Today, to celebrate Star Trek Day, Paramount + released remastered Director Edition of the first feature film Star Trek, 1979 Star Trek: The Motion Picturenow in 4K UHD.
They gave it back to me, Scotty
Set up a rebuild on board USS Enterprise, The film reunited the original cast of the TV series, starring William Sutner and Leonard Nimoy, returning to their legendary roles of Kirk and Spock. An extremely powerful alien force that destroys everything in its path is heading towards Earth and the Enterprise crew must try to stop it while learning about its true nature.
For all its large scaleThe Motion Picture is ultimately a film about identity and tracing. Kirk, Spock and V’Ger are all looking for something that will give them direction and make them feel complete, with each finding their own answers in very different ways.
The film, released in 1979, was often criticized for its somewhat weak pace, with some fans dubbing it “The Motionless Picture”. Although its rhythm left something to be desired, it tells a story very much in line with the tradition of the original show, while giving Star Trek a greater sense of scale and grandeur. And his outstanding skill was recognized by the Academy, giving the film three Oscar nominations – Stage Decoration, Visual Effects and Original Music.
Its 4K UHD version Star Trek: The Motion Picture – Direction brings director Robert Wise’s vision for the film into the modern era with a major visual and audio update, and the result is spectacular. A work of love in every way, the film is a visual and audio experience like never before and can ultimately be considered as the epic film it was designed to be.
Ready or not, it launches
Star Trek: The Motion Picture had a strange and difficult journey, as far as movies are concerned. Born by a pilot for a proposed TV revival of the original series, the film began production in August 1978 without a finished script and completed the main photo later than scheduled. This was only the prelude to a much bigger problem: the original company that had commissioned all the work for the effects on the film failed to create any usable material, forcing Paramount to hire the visual effects pioneer Douglas Trumbull (2001: A Space Odyssey, The Andromeda Strain, Close Encounters of the Third Kind) and John Dykstra (Star Wars) to complete the task. With only 7 months to complete the effects to receive a locked release date in December, the teams worked around the clock – literally. While the visual effects were being created, director Robert Wise and editor Todd Ramsay were trying to find a publishing format for the film, although they often had large holes where the effects should be. This sometimes forced them to throw whole sequences at the film as the shot came, with little time to massage the montages, which also affected the sound mixing and color timing. The film finally got its release date, but received a lukewarm response from the audience, who did not know that what they were seeing was a compromised version of the film, which was a big disappointment for Robert Wise.
In the late 1990s, the team of restoration supervisor Mike Matessino, producer David Fein, and visual effects supervisor Daren Dochterman teamed up with Wise to create a new piece of film that would address some of the issues and would enhance the story. . They increased the pace of the film, made some of the effect shots, added some more and composed a new sound mix.
One of the biggest changes, from a visual narrative perspective, was the revelation of V’Ger. The theatrical version bypassed it completely due to time constraints, so what V’Ger really looked like from afar remained a mystery for more than 20 years. Among Wise’s edits was the addition of some scenes that did not make the theatrical cut, including some important Spock moments that honestly should never have been cut from the beginning. They also added a star field to the film’s 2-minute overture (which had previously played over black and was sometimes accidentally cut by the spotlight). A flashback to the golden age of cinema, The Motion Picture was one of the last movies to have an overture (along with Disney The Black Holealso released in 1979).
Star Trek: The Motion Picture – The Director’s Edition made its positive debut in 2001, with many saying it was clearly a superior version of the film. Unfortunately, even this version had its compromises. The print provided by the studio was inferior and the decision to produce it in standard definition meant that it was not ready for the then coming HD era. The team has spent the last 20 years supporting the return of the film, in order to bring it to today’s standards and prove it for the future, so that you can enjoy it for many more years. Producer David Fein recently spoke to us about this and many more, which you can read here.
A brand new business?
For this new 4K version, the cut of the movie is the same – or very close – in 2001 Director Edition. What is different is the changes, both big and small, in the visuals and the soundtrack of the film.
The original negative of the camera was scanned in 4K resolution and any cases of dirt or damage were corrected. The team used the industry’s standard color grading tools to upgrade some shots and give them all a consistent overall look. In the past, the film’s color palette was a bit mild and ran to the “cold” side. It is now slightly warmer, especially in the flesh tones. The extra warmth makes the process more appealing and more in line with director Wise’s original intentions. It also seems that a certain amount of sharpening was applied to some of the softer shots, but it was done with taste. It all leads to an image that projects Richard Kline’s cinematography and gives it a glossy veneer that makes the film look like the exact studio photo it was. It goes far beyond the recent 4K transfer of Paramount theatrical cut.
The visual effects have an even bigger upgrade. Paramount was able to locate many of Douglas Trumbull’s 65mm film elements, as well as John Dykstra’s VistaVision shots, which were scanned in 8K and 6K, respectively, and then reassembled and cropped. The results are absolutely amazing. The textures of the Enterprise hull, the cloud layers, the details on the V’Ger spacecraft… almost all the original effects shot in the film look noticeably better.
Visual effects added as part of the original Director Edition are also here, but have been slightly modified due to increased resolution and 20 years of advancement in digital effects technology. All of this integrates beautifully with the rest of the film.
Perhaps the most interesting feature of this project is the new Dolby Atmos sound mix, which is noticeably different from any previous version of the movie. It is a very active mixture with big and thin moments that create an environment much denser and multi-layered than before. The dialogue seems to have been mixed up to have a richer lower extremity, making what once seemed a little tiny now sounds much fuller. Each environment is more acoustically active. The Enterprise is full of many different sounds that really give you the feeling of being on a spaceship and the V’Ger itself has a much more acoustic presence and feels more threatening and mysterious.
The discovery by the team of original ADR (Automated Dialogue Replacement) cartridges enabled them to use them in a fun and sometimes surprising way. A lot of material was recorded and never used and some of it is applied here in a way that makes the film world feel much bigger and more alive.
The music from Jerry Goldsmith’s legendary score has been mixed under the supervision of Bruce Botnick, an engineer / producer, a longtime Goldsmith colleague who attended the original scoring sessions in 1979. Some of the slogans seem to have been remixed in a way that favors a specific instrument, but in general the score remains the same and sounds better than ever.
This is a wonderful sound mix that really brings the movie to life and matches the incredible graphics.
The human adventure begins again
After 42 years, the film has finally been given all the resources and time it takes to present it in the best possible way. It takes all the adjustments made to the original Director Edition and improves on them. The various changes, big and small, greatly enhance the story that the film tries to tell and really let it stand as the most epic of the Star Trek feature films. Even longtime critics can find the film more to their liking now. For fans of this movie, then, there is no comparison. This is the final version Star Trek: The Motion Picture.
The movie is now available on the Paramount + streaming service in the US. And in May you can see it on the big screen during a 3-day movie in the US with Fathom Events. Blu-ray and digital releases of the film will arrive in September from Paramount Home Video. International availability has not yet been announced.
TrekMovie will take a closer look at the many changes to the movie in the coming days and look for an in-depth discussion on Shuttle Pod podcast coming soon.
Find out more about TMP-DE and other Star Trek home appliances and streaming at TrekMovie.com.