STAR TREK -- AMC Carrollton, Jenifer, K-B Langley, K-B MacArthur, Marlow.
No one doubted that a "Star Trek" movie could count on a large audience of "Trekkies" who watched the television series and made a profitable cottage industry out of "technical manuals" of fictional spaceship plans, maps, uniform designs and other paraphernalia of a behind-the-scenes universe.
The question is whether it could also pick up the non-diehards who flocked to "2001," "Star Wars" and "Alien."
Probably not, for reasons that are not entirely its fault.
If anything, this film's plot, although as thin as the others', is slightly cleverer and its characters are somewhat more appealing. Rather than being a dopey good-guys/bad-guys shoot-out, the Star Trek film shows a more open-minded view of the future, where most creaters seem to mean well and humanistic quirks are tolerated.
The characters, an assortment of races and nationalities representing a united universe of the 23rd century, are individualized. William Shatner, as the captain, is if anything, too vulnerable -- by repeatedly making and admitting mistakes, he makes a shaky leader. The appeal of Leonard Nimoy's much-admired role of Spock, the strange man from another planet, is based on his failure to live up to his cold ideals. The value of DeForest Kelley's Dr. McCoy is to remind us that technology can't be completely trusted.
There are funny little touches, such as an invented Germanic sort of language requiring subtitles on the film, and someone's darting through the space ship's automatically sliding inner doors just as they close.
The big touches -- the "special effects" of the space genre -- are attractive, if occasionally evocative of Oz, Luray Caverns or a Metro station. Lots of lacy lightning strokes light up the scenes, and a faster-than light speed is dramatized with blurred film.
This picture even has a teeny philosphy, something along the lines of Knowledge-Is-power-But-God-Is-Love.
But is this enough to make a general audience trek is the movie house?
The very clear-cutness of the war or monster space films endeared them to general audiences, brought up on standard westerns and horrors, because it acted as a setting for the visual hijinks. If there is time, in such a film, to think about lives of the characters, the film is dragging. An endless loving look at the renovated spaceship Enterprise by its once and present captain can be enjoyed only by those who enter into his feelings, which is to say those who knew his past history from television.
And then the photography is getting to be a bore. There are only so many ways to photograph black starry space and the under-bellies of spaceships, and the films that got there first used them all up.
As the Muppet film was entitled "The Muppet Movie" to assure the steady customers that they were getting their favorite product in a new form, this movie, called "Star Trek -- The Motion Picture," is for those who are already sold.