Because I’m a chump, I finally broke down and paid for Paramount+.
Available on the service is the newly remastered version of Star Trek: The Motion Picture starring William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelly, and renowned sex pervert Stephen Collins.
When Robert Wise’s Director’s Cut came out years ago, it greatly improved what was an otherwise interesting but clunky and boring movie. Unfortunately, this version of the film wasn’t updated for high def until recently.
It looks incredible. Douglas Trumbull’s special effects have been vastly improved. Jupiter, V’ger, the Enterprise…it all pops in ways that it didn’t before. That element alone makes the film much more watchable.
However, while some aspects of the film have been improved, it only only highlights its weaker aspects. While the special effects, music, and (most of its) production design are incredible, that only makes the direction, script, editing, and acting look that much more terrible.
It doesn’t matter how hard they try, they can’t disguise the fact that this movie was hastily thrown together. At the time, I think, it was one of the most expensive movies ever made. And to be honest, it doesn’t look it.
Oddly enough, I think fault lies on the shoulders of legendary director Robert Wise and his DP. Much of the film takes place on the bridge of the Enterprise. And the set looks godawful. It’s too claustrophobic, too cheap, too bland. And the editing doesn’t do much to improve it as actors awkwardly wander on and off the set without much of a purpose.
It’s not the best design for the Enterprise bridge. But Nicholas Meyer and Leonard Nimoy…both novice directors at that time…make that same set look like a million dollars in subsequent Trek films. Meyer especially puts the claustrophobic aspect to good use in Star Trek II.
Fortunately, I think most of this could be easily fixed. And that requires jettisoning most of the journey through the V’ger cloud. While visually it’s interesting, it adds absolutely nothing. The immensity of V’ger itself is also established in the next sequence (which also needs to be cleaned up a bit editing wise) therefore making the cloud voyage redundant.
It’s a small change, but it would go a long way in improving the pacing. I’m sure there’s a fan edit floating around the internet somewhere that does this.
The uniforms also look underwhelming. I don’t hate them. Some internet genius explained that these surgeon-like uniforms actually highlight the delicacy of the matter: the characters have to be precise in their decision making. In that light, the uniforms add a nice touch. Nevertheless, the film could have used an updated version of William Theiss’ iconic designs.
Unfortunately nothing will fix the caricature performances and phoned-in script. But that’s okay. This high-def version of the Director’s Cut…which will presumably be the final cut…elevates what was one of the worst Trek films into a pretty solid sci-fi movie.
And that’s good enough 👍