Motion Picture Collection
- Rated PG
- Buy the BD
All photos © Paramount Pictures
Reviewed by Jason Zingale
t may seem a bit backwards to have seen J.J. Abrams’ big screen reboot of “Star Trek” before watching any of the films starring the original cast, but as a non-fan of Gene Roddenberry’s popular sci-fi series, that’s just how it happened. In fact, there’s a good chance I would have never seen the first six “Star Trek” films were it not for the release of the new movie, because without it, Paramount likely would have taken their time in bringing the franchise to Blu-ray. Now that it’s here, however, Trekkies (or Trekkers, or whatever you may call yourself) may want to think twice about upgrading their home theater systems, because the films have never looked or sounded better than they do here.
First thing’s first: if you’re looking for a review of each individual “Star Trek” film, you’ve come to the wrong place. There are literally thousands of reviews scattered across the internet, and our own Will Harris even published an in-depth retrospective on the cinematic voyages of the Starship Enterprise that, if nothing else, serves as a great beginner’s course to Roddenberry’s universe. Of course, watching the movies nearly 30 years after the fact does yield a different reaction than it would if you originally saw them in theaters, especially when you consider the primitive visual effects (the difference between 1979’s “Star Trek: The Motion Picture” and 1991’s “Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country” is incredible) and the many familiar faces that pop up in supporting roles. From Kirstie Alley’s Vulcan cadet to Christopher Lloyd’s Klingon captain, there’s at least one “big name” in each film, and “Star Trek VI” has several.
Without going into too much detail on the films themselves, however, reviewing a collection such as this without mentioning the infamous “Star Trek” curse would be to miss out on a major opportunity to reevaluate the quality of the movies – especially from the point of view of someone who doesn’t consider themselves a fan. Though it’s been joked about that every even-numbered movie is good and every odd-numbered one is shit, it’s simply not as cut and dry as many people would like to think. Yes, “Star Trek: The Motion Picture” is a terrible film (the idea that an evil space cloud/NASA satellite could be a formidable opponent is laughable), but “Wrath of Khan” also isn’t the sci-fi masterpiece that its reputation suggests. In fact, “Star Trek III: The Search for Spock” and “Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country” are both superior films in regards to sheer entertainment value, while even “Star Trek V: The Final Frontier” (easily one of the worst of the original films) features the best Kirk-Spock-McCoy moments of any movie.
No matter how you may feel about the various films, it’s hard to deny the appeal of watching them again in high definition. Along with being digitally remastered in 1080p HD (and in the case of “The Wrath of Khan,” the theatrical cut completely restored for the first time), each movie is also supplemented with a 7.1 Dolby TrueHD audio track that, no matter how minimal your speaker setup may be, will knock you on your ass with incredible clarity and range. There’s one criticism to be made as a direct result of the booming soundtrack, though, and it’s that the dialogue seems suspiciously soft. Those with surround sound probably won’t notice it as much as those depending entirely on their television’s default speakers, but it’s definitely worth taking into consideration.
In addition to completely new video and audio transfers, each movie has been outfitted with the bonus material from the last round of releases, as well as a host of new extras including audio commentaries with writers/fans like Ronald D. Moore and Michael Taylor (“The Search for Spock”) and Robert Orci and Alex Kurtzman (“The Voyage Home”), as well as a Blu-ray exclusive called Library Computer that allows viewers to access an encyclopedia of applicable information while watching the films. Of course, a lot of the older material is better than the new stuff (for instance, the making-of featurettes that appear on “The Wrath of Khan” and “The Search for Spock” are must-watch in my opinion), but there are still several new extras worth checking out including a featurette on collectors of “Star Trek” movie relics, an interview with Young Spock actor Stephen Manley, a look back with Walter Koenig at his favorite Pavel Chekov moments, and a behind-the-scenes look at the production of “Klingon Hamlet.”
The granddaddy of them all, however, is “The Captains’ Summit,” a 70-minute roundtable discussion with William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, Patrick Stewart and Jonathan Frakes that appears on a seventh bonus disc included in the box set. Moderated by Whoopi Goldberg, the discussion is an amalgamation of stories and details about life on the set that, quite frankly, Paramount should consider releasing on DVD by itself. From debates about the proper ways to approach actors at conventions to life after “Star Trek” and how it changed their careers, “The Captains’ Summit” is a humorous yet intimate look at how the four actors truly feel about the popular sci-fi franchise. It’s easily the highlight of the entire set, but don’t think that cheapens owning the original movies in high definition, because this is something that any “Star Trek” fan (even those who have purchased every version of the films) simply can’t be without.