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"
The human adventure is just beginning"
MPAA: Rated PG for sci-fi action and mild language. Runtime: 132 / USA:143 (extended version) Country: USA Language: English / Klingon

Star Trek: The Motion Picture: The Director's Edition (1979/2001)
Review by Bob Eggleton
(credit source:  http://us.imdb.com/Title?0079945)

Directed by Robert Wise
Writing credits Alan Dean Foster (story) Harold Livingston
Music by Jerry Goldsmith
Cast: William Shatner .... Admiral (Captain) James Tiberius Kirk / Leonard Nimoy .... Commander Spock / DeForest Kelley .... Dr. Leonard H. McCoy  / James Doohan .... Commander Montgomery "Scotty" Scott  / George Takei .... Lt. Cmdr. Hikaru Sulu  / Walter Koenig .... Lt. Cmdr. Pavel Chekov  / Nichelle Nichols .... Lt. Cmdr. Uhura /  Majel Barrett .... Dr. Christine Chapel / Persis Khambatta .... Lieutenant Ilia  / Stephen Collins .... Capt./Cmdr. Willard Decker / Grace Lee Whitney .... Lt. Cmdr. Janice Rand / Mark Lenard .... Klingon Captain

Let's go back to 1979...remember the hype...the Trekkies and Trekkers who camped out in the cold on Dec 7th to see whether "The Human Adventure is Just Beginning" or not... the original series had only been off the air for ten years (Hope I made you feel old) and, finally it would be back on the Big Screen as Star Trek: The Motion Picture

The film began production as a TV series called Star Trek: Phase II when Paramount originally tried to launch in l976, what they finally did 19 years later, UPN ( in 1995). The network idea fell through back then, however, and as Paramount was about to launch the series as a direct-to-syndication show, something happened in l977: Star Wars. Science Fiction was Cool (but we always knew that). Leonard Nimoy said he would never do a Star Trek TV series again, but, he MIGHT do a one-shot movie.... so why do a series when they could make a big budget film with lots of cool visual effects? Star Trek: The Motion Picture, with Spock aboard, was born.

Production was one of the longest ever, over eighteen months starting in Spring 1978...about a year and a month later, Paramount got biting their nails about the special effects being done by Robert Abel and Associates who, prior to this, had no "movie" FX experience. In June 1979, after spending six million bucks, they had roughly 15 minutes of useless footage (shot on 16mm!) to show for a film that was supposed to debut on Dec 7th. Douglas Trumbull and John Dykstra, two of the biggest names in the back-then small FX industry were called in to do roughly ten months worth of FX in about five months. The result was a film that was edited together hours before its Washington DC premier, it was the best that could have been done in the time Paramount had.

The film got mixed reviews, many Trekkers vilified it, others called it bland, and almost everyone said at least the first ten minutes were excellent and it was about 40 minutes too long after that....and the story was too much like a previous Trek episode "The Changling".

Fast forward to 1999. Paramount held off releasing ST:TMP as part of the already released DVDs of the other films because Wise wanted to complete the film. He admitted he had not watched it since it had been released, feeling like this film was the "one that got away" in his long career as a director. He realized that time and distance do interesting things for any artist. They make it possible to see the good and the bad in each work. He realized there, that ST:TMP was a good film in its heart. What was bad about it was that it wasn't really complete. With the new technology of digital FX enabling wonders to be done to wonders already...Foundation Imaging was hired, along with sound editors and some music consulting to fix this much maligned film .

The result is excellent. The film is still long but like 2001:A SPACE ODYSSEY, it is a good length, now. At 136 minutes, this is short compared to some recent lengthy films.

The film has been reedited extensively and improved tremendously. Be sure to check out these changes from the original
:

  To start with the credits...reinstated is the "Overture". Overtures aren't done anymore but usually accompanied the start of "big" films in the 50's, 60's and 70's. Basically in the l979 version it was a long  sequence of film with a blank screen accompanied by Jerry Goldsmith's "Ilia's Theme".  In the new version, we see a rolling starfield, with the music, in place of the blank screen (Hey it's something to look at!). After a pause, the Paramount logo appears and then come the main credits, with the "Main Theme" we all know so well (remastered) with a rolling starfield in back of them. In the 1979 version it was just white typeface on a black screen. The new version ties in better with Star Trek II,IV,V and VI which use the same kind of opening credits-over-starfield look.

On Vulcan we see the first of several new FX scenes. Gone are the bad matte paintings, the moons in the sky of Vulcan (which according to Trek Lore, has no moon!) and we now see Spock -- a tiny Spock -- on a vast and inhospitable Vulcan desert with gigantic statues of ancient Logic Masters. 

Next up Kirk arrives in San Francisco -- another redone matte shot that opens up the scope of San Francisco Bay and gets rid of another previously bad matte painting. Other reworked areas include Kirk's ride to the Enterprise with Scotty, we now see the Enterprise in the pod window as a reflection which establishes more of a connection. The flyaway from Earth is vastly improved with a better rendered Earth, and the wormhole sequence shows the asteroid being destroyed in front of the ship, quite spectacularly, and the wormhole literally dissolving to normal space.

The infamous endless V'ger flyover is edited significantly, and later comes the most startling reworking: when the Enterprise enters the V'ger "orifice". The original had a seemingly endless series of facial reactions instead of anything to indicate the Enterprise was on some voyage deeper into V'ger. This sequence was so obviously padded out with edited footage that it became ridiculous. Now we see more "guts" to V'ger, a weird, Giger-esque corridor that leads to its brain, which we see reach out and form a bridge -- care of CGI -- to the ship. Eliminated is another bad matte shot of the crew walking on an out-of-scale saucer top and this is replaced with a jaw-dropping new FX scene showing a bridge structure literally materializing in front of the Enterprise and the crew members (digitally re-created!) walking onto it.

Also altered was the Spock walk sequence, which was padded out in video versions of the film in the l980's which went so far as to show Kirk in a discarded space suit that did not match the design of one he would be in moments later, hanging on obvious wires with studio scaffolding(!!!) around him!

  Toward the picture's end (it's been 22 years, you know how it ends don't you?), we are treated to lengthy, new FX sequences of the V'ger exterior, its cloud dissipated, approaching Earth and going into orbit. We see the whole object side-on. It was only vaguely suggested in the original version with one quick FX shot.

My only quibble: a continuity issue that every Trek/Non Trek person spotted was not corrected.  Near the last shot of the film, McCoy and Spock are wearing similar khaki colored Landing Party jackets one with a thin green armband and the other with an orange one. In one cut, they SWITCH colors! But, this could have been fixed with the same digital technology the rest of the film was redone with.

One of the things Foundation Imaging had to do was to match the "look" of the then-state-of-the-art 1979 FX. In other words it had to look detailed but, not TOO detailed ala their recent work on TV's Enterprise. It had to look like that rather soft, grainy lighting that was used in much of the film. Rather than do what George Lucas did in Star Wars:The Special Edition where he was quoted as saying he wanted to "bring the film into the 90's"...Robert Wise Productions chose wisely to make Star Trek: The Motion Picture: The Director's Edition appear as if it was all done in the l970's -"like a 70's film but a good 70's film" I think was the quote.

Improvements were also made to the Audio portion of the film. Many of the sounds of things were either changed or amplified. Gone, thankfully is that awful droning "Alert" sound, and a much nicer-on-the-pointed-ears one is in place. The Klingon bridge really sounds like a Klingon bridge. And the classic "ping, ping" sound of the old Enterprise bridge is back and lends a nicer connection to Treks of past. Some lines were mercifully excised such as Chekov saying all too obviously "Ve're out of it" when the wormhole dissolves.

The audio commentary which is by a raspy Robert Wise (who sounds 100 years old!), Doug Trumbull, John Dykstra, Jerry Goldsmith and Stephen Collins is worth the price of admission on this one. Lots of techie and sometimes fun anecdotes. Wise remarks to Goldsmith that he "thanked Jerry for a great score because there was simply no time to do any sound editing on the film...the score had to carry the sound.." He also revealed that (surprise, surprise) the script was being written as scenes were about to go before camera!!  Trumbull talks like the techie genius he is...Dykstra is a little more informal with his gosh-wow demeanor.

A second disc includes a documentary, which is quite good, featuring many of the cast and FX crew, the producer and the writer as well as rarely seen "making of" FX footage AND even rarer test footage of the abandoned Star Trek:Phase II TV series.  This footage reveals new sets and shows script tests of actors Persis Khambatta (Ilia) and David Gattreaux as the Vulcan Xon (this part was written out but Gattreaux did play  Commander Branch in the movie) in full make-up and costume (which looked just like the 60's uniforms at this point, but slightly "sexier"). Very very cool.

Composer Jerry Goldsmith provides the most humorous interview recounting how he'd written "Ilia's Theme" and was so proud of it and then he was asked, "Well what about the MAIN theme?" and back he went to his piano in a huff. Also shown, to accompany this is a previously unheard version of the "Main Theme" which, director Wise rejected saying it reminded him too much of "Conestoga wagons" and it does! He took a few notes out and we have the now famous theme.

Another interview is with Jeffrey Katzenberg, who put 1100 miles on his car in the three final weeks before ST:TMP was to debut making sure the film was done. Also shown is the massive film-processing set up, staged at a rented MGM soundstage. Processing several thousand copies of the film day and night, all were specially delivered to theaters, sometimes the same day the film was to debut.  Katzenberg called it an "incredible feat". 

I was really amazed that Paramount kept all this cool stuff hidden away for so long, almost no one has seen it, it's never been bootlegged. The rest of the disc features all of the TV trailers (narrated by Orson Welles!!!!) and two theatrical trailers, all of which sport 70's graphics and disco-neonness to them...and if that doesn't make you feel old....the shots of Gene Roddenberry in those weird 70's leisure suits certainly will.

Take a new look at this film. I can even dare to call it a "classic" now that it's over twenty years old. It always will be the FIRST Star Trek theatrical film and pioneered both the return of Trek to TV and the defunct series to the screen. That's a lot for one film to accomplish.

2001 Ernest Lilley / SFRevu