Note: In the following joint Blu-ray review, both John and Eddie offer their opinions on the various films, with John also writing up the Introduction, Video, Audio, Extras, and Parting Thoughts.
Concurrent with the release of their 2009 "Star Trek" movie, Paramount Pictures have reissued the first six "Star Trek" films, the ones featuring the original Capt. Kirk and Mr. Spock (William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy and company) in their original theatrical presentations and in Blu-ray picture and sound. Although it's interesting to see Kirk and Spock in their younger days, there's nothing quite like seeing Shatner, Nimoy, and the old gang in big-budget movies and high definition. And just in case the potential buyer is not keen on purchasing all six of the movies in the "Original Motion Picture Collection" reviewed here, Paramount also have a three-movie set available, "Star Trek: Motion Picture Trilogy," which includes just "Treks" II, III, and IV.
STAR TREK: THE MOTION PICTURE
Reviewed by John J. Puccio
More of an event than a movie, 1979's "Star Trek: The Motion Picture" reunited the crew of the old television show for the first time in nearly a decade and provided a showcase for nostalgic Trekkies, Trekkers, and Trek fans everywhere. As an introduction to the movie series to follow, I suppose you can forgive the first of these big-screen adventures for being more flash than content. The plot line, frankly, is pretty thin and the characters only superficially developed. The filmmakers probably figured we already knew the characters well enough that only their showing up was necessary. But they were all together again, and that's the main thing.
A former writer for DVDTOWN once described "Star Trek: The Motion Picture" as "eye candy without a soul." I wouldn't go quite so far as to say that it's without a soul, but the producers surely worried more about its looking good and about maintaining the "Star Trek" TV tradition than about telling a compelling story. To be certain they did the job right, Paramount brought in the series originator, Gene Roddenberry, to produce the film. Then, they hired veteran director Robert Wise, no stranger to science fiction ("The Day the World Stood Still," "The Andromeda Strain") or megahits ("The Sound of Music," "West Side Story") to manage the project. Next, they got experienced special-effects experts John Dykstra ("Silent Running," "Star Wars," "Battlestar Galactica") and Douglas Trumbull ("2001: A Space Odyssey," "Close Encounters of the Third Kind," "Blade Runner") to give the film the proper appearance; and they used noted scientist, science writer, and sci-fi author Isaac Asimov as technical advisor. Then, they engaged Jerry Goldsmith to compose some new tunes, whilst wisely retaining Alexander Courage's familiar television theme music. And, of course, they assembled all of the original television cast members: William Shatner as Captain (now Admiral) James T. Kirk, Leonard Nimoy as Commander Spock, DeForest Kelley as Dr. Leonard McCoy, James Doohan as Commander "Scotty" Scott, George Takei as Lt. Commander Sulu, Walter Koenig as Lt. Commander Chekov, and Nichelle Nichols as Lt. Commander Uhura. So, what more could they do? Well, apparently in all the fuss and bother they forgot to finish the script (despite Roddenberry being an uncredited cowriter). And it shows.
Apparently, the success of George Lucas's "Star Wars" a year or two earlier encouraged Paramount to reassemble the old "Star Trek" cast. The fact is, the movie seems slow and overlong for its subject matter. The first half re-introduces the old crew, with Mr. Spock appropriately making his grand entrance last. Then there's the business of introducing us to the newly refitted Enterprise, displaying it from all angles while Goldsmith's and Courage's majestic music plays in the background; this also takes up a good deal of screen time. Finally, there's our introduction to two new crew members, Stephen Collins as Captain Decker and Persis Khambatta as the beautiful (and bald) Lieutenant Ilia.
The plot of the new film, what little there is of it, involves a mysterious, intelligently controlled object hurtling through space destroying everything in its path and heading right for Earth. There's nothing to stop it but the Starship Enterprise and its hardy crew. Admiral Kirk assumes command of his old post, much to the chagrin of the Enterprise's new commander, Decker, which sets up a minor friction between the two. What is this huge, hurtling, moon-sized intruder so hell-bent on reaching Earth, all the while radiating energy of a type never before encountered? What does it want? Can our heroes stop it and save the planet? Well, in regard to that last question, we're still here, so I guess the answer is "yes."
The filmmakers set the stage with a musical overture that reminds one of the similar prologue for "2001," perhaps a suggestion that we should interpret this new "Star Trek" along the lines of Kubrick's pacing and imagery. Then we get a brief action sequence involving the destruction of several Klingon warships in deep space by an unaccountable force that's shrouded in clouds. Cut to some beautiful shots of Starfleet Headquarters in San Francisco, and the show's on the road.
The special effects hold up pretty well and make for some attractive viewing. The visual-effects people render the Enterprise, the wormhole encounter early on, the strange cloud surrounding the intruding vessel, and the alien spacecraft impressively and realistically. Wise uses his camera adeptly and develops interaction among the crew members well. That the film doesn't go anywhere is beside the point. It creates a nice sense of awe and wonder; Kirk gets to execute one of his famous poker bluffs; the ending is typically on the metaphysical side, raising more questions than it answers; and the whole thing concludes with the kind of philosophical message that the old television show was so famous for.
Thought of more as a celebration than a movie, "Star Trek: The Motion Picture" works pretty well; it re-introduces fans of the TV series to their heroes, produces a handsome degree of spectacle, and gets the "Star Trek" movie-sequel business underway. But as Scottish poet Robert Burns wrote in 1785, "The best-laid schemes o' Mice and Men, Gang aft a-gley, And lea'e us nought but grief and pain, For promised joy." No matter how well we plan things, something is bound to go wrong. Scotty would appreciate that. Anyway, the next installment, "Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan," would give viewers everything this first movie sets out for them, with more action, a more formidable foe, stronger interpersonal relationships, and a moving send-off for Spock. Meanwhile, when Kirk says at the end of "Star Trek: The Motion Picture" in answer to where they're heading next, "Out there, thataway," it's at least a point in the right direction.
John's film rating: 6/10
STAR TREK II: THE WRATH OF KHAN
Reviewed by Yunda Eddie Feng
"Khaaaaan!" --James Tiberius Kirk
"Star Trek II" took its inspiration from an episode of the original TV series called "Space Seed." Basically, at the end of that episode, Captain Kirk (William Shatner) sent Khan Noonien Singh (Ricardo Montalban) into exile on Ceti Alpha V. In the movie, the genetically engineered, super-genius Khan manages to escape from Ceti Alpha V, and he commandeers the starship Reliant to destroy Kirk. Khan also manages to steal the Genesis device, developed by Kirk's ex-flame Dr. Carol Marcus and their son, Dr. David Marcus. Genesis, designed to create life out of nothing, could be used as a weapon since it destroys preexisting life in order to create its own "matrix." So, for the better part of two hours, Kirk and Khan chase each other across the galaxy. Admiral Kirk uses his experience with Starfleet ships while Khan uses his superior intellect in order to outwit one another.
Shatner and Montalban do their best to out-overact one another, and I have to say that they conclude with a draw. Although the two actors manage to chew up plenty of scenery, they don't actually stand face-to-face, sparing the story from becoming a free-for-all wrestling match. The usual suspects also appear in the movie, including Captain Spock (Leonard Nimoy) and "Bones" (a delightfully grumpy DeForest Kelley). Look for Kirstie Alley as Saavik, a Vulcan Starfleet cadet who learns a few things from Kirk and Spock about being "human".
While I prefer "Star Trek VI," I agree that "Star Trek II" is fun, spirited, moving, and highly enjoyable. There are a couple of tense space dogfights between the Enterprise and the Reliant, and the script focuses on the deep bonds that have developed over the years between Kirk, Spock, and Bones. If you've followed the series at all, you already know that a major character passes away towards the end of "Star Trek II." Don't worry--if you look at the title of the third movie, you'll know right away that he comes back to life. Oops, was that a spoiler? Hee hee...
Undoubtedly, fans will want to get "Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan" in their hands as soon as possible. They shouldn't be the only ones buying it, though. "Star Trek II" is a remarkably accessible movie. My sister, Shing-yao Sandra Feng, enjoyed it even though she's not usually a fan of science fiction. Fans should be extremely pleased. Well done, Paramount!
Eddie's film rating: 7/10
The Film According to John:
For me, 1982's "The Wrath of Khan" is the best "Star Trek" ever made, period, and that includes the newest "Star Trek" movie, no matter how much I liked it. Not only is "Star Trek II" concise and well-plotted, with the usual camaraderie among the Enterprise crew, it's got the best villain ever seen in the series--Ricardo Montalban as Khan. Montalban is every bit as cunning as Kirk and as clever as Spock, making a formidable foe. The movie also seems the most likely throwback to the old television series as well, forgoing too many of the big, expensive visual effects that would sometimes overshadow the crew in later "Star Trek" movies. As Eddie said, the film is fun, spirited, and moving. I couldn't agree more.
"The Wrath of Khan" is exciting, homey, clever, and funny. The movie ends with what may be the most genuinely tear-inducing scene in all of "Star Trek" lore, and it even poses a few philosophical concerns worthy of the old television series. Most important, though, it raises the all-important question of Ricardo Montalban's chest. When asked about his uniquely pumped-up physique during an interview after the movie's opening, the actor replied that he had done a lot of push-ups before making the film. I doubt there has ever been so pressing a concern as this one until the release of "300" almost a quarter of a century later, nor is there likely to be such a monumental cinematic issue again.
John's film rating: 8/10
STAR TREK III: THE SEARCH FOR SPOCK
Reviewed by Yunda Eddie Feng
The third "Trek" movie takes place immediately following the events of "Trek II." Spock dies while saving the Enterprise from destruction at the end of "Khan," so the Enterprise is now without a science officer. Admiral James T. Kirk (William Shatner) and his crew take the heavily-damaged Enterprise back to Earth. Kirk and Co. assume that Starfleet will repair the ship and re-enter it into active service. However, Starfleet actually wants to decommission the Enterprise and slowly ease her senior officers into desk jobs. Meanwhile, ship doctor "Bones" McCoy (DeForest Kelley) begins to act strangely, as if he were suffering from a split personality disorder. Ambassador Sarek (Mark Lenard) of Vulcan reveals that Spock might have transferred his katra (or non-corporeal essence) to McCoy, and the ambassador solicits Kirk's help in reuniting Spock's katra and his body.
I won't reveal any other plot details because the movie needs a healthy lack of knowledge in order to be engrossing. Once you know everything, the pacing seems to suffer appreciably. In fact, for a film where not all that much happens, "The Search for Spock" moves a bit slowly for my tastes. Suffice it to say that Christopher Lloyd appears as Kruge, a Klingon who wants the Genesis device for its destructive capabilities, and Kirk's son (played by Merritt Butrick) also appears in order to lend "Trek III" with some emotional heft. Robin Curtis replaces Kirstie Alley as Saavik. Curtis does not project the kind of presence that Alley did, so the once-promising character seems to have shrunk to an afterthought.
You've probably heard of the "Evens good, odds not so good" rule when it comes to "Star Trek" movies. Well, "The Search for Spock" does lend some credibility to that adage. "Star Trek III" is the only one in the series to begin with footage from the previous film and to end with the equivalent of the words "To Be Continued..." The film depends very much on the existence of "The Wrath of Khan" and "The Voyage Home," so it feels like a child afraid to let go of his/her parents' hands. This attitude saddles the project with the "can't-stand-by-itself" factor, making it an important contribution to "Star Trek" lore but slightly inaccessible to newbies. Since there is a lack of independence and a lack of urgency, the movie ends up being slightly less than the sum of its parts.
I am a fan of "Star Trek," so I enjoyed "The Search for Spock" as another outing with old friends. However, as a film critic, I also see the movie as what it is--a good premise handicapped by not enough things happening, by uneven pacing, by its dependency on other entries in the series, and by a curious lack of emotion. Of course, since "Star Trek II," "Star Trek III," and "Star Trek IV" (as a trilogy-within-a-series) are the core of the movie sagas, "The Search for Spock" is very much required viewing for anyone interested in the "Star Trek" universe.
Eddie's film rating: 6/10
The Film According to John:
I agree with Eddie that there really isn't a lot going on in the 1984 installment "The Search for Spock" beyond, well, the search for Spock. The intrusion of the Klingons seems almost like a second thought to get more action into the story. That said, there is much to enjoy here.
I liked that director Nimoy got to bring himself back to life. To paraphrase Mel Brooks, It's good to be the Director. I liked Christopher Lloyd as the Klingon captain, although he is practically unrecognizable under all the heavy makeup, and it's hard to take Lloyd seriously after seeing him in so many comic parts. I liked how in the "Star Trek" universe, the bad guys always "look" bad; even their spaceships and their pets look evil. It's like they know they're villains and have to behave as such at all times to maintain their nefarious image. It's the equivalent of the old black-hatted villains in B Westerns. And I liked the idea of reviving Spock's Katra, his living spirit; it reminded me of stuff that would have happened on one of the old TV shows.
Most of all, I liked the humor, the friendship, and the love displayed in this motion picture. Without falling into some of the silliness and self parody of the next movie, "The Voyage Home," this one manages to show genuine emotion and sentiment. Besides another touching ending, there's even a cute scene with tribble-like creatures and mercenaries in a colorful "Star Wars" cantina scene. "And the adventure continues..."
John's film rating: 7/10
STAR TREK IV: THE VOYAGE HOME
Reviewed by Yunda Eddie Feng
In "The Voyage Home" a space probe of unknown origin hurtles towards Earth and begins to change the planet's weather. Admiral James Tiberius Kirk (William Shatner) and his crew take the Klingon bird-of-prey (that they stole in "Star Trek III") and head for Earth to stand trial for violating various Federation regulations while retrieving Spock (Leonard Nimoy, who also directed the movie) from the Genesis planet (created at the end of "Star Trek II"). The probe's assault on Earth has made it dangerous for anyone to approach the heart of the Federation, and Kirk and Company realize that the probe won't leave the planet alone until a whale song responds to it. Therefore, our seven heroes--the rest being Dr. "Bones" McCoy (DeForest Kelley), Scotty (James Doohan), Sulu (George Takei), Chekhov (Walter Koenig), and Uhura (Nichelle Nichols)--journey back in time in order to take some whales (hunted to extinction) to the 23rd Century to answer the probe's call.
"The Magnificent Seven" find themselves in the San Francisco of 1986, and much hilarity ensues when the gang finds itself confronted with the primitive humans of the past. Military officials wonder why the Russian Chekhov is snooping around the nuclear reactor on the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise. "Bones" bemoans the medieval medical practices that he witnesses in the 20th Century. Meanwhile, Kirk and Spock team up with Dr. Gillian Taylor (Catherine Hicks), a whale specialist. Kirk and Spock amuse Gillian with their misuse of words like "hell," "asshole," and "damn" and with Spock calling Kirk "Admiral" all the time.
"The Voyage Home" concludes the mini-trilogy that began with "The Wrath of Khan." We see the departure of the Saavik character (played by both Kirstie Alley and Robin Curtis), and we see the full resuscitation of Spock's psyche after his death in "The Wrath of Khan" and the unification of his katra and regenerated body in "The Search for Spock." We also get to see the cast having fun with their roles, roles that they had inhabited for so many decades with mostly straight faces.
Although only the fourth entry in the big screen "Star Trek" chronicles, "The Voyage Home" already began the tradition of retreating to covered ground. The menacing space probe recalls the V'ger of "The Motion Picture." By the time we get to "Nemesis" (the tenth effort and actually a very good one), we see a "Star Trek" movie that references at least two previous entries ("The Wrath of Khan" and "The Undiscovered Country") as well as countless TV episodes of genetic engineering, warming political relations between two groups, etc. While I enjoy "Star Trek" immensely, I also hope that the franchise's handlers will begin utilizing fresh ideas rather than relying on old standards. Repetition tends to kill a series faster than anything else (James Bond in "Die Another Day", anyone?).
"Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home" has a case of the giggles, so it is easily the most accessible "Star Trek" film in the series. That strength--the humor--is also its weakness. "The Voyage Home" has a serious message about respecting the environment that would've been better served had the script not been so lighthearted. "Star Trek IV" didn't have to be (and shouldn't have been) militant about its environmentalism, of course, but the touchy-feeliness of the final product makes it seem as if saving the world were as easy as saying, "One, Two, Three, GO!" Yes, I know, it's "only" "Star Trek," but before "Star Trek: Voyager," the franchise was about something. When you have something to say, I hope that you say it with a seriousness of purpose rather than with a nudge and a wink.
Eddie's film rating: 7/10
The Film According to John:
"There be whales here"
Only humpback whales, extinct since the twenty-first century from man's overhunting and killing them, can save the world, so Kirk and the crew must return to the late twentieth century (what a coincidence--about the time they made this film) to find two whales and return them to their own time. Yes, it's another time-warp plot, a device familiar to old-time "Trek" fans and to the newest "Star Trek" film as well. Familiar is always safe.
Nimoy again directs, this time with an eye to all-out humor. Indeed, "The Voyage Home" from 1984 may be the closest "Star Trek" has come to complete comedy since "The Trouble With Tribbles." What I liked: Old Doc McCoy at his crankiest, most disputatious best; the line "...everybody remember where we've parked"; the relationship between Kirk and a pretty biologist; and the Monterey Bay Aquarium, a location I know well, substituting for the Sausalito Cetacean Institute.
A few things I didn't like: Leonard Roseman's background score, which aspires to grandeur but sounds tired and trite to me; the Klingon line "There shall be no peace as long as Kirk lives," which is not only clichéd but made me laugh unintentionally because, of course, if there were peace, we'd have no movies; and Mr. Spock's being able to figure out in two minutes that whales can save the Earth, when the collective minds of the best scientists on Earth couldn't come close to figuring it out in far more time.
Oh, well.... This is the movie that many fans find too cutesy for its own good and tend to disparage. However, I've always found it charming and easy to approach in spite of its most-vocal detractors.
"My friends, we've come home."
John's film rating: 7/10
STAR TREK V: THE FINAL FRONTIER
Reviewed by Yunda Eddie Feng
I wasn't a "Star Trek" fan while growing up because I never got in the habit of watching TV shows on a weekly, dedicated basis. The only bits of the "Star Trek" films that I saw were scenes that I caught on TV on lazy weekend afternoons. I usually caught only the first or last five minutes of "Star Trek V: The Final Frontier," and I was charmed by the warmth of positive feelings generated by William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, and Deforest Kelley as Captain James T. Kirk, Spock, and Dr. "Bones" McCoy. Little did I know how hated it was by the "Trek" community, and little did I know about how bad the rest of the movie is. The movie is so simplistic, banal, non-eventful, non-engaging, and drawn-out that it's basically a waste of time.
In "Star Trek V" Spock's half-brother, Sybock (Laurence Luckinbill), hijacks the Enterprise in order to reach a planet that is surrounded by an energy band known as The Great Barrier. Sybock--a Vulcan who rejected his culture's embrace of logic--believes that "God" is to be found at Sha Ka Ree, and he intends to meet "God" for the answers to life's big questions. Complicating matters is the fact that a young Klingon captain wants to make his name by defeating Kirk in battle, so he gives chase to the Enterprise.
I know that the filmmakers wanted to satisfy fans' desires to see the entire Enterprise crew hang out all the time, but given the physical conditions of some of them (James Doohan in particular), it's just not very believable to see all of them (Shatner, Nimoy, Kelley, Doohan, Walter Koenig, Nichelle Nichols, George Takei) traipsing across the universe as members of a military establishment. I'm also bothered by the makeup job done on Walter Koenig (Chekhov); he looks like he wants to be a transvestite sometimes. I know that this is a science-fiction project, but the more improbable something is, the more "believable" it has to be in order to maintain its credibility.
William Shatner wanted to direct a "Star Trek" film after Leonard Nimoy helmed two of them. Shatner also wanted to control the flow of the story of his directorial effort. The thing is, Shatner should've realized that he was very lucky to have been cast as Kirk, and he should've realized that it's okay to be limited sometimes. After all, being Kirk is kind of a nice thing in the grand scheme of things. However, he wanted to put his hands in two big fires, and he got burned.
There are many problems with the film's script, including a serious lapse in logic (made by Spock!) that has a disgraced Klingon general taking command of a Klingon bird-of-prey. This sort of slight of hand makes one believe that the filmmakers simply ran out of time and money and wound up shooting whatever finale that they could in order to wrap things up. You also wonder how the Enterprise and the bird-of-prey can pass through the energy barrier even though no ship before them had done it. No one makes any significant modifications to the ship's defenses, and they pass through The Great Barrier as if they're people walking unharmed through a fog.
Many people complain about the sentimentality and silliness of the sequences that have Kirk, Spock, and Bones camping in Yosemite National Park, but I think that the movie could've benefited from focusing on elements that make the characters click. There is something quite lovely about the way that Kirk, Spock, and "Bones" bond when they sing "Row, Row, Row Your Boat..." and when they affirm their relationships as brothers. However, instead of gracefully moving the characters towards their retirements, we get interminable expository dialogue that betrays the writers' lack of analytical skills. "Star Trek V" is proof enough that you have to start with a good script in order to make a worthwhile movie.
"Star Trek V: The Final Frontier" is more of a bore than it is an outright bad movie. The filmmakers really did make the best of available sets and money. However, the script is so poorly conceived--did William Shatner want to meet God or not?--that none of the characters have anything substantive to say about the metaphysical aspects of existence. For a little more than an hour and a half, we have to sit through a ham-fisted attempt to make "Star Trek" "mean" something. Sadly, "Star Trek V" reveals the limitations of its creators' visions.
Eddie's film rating: 4/10
The Film According to John:
"Nimbus III, a planet in the Neutral Zone, the Planet of Galactic Peace" is a hellhole desert. The winds howl up a storm there until somebody speaks, and then all is silent for the dialogue, and violins play in the background. It's a miracle.
That's the kind of movie 1989's "Star Trek V: The Final Frontier" is. Cut to Captain Kirk climbing the face of El Capitan in Yosemite National Park, "because it's there," inspiring Tom Cruise to do the same several years later. Meanwhile, waiting for him below and fretting about him is old Doc McCoy, with a pot of coffee on the fire, anxious to bond and sing "Row, Row, Row Your Boat" with Spock in a trio.
"Final Frontier" demonstrates a corniness that seems far more cloying than saving the Earth with a couple of whales. Instead, we get a religious fanatic bent on passing through the Great Barrier Reef off the coast of Katmandu, with only John Wayne at the tiller in the wake of the Red Witch in search of the Wizard of Oz and the sacred Shakra Stones. Or something.
Again, I merely felt sorry for the bad guys because they always seem so angry and never have any fun, as opposed to the good guys, who get to sing songs around the campfire. "Star Trek V" is doubtless the least sensible, least logical movie in the series.
John's film rating: 5/10
STAR TREK VI: THE UNDISCOVERED COUNTRY
Reviewed by Yunda Eddie Feng
The best science fiction offers ideas that reflect upon on our own contemporary experiences, and the best science fiction remains relevant because their lessons can be applied for all time. It's hard to say if "Star Trek" is "relevant" beyond the entertainment realm because it is an ongoing cultural phenomenon, but the best of "Star Trek" works like the best science fiction. "Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country" extended the franchise's optimism into the realm of recent history when it compared the beginnings of the Federation-Klingon Alliance to the fall of the Iron Curtain in Europe.
During the late-1980s, the Soviet Union experienced a major nuclear reactor catastrophe at Chernobyl, and the collapsing Soviet economy forced Premier Mikhail Gorbachev to enact reforms in the spirit of glasnost ("openness"). "Star Trek VI" begins with an explosion at an energy facility on a moon orbiting Kronos, the Klingon home world. The disaster leads to the Klingons asking the Federation for help.
Of course, peace is more difficult to realize than war, so plenty of problems plague our heroes--Captain James Tiberius Kirk (William Shatner), First Officer Spock (Leonard Nimoy), Chief Medical Officer "Bones" McCoy (DeForest Kelley), Communications Officer Uhura (Nichelle Nichols), Chief Engineer "Scotty" (James Doohan), and Tactical Officer Pavel Chekov (Walter Koenig) of the starship Enterprise. Former helmsman Hikaru Sulu (George Takei) provides assistance as the captain of the starship Excelsior. Various factions in the Federation, the Klingon Empire, and even the Romulan Empire conspire to prevent the signing of a peace treaty between the Federation and the Klingons. There's a plot to discredit Kirk, and there's the appearance of a Klingon bird-of-prey that can fire when cloaked (a superweapon that can be analogized to the weapons race that developed between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R.).
There are two memorable new characters--the Vulcan Valeris (Kim Cattrall) and the Klingon General Chang (Christopher Plummer). Valeris follows in Saavik's footsteps as a protégée (and potential love interest) for Spock. Since Plummer and Shatner (and many of the actors who appear in "Star Trek") have theater roots, there are many references to literature, including the constant use of Shakespeare as well as an allusion to Peter Pan.
The film is also good for a lot of witty jokes that are twists on historical and literary expectations. For example, Spock says, "There's a Vulcan proverb--only Nixon could go to China," and Chekov says, "Perhaps you know Russian epic of Cinderella...if shoe fits, wear it." The best of these lines about cultural misappropriations is Chancellor Gorkon's (David Warner) "You have not experienced Shakespeare until you have read him in the original Klingon."
Although many people have compared Klingons to the Russians or even to blacks/Africans due to their dark visages, I actually think that the Klingons were modeled after the Chinese/the Japanese. After all, the Klingons are always talking about family, loyalty, and honor (concepts highly-touted by traditional Chinese/Japanese philosophy), and the Klingons favor using metallic blades in hand-to-hand combat rather than projectiles (i.e., bow-and-arrows, cannons, guns, etc.). Therefore, I found it rather fitting and poetic that the main villain in "Star Trek VI" is named Chang (a Chinese surname).
Kirk's speech about "the end of history" alludes to a theory that advances the idea that nothing new will ever happen any more on our planet in terms of geopolitical maneuvering (see Francis Fukuyama's "The End of History"). While I think that the theory yields interesting ideas and food for thought, I also think that it prematurely announces geopolitical endgames. There are many ways to approach the world's various issues, and we can't possibly fathom how future technological changes will alter our landscape. For example, while it may seem that Western liberal democracy and capitalism are on the triumphant road, the Internet has fostered a downloading culture that leads people to believe that information and intellectual property should be free to all people. In essence, people that Western governments call "pirates" are actually communists (I refer to communism objectively and without pejorative inclinations) since one of their principles is the belief that one should not pay for the fruits of mental labor (physical labor is supreme according to communist ideology). "Star Trek" itself envisions a communistic ideal with the eradication of material needs (i.e., everyone can get the food and clothes that they need via replicators for free).
I'm a big history buff, and I'm a big literature buff. I appreciate how the makers of "Star Trek VI" incorporated both history and literature into the franchise because, not only did the movie enrich the "Star Trek" mythos, it also applied, examined, and expanded upon our reliance on history and literature as instruments that allow us to understand ourselves and why things happen. Were it not for some slow-moving passages that could've been trimmed without hurting the story, "Star Trek VI" could easily have been the best "Trek" movie of them all.
Eddie's film rating: 7/10
The Film According to John:
You think it's just coincidence that the same man, Nicholas Meyer, directed the two best films in the "Original Motion Picture Collection"? I think not. Or that both "The Wrath of Khan" and 1991's "The Undiscovered Country" feature the best villains in the series? Add in a good script (co-written by Meyer), with a good protagonist-antagonist conflict, the usual good cast, and good special effects, and you get yourself a worthy film.
Do you ever wonder how people in the Federation rise to the top and get to be in charge, though, when the real brains and brawn like the stalwart crew of the Enterprise keep doing all the dirty work?
"Star Trek VI" is notable for any number of "firsts," making it a personal favorite of mine:
We see Kirk's hair greying for the first time.
We see Kirk has more hair than ever before.
We see Kirk is heavier than ever before.
We see Kirk hating on Klingons more than ever before.
Spock exclaims, "Logic is the beginning of wisdom...not the end." Does he finally get it?
Spock presumptuously speaks for Kirk.
There is more quoting of Shakespeare here than in any other episode in the series.
It's the first truly serious "Trek" in many an installment.
Sulu is in command of his own Starship, the Excelsior.
Scotty's gone completely grey.
The story is more of a mystery adventure than it is an action saga.
The story includes a shape-shifter who makes for a nifty character.
Kirk fights himself.
And several other "firsts" that I won't reveal for fear of spoiling any of the surprise.
"Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country" is a fond and fitting farewell to old friends.
John's film rating: 7/10
There are a few things you have to remember when thinking about the Blu-ray picture characteristics of these motion pictures. First, all movies shot on regular film stock have varying degrees of grain according to the quality of the stock used, the lighting conditions, etc., and varying degrees of inherent softness to the picture. Second, all conventional film stock deteriorates over time, no matter how well it's stored. Third, a film shot digitally does not have the traditional grain structure of conventional film stock and may appear to have no grain at all. Fourth, a majority of home viewers who have high-definition televisions today probably have relatively small-screen models with resolutions of 720p. Fifth, a majority of home viewers with high-def sets probably watch more digitally shot high-def television programs than they watch high-def Blu-ray movies. In other words, a majority of people who own HD televisions are probably more used to ultraclean, grain-free, digitally shot material than they are used to relatively grainy motion pictures.
What does this mean for Blu-ray movie transfers of conventionally shot source material? It means that a lot of home viewers may not appreciate the grain, even though it adds texture and life to a picture. Thus, video engineers often apply a certain amount of grain removal, DNR (dynamic noise reduction), to clean up a movie's natural grain. How much they apply is key. Too little and the picture may not sell to home audiences. Too much and the filtering may remove a good deal of fine image detail along with the grain.
Which brings us to the transfers of the "Star Trek" movies. The filmmakers shot each of them a little differently, the original prints were in slightly different states of well being at the time of transfer, and the transfer engineers appear to have applied varying degrees of DNR filtering (as well as edge enhancement) to them, in some cases making them look clean as a whistle, yet devoid of life. Do they look better than their DVD counterparts? You bet, in every way. Are they perfect? Not on your life. They will delight some viewers and infuriate others.
Paramount spread out each of the six movies over dual-layer BD50s, using MPEG-4 video codecs for the transfers. But not all movies are created equal, not all movies get the same transfer treatment, and not all of these movies look the same. The first film in the set, "Star Trek: The Motion Picture," had maybe the biggest budget of all six movies and looks among the best of the bunch. As with all of the transfers in the set, the studio used a dual-layer BD50 and an MPEG-4/AVC codec to reproduce the movie's theatrical aspect ratio of 2.35:1. There is a small amount of softness to the image, no doubt inherent to the original print, and some evidence of probable DNR filtering to further clean up any excessive grain or noise in select scenes. Still, there are a few ticks and flecks left behind, nothing much, really. The picture holds up quite well, in fact, and you can tell where the money went in making the movie. Colors are beautiful, very natural, very rich, and very deep, and definition is all you could want, except, as I say, for some small degree of intrinsic softness and a little filtering in some scenes.
"Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan" is the only film in the set for which the studio provided a complete restoration. I suppose they knew it was the best film of the lot, and as they are issuing it separately in Blu-ray they wanted it to look as good as possible. Again, the 2.35:1 ratio production does, indeed, look good, although it shows a bit more grain than the first movie did, especially in a few opening scenes. At the same time, it also looks slightly soft, a condition again probably arising from the original filming. Colors are richer looking than they are brilliant or glowing, and, overall, the film's appearance is darker than the other movies, yet with excellent dimensional clarity.
"Star Trek III: The Search for Spock" looks almost as good as the first two films, while it shows maybe a slightly greater degree of noise filtering. This is especially evident in facial close-ups, which appear a bit too smoothed over. Nevertheless, medium and long shots look well detailed, and in general the movie looks fine, certainly better than ever before, maybe even better than it looked on the big screen. Colors are bright, sometimes even glowingly radiant.
Again we find a degree of DNR noise filtering on "Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home," just enough to make some facial close-ups noticeably smoothed out and devoid of life. Despite this, the colors and definition make up for any lack of ultimate detail. Medium, long, and outdoor shots show up best, looking positively brilliant in their clarity. So, basically, we've got the first four movies showing a little too much filtering on occasion but in general looking pretty good.
Here's the thing: You'd think that maybe the newer the film, the better it might look. But those of us with big movie collections know that isn't necessarily true, and many older titles, if well preserved or well restored and well transferred to disc, can look better than newly made films. In terms of the "Trek" movies, it seems as though they get progressively worse looking as they go along. Not badly worse or anything, just marginally so. "Star Trek V: The Final Frontier," for instance, suffers the DNR filtering fate of the others in the series but in seemingly more scenes. Moreover, the filtering appears to affect more medium shots than close-ups, smoothing over and smearing details. Go figure. Combine this with the film's inherently soft textures and some excessively brilliant contrasts, and you get OK but hardly great video quality.
Which brings us to the last movie in the series, "Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country." Here we find brilliant colors when needed, yet appropriately muted hues during indoor shots. Certainly, the colors look deeper and richer than on "Trek V." The picture quality also looks more detailed than "Trek V," although it still appears pretty well scrubbed. Even in the snow-filled scenes, there isn't quite as much grain as you would expect from conventional film stock. That said, I doubt that anyone but a fanatical, over-the-edge videophobe is going to complain too loudly. I would have preferred more grain and less filtering, but all of these films are more than watchable.
The audio engineers have remixed all of the English soundtracks using lossless Dolby TrueHD 7.1 and produce, as we might expect, varying results. "Star Trek: The Motion Picture" sounds pretty good, but it's not up to today's blockbuster standards. The sonics are very smooth overall, with decent dynamics and reasonably solid bass. Despite the 7.1 remix, however, the soundtrack doesn't display a whole lot of surround information; fortunately, though, it does a fine job across the front channels. Voices are a tad muted at times and a tad edgy at others.
"Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan" gets the TrueHD 7.1 remix treatment, and it comes up fine, if not spectacularly so. There is some good bass on hand, a decent dynamic impact, and a touch more surround activity than in the first movie. Nevertheless, the audio seems a mite more constricted than it does in the later entries in the series, and voices can occasionally sound almost as frequency starved as in the previous film.
In terms of surround activity, things improve marginally on "Star Trek III: The Search for Spock." While it's still not up to today's standards, at least the soundtrack gives us some wind and thunder in the rear channels. However, this is not the most dynamic audio you'll ever hear, nor does it display the deepest bass. Its strong suit is its realistic midrange, with natural-sounding voices.
The TrueHD on "Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home" provides more bass energy than on the previous three installments. There is also a strong dynamic impact to this one and the same clear midrange we find in the previous movie. What we still don't quite get yet is the all-encompassing surround activity of a more-modern sonic spectacular. Not that the surrounds entirely disappoint, however, as they do offer some enhancement to spaceship flybys, the noises in the belly of an aircraft carrier, and the creaking and cracking of a Klingon Bird of Prey breaking apart.
With "Star Trek V: The Final Frontier" we find a wider multichannel spread than in the previous four movies, with the surrounds coming to life more often and with more vigor. Also, it has the clearest, most-transparent midrange of the bunch so far, even if it does come off a smidgen forward.
Saving the best for last, "Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country" has the best sound of the collection. We find loads of surround information, at least some of it quite pinpoint; good clarity, precision, and naturalness; decent dynamics; and adequate bass. It makes a proper send-off.
Each of the movie discs contains a variety of extras, much of them repeated from earlier special-edition DVDs and some of them newly made for their Blu-ray release and in high definition.
"Star Trek: The Motion Picture" contains a new audio commentary by "Star Trek" writers and experts Michael and Denise Okuda, Judith and Garfield Reeves-Stevens, and Daren Dochterman, followed by several newly made featurettes: "The Longest Trek: Writing the Motion Picture" (HD), about ten minutes; "Special Star Trek Reunion" (HD), about nine minutes; and "Starfleet Academy Brief: Mystery Behind the V'ger" (HD), about four minutes. In addition, the disc contains eleven deleted scenes totaling about eight minutes; storyboards; a teaser and theatrical trailer; and seven TV spots. Exclusive to the Blu-ray disc, we get the "Library Computer," where you can view text information throughout the movie on subjects at hand; and for those viewers with BD-Live capabilities, there is a "Star Trek I.Q." interactive trivia game for download. Plus, there are twenty-one scene selections; bookmarks; and on all the movie discs English (Dolby TrueHD 7.1), French (Dolby Digital 2.0 or 5.1), and Spanish (Dolby Digital 1.0) language tracks, with English, French, Spanish, and Portuguese subtitles, and English captions for the hearing impaired.
"Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan" contains a couple of the better audio commentaries, one by director Nicholas Meyer alone and another, newer one by Meyer and TV series producer Manny Coto. Following those are a number of featurettes, some new and some in high def. Under the umbrella title "Production" we get "Captain's Log," "Designing Khan, Interviews," Visual Effects," and the new "James Horner: Composing Genesis" (HD). Under "The Star Trek Universe" we get "A Novel Approach," the new "Collecting Star Trek's Movie Relics" (HD), and the new "Starfleet Academy Brief: Mystery Behind Ceti Alpha VI" (HD). Next, there's a whole series of storyboards, followed by the new featurette "A Tribute to Ricardo Montalban" (HD). After that is the Blu-ray exclusive "Library Computer," described above, and the "Star Trek I.Q." materials from BD-Live. Finally, there are seventeen scene selections; bookmarks; a theatrical trailer in 1.78:1; and the usual complement of languages and subtitles.
"Star Trek III: The Search for Spock" contains two commentaries, one by Leonard Nimoy, writer and producer Harve Bennett, cinematographer Charles Correll, and Robin Curtis, and a second, newer one, by Ronald D. Moore and Michael Taylor. Next, we have a "Production" segment containing another "Captain's Log," about thirty minutes on the making of the movie; "Terraforming and The Prime Directive," a piece that looks at maybe changing Mars and others into habitable planets; and two new pieces, "Industrial Light & Magic: The Visual Effects of Star Trek" (HD); and "Spock: The Early Years" (HD). After that, there's "The Star Trek Universe," where we get three featurettes: "Space Docks and Birds of Prey," on the film's miniatures; "Speaking Klingon," on the Klingon and Vulcan languages; "Klingon and Vulcan Costumes"; and two new pieces, "Star Trek and the Science Fiction Hall of Fame" (HD) and "Starfleet Academy Brief: Mystery Behind the Vulcan Katra Transfer" (HD). Then, there are two photo galleries, one on production and the other on the movie; ten sets of storyboards; a 2.35:1 theatrical trailer; a mere eleven scene selections; bookmarks; and again a BD-Live function and the usual languages and subtitles and captions.
"Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home" contains two audio commentaries, one by William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy and a newer commentary by sci-fi/fantasy writers and producers Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman, who look at the film from a fan's point of view. Following those is another "Library Computer" of text information. Next comes the "Production" segment with a long series of featurettes: "Future's Past: A Look Back," "On Location," "Dailies Deconstruction," "Below-the Line: Sound Design," and a new item, "Pavel Chekov's Screen Moments" (HD). After those is "The Star Trek Universe" with more featurettes: "Time Travel: The Art of the Possible," "The Language of Whales," "A Vulcan Primer," "Kirk's Women," and three new pieces, "Star Trek: Three Part Saga" (HD), "Star Trek for a Cause" (HD), and "Starfleet Academy Brief: The Whale Probe" (HD). Then, there are original interviews with Nimoy, Shatner; and Kelley; the featurettes "From Outer Space to the Ocean" and "The Bird of Prey"; and two tributes, "Roddenberry Scrapbook" and "Featured Artist: Mark Lenard." Things wind down with a four-minute production gallery; eight storyboard sequences; a 2.35:1 theatrical trailer; BD-Live; eighteen scene selections; bookmarks; and the usual languages, subtitles, and captions.
"Star Trek V: The Final Frontier" contains the older audio commentary by Shatner and his daughter Liz, again followed by newer commentary, this one with Michael Okuda and Denise Okuda, Judith and Garfield reeves-Stevens, and Daren Dochterman. Next up, we get the Blu-ray exclusive "Library Computer" feature I've mentioned on all the discs. After that, the "Production" segments include "Harve Bennett's Pitch to the Sales Team," with executive producer Harve Bennett trying to promote the movie; "The Journey: A Behind-the-Scenes Documentary," a making of; "Makeup Tests"; "Pre-Visualization Models"; "Rock Man in the Raw"; and "Star Trek V Press Conference." Then, we get "The Star Trek Universe," which contains five older featurettes: "Herman Zimmerman: A Tribute," on the production designer; "Original Interview: William Shatner," on Shatner filming the movie in Yosemite; "Cosmic Thoughts," on science and religion; "That Klingon Couple," on the Klingon captain and the female first officer; and "A Green Future?" on the hope for a better world. Additionally, the "Universe" contains three new items: "Star Trek Honors NASA" (HD), "Hollywood Walk of Fame: James Doohan" (HD), and "Starfleet Academy Brief: Nimbus III" (HD). Things wind down with four deleted scenes; a four-minute production gallery; three storyboards; two theatrical trailers; seven TV spots; and BD-Live. Finally, there are fifteen scene selections, bookmarks, and the usual selection of languages, subtitles, and captions.
"Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country" contains an older audio commentary by director Nicholas Meyer and screenwriter Denny Martin Flinn and a newer one by author and editor Larry Nemecek and TV series filmmaker Ira Steven Behr. Further, we get the "Library Computer," followed a twenty-six-minute featurette, "The Perils of Peacekeeping," and a fifty-seven-minute series of six "Stories from Star Trek VI." Next is the "The Star Trek Universe," with four older featurettes--"Conversations With Nicholas Meyer," "Klingons: Conjuring the Legend," "Penny's Toy Box," and "Together Again," plus three newly made featurettes--"Tom Morga: Alien Stuntman" (HD), "To Be or Not To Be: Klingons and Shakespeare" (HD), and "Starfleet Academy Brief: Praxis" (HD). Then, there is "DeForest Kelley: A Tribute," "Original Interviews" with various members of the cast, a three-minute production gallery, three storyboard sequences, a teaser trailer, a theatrical trailer, a vintage convention presentation by Nicholas Meyer, and BD-Live access. Lastly, there are fifteen scene selections, bookmarks, and the usual collection of languages, subtitles, and captions.
In addition to the extras on the six BD discs themselves, the set includes a seventh, bonus disc in high definition called "Star Trek: The Captains' Summit." It's exclusive to the box, a roundtable discussion with William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, Patrick Stewart, and Jonathan Frakes, hosted by Whoopi Goldberg. For about seventy minutes, the actors exchange thoughts on their various experiences filming the shows and provide a few glimpses into their personal lives along the way. The discussion is not as insightful or revealing as you might think, but it is fun listening to these folks for the hour-plus it runs.
We get all seven discs individually packaged in slim-line BD cases, further enclosed in a handsome cardboard box and a transparent plastic slipcover.
There you have it. The "Star Trek: Original Motion Picture Collection" may be exactly what "Trek" fans have been waiting for, or it may be a huge disappointment for videophiles. On the other hand, maybe it's only right that since the movies themselves vary considerably in quality, the video and audio should vary somewhat, too. Who knows. I do know that everything in life is a compromise, and these "Trek" films seem to hit a sweet spot, with most of them looking and sounding darned good and certainly better than ever.