Robert Wise's Star Trek: The Motion Picture is one of the better entries in the franchise, an excellent start to the film series that challenges viewers with some thought-provoking themes. The cult sci-fi adventure boldly goes into 4K Ultra HD territory refitted with an attractive Dolby Vision video, an identical Dolby TrueHD track, and pretty much the same set of supplements. As part of the Star Trek: The Original 4-Movie Collection 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Set, the overall UHD package is Recommended.
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Despite being a box-office hit in 1979, Star Trek: The Motion Picture was undeservedly panned during its initial theatrical run and to this day, still remains one of the more underrated entries of the entire franchise. Most audiences and casual fans of the Star Trek universe find the lack of action and an explicitly villainous antagonist partly to blame for the film's plodding pace. Admittedly, the heavily dialogue-driven story is slow compared to other installments and leisurely takes its time arriving at its destination. Director Robert Wise (The Day the Earth Stood Still, The Andromeda Strain) places a great deal of attention on the visual effects, the characters and in seeing the original cast return to the iconic starship Enterprise. However, where some see a sluggish and dull beginning to the series, I see a deliberately measured and methodical unwinding to a thought-provoking conclusion that still inspires intriguing discussions.
Rather than follow in the footsteps of action-fantasy Star Wars, Wise and his team conceived of a more traditional or "true" science fiction tale. Once we arrive at the surprise twist about V'Ger, it becomes clear that the plot is grappling with challenging philosophical themes about the concept of God, the purpose of existence and the difficulty of defining those observations outside of our cognitive experiences. One of my favorite aspects of Wise's film is the entity V'Ger while in a robotic replica of Ilia wrestling with understanding "carbon lifeforms" as living creatures, as opposed to being an infestation and measuring life according to the entity's own likeness. Granted, the ride getting there is arguably drawn out, and the production is not without its flaws. But for me, the journey is well earned and rewarding, and the feature-length debut of the crew of the USS Enterprise ultimately feels like a smart, elevated episode of the original television series.
For a more in-depth take on the film, check out Josh Zyber's review of the 2009 Blu-ray HERE.
Vital Disc Stats: The Ultra HD Blu-ray
Paramount Home Entertainment brings the Star Trek film series to 4K Ultra HD as an eight-disc combo pack dubbed the "4-Movie Collection" that includes a flyer with Digital Copy codes for each movie. Said code unlocks 4K UHD digital copies on services like iTunes and Vudu with Dolby Vision HDR video and Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 audio. The first four dual-layered UHD66 discs are housed inside a slightly thicker black, eco-elite case with two center spindles. Meanwhile, the remaining four Region Free Blu-ray copies are packaged inside a separate thicker-than-normal blue, eco-elite case with two center spindles. The two packages come with a glossy, side-sliding slipcover. At startup, viewers are greeted with a static screen, the usual options along the bottom, and music playing in the background.
The sci-fi adventure boldly goes into Ultra HD territory refitted with a reportedly fresh remaster of the original elements, and the results are a surprisingly notable upgrade over the Blu-ray releases. Although much of the photography falls on the softer side due to the filmmakers' stylized approach, making it inherent to the elements, the HEVC H.265 encode comes with strong definition and clarity throughout, exposing some of the finer aspects of the Enterprise. The threading in the uniforms and in the Starfleet patches are distinct, and the individual hairs of the cast are sharply detailed. Faces are occasionally revealing and lifelike, particularly that of Leonard Nimoy, but the caked-on makeup can, at times, make actors appear somewhat waxy in wide and medium shots. The visual and composition effects hold up relatively well with better detailing, but they also stand out more and can often even seem a bit blurry.
The forty-plus-year-old movie also looks fresher and in better shape thanks to Dolby Vision HDR, which brings a welcomed improvement in contrast and brightness balance. The scenes in space display snappy, sparkling stars in the distance, engulfed in inky black emptiness, and specular highlights provide for tightly crisp whites in the lights and a realistic sheen along metallic surfaces. Shadow details could be a tad stronger, especially in the many poorly-lit interiors, but visibility in the darkest corners remain comparatively better than the HD version. Richard H. Kline's cinematography has a distinctively muted, restrained palette, favoring more browns and tans with a mix of various shades of blue, which counters the movie's campy origins. Nevertheless, those secondary hues appear fuller with good saturation levels and more variation while primaries, especially those aforementioned blues, are bolder and more animated, making for an otherwise attractive watch on 4K UHD. (Dolby Vision HDR Video Rating: 78/100)
As far as I can tell, this Dolby TrueHD 7.1 soundtrack appears to be identical to the one enjoyed on the Blu-ray. Remaining faithful to the original sound design, the lossless mix is mostly a front-heavy presentation, displaying excellent acoustical details and clean separation in the mid-range, even during the loudest segments. Dialogue is intelligible and precise at all times, and an impressively robust low-end adds some appreciable weight and presence to the visuals. Although the surrounds are mostly reserved for Jerry Goldsmith's score, a few atmospherics move into the sides with satisfying effectiveness. When applying the receiver's Dolby Surround or DTS: Neural:X up-mixing functionality, the music and ambient effects effortlessly bleed and flow into the top heights to nicely enhance the soundfield.
For a more in-depth take on the audio quality, you can read Josh Zyber's review of the Blu-ray HERE. (Audio Rating: 82/100)
The only new bonus feature is the very welcome Jerry Goldsmith Isolated Score in legacy Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo. The rest are archival materials from past releases - but still well worth picking through if you haven't gone through them before.
Ultra HD Disc
Remastered Blu-ray Disc
Forty-plus years later, Robert Wise's Star Trek: The Motion Picture is one of the better entries in the franchise, an excellent start to the film series, yet it remains an underrated effort even amongst most Trek fans. Reuniting the original cast from the show, the movie is an ambitious, deliberately measured endeavor that challenges its viewers with philosophical, thought-provoking themes that inspire intriguing discussions. The cult sci-fi adventure boldly goes into 4K Ultra HD territory refitted with an attractive Dolby Vision HDR presentation, giving fans a notable upgrade over its Blu-ray counterpart, but it features the same Dolby TrueHD 7.1 soundtrack and pretty much the same set of supplements. As part of the Star Trek: The Original 4-Movie Collection set, the overall UHD package is Recommended.