Sunday, May 22, 2022

Star Trek The Motion Picture 4k UHD Director's cut Remastered(Movie Review)

    Today was one of only two days to see Star Trek The Motion Picture in 4k, completely remastered, UHD, director's cut IN THEATERS! So naturally I was there! I won't bore you with too many details, but basically, they went back to the original footage in three different formats that it was shot in, cleaned it up, used the previous director's cut edit, and truly color-graded it for the first time. I have always liked this movie, far more than most people, but I also was well aware of its weaknesses. So I was definitely looking forward to seeing what they did with it. Let's do a quick good vs. bad to get things rolling:

The faces of the characters from Star Trek look out over the movies title with a rainbow color filter over them.

    The Good:
  • The edit is soooo much tighter than the original while still keeping the deliberate feel but eliminating lots of little unnecessary shots that bogged it down.
  • The color grading is wonderful. It really pulls the movie together seamlessly, and overall doesn't make it too contemporary. Unlike most modern films that are all washed-out and blue (Twilight started it and The Justice League perfected it!) this actually ups the color saturation making the uniforms look better (I also don't hate them the way others do - and although I like the red uniforms in the later movies, I also like that at least there are multiple colors in this one - even if they are a bit blander than TOS). 
  • There is apparently a new sound mix. I don't really remember the other, but this one did sound great overall.
  • Lots of things look crisper and cleaner. I can't be sure, but I even feel like there are fewer shots with the weird blur caused by the funky lenses they used in some of the bridge scenes. Maybe it's just my imagination (or maybe some of those shots were even just removed), but I only really noticed that strange blur a few times in this remaster, and only one time really bothered me. My memory is being bothered by it many more times in the pre-director's cut. (BTW, the technique is called split-diopter to allow two different planes to be in focus simultaneously, however everything on other planes gets hideously blurred including things like an arm reaching between the foreground and mid-ground character.)
  • The theme music. This is the music that would also become the main theme in TNG. It's simply great music. I never get tired of hearing it.
  • The story isn't nearly as bad as people think. And there are some truly great lines in this movie. It also in many ways sets up Spock's sacrifice in Star Trek II by making that emotional moment make sense in light of what he learns in this movie.
  • I think this refit Enterprise is the best looking of them all. Love it!
  • You can also see how the design language started by this movie went on to influence TNG. Specifically the engine room with the new core and the little mini-lifts between levels. 
The Bad:
  • For me, the worst part of this movie is actually a change made in this restored version. There were two effects shots that clearly felt new to me. I know that they touched up and even replaced a few others, but two felt obviously modern and out of place and broke the spell for me. I don't mind old effects. I was disappointed that they inserted some very new looking ones here. 
    • Specifically: when V'GER dissipates the cloud when next to the Earth and then follows it up with sending out the probes, this remastered version inserts a totally different V'GER exterior ship that looks completely modern CGI (which it is). There was no need for this. I re-watched that scene when I got home on the pre-director's version, and although the editing is much better in the scene, the old special effect for the outside of the V'GER ship is fine. I hear they couldn't find all the old effects shots and maybe this was one of them, but they should have just cleaned up the prior Blu-ray transfer and used it (IMHO). 
    • The other shot that stood out to me as being obviously modern was after the enterprise makes it to the very center of V'GER's ship, and the away team climbs onto the surface of the Enterprise hull to then stop down onto the hexagonal bridge to walk to the heart of V'GER. In the original, the hexagonal "steps" are already surrounding the front of the saucer section. In the new version, they slowly appear, being manifested from moving lights. It is just obvious that this couldn't have been done like that in 1979 and it took me out of the moment a bit. The old shot was also fine. Not sure why they needed to change it. 
  • Given that they updated (unnecessarily as far as I'm concerned) those two above effects shots, one wonders why they didn't fix the two worst effects shots from the original version which are still present in this restored version? Both are rear-projection (I'm assuming) shots. 
    • The worst being from the outside of the pod that Kirk and Scotty take to tour the refit ship. The view of Kirk and Scotty through the windshield is just so hideously superimposed that it looks beyond fake and cheesy. I have several thoughts about how they could have improved that including creating digital versions of the two characters within a simulated space of the pod, so that when that is combined with the model pod shot, it looks like they are actually inside. I'm not a fan of digital people in general but they're so small that it would almost have to have looked better. Also, they needed to add more light reflection across that windshield. 
    • The other one is the outside shot of the near-Earth space station that Kirk beams aboard to meet Scotty at the beginning. There is another rear-projection shot of the people in the transporter room that looks pasted on. I mean, seriously, they apparently added one pod digitally to a model (which makes no difference really) totally changed V'GER's ship, but didn't fix these two horrible looking rear-projection shots? 
  • While the color grading is awesome, I do feel like some of the bridge scenes get even darker. It's my biggest problem with probably all the Star Trek movies as well as the more recent shows - the bridge is too dark. As someone who works in a windowless office in front of three computer monitors all day, I can tell you that other than dramatic movie effects, there is no purpose to having the bridge dimly lit. In TOS and TNG the bridge and halls were bright, which makes sense for a working ship with people whose eyesight you don't want to strain. I would have liked to see this continue even in an updated bridge (and I AM calling you out Star Trek Strange New Worlds and your modernized old Enterprise bridge).
  • The plot? Although I said above that it isn't that bad, there are also some classic TOS style tropes, especially the very end which doesn't exactly make sense (if you fixed the wire, then the signal should have gone through Decker! You didn't have to die/merge/have shimmer-sex with her to save the planet after fixing the wire, right? No, No, I'm mistaken, this is a Star Trek TOS movie, so yes, someone has to have sex with the pretty girl. My bad.)
  • Speaking of which, the female characters still take a back seat. Uhura gets a couple random lines, Chapel gets a few quick lines. Ilia is...a celibate sex object (it is a little funny when she announces that to Kirk)? Who dies early on? Only to be resurrected as a robot? Who Decker must have sex with to save the Earth? Sigh...
  • Also, having seen this movie a half dozen times by now, I can't help but feel that its plot is awfully similar in many respects to Star Trek IV and even V a bit. (Of course, Trek has always been fascinated by "gods" and "creators" but it does consume a fair number of the movies). I also don't know if this is good or bad, but compared to II-IV, this movie feels more like a long episode of TOS (which given it's development history, makes sense). Star Treks II-IV have that big movie feel. This one manages to have upgraded so many things in style, but still keeps much of the feel of a TOS episode. And that's not necessarily a bad thing but it probably didn't help bring in people who were new to the series who just wanted a big action movie.
  • There were still a couple times where I felt like the ADR didn't match in timbre between lines from the same actor (there's an early scene of Kirk briefing the crew before they leave dry dock where one line gets very brittle sounding). I'm wondering why they didn't do more with EQ and even a bit of reverb and other effects to match the other lines in his scene. But overall, that's minor, because as I said above, the sound is really quite good.
    So...Well of course I enjoyed it. I liked the original, non-director's cut. And this edit was definitely better. The color grading also really helped overall. The sound was great. It was clearly cleaned up from the old prints. And yes, some of the problems with the movie will always exist regardless of the edit. It can never be perfect. But it doesn't need to be. However, those damn CGI additions had me feeling that George Lucas young-Jabba-Gredo-shoots-first kinda hatred. (BTW: There are only three Star Wars movies. They were made and finished in the late seventies and early eighties, and have not been changed since). So are you a Star Trek nerd-fan? Then you'll like this new version just fine. Do you already own the prior director's cut? Then maybe you don't need this one when it gets released on Blu-Ray in September. But since I only have the theatrical cut, I'm sure I'll buy this version too.


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