To boldly go. I have always had a soft spot in my heart for the TREK feature movies. I grew up watching the original series along with THE NEXT GENERATION, and it was a great childhood memory to sit with the family and watch all of the widescreen laserdiscs. At the time that I was watching these movies I was also knocking back many seasons of THE NEXT GENERATION, so it was really cool to see two generations of movies happen…until of course some 1994 movie came along that we will not speak of.
In these four movies, however, we get a big, wide-screen version of the mission of Kirk (William Shatner), Spock (Leonard Nimoy), Bones (DeForest Kelley) and an entire crew . Kirk does not like to mess around and does things his own way, and of course this conflicts with the Vulcan nature of Spock, and the two of them make for one of the most unlikely friendships in film history and resulting in an incredible storyline.
THE MOTION PICTURE, from 1979, is a movie I feel like I admire much more than others; with a lot of production problems and a rushed schedule, along with just kind of figuring out. It comes from filmmaker Robert Wise, who is also known for WEST SIDE STORY and sometimes a director for hire. This movie is grand and epic with a score by Jerry Goldsmith to match. It’s kind of like wanting to be as successful as STAR WARS, but Wise also wanted to throw his nods into 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY too as it shows TREK in a much more slower and theatrical way than the original series. This threw off audiences upon release, but I find it would be more appreciated now as a product of its time.
THE WRATH OF KHAN is completely different in tone and is always regarded as one of the all time great sci-fi pictures, including by me. This feels more like a good-vs-bad Western in Space as the baddest baddie of them all, Khan (Ricardo Montalban) is mad for he and his crew being marooned in space, and is back to tracking down James Kirk. All the while a new planet project called “Genesis” is being created. This is one of the rare TREK movies that can be enjoyed by anyone, but is also the start of a “trilogy” of stories after an incredible final act that shocked audiences upon release.
THE SEARCH FOR SPOCK continues the storyline of KHAN after one particular character goes “missing” but are also tracked by a Klingon group on the search for the Genesis project who want it for themselves.
THE VOYAGE HOME is one that I admired but feel like I didn’t LOVE as much as everyone else, but is a finalization of the series as Kirk and his crew, exiled from Starfleet, travel back in time to transport humpback whales to the future to help fight off an alien force. It’s more of an environmental message than anything, but VOYAGE HOME is a lot of fun with Kirk and his crew back in the 1980’s not understanding the “primitive” culture of the time. This was also the most successful release of the series and inviting new fans into the franchise. The story somewhat ends here and then spins off to uneven movie entries, so this four-movie collection is definitely a great way to experience the overall series.
About the 4k release:
A very generous release from Paramount, the first four movies are here in both 4k and Blu Ray versions, along with additional Apple TV redeem codes. For me, I always love to redeem the Apple TV editions as there can be be additional bonus material on the digital release.
It should be immediately noted that THE MOTION PICTURE, like the last Blu Ray release, is the original theatrical version straight from 1979, warts and all. In 2000, Robert Wise re-cut and re-scored a lot of the movie to fix some effects issues and add some critical VFX shots. This version is still available in the Apple TV copy but in standard-definition, as that’s the limit of
So how do they look? To understand the look and design of these movies, one must realize the type of film stocks, lenses and style of lighting at the time. Looked at now, these movies look very dated as it’s the late 70s and early 80s vision of the future.
THE MOTION PICTURE looks the best to me as it has the higher-end anamorphic photography, lighting and use of framing. Trek 2-4 have a somewhat similar design with KHAN having more reds and oranges, SEARCH FOR SPOCK a heavy blue-set (including a “recap” opening sequence where the color starts as blue and moves to full color mid-sequence…I have never understood the purpose of that) and a more clean, polished look in THE VOYAGE HOME especially in the “modern day” sequences.
Sound-wise, all of the features have a TrueHD track in 7.1 Dolby and they all sound pretty honest to the original Dolby Stereo mixes. SEARCH FOR SPOCK felt a bit louder and aggressive, especially in an early reveal of the Klingon Bird of Prey with the subwoofer channel hitting some pretty powerful notes.
There are so many great bonus features, mostly on the Blu Ray, that feature a lot of background into the creation of translating the original series to feature films. Commentary tracks abound as well, including one with both Nimoy and Shatner that you just have to listen to to believe.
If I had to pick a favourite feature, it’s the simple inclusion of THE MOTION PICTURE’S theatrical teaser, which has Orson Welles narrating. At the time, Welles and Wise were not speaking to each other, so to hear him say his name in the trailer many takes and convincing Welles to just SAY his name is priceless.
Overall, this is a great box set and highly recommended for viewers who want the original, unaltered theatrical versions of the movies. I love having a version of THE MOTION PICTURE without any visual updates and presented “as is”. I believe a more remastered set is coming next year, but for fans of the original movies it is very solid throughout.
STAR TREK: THE ORIGINAL 4-MOVIE COLLECTION is now available on 4k/Blu Ray from Paramount. Many thanks to Paramount PR for sending along a copy for review.