Side Note: I put any movie spoilers in brackets, for the 3 people on Earth besides me who haven't seen a film from 1979.
The title of the movie says it all. It's Star Trek, but a motion picture. The budget is obviously far bigger than anything seen up to this point, but what really takes the cake is the photography and special effects, especially those used for V'ger and the "Go to Warp Factor __". The new Enterprise model and sets look incredible, and I like the revamp of the "beaming up" effect. Visually, there are quite a lot of similarities to 2001: A Space Odyssey, which should come as little surprise, since Douglas Trumbull is the one responsible for Star Trek's effects here.
The revamped music captures the feel of the original theme, with a more celebratory or grander feel to it. Just hearing it and watching the opening credits roll made me want to cheer out loud, as if to say, "Wooh! Star Trek's back, baby!" The movie itself does no less in its introduction of Kirk, Bones, and Spock. It's great to have the entire original cast back, and the movie does a good job balancing the reunion of the old team with forcing them to adapt to the new circumstances they're faced in. Time has passed, not just in real life, but for these characters too. [SPOILERS: Spock begins the film more dedicated than ever to purging his emotions and achieving the equivalent of Vulcan nirvana, only to later discover the value of feelings after mind-melding with an actual living computer. Kirk competes and is often at odds with a younger captain who has taken command of The Enterprise.]
It is to the film's credit that new characters such as Illia and Commander Decker, who receive very little exposition at all, manage to be extremely convincing, and just as likable as the old favorites. I would have been very happy to see a new Star Trek series starring Decker as the captain of the Enterprise. Stephen Collins does an incredible job showing just what his character is feeling; even in scenes where he has little or no dialogue, his facial expressions alone convey so much.
The plot itself takes a backseat to the marvelous special effects (although some of the effects in the very beginning of the movie are terrible, so much so that I initially thought I was viewing some sort of mid-90s video game CGI). It's certainly not a bad plot, and it's filled with many interesting sci-fi concepts befitting a Star Trek episode. However, some of the reasoning behind what's happening on screen is frankly a bit of a stretch, even by the standards of Star Trek's more out-there episodes. Moreover, there simply isn't a whole lot of action going on. Most of the film is spent on board the Enterprise, watching events unfold as the crew themselves do, and that primarily consists of viewing the V'ger from different angles (hence why I gave special effects first priority in this review, which is unusual). Style over substance is usually a pejorative, but when the effects are this well-made, I'm willing to accept less action in the script.
Less action than the typical Star Trek episode does not imply however that the show's core themes are absent. [SPOILERS: In its search for a creator, the V'ger proves itself to be not all that different from the "carbon units infecting the Enterprise. " It too, seeks the meaning of life and its God. Another sci-fi theme is the juxtaposition of an infinitely superior or more powerful race--in this case a sentient machine--with the notion that it's less mature than the humans who are so much weaker than it. The idea that the crew of the Enterprise are just the playthings of some celestial schoolboy was toyed around in the tv series. The decision to have this far-fetched sentient computer be the product of man was an interesting one, and V'ger being just Voyager 6 was a good way to ground the big ideas in something more familiar, or down-to-earth. It's still quite a big leap, as mentioned earlier, but this help swallow the pill.]
Critics may find the somewhat slower pacing boring, but it never felt as such to me. The movie stands in stark contrast to TNG, which in at least the little I've seen of it so far, makes me want to fall asleep. Watching this movie filled me with excitement and wonder from start to finish. Between the great acting, the sense of awe and adventure, and the lofty sci-fi concepts and their implications about the human spirit, I thoroughly enjoyed Star Trek: The Motion Picture. It deserves at least a 7, I would even venture as high as an 8/10.