Star Trek: The Original Motion Picture 6-Movie Collection

4K ULTRA HD BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Street Date 9/6/22;
Paramount;
Sci-Fi;
$55.99 Blu-ray, $125.99 UHD BD;
Rated ‘PG.’
Stars William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, George Takei, Nichelle Nichols, Walter Koenig, James Doohan, Majel Barrett, Grace Lee Whitney

In conjunction with the Blu-ray release of Star Trek: The Motion Picture — The Director’s Cut, Paramount is also releasing all six films featuring the original “Star Trek” cast in 4K for the first time.

The first four movies — the Star Trek: The Motion Picture 1979 theatrical cut, 1982’s Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, 1984’s Star Trek III: The Search for Spock and 1986’s Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home — were released on 4K in a boxed set last year. For this new round of re-releases, each is included on 4K and Blu-ray in a new six-movie collection, and are also being released as individual 4K discs. So the 4K newcomers are 1989’s Star Trek V: The Final Frontier and 1991’s Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country.

The six-movie collection includes two separate cases: a seven-disc case for the 4K discs, and an eight-disc case for the regular Blu-ray versions; the extra Blu-ray is the bonus disc for Star Trek: The Motion Picture — The Director’s Cut.

The disc releases for Star Trek: The Motion Picture — The Director’s Cut are covered in a separate review here.

The six-film set includes a total of five discs for Star Trek: The Motion Picture — the director’s cut on both 4K and Blu-ray, the theatrical cut on both 4K and Blu-ray, and the director’s cut Blu-ray bonus disc. (This version does not include the 1983 television edit, which is exclusive to the 4K disc of the theatrical cut in the new “Complete Adventures” boxed set of the 1979 film).

The included Blu-rays are remastered versions of the films, not repackaged Blu-rays from earlier releases, though the bonus features are the same. The menus have been changed to feature the poster art for the films. As with previous Blu-rays, the Star Trek II discs offer both the theatrical and director’s cuts.

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Aside from the director’s cut of the first film, the most notable addition is director Nicholas Meyer’s extended cut of Star Trek VI, which adds about four minutes of footage back in, among other minor tweaks. Like the 1983 version of the first film, the extended version of Undiscovered Country was the only one available for years on home video (on VHS). It’s most notable for the revelation that an assassin in the film was a human posing as a Klingon, which included a line specifically pointing out differences between the color of human and Klingon blood. Klingon blood is presented in this film as pinkish-purple, expounding on a continuity rift with the rest of the franchise where Klingon blood was depicted as red.

The extended version is available only on the Star Trek VI 4K disc; the regular Blu-ray is just the theatrical cut.

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One notable exclusion from this new re-release is the Blu-ray bonus disc from the “Star Trek” 50th anniversary boxed set that offered additional featurettes about some of the films. Those could have been ported over to the new discs of their respective films, or the disc could have been added, but it was not to be. Fans wanting to have that extra content will need to hold onto that disc, or track down the boxed set if they don’t already have it (containing the original live-action and animated “Star Trek” series as well as the six movies on Blu-ray, the collection runs for about $200 online).

Star Trek: The Motion Picture — The Director’s Edition: The Complete Adventure

4K ULTRA HD BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Street Date 9/6/22;
Paramount;
Sci-Fi;
$106.99 UHD BD Three-Disc Set;
Standalone $19.99 BD, $30.99 UHD;
Rated ‘PG’ for sci-fi action and mild language.
Stars William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, George Takei, Nichelle Nichols, Walter Koenig, James Doohan, Majel Barrett, Grace Lee Whitney, Persis Kambatta, Stephen Collins.

The fully remastered Star Trek: The Motion Picture — The Director’s Cut finally arrives on HD disc in a nifty boxed set that also includes previous versions of the film, some solid bonus materials.

An extensive review of the remastered film and its history are available here from when the director’s cut debuted in 4K on Paramount+ earlier this year.

Director Robert Wise’s film that brought the crew of the Enterprise to the big screen looks and sounds just as stunning on 4K disc, which offers a few viewing options not available via streaming.

The standard Blu-ray and 4K releases for the director’s cut include the film and commentary on one disc, and a bonus disc of extras (which is a regular Blu-ray Disc for both the 4K and Blu-ray versions).

The movie is presented with two audio commentaries as well as a text commentary offering trivia and other information about the film.

The first audio commentary is from the 2001 DVD release of the director’s cut and features Wise, visual effects artists Douglas Trumbull and John Dykstra, composer Jerry Goldsmith and actor Stephen Collins. It’s presented as a compilation of interviews, not a group discussion. Wise gets the most airtime and really delves into his intentions for the film and how they came up short originally.

The second audio commentary is a newly recorded group discussion with David C. Fein, Mike Matessino and Daren R. Dochterman, who led the 4K restoration efforts, and is a fun listen since they’re also big fans of the film.

Another audio option is an isolated track of Jerry Goldsmith’s beautiful music for the film. Since so much of the film involves immense visual effects sequences (and characters reacting to them), just the score on its own is almost enough to tell the story. Given how film’s main theme went on to be used for “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” it has over time become as much associated with “Star Trek” than the music from the original series. Interestingly, the music track seems to have sourced audio from the scoring sessions, as the scenes begin with an announcement of which cue the orchestra will play.

The bonus disc includes a great eight-part documentary, running 48 minutes total, about the creation of the director’s edition and how it was ultimately restored to 4K after a 20-year wait. The disc also includes new presentations of deleted scenes, effects tests, costume tests and computer display graphics, as well as a ton of legacy bonus materials from the original DVD.

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The “Complete Adventures” collector’s set includes the 4K movie disc and the Blu-ray bonus disc, plus a third disc of the original theatrical cut in 4K.

As a special treat, this 4K disc of the theatrical cut also includes the 144 “Special Longer Version” of the movie that is essentially the extended version created for ABC in 1983 (running 12 minutes longer than the theatrical cut and eight minutes more than the director’s cut). The longer version has also been cleaned up for 4K, including finishing previously incomplete visual effects — most infamously, the scene of Capt. Kirk leaving the airlock in a spacesuit in which the surrounding soundstage is clearly visible. The scene is now complete thanks to digital effects, though there’s still a continuity gaffe as Kirk’s spacesuit is different from the one he’s wearing a few minutes later (which is why the scene was originally cut in the first place — it’s a remnant of a previous iteration of the scene that was reworked because the visual effects were too complicated). The unaltered version of the scene is offered as an extra.

For many fans, the ’83 cut was how they first saw the movie, as after the television airing it was the only version released on VHS for several years. The added scenes were released on DVD only as deleted scenes, so finally having it available in its full configuration on disc offers quite a dose of nostalgia, even if it isn’t the best way to experience the story. Comparing the three versions, however, does offer some interesting insights on the process of editing a film into its best presentation.

The special longer version is included on disc only in the “Complete Adventures” set; it’s not available with any of the standalone releases of the director’s or theatrical cuts, or the new 6-film 4K boxed set.

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The theatrical cut comes with a previously available audio commentary from a slew of “Trek” experts, plus the isolated score.

The “Complete Adventures” set comes in an outer sleeve containing hardcover slipcase that features a fold-out cutaway map of the Enterprise, with slots to house the discs. The slipcase also has a reformatted note from Wise originally from the 2001 DVD, plus a pocket that contains a booklet of production art and a bevy of collectibles, including a mini-poster, reproductions of promotional photos from the film, and stickers.

Star Trek: The Motion Picture — The Director’s Edition

STREAMING REVIEW: 

Paramount+;
Sci-Fi;
Rated ‘PG.’
Stars William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, George Takei, Nichelle Nichols, Walter Koenig, James Doohan, Majel Barrett, Grace Lee Whitney, Persis Kambatta, Stephen Collins.

The 4K restoration of the Star Trek: The Motion Picture director’s cut is the culmination of a journey nearly 50 years in the making.

The “Star Trek” franchise would not be what it is today without the boost in popularity the original series experienced in the 1970s. The resurgence that began with syndicated episode reruns and fan conventions would eventually result in the first “Star Trek” film being released in 1979. But getting there was a tumultuous journey involving studio politics, a potential new series, and a major paradigm shift in the movie industry. Even so, the film would have to wait more than 20 years to be finished.

What eventually evolved into Star Trek: The Motion Picture began in the mid 1970s as a potential pilot episode for a new “Star Trek” series that would have anchored a fourth network started by Paramount. Scripts were written, sets designed, costumes made and new crew members were cast. After plans for the network fell through and the relaunch was scrapped, the studio bosses became enamored with the success of Star Wars and Close Encounters of the Third Kind at the box office. Viewing “Star Trek” as a potential franchise that could reach the same audience as those blockbusters, Paramount execs repurposed the preparations for the new series into pre-production for a movie that would transition the cast of the original series to the big screen.

Academy Award-winning director Robert Wise, no stranger to intelligent science-fiction having helmed 1951’s The Day the Earth Stood Still, was brought on board to guide the new “Trek” movie. However, the studio had already locked the film into a firm premiere date of Dec. 7, 1979, and could not delay it lest it be sued by theater owners for millions of dollars. With its budget already absorbing development costs for the aborted TV series, the film was plagued with numerous production problems, most notably its complicated visual effects. The delay in receiving a number of finished sequences until close to the premiere date prevented the film from being edited to the satisfaction of Wise, who began his career as an editor on such films as Citizen Kane.

Even Jerry Goldsmith’s constantly evolving musical score was still being recorded just a few weeks before the film’s release.

As George Lucas is fond of saying, films aren’t finished so much as they’re abandoned when the time comes to release them. When the clock struck on Star Trek: The Motion Picture, in clocked in at 131 minutes.

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The film tells the story of a mysterious energy cloud heading toward Earth, and William Shatner’s now Admiral Kirk returning to the starship Enterprise to lead the mission to investigate it. While the success of Star Wars might have been a major impetus in the decision to make a “Star Trek” film, the actual story and visual aesthetic is more akin to 2001: A Space Odyssey, with its ponderous pacing and long, drawn-out shots of starship models slowly flying by the camera. There’s even a lengthy scene of the Enterprise entering the cloud that seems a cousin to the “stargate” sequence of entering the monolith in 2001.

A 1983 television edit for ABC added 12 minutes of deleted scenes back into the film, which added depth to the story but included many incomplete effects shots.

In 2001, Wise revisited the film to refine the edit and enhance the visual effects with CGI. His updated vision, coming in at 136 minutes, was released on DVD in standard-definition.

Wise died in 2005.

With the advent of Blu-ray in 2006, prospects for seeing the director’s cut in HD were dashed by the fact that the new visual effects were finished in a lower resolution to save money. Thus, they would have to be re-rendered in order to be presented in HD and, eventually, 4K. Rather than spend the money to do so, Paramount simply released the theatrical cut on Blu-ray. It wouldn’t be until the launch of the Paramount+ streaming service before the funds were made available to probably upgrade the director’s cut to 4K.

The results are stunning. The film has never looked or sounded better, and the tighter editing, which adds several key scenes while eliminating a few extraneous ones, gives more agency to the characters. The film remains a ponderous one, and viewers wary of extended visual effects sequences such as Kirk’s shuttle flying around the Enterprise, will not find much relief here. The need to make the film a big-screen spectacle is a primary reason it relies so much on its visual effects — which are meant to be seen on a big screen and taken in with awe at their grandeur.

It should be noted that the visual effects were not vastly replaced with superior modern CGI. Rather, many of them are simply cleaned up from the original elements. So there are the occasional matte lines around some of the spaceship models.

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As subsequent films are better regarded by a majority of fans, Star Trek: The Motion Picture doesn’t get as referenced as much in later “Trek” canon. It certainly remains a bit of an odd duck among the “Trek” films involving the original series. For the second film in 1982, the cast would receive the iconic red uniforms that became a staple of the franchise, replacing the utilitarian pajama-style unis of TMP. This film is as distinctly an artifact of the 1970s as the original series was of the 1960s.

However, TMP does have an epic scope that the subsequent films don’t quite match. This may be due to the sheer number of sets that were built to depict many rooms on the ship that weren’t strictly needed to be seen for the scene to work in propelling the story forward. This likely owes to the film’s origins as a TV episode, and creator Gene Roddenberry writing scenes in a number of different sets in order to justify building them in the pilot for use down the road. (Unfortunately, many of the elaborate sets aren’t seen again in subsequent films).

Star Trek: The Motion Picture was also the source of many tropes the franchise now takes for granted. Chief among them is the Enterprise being the only ship close enough to be able to stop the advancing threat. Goldsmith’s theme for the film would be re-used eight years later for the main titles of “Star Trek: The Next Generation.” This film is also where we get the redesigned look of the Klingons for the first time.

The biggest issues with the upgraded version stem less from the film itself and more with its treatment by Paramount+. Many fans reported having trouble finding it on the service, as it wasn’t initially given a prominent position on the service’s home pages and had to be searched for. There also seem to be some issues with the film cutting off early before it ends.

Still, this is the definitive version of the film and definitely worth a watch from “Star Trek” fans. If any problems with watching on Paramount+ persist, it will be released in theaters for a special engagement in May, and is slated for 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray in September.

The Transformers: The Movie — 35th Anniversary Edition

4K ULTRA HD BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Shout! Factory;
Animated;
$29.98 UHD BD Steelbook;
Rated ‘PG’;
Voices of Judd Nelson, Leonard Nimoy, Robert Stack, Lionel Stander, Eric Idle, Orson Welles, Susan Blu, Neil Ross, John Moschitta Jr., Gregg Berger, Corey Burton, Frank Welker, Peter Cullen.

Loaded with some great retrospectives and a beautiful 4K transfer, Shout! Factory’s 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray of the 1986 animated “Transformers” movie is quite a revelation that should excite fans of the franchise, especially those who prefer the classic animated series to Michael Bay’s live-action versions.

In two seasons of the original “Transformers” cartoon based on the popular Hasbro toy line, none of the characters ever died as a result of the never-ending war between the Autobots and Decepticons. They could be severely damaged, but were quickly repaired. At the end of the first season, the entire Decepticon faction fell into a pit of lava, only to be back at full strength without explanation at the start of the next season.

Suffice it to say, storytelling sophistication isn’t one of the prime requirements for a show designed to showcase toys to kids, even though the adventures seemed like fantastic entertainment to their core audience.

So it was quite a shock when The Transformers: The Movie hit theaters in 1986 and spent the first third of its running time wiping out most of the original toy line. In fact, some kids were absolutely traumatized by the infamous death of the beloved Autobot leader Optimus Prime, so much so that Hasbro and Sunbow Productions had to revise plans in the following year’s G.I. Joe: The Movie to kill off Duke (a plot point not enacted on screen until 2013’s live-action G.I. Joe: Retaliation).

By eliminating its older characters to introduce characters from the new toy line, The Transformers: The Movie essentially serves a pilot for the show’s third season, which kicked off about a month after the film hit theaters.

As obvious as the commercial reasons were for swapping out the characters, the fact that a kid’s show was willing to brutally kill off so much of its cast on-screen, including its most popular character, actually made it seem edgy. Contributing to this reputation is the fact that this is an animated movie in which several characters use swear words in a way the show would never have gotten away with.

On top of that, the animation is beautiful, a budgetary step up from a cartoon series that was already visually distinctive. It’s easy to see why the animated movie remains a favorite among “Transformers” in an era of live-action adaptations that seem to sideline the characters in favor of relentless action scenes.

The Transformers: The Movie has received several home video releases through the years, with Shout! Factory, which has released most of the “Transformers” TV shows on DVD the past few years, giving the film a long-awaited U.S. Blu-ray release in 2016 for its 30th anniversary.

For its 35th anniversary, the film has received a new, pristine 4K transfer of the film, which is certainly a definitive presentation. While there are some flaws in the print, it’s clear these are the result of the original animation and film elements, and not part of the remastering process (though high-def tends to make them a bit more noticeable; the introduction of Hot Rod and Daniel has been noticeably blurry in every single home release of the film dating back to VHS).

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Shout! Factory’s new 35th anniversary Steelbook 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray combo pack (4K and regular Blu-ray combo packs in standard packaging will arrive Sept. 28) includes two discs. One offers the film in 4K resolution with HDR in the 1.85:1 widescreen ratio common to movie theaters and HDTVs. The other disc has the film in the 4:3 format of old televisions.

The film was actually animated with television in mind and then cropped for movie theaters, so the 4:3 presentation actually provides more of the overall image, though it’s not as if anything important was cropped out.

The movie is rather notorious for being the final film recorded by Orson Welles, who died five days after his final voice session (and about 10 months before the film’s debut), after complaining to his biographer that he was “playing a toy in a movie about toys who do horrible things to each other.”

Welles played Unicron, the planet-sized Transformer now considered a seminal figure in “Transformers” lore, and the bad guy that didn’t make it into the Michael Bay movies until 2017’s Transformers: The Last Knight. (And to Welles’ point about playing a toy, the planned Unicron movie toy was canceled due to cost and production issues, and the character wouldn’t have a toy released at retail until 2003; Hasbro this year released a deluxe giant Unicron collectible that it crowdfunded at nearly $600 per pledge).

While the film is better known for its association with Welles, it was also the final film for Scatman Crothers, who voiced Autobot Jazz throughout the show’s run. (Interestingly enough, while Jazz is one of the few original characters to survive this film, he’s actually the only Autobot who doesn’t survive the first movie of Michael Bay’s live-action franchise that debuted in 2007.)

The other major contribution to the film’s legacy is its music: Vince DiCola provides the score following his work on Rocky IV, while Stan Bush’s song “The Touch” (originally written for the movie Cobra) has practically become an anthem for the franchise (though it didn’t make it into a live-action “Transformers” movie until 2018’s Bumblebee).

Non-“Transformers” fans might recognize “The Touch” as the song mangled by Mark Wahlberg’s Dirk Diggler character in Boogie Nights that he records for his attempted post-porn career debut album (and possibly implied, within the world of the film, to have been written by John C. Reilly’s Reed Rothchild character, mentioned early in the film to be an aspiring songwriter).

DiCola and Bush are among the many talking heads reflecting on the film in “’Til All Are One,” the 46-minute retrospective documentary made for the 2016 release that carries over here. The piece also includes fascinating anecdotes from several of the film’s voice cast and production team, who are quite up front about the series’ origins as a not-too-subtle toy commercial.

Carried over from the Sony BMG 20th anniversary DVD are the feature commentary with director Nelson Shin, story consultant Flint Dille and voice actress Susan Blu (Arcee); and the featurettes “The Death of Optimus Prime” and “Transformers Q&A.” These were on the 2016 Blu-ray as well.

The Blu-ray also includes previously released trailers and TV spots.

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New to the 2021 edition is a feature-length storyboard version of the movie, using the original storyboard sketches assembled to match the audio of the film. Presented separately are a number of deleted sequences presented in storyboard form, with clips from the movie spliced in to show where the scenes would have gone in the final film.

The 2016 Blu-ray had just a couple of storyboard sequences. The extended storyboard fight between Optimus Prime and Megatron from the 2016 version is presented in the deleted scenes on the 2021 version, with a few modifications. Where the 2016 version was all storyboards, with film audio for the parts that made it into the final version and music for the deleted parts, the new version splices actual film clips in between the deleted storyboards, which are presented in silence.

There’s also a gallery of new character artwork by Matt Ferguson, for the promotional art of the new Blu-ray.

Finally, the 10-minute featurette about Stan Bush, including acoustic performances of “The Touch” and “Dare,” and produced for the 2016 Fathom events theatrical re-release, is included on the new Blu-ray.

All the extras are contained on the regular Blu-ray disc in the combo pack. The 4K disc includes just the commentary.

Legacy extras that were on the 2016 Blu-ray but have been dropped for the new version include the “Cast & Characters” featurette from the old Sony DVD, plus featurettes about the 2016 restoration and box art.

The Steelbook package also includes four cards containing scene stills from the film.