Review for Star Trek: The Motion Picture
The historic five-year mission is over. James T. Kirk languishes at Star Fleet Command as an Admiral, Doctor McCoy is happily retired and Spock is pursuing total logic on Vulcan. The Enterprise has been redesigned and refit and is destined for the command of Will Decker, a brash young Captain who reminds Kirk of who he used to be. All this changes when an alien cloud the size of a solar system comes into conflict with the Klingons. The Klingons are destroyed and the cloud continues on its course towards Earth. Alarmed, Starfleet orders the Enterprise to be made ready and to intercept the intruder. Kirk takes the opportunity to regain his command and displace Decker as captain of the Enterprise. Reunited with his old crew, Kirk is finally back doing what he’s best at, commanding a starship, exploring the unknown. But is he the same man he used to be? Are any of them?
You get the film in a 2.35:1 widescreen 1080p ratio and resolution. The image is clear and sharp throughout, although enough DNR has been applied to erase any grain from the film. As a result detail levels are never as good as they could be, although thankfully, waxy skin tones aren’t overly obvious. It’s also clear that the film hasn’t had any restoration, with some minor print damage, and especially flecks of dirt in composite effects shots still apparent and identical to the previous, DVD releases. The best you can say about The Motion Picture on Blu-ray is that it looks better than on DVD. I was certainly impressed by the epic nature of V’Ger, the level of intricacy in the model work, while the added detail that is visible is much appreciated.
You have the choice between Dolby TrueHD 7.1 English, DD 2.0 Surround German, Italian, and French, and DD 2.0 mono Spanish, with subtitles in those languages and Arabic, Croatian, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Norwegian, Portuguese, and Swedish. I love the lossless audio on this disc, the Motion Picture has the most theatrical of all of the movie scores, and it really comes up a treat here. Having said that, the 7.1 Surround is overkill for the most part, with this a very front-focussed audio experience, the surrounds sparsely used for effects and ambience. The dialogue is clear throughout; although lip sync isn’t quite consistent on this disc in combination with my Panasonic player (skipping back tends to fix it when it begins to drift).
This disc is the weakest when it comes to extra features. You do get a new commentary from Michael and Denise Okuda, Judith and Garfield Reeves-Stevens, and Daren Dochterman, sparse but informative.
The Library Computer pop-up trivia track is there, as is the BD Live link.
In Production, you’ll find just one featurette running to 10:44 HD looking at the process of writing the movie, from first concept back in the early seventies to the final script.
The Star Trek Universe contains two featurettes. Special Star Trek Reunion lasts 9:37 HD and William Shatner introduces the segment where five notable extras from the briefing scene in the movie reunite 30 years on. Starfleet Academy Sci-sec Brief lasts 4:24 and offers a bit of background into V’Ger.
There are 11 Deleted Scenes running to 8:02 in total, presented in 480i.
You get the Trailers and the TV Spots, HD and SD respectively.
None of the extras from the more generously apportioned Director’s Cut DVD are brought over here, other than the trailers and the deleted scenes, and then only a few of the deleted scenes.
This is what happens when you don’t future-proof! Most of the US TV shows from the late eighties and early nineties were shot on film, but edited, finished, and distributed on NTSC videotape. The end result is that they are all pretty much unwatchable on modern HD sets, unless you whip out your wallets and rebuild them from the film up. George Lucas kick-starts the digital film revolution, first by creating the Special Editions of his original trilogy, and then by shooting the second and third prequels on digital. Except that it’s all done at 2k resolution. Don’t expect to see those movies on 4k discs anytime soon.
Up until 2000, there were two versions of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, this theatrical version running to 2 hours 10 minutes, but feeling more like 3, and the television version that runs to 143 minutes, and keeps all the character interactions the theatrical left out, but it does feel a few days long. Then in 2001, Robert Wise revisited the film, created a new edit that ran to just 136 minutes, keeping most of the character beats from the television version, but edited far more tightly, much better paced. On top of that many of the effects shots were replaced with CGI or new matte inserts. And with this being the DVD age, it was all finished at SD resolution. That’s why we only get the theatrical cut of The Motion Picture on Blu-ray.
Including the Abrams movies, this is probably the most theatrical Star Trek has ever looked, really filling the big screen, and as far removed from its TV roots as you can get. It’s also the closest Star Trek ever got to hard sci-fi in the movie format, with a twist ending worthy of any Outer Limits episode. But those much-loved characters never come to life in this film. It’s all so dry and unemotional. You might get an odd moment of familiarity, the odd wink, the rare bit of sarcasm from McCoy, a hint of the old Kirk charm, but the camera will cut away for another lengthy effects sequence. And the theatrical version is the one that milks the effects sequences for all they are worth, ten minutes of Kirk ogling the Enterprise at the start, fifteen minutes of wandering through V’Ger’s clouds in the middle. It’s a case of the bean counters editing the movie, they had spent all this money on effects shots, and by God we were going to see it on screen.
I like the story of Star Trek The Motion Picture, it’s a nice bit of sci-fi from a franchise that usually aims for the space opera instead. But the film itself bores me each time, especially this Theatrical Cut. For pity’s sake, McCoy comes up to the bridge, twice, says nothing, then turns around and walks out again, his comments, those character interactions left on the cutting room floor. They are there in the Director’s Cut though, a version that actually works well enough to keep my eyes open for the duration. Some of the CGI is a little creaky now, and I have to admit I’ve reconsidered my view on the Vulcan backdrop; I actually do prefer the mega-moons of the Theatrical Cut, but I do so now wish that they had completed that edit in HD resolution.