While it's still flawed, Robert Wise's Director's Edition of ST:TMP shows a huge improvement in pacing, structure and optical effects. Wise had a release date before he had even shot one reel of footage and, as a result, was working against a deadline from day one. With optical effects problems from the very first (the company hired couldn't deliver despite spending 5 million dollars), the original set scrapped (it was build for the planned television series and wasn't detailed enough for the motion picture screen)as well as endless rewrites (Alan Dean Foster's original script was radically rewritten by Harold Livingston), power struggles, etc. Wise had his work cut out for him. The resulting film was compromised from the get go. Eventually John Dykstra (Star Wars, Spiderman)and Douglas Trumbull(2001, Close Encounters)were brought in to complete the massive amount of effects work necessary for the film. Wise didn't get a chance to really fine tune the final cut of the film until this DVD release. He took the opportunity to also go back and redo some of the opticals they didn't have time to finish. The only priviso was that the effects had to look like they were created in 1979. The resulting final product is a marvel to watch. A mysterious cloud posessing enormous power and, perhaps, with a craft at its center advances on Earth. Why it's coming is a mystery. After it disintegrates two Klingon war vessels and a Federation space station, the Federation elects the Enterprise to attept first contact or, failing that, try and destroy the visitor. Admiral Kirk convinces Starfleet to let him command the Enterprise over Captain Decker (recommended by Kirk)because of his experience. The revamped Enterprise isn't quite space worthy yet but must be launched within 12 hours to allow the Enterprise time to cut off the alien visitor before it reaches Earth. Wise uses a slower pace to create suspense in ST:TMP and it's quite different from other installments in the film franchise. The regal pacing and production design might, at first, put off fans of films 2-6 and The Next Generation. Keep in mind that ST:TMP is from a different generation of filmmaking. ST:TMP straddles the line between The Day the Earth Stood Still (another Wise film) and Wrath of Kahn. The first disc includes a combined commentary track featuring Wise, Douglas Trumbull, John Dykstra, Jerry Goldsmith and others commenting on the stress and challenges of making of the original film. There's also comments from Wise about the changes made to the film for this DVD edition. The picture quality is exceptional although there are analog artifacts. Compression isn't an issue and I saw a bit of edge enhancement as well but, on the whole, it looks quite good. The remixed/remastered sound is a huge improvement on the original soundtrack (you can compare it to the deleted scenes to hear the difference). I'm not sure if this is an anamorphic widescreen transfer (it is presented in widescreen). The anamorphic transfer from video to DVd increases the resolution and clarity of the image. I believe it to be an anamorphic transfer but, again, have nothing to compare it against. The second disc has all the extras including the scenes included in the 1979 version that were trimmed/cut/reshot for this edition. It also includes the extra scenes (including the infamous scene where Kirk goes after Spock outside the ship and you can see the edge of the set)for the 1983 television premiere as well. There's also feauturettes devoted to the new optical effects, publicity and interviews. There's also a section called Outtakes that focuses on an incomplete sequence that was replaced in the final film Spock going outside the ship and attempting to mind meld with the alien. Although flawed with a script that was constantly being rewritten (with uncredited help from Leonard Nimoy), director Wise's film manages to capture both the sense of adventure and the larger than life qualities that made the series so popular. Keep in mind this film is less action oriented than other films in the franchise. It has more in common with the episodes like "The Doomsday Machine" and "Nomad" than it does "City on the Edge of Forever" or "Where No Man Has Gone Before". On its own, it's a fine film that has finally been finished in line with the vision Wise had for the film.
In December of 1979, when Star Trek The Motion Picture was released, it was apparent to audiences that this was no ordinary "shoot 'em up" science fiction movie--this was a serious film with complex plotting and "big" ideas. Yet, somehow the whole film seemed "off," and lacking the TV show's charm. What was not generally known at the time was that, with the premiere date looming and numerous visual effects sequences not completed--and never having had a test screening--Director Robert Wise basically assembled what he could and physically carried the print to the film's debut. (The final visual effects sequence was literally cut into individual prints of the film before they were express shipped to theaters.) It says something for Wise's ability to work under pressure (he edited Citizen Kane, after all) that, despite mixed reviews, no major critics were able to deduce that they were viewing an unfinished film. It's also a testament to everyone involved in the project that Star Trek The Motion Picture received Academy Award nominations for Visual Effects and Musical Scoring. Nevertheless, I remember seeing the film as a 12 year old, and hearing my father complain "This movie so slow moving." And for 22 years, that has been the general consensus--ambitious plotting, great score, mostly good visual effects, poor pacing, little chemistry between the characters. For this DVD issue, Paramount has allowed Robert Wise to do what he wanted to do all along--finish his picture. Nearly every scene has been reedited--either radically or merely fine tuned--to bring more drama, better pacing, and more emphasis on the characters. Some of the clunkier bits of dialogue have been excised, along with some unnecessary technobabble. The new editing also gives greater subtext to the story, and hints at why V'Ger's probe chose to assimilate Lieutenant Ilia rather than, say, Mr. Spock. The new visual effects shots flesh out the movie, adding visual excitement without drawing attention to themselves. The technicians have even added film grain so that the new shots fit in seamlessly with the originals. The sound mix is livelier also, with use of some of the original series' sound effects, together with new elements. Jerry Goldsmith's superb score has been altered to conform with new versions of several scenes, particularly the early exploration of V'Ger. The score has been edited in such a way that it still makes musical, as well as dramatic, sense. The picture quality is vastly superior to previous VHS issues, and a modest improvement over my widescreen LaserDisc. Colors and flesh tones are more vibrant, and the image seems sharper overall. While the film appears to have been cleaned, radical computer "scrubbing" has not been done, so effects-heavy shots (which were built up element-by-element) show some grain. This new Director's Edition is now the definitive version of Star Trek The Motion Picture. Retaining all the grandeur of the original, with none of the ponderousness, this is probably the closest realization of Gene Roddenberry's humanistic vision for the future. After 22 years, The Motion Picture finally takes its rightful place near the top of the Star Trek film canon.
The movie was trimmed a bit to tighten up scenes and such. I was glad they added the sound effects of the old bridge to bring a sense of continnuty to the new ship. I was very dissapointed all the Memory Wall footage was not shown. I wanted to see the sets. They just showed an actor on a wire going down a movie set which looked like a wall from the entity. Then there was a pass with no sound with the costume coming towards the camera. There were so many photos I have seen of that deleted scene that at least I wanted to see the other portions of the set. Wise was right in his decision to remove it. It did look like they were on wires. The case is another dissapointment. The plastic disk holder falls out if you don't open it correctly. It's like a two page disk container and you can lose the disk very easily if you are not careful. Since my Star Trek Motion Picture disk is going to get lots of repeated viewings I am going to switch the case from my Star Wars Episode one disk. The Episode One Disk plastic case won't fall apart like this one did. Other than that along with the dissapointing Memory Wall footage, it was a decent package. We finally get to see what V'Jer looks like without the clouds surrounding it. If it were up to me I would have added a scene that shows the exterior and massive size of the craft in comparison to the Enterprise. I was so surprised to see this thing had an actual shape. It looked like an alien ship out of Babylon Five. With Foundation Imageing ....the guys who did the CGI on B5 working on this...it's only natural.
Star Trek: The Motion Picture was, until now, a classic example of a film which suffered from a rushed post-production. It is well known in ST fandom how the film that was originally hired to do the effects for this movie bascially fell flat on their collective face, leaving Robert Wise and Co. with only a few months to start from scratch on their effects, and a release date that was carved in stone. They went to superhuman effort in order to get everything done by the deadline, and they barely made it. The final effects sequences actually had to be physically spliced into hundreds of copies of the film, right before their delivery to theaters! The fact that the effects were as good as they were is truly miraculous. This is the most cinematic of all the ST movies to date, although The Wrath of Khan comes pretty close. The soundtrack by Jerry Goldsmith is one of the GREATEST film scores ever. Of course, the main feature of this DVD is the fact that Robert Wise got to go back and take his time re-doing the effects scenes that he had to rush through in 1979, and then insert them seamlessly into the scenes shot 20 years ago, and make it all fit. Overall, it works extremely well. Some of my favorite improvements: (1) The star field effects over the overture theme and opening credits - Sure, the moving star field over SF movies has been done many times since, but Star Trek invented it. The opening wasn't complete without it. The credits themselves have also been re-worked. The opening credits were one place where the post-production rush in 1979 really showed. It was a nice touch to clean this up. (2) The scenes on Vulcan - Vulcan looks more "Vulcan-like" now, and the removal of the moon seen previously makes the film conform to previously-established Star Trek canon. Another nice touch that is important for continuity. Also, the Vulcan subtitles have been re-worded just a bit to make it a little less obvious that the Vulcans were really just speaking electronically-distorted English. (3) The new shots of Starfleet Headquarters - totally awesome improvement to another casualty of the 1979 rush. As much as I loved that shot of the Starfleet Headquarters seal, it was painfully obvious that some missing effects shots were here. Also, the scene between Kirk and Sonak has been re-done to make the landing area seem much larger. Nice echoing to the dialogue. (4) Insertion of some original-series sound effects, particularly the transporter operation. (5) The scenes when they flew through the cloud and over V'ger were tightened up a bit. Good editing, these secnes were DEFINITELY too long originally. Thank God, though, they left the Enterprise inspection/flyover alone! This is one scene that was just fine all along, and they wisely didn't cut it at all. (6) When you look out the windows of the officer's lounge, you can now see the warp nacelles. Nice touch. (7) The scenes of V'ger attacking the Earth. I always wanted to see a shot of the whole thing at once! (8) The new shots inside V'ger - It's pretty obvious that these are CG, but the creation of the bridge between the Enterprise and V'ger is pretty cool anyway. (9) But, the absolute BEST improvement was the re-working of the Red Alert klaxon and the removal of that infuriatingly annoying computer voice. I got so tired of hearing that thing go "Travel pod available, Cargo 6", and "Intruder Location. A Sonic Shower.", and "Red. Alert. Red. Alert. The Ship. Is On. Red. Alert!" If they did nothing else to the movie, this alone would make the DVD worth buying. Thank you Mr. Wise! The DVD also contains a bunch of bonus features, including the original scenes that were edited, the delightfully cheesy movie trailers and TV commercials, and the scenes that were added for the 1983 TV version and then re-dropped. Some of those scenes were kinda nice, but they didn't really do anything for me. The worst one was the shot of Kirk leaving the Enterprise in pursuit of Spock. You can see the scaffolding on the set! They're baically non-essential, but it's nice to have them anyway. The TV commercials are a lot of fun to watch. This is not the best ST move by any stretch, but it's MUCH better than its detractors think. If you haven't seen it in a while, now is the perfect chance to see it again. The acting is great. If the actors seem uneasy at first, that's because the CHARACTERS are uneasy due to the myraid conflicts that they are undergoing as the movie begins. As the conflicts are resolved, they get more comfortable. It's truly a great SF movie. Pick it up! Oh and Emma, if you're out there, sounds like you got a defective case. Return it and get another copy.
I'm not a trekkie and as a rule I was lukewarm about the original series and I'm even less a fan of the other Star Trek films or the subsequent 'Next Generation' or later series. I am, however, a film enthusiast and a lover of great science fiction literature, and though the rest of the Star Trek universe is often just average-quality pop culture which takes a back seat to Lucas' imagination for entertainment value, this particular Star Trek film stands above the other Star Trek offerings as a visionary statement on the human condition as we in the 21st century approach the inevitable complete merging of humanity and technology. This film doesn't play like a Spock-vs-Doc shoot-'em-up at all; its pace is more like Antonioni's films (think L'avventura or Red Desert) and the scope will remind you of 2001: A Space Odyssey. This film is, however, more accessible and for me at least, is a more emotional experience as well. It bears repeating: this film is unlike any of the other Star Trek films. Not to be missed; don't listen to the disgruntled trekkies!