Plot: What’s it about?
As many a Star Trek fan will tell you, there is an ongoing argument as to who was actually a “better” Captain. Kirk or Picard? Personally, I go with the latter, but that’s an argument for another day. What’s so amazing about the Star Trek phenomenon and about this movie, in particular, is the fact that it even got made. The series was going strong, but never had the ratings to make it into a long-running show. In fact, when it was cancelled, it’s ratings were the highest ever and the core demographic (Males 18-40) absolutely loved the show. This may have been the ultimate “Cult Classic”. Seeing the popularity of the Star Trek series, they were off to make a movie–sort of. After some little movie by the name of Star Wars became the hit it was, a new Star Trek was slated to hit the streets and coast off its popularity, coupled with that of the other “Star…”. For reasons we’ll never understand, the new series was supposed to be a television show and not the movie it is today. Called “Phase II”, it was supposed to launch a Paramount network. Instead, it was made into a movie and as it turns out, a very successful one. The rest, as they say, is history–er, future history.
We meet the crew two years after the end of the original “five year mission”. James T. Kirk (William Shatner) is now an admiral and running Starfleet Operations. Spock (Leonard Nimoy) has left to him home planet of Vulcan to get rid of all human emotion. Dr. McCoy (Deforest Kelley) is now a physician and the ship itself has undergone a massive redesign under the watchful eye of Scotty (James Doohan). However on the edge of the galaxy a large energy cloud has appeared. It takes out the Klingons and is now on a collision course for Earth and the Enterprise is the only thing that stands in its way. The new captain of the ship, Will Decker (Stephen Collins), lacks the experience of Kirk and his crew and it’s now up to the original crew to stop the cloud and save the human race.
It might be said that Star Trek is the one that started it all, it certainly is the case for the series of movies and television series. Since this movie came out, it’s inspired countless other movies and series. And none of them could have made it without the original crew of the original Enterprise. While Star Trek: The Motion Picture is not only a continuation of the tradition that is Star Trek, the movie also stands well on its own.
Video: How’s it look?
Star Trek fans are pretty finicky when it comes to, well…their show. This is a rather unique and interesting release given that it’s the first time that “cutting edge” special effects have been inserted into this “Director’s Edition” and shown in 4K. As you can see from the screen captures below (which I can’t take credit for, I found them here) new matte paintings have been inserted into the film to give it a more modern look. Director Robert Wise was given the green light by Paramount at the turn of the century to work on this version. That was released on DVD in 2001 and as the technology has become much better – it was about time that something like this happened. But it’s not perfect. There are a few scenes, notably the one in the lounge, that just downright dreadful. However those are few and far between and what we’re left with is a much cleaner visual appearance that actually helps tell the story a bit better. Yes, really. This version has been available on Paramount + for several months, but Trek fans have been waiting for this on disc for quite some time. A majority of the grain was edited out to some dismay – a few of the scenes almost look a bit too good and some of the grain might have been a little less distracting. This approach is nothing new, of course. Fans of Star Wars will remember for the film’s twentieth anniversary, George Lucas re-released that film with new background scenes and new digital effects.
Is this the best the film has ever looked? It is. Will fans embrace it? It’s up to them. There is a 4K version of this film out there without these digital effects. So we’ve got something out there for everyone to suit their particular taste.
Audio: How’s it sound?
Also improved is a new Dolby Atmos mix. Granted, it’s been quite some time since I sat down and watched this film, but there’s a lot going on here. I’d be remiss if I didn’t comment on Jerry Goldsmith’s iconic score. I had no idea how much is resembled the opening credits of Star Trek: The Next Generation. What we get with this mix is a lot more action, but not the “in your face” action that most of us are used to. There’s a lot more ambiance going on here with little “blips” and such going on in the rear surrounds. Vocals sound great as well, with crisp, sharp dialogue that lacks any distortion. I don’t thinks that this mix makes quite the impact to the film that the visuals do, but this is – far and away – the best this movie has ever sounded.
Supplements: What are the extras?
There’s nothing new here, mainly just partially recycled supplements from previous editions. This does come in an expanded three-disc set that has a standalone disc for supplements. But you’ll need to grab that one if you want them.
- Audio Commentary – First we find a screen-specific commentary with the man himself, Robert Wise. Wise is accompanied with Special Effects supervisors Douglas Trumball and John Dykstra, Composer Jerry Goldsmith and actor Stephen Collins (who played Commander Willard Decker in the film). This is a very informative track, naturally due to the amount of participants. Wise does get his comments in, but Trumball and Dykstra are the most prominent.
- Audio Commentary – Next is a track with David C. Fein, Mike Matessino, and Daren R. Dochterman who, likewise, give us their comments on the film.
- Text Commentary – Michael and Denise Okuda (aka the “Saviors of Star Trek”) know a thing or two about restoring Star Trek for home video. They’re always a pleasure to listen to and for the super technically-oriented folk, this one is for you.
- Isolated Score – This has never been my thing, but if you want to watch the film with Jerry Goldsmith’s score – you’ve got that option.
The Bottom Line
There’s a lot to love about this new version. It gives the film a more modern look and feel, the Atmos mix is more dynamic and pleasing but then there’s that…thing. What thing? The movie isn’t really that great. It did, however, pave the way for the future Trek movies and the most critically-acclaimed of them all – Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. Everything a Trekkie could want out of this film is present – it’s up to you if you want to take the plunge or not.