, but stuff actually happened in them. Plus, an actual analog in Star Trek of 12 Angry Men would be an episode that took place almost entirely in the briefing room. That's contrary to the format, by any stretch of the imagination. Not even courtroom episodes such as "Court Martial" and "The Measure Of A Man" went that far, and nor did any of the others that I can recall.
     
  17. Greg Cox

    Greg Cox Admiral Premium Member

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    Oh, certainly you can make it work. My Dinner with Andre is a great movie, too, and that's just two guys talking in a restaurant for two hours.

    But I'm not sure that's what people expect from a Star Trek movie, especially one based on TOS, which was a lot more colorful and exciting than that. "My Dinner with Sarek" is probably not going to fly. :)

    A lot depends on the genre and expectations. There are no shoot-outs in "Smiles of a Summer Night," and no one expects there to be, but if you go to see a western, you don't expect them to gaze at the scenery for hours . . . and spend the entire movie in the saloon!
     
  18. Greg Cox

    Greg Cox Admiral Premium Member

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    Balance of Terror isn't two hours long . . . :)

    Seriously, history is full of tense movies set in confined settings. Just look at pretty much every submarine thriller ever made. But when you have a movie that already has pacing issues, and is not exactly a white-knuckle thriller, an occasional change of setting would have perked things up a bit.

    By itself, staying on the ship isn't a fatal flaw or anything. But I think I think it contributes to the sense that TMP drags a bit.

    If you look at the later movies, you can see that they're better at getting the crew off the ship on the regular basis and feature a healthy variety of settings: The Genesis planet, modern-day San Francisco, Rura Penthe, etc.

    One can argue that the Trek movies learned their lesson from TMP and never confined the story to just the ship again.

    [EDIT: Oops! Sorry for the double post. Got caught up in the discussion.]
     
  19. gottacook

    gottacook Captain Captain

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    I saw TMP (twice) in the Fox theater in center-city Philadelphia, across the street from City Hall. Many years earlier, my only previous visit to the Fox, I had seen 2001 in Cinerama. (Within a few months of TMP's run, the Fox was torn down for an office tower.)

    One of the early newspaper reviews complained that there was a TV-style rhythm to the picture, crisis points at intervals similar to commercial breaks. There's something to that, I think. But in addition so much of the dialogue just lies thereā€¦

    Someone above noted the exploratory nature of the mission, the focus on learning about V'ger rather than defeating it per se. But these moments are the source of some of the worst dialog among the bridge crew. Kirk's "Radio?!" for example, as though the term had never passed his lips before.

    At the premiere some of these problems were overlooked because the goodness of the effects shots, in combination with the Goldsmith music, had its desired effect on Trek fans who had endured a 10-year drought (the cartoons excepted). Desmond Ryan of the Inquirer gave a glowing review at first, headlined "The Film's Just Heavenly," but then mentioned reservations in a later column. I suspect he wasn't alone.

    My attitude toward TMP (ever since TWoK came out) has been that TMP's failures are mostly the result of its G rating and its attempt to appeal to everyone, whereas ultimately TWoK succeeded in finding a wide audience by taking the opposite tack - that is, by catering directly to Trek fans with a sequel to a specific episode of the series.
     
  20. Greg Cox

    Greg Cox Admiral Premium Member

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    It's funny. The Trek book I'm working on now has a lot of briefing room scenes, but I'm breaking them up by cutting to the landing party every third chapter or so . . . .