The Bottom Line
- + 4K HDR
- + Dolby Atmos
- - Missing extras
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Star Trek: The Motion Picture - Director's Edition 4K Blu-ray Review
When Star Trek unceremoniously ended its run of three TV seasons in 1969, it was with a sense of surprise that its fanbase not just remained but expanded - thanks to syndication. Despite debuting a short-lived animated series, by the mid-1970s, Star Trek could no longer be ignored.
Following an aborted attempt to initiate a live-action TV series follow-up, Paramount returned the franchise to the big screen in 1979 for Star Trek: The Motion Picture. Despite tepid reviews, cost overruns, and unfair comparisons to that other space series, the film was a financial success for Paramount, ensuring the continuation of the series. But the shortcuts made to ensure the film hit cinema screens on its promised release date continued to haunt them in the intervening years until director Robert Wise decided it was time to give it some new shine.
Originally assembled and released to DVD in 2001, the Director's Edition Star Trek: The Motion Picture materially improves the film in several significant ways, including tightening the editing, fixing visual effects shots, and enhancing the soundtrack. Unfortunately, the master was assembled and confirmed to standard definition, which quickly became outdated with the advent of high definition, let alone ultra-high definition.
But after years of indecision, in 2021, Paramount finally greenlit a new 4K restoration of the Director's Edition, to be overseen by the same team of David C. Fein, Mike Matessino, and Daren R. Dochterman, who all worked with the now deceased Wise in 2001 for the initial Director's Edition. But this new version goes above and beyond the previous effort in several meaningful ways, including working with brand new 4K scans of the original camera negative, re-compositing dozens of visual effects shots from the in-camera elements, and utilizing the latest CG and digital coloring tools to bring the film to a visual clarity never seen before.
While The Motionless Picture doesn't match the thrills of Wrath of Khan or the approachability of The Voyage Home, it successfully captures the tone and 'essence' of the TV series better than any of the other feature films, offering a satisfying reunification of the original crew, while continuing to ask (and sometimes answering) some of the big questions which goes to the heart of Star Trek. While it will never be perfect (and this new Director's Edition frustratingly adds some alternative wrinkles), this 4K remaster is undoubtedly the best way to experience it.
Star Trek: The Motion Picture - Director's Edition is presented in its original aspect ratio of 2.35:1, encoded with H.265 compression and finished with a Dolby Vision pass, in addition to a base HDR-10 layer.
Following a renewed push by Paramount Pictures to restore its sizeable back catalog for 4K, the studio unveiled new releases of the first four films in the Star Trek franchise in 2021, providing The Motion Picture with a spectacular 4K restoration that turned back the ravages the time. The 2022 Director's Edition is built on that same effort, re-conforming the footage largely to the same edit as the 2001 Director's Edition, with the addition of one brand new CG shot and the aforementioned updated CG and re-compositions.
Similar to the 4K release of the theatrical release, this Director's Edition is in spectacular shape, with crisp and clear imagery that revels in gorgeously saturated colors and subtle highlights courtesy of HDR grading, and pleasingly it's largely free of intrusive film artifacts that littered every single frame in previous presentations.
There's a little more judicious use of digital noise reduction than the theatrical version, but it's tasteful and employed in an attempt to provide a little visual uniformity with the mishmash of elements used here. No amount of technology can fully unify 40-year-old film stocks, ancient shooting methods, and old-school model photography with cutting-edge CG.
Age aside, the 4K Director's Edition is a herculean effort that will likely win over even the most pedantic Star Trek fans.
The main audio track here is a Dolby Atmos mix at 24 bits.
Originally released theatrically with a Dolby stereo track, Star Trek: The Motion Picture gained a full 5.1 remix for the 2001 Director's Cut, which was finessed into a 7.1. remix for the 2009 theatrical Blu-ray and 2021 4K release. The 2022 Director's Edition bumps up the audio specs to Dolby Atmos, which might be more evolutionary than revolutionary, but is nonetheless a supremely pleasing experience.
While Atmos mixing can't overcome the limited fidelity of some of the sound effects (I suspect that a lot of the effects from the original series were recycled), the Director's Edition team was able to locate and remix some of the dialogue and incidental audio from newly transferred recordings of the ADR sessions, providing additional clarity to many scenes for the first time.
All in all, the mixers have made a really wonderful attempt to widen the soundstage and make the film sound like the grand and epic scope that the film aimed for. Bass usage is very frequent and underscores the action with some suitably punchy activity. But perhaps the overwhelming beneficiary of the new Atmos mix is the superb Jerry Goldsmith score - undoubtedly one of the finest ever written for film - which truly shines in every audio channel.
This is a really great track which in many ways helps to sell The Motion Picture as the grand adventure it is.
Unfortunately, unlike the U.S. and U.K. physical media releases, Paramount has seen fit not to include a copy of the standard Blu-ray in the Australian release nor the bonus disc, which means all the video-based features are completely missing in action. From the newly assembled 40-minute documentary on the making of the Director's Edition to newly discovered deleted scenes and hours of legacy bonus features, this is a huge omission that will force Australian Star Trek fans to look abroad for the ultimate version of the film.
At the very least, though, the 4K disc does include a newly recorded Audio Commentary by Director's Edition team of David C. Fein, Mike Matessino, and Daren R. Dochterman, as well as a legacy Audio commentary featuring Audio Commentary by Robert Wise, Douglas Trumbull, John Dykstra, Jerry Goldsmith, and Stephen Collins, alongside a newly assembled Isolated Score which presents Jerry Goldsmith's amazing score, sans sound and dialogue effects.
The Bottom Line
It might have taken 43 years, but Star Trek: The Motion Picture finally gets its dues in this stunning Director's Edition that addresses a number of deficiencies.