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Star Trek: The Motion Picture (Director's Cut)

Paramount // PG // November 6, 2001
List Price: $29.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Aaron Beierle | posted October 30, 2001 | E-mail the Author
The Movie:

Over the course of cinema history, directors have often decided to release a "director's cut" or "enhanced edition" of the film, largely due to the fact that they can realize the visions that they had for certain scenes now that they couldn't then, due to advances in technology. While this has often been debated by audiences (see the upcoming tinkering with "E.T."), I must say that this new edition of "Star Trek: The Motion Picture" is certainly an enjoyable re-release, as new effects have been added and other alterations have been done by director Robert Wise and crew, who did not have the time to complete everything they would have liked back in 1979, as they were faced with a release date.

Certainly, in regards to any editing, I'd certainly respect any and all of Wise's decisions, as his history in film goes back to being the editor for "Citizen Kane". Although I can't say I'm familiar enough with this picture to discuss all the little changes, I will say that the new special effects fit in very nicely with the picture and were appropriate, not calling attention to themselves. While I still wouldn't consider this first film in the "Trek" series the best, while I watched this new presentation, I found it more entertaining than I'd remembered when watching it in the past.

The film involves the characters that television viewers and "Trekkies" had come to enjoy in the show's run on television in their first big-screen effort. A cloud (or, as Kirk calls it, a "thing") is headed towards Earth and wiping out everything that's in its path. Command is given to James Kirk (William Shatner and crew, who shuttle off in a newly remodeled Enterprise to attempt to stop this force before it reaches the planet. Simple enough.

The film does feel different than the other pictures in the series; it lacks a really considerable villian - and there certainly have been some great ones throughout these pictures. The dialogue and tone of the film also are more serious and straight-forward than the other pictures, which honestly do present a more balanced offering of big-screen spectacle and intelligent sci-fi discussion. Some areas throughout this picture do seem - and still do seem - a little slow at times. Yet, there's a lot to like about this picture, as well. While Shatner's performance isn't the best out of the series, it's enjoyable and fairly subtle at times. He's also supported by the fine cast quite well. Jerry Goldsmith's score is wonderful and one of his most enjoyable and the effects were quite impressive for 1979 - of course, they've also been improved upon in different places throughout the picture.

Again, while I still wouldn't consider "The Motion Picture" the boldest of all "Star Trek" adventures, I did find this newly enhanced edition of the picture to provide an entertaining experience, livened by the fact that Paramount has done a superb job providing very good video quality and excellent audio quality for this DVD release, which is the first "Trek" special edition that the studio has provided and the second two-disc special edition that the studio has provided for a film. I'm sure that "Trekkies" will discuss the merits of this new edition, but I'd be suprised if their discussion isn't entirely praise for the effort put into this "Director's Cut".

More "Trek" special editions are likely to follow in the near future.


VIDEO: Paramount presents "Star Trek: The Motion Picture" in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. Considering the age of the picture and the somewhat primitive way that some of the original effects were accomplished, I went into the presentation expecting some flaws, but the picture consistently appeared richer and cleaner than I'd expected going in. Sharpness and detail are quite good; while the picture does appear slightly soft, it still remained crisp and detailed.

Again, I did expect some grain during some moments of the film due to the effects sequences, but the grain seemed mild and didn't distract. Print flaws did occur in the form of some slight specks and marks on occasion, but the picture seemed remarkably clean otherwise. I noticed no instances of edge enhancement or pixelation.

Colors looked quite good throughout the picture, appeared crisp and bold, with no instances of smearing or other faults. While not without some age-related blemishes, this new presentation of the film looked the best I've ever seen it.

SOUND: Although the picture quality is quite good, the newly remastered Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack is even more impressive. I've started to become somewhat displeased with the results of some older pictures being redone in 5.1, but the experience this new soundtrack provided was really quite enjoyable. Surrounds are not highly agressive, but still very enjoyably active during the more intense sequences of the film. Remarkably, the surround use seemed clean and crisp, rather than artificial and forced sounding.

This new audio presentation also does wonders for Jerry Goldsmith's score, which sounds fresh, full-bodied and exciting here. In fact, that full-bodied sound extends to the other elements of the soundtrack as well, as I really didn't think this soundtrack sounded its age. The only element that came across as somewhat inconsistent in quality was the dialogue, which often sounded good, but could occasionally come across slightly rough. This is a superb effort that I really enjoyed.

MENUS:: Paramount has provided very fun animated menus for this release, which are set-up like various areas of the Enterprise.

EXTRAS:: Note: the features on disc two have optional English subtitles.

Commentary: This is a commentary from director Robert Wise, composer Jerry Goldsmith, original effects supervisors Douglas Trumball and John Dykstra and actor Stephen Collins. All of the participants have been recorded separately, but the track is very nicely edited together and the participants have a great deal to offer about both story and production details. Wise is able to offer quite a bit of information about the obstacles that the production had to face as well as the different edits and effects that were done for this new release. It's definitely interesting to listen to Wise point out the alterations and who was responsible for them, as well as reasons why some of these changes were made. The two effects supervisors do a fine job discussing how some of the film's effects were done as well as how they fit into and are appropriate for the picture. Goldsmith offers brief but substancial chat about his thoughts on providing the score for the film and Collins occasionally chimes in about acting in the film. Things get a little slower as the track goes on, but overall, I learned quite a bit and found this an enjoyable listen.

Subtitle Fact Track: Made by the co-author of the "Star Trek Encyclopedia", this fact track offers lots of little tidbits to read while the movie plays about various aspects of "Trek" and the production of this film.

Star Trek: Phase II: This is a documentary that focuses on the aborted additional "Star Trek" series that was going to be done before the idea for the film came into play. Interviews with those involved and some test footage is offered. Although this documentary is mildly interesting, it seems a little short and only skim the surface of what happened before it's over. Still, I didn't know much about the fact that this additional series was even going to exist, so it was interesting to hear what was offered.

Redirecting the Future: This 15 minute documentary was the most interesting of the three featurettes included, mainly because it was the one documentary that focused on this new director's cut of the film that I'd just finished watching. Director Robert Wise and many of the people at Foundation Imaging, who worked on the effects, offer their thoughts on their role and their experiences in making this new, enhanced edition of the picture. Several compare/contrast sequences are shown in regards to the 1979 edition and this new edition of the picture and the results are amazing. It's also fascinating to hear that some of these new effects sequences were based on storyboards of what was apparently the desired look of some of the scenes for the original feature. Although this documentary is quite informative and enjoyable, the aspect I just mentioned was the piece of this puzzle that I would have liked to have learned a bit more about: discussion of why some effects weren't possible then, more discussion of what was apparently a bit of race to meet a release date. This documentary tells us a lot about the "hows" of the new effects were done, but it doesn't elaborate quite enough on the reasons and ideas behind the process of going about making this "director's cut", from begining to end, which is what I would have liked. Also, I would have liked to have heard more reaction from the actors, as Shatner and others offer quick thoughts at the very end of this piece.

A Bold New Enterprise "A Bold New Enterprise" is a 29 minute documentary that is more of a "look back" about the making of "The Motion Picture" by those involved. Interviews with William Shatner, Walter Koenig, Stephen Collins are included, as are interviews with Wise, former Paramount exec Jeffrey Katzenberg and many other members of the crew. This is really a discussion of the arc of the production of the film as the participants chat about character details and other aspects of filming. I would have liked more discussion about the reported obstacles that the picture faced as it tried to make it to the release date. Personally, I would have liked the documentary to show process of putting the film together, then taking a look at in what aspects the picture was not finished to satisfaction. Afterwards, more in-depth detail about the process from begining to end of going about this new director's cut would be placed. While I liked and often enjoyed this documentary, it occasionally gets a little too involved with praise and doesn't seem to go into quite as strong detail as I would have liked at times.

Advertising: This section includes trailers (the teaser trailer, theatrical trailer and director's edition trailer, as well as a promo for "Enterprise") and 8 TV Spots.

Additional Scenes - 1979: This section includes original cuts of scenes that have been altered in this new director's cut of the picture: "Vulcan and Starfleet", "Attack on the Enterprise", "Cloud Journey", "V'Ger Flyover", "Wing Walk". These sequences do not include any further text information or commentary from director Robert Wise. Also included in this section are "trims", which is an assembly of about 5 1/2 minutes of footage that was either edited down or deleted altogether from this new director's cut of the picture. Additionally, a rough presentation of the "Memory Wall" sequence is shown without sound, but in 2.35:1 widescreen.

Additional Scenes - 1983: This section provides 11 deleted scenes that were included in the 1983 television version which have not been inserted into this "director's cut" of the film. These scenes include "Sulu and Ilia 1 & 2", "Kirk's Quarters", "Officer's Lounge", "Attack on the Enterprise", "Intruder Transmission", "A Huge Vessel", "Kirk Follows Spock", "Ilia's Quarters 1 & 2" and "Its Creator is a Machine". No additional scene-specific text or commentary is provided.

Also: Three different storyboard galleries, including "Vulcan", "Enterprise Departure" and "V'Ger Revealed".

Final Thoughts: "Star Trek: The Motion Picture" does not provide the boldest or most entertaining journey of the "Trek" series, but I still found it moderately entertaining in the past and even more enjoyable here in this "enhanced" edition. Paramount's DVD provides very good video and excellent audio quality, along with a fine group of supplemental features. A definite recommendation.

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