"Star Trek: Motion Picture Trilogy" Blu-ray Review
May 11, 2009 by Zach Demeter
With Star Trek now out in theaters, the craze that the film will no doubt cause will likely spike purchase of the older films on the various home video formats. So what better time to debut the films on Blu-ray? Although Paramount has chosen to release the first six films (in non-director’s cut form due to limitations of the resolution of the additional footage) in a set, they’ve also opted to release the Star Trek Trilogy, a collection of Star Trek II, III and IV. While it’s not immediately obvious unless you’ve watched the films in quick succession, Khan, Spock and The Voyage Home all share an underlying theme. In addition, Khan notwithstanding, this “Trilogy’s” later offerings were both directed by none other than Leonard Nimoy himself.
Prepare to embark on an epic three-part adventure starring the legendary cast of the U.S.S. Enterprise as they sacrifice their lives, ship and freedom to save the universe from imminent destruction. Spanning across three motion pictures, the Star Trek: Motion Picture Trilogy is the ultimate story of heroism, duty and friendship that will thrill old and new fans alike. The Wrath of Khan has been fully restored and The Search for Spock and The Voyage Home have been remastered in high definition with brilliant picture quality and 7.1 Dolby TrueHD.
It’s been awhile since I’ve seen the Trek films and I can honestly say that the last time I saw these three films I had no idea they were so connected. Granted, Search for Spock obviously is a continuation from Khan being in that they’re searching for Spock (the title kind of gives that away already, doesn’t it?), but The Voyage Home I never realized was still heavily connected to the two that preceded it. You could wager that all of the films are connected (though many will want to ignore V…damn you Shatner), but these three do share a special bond and a certain uniqueness in that none of them…well, suck, like a lot of the later installments did.
The Wrath of Khan is renowned as one of the top Trek films, not only because Khan may be the greatest Star Trek villain ever, but also because it followed up the turd that was The Motion Picture with something that was genuinely entertaining and didn’t have you opening your mouth for a yawn every ten minutes. Indeed, Khan may be the single greatest Trek film (although I’m writing this a few hours before going to see the new film—figured it’d be best to review the old prior to experiencing the new), although since I’m partial to The Next Generation I’d have to pick First Contact as my personal favorite. Nonetheless, Khan is a fantastic film that marries action, story, and both over the top as well as solid dramatic acting. This film is so popular they actually made an action figure of Kirk yelling “Khannnnnnnnnnnnn!” – constipated facial expression and all.
For The Search for Spock, the series went down a decidedly less exciting route again, with a much more philosophical and dramatic turn with the whole Vulcan mythology taking center stage. Call it a cop out if you want, but Spock’s ultimate return still brought a smile to a face (which was nice, because that bagpipe send off in Khan can cause upside down smiles to form) and it set up Nimoy’s directing ability, which is really quite good. Not saying that he excels over any particular sequences moreso than any other director, but it was some kind of fanboy dream to have him both behind and in front of the camera (something Jonathan Frakes would do with First Contact…and then follow up with the disappointing Insurrection).
The Voyage Home took a quirkier turn with the Enterprise going back to the year 1986 (the same year it was filmed—hooray for not having to pay for expensive set dressings). The film had Kirk and Spock driving in a car, walking the streets and just overall providing a hell of a lot more humor to the series than it’d ever seen before. There’s a whole story about a humpback whale shoved in there as well, but the real pleasure of the film, throughout all of its absurdity, is just that it was fun to watch. There were space battles, Klingon’s, all of that, yes, but it was the absolutely ridiculous concept of having some of the crew of a ship that was from 600 years in the future just walk around in jeans. Plus that bandana Spock wore…
Overall the three films are a solid example of what the original series was capable of in terms of storytelling and directing. Sure the visual effects don’t hold up as well as they used to, but the three films are still a treat to watch. Highly Recommended.
The three-film set arrives in a cardboard slipcase which houses the three films inside. Box art is nice and menus for the sets are simple and easy to navigate. I do still question their decision to bring only the theatrical cuts to Blu-ray and although I understand the reasoning why not, I have to wonder why they didn’t just wait to re-do the additional footage in high-definition. Unless it’s some insanely difficult process and simply takes forever, but it seems almost pointless for those who own the director’s cuts of these films already.
Video for the series arrives in an AVC encoded transfer and they really do look pretty good for their age. Obviously there’s some flickering and grit on the picture, but overall the three films do look pretty exceptional, particularly the snowy sequences of Khan and pretty much any shot aboard the Enterprise. It could look better, no doubt, and the DNR usage is disconcerting. If they had used the same process on III and IV as they did with Khan, it all would have turned out better. The audio is a strong powerhouse with a 7.1 TrueHD mix, plenty of subwoofer output and surround usage throughout all three films.
In addition to all of the old extras being carried over, the releases here sport some new goodies as well:
Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
• Commentary by director Nicholas Meyer
• New Commentary by director Nicholas Meyer and Manny Coto
• James Horner: Composing Genesis (HD)
• A Tribute to Ricardo Montalban (HD)
• Collecting Star Trek’s Movie Relics (HD)
• Starfleet Academy: Mystery Behind Ceti Alpha VI (HD)
• Captain’s Log
• Designing Khan
• Original interviews with DeForest Kelley, William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy and Ricardo Montalban
• Where No Man Has Gone Before: The Visual Effects of Star Trek I: The Wrath of Khan
• The Star Trek Universe: A Novel Approach
• Theatrical trailer
• Library Computer (BD Exclusive)
• BD Live: Star Trek I.Q..
Star Trek III: The Search for Spock
• Commentary by director Leonard Nimoy, writer/producer Harve Bennett, director of photography Charles Correll and Robin Curtis
• Commentary by Ronald D. Moore and Michael Taylor
• Library Computer
• Captain’s Log
• Terraforming and the Prime Directive
• Industrial Light & Magic: The Visual Effects of Star Trek (HD)
• Spock: The Early Years (HD)
• Space Docks and Birds of Prey
• Speaking Klingon
• Klingon and Vulcan Costumes
• Star Trek and the Science Fiction Museum Hall of Fame (HD)
• Starfleet Academy SCISEC Brief 003: Mystery Behind the Vulcan Katra Transfer
• Photo Galleries
• Theatrical Trailer (HD)
Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home
• Commentary by William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy
• New Commentary by Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman
• Pavel Chekov’s Screen Moments (HD)
• The Three-Picture Saga (HD)
• Star Trek for a Cause (HD)
• Starfleet Academy: The Whale Probe (HD)
• Future’s Past: A Look Back
• On Location
• Dailies Deconstruction
• Below-the-Line: Sound Design
• Time Travel: The Art of the Possible
• The Language of Whales
• A Vulcan Primer
• Kirk’s Women
• From Outer Space to the Ocean
• The Bird of Prey
• Original interviews with Leonard Nimoy, William Shatner and DeForest Kelley
• Roddenberry Scrapbook
• Featured Artist: Mark Lenard
• Production Gallery
• Theatrical Trailer (HD)
• Library Computer (BD Exclusive)
• BD Live: Star Trek I.Q.
All told the new extras amount to over an hour’s worth of new content (not including the new commentaries on II and IV) and it’s all really worth checking out as they focus on new elements that the previous extras didn’t manage to cover. In addition to that are the old extras, totally over six hours just for these three films alone.
So is this new release worth it? Yes and no. On one hand these are three of the best Trek films…but since none of these titles are available individually on Blu-ray, if you ever decide to pick up some of the later ones (OK so I and V suck, but VI is pretty awesome) you’re kind of screwed. So in that respect I would say Skip this set and just go straight to the six-film Motion Picture Collection. Of course I would also caution that, if the Star Trek franchise takes off again, then we could eventually just get the Director’s Cut on Blu-ray…soo…it’s a tough call, really. Either direction you go, however, don’t bother with this three film set. If you remotely enjoy the films you’re going to want more so it seems kind of like a rather useless set to bother with.
Star Trek: Motion Picture Trilogy arrives on DVD and Blu-ray on May 12th.
DVD In Brief: Star Trek: Motion Picture Trilogy Collection (DVD and Blu-ray), Star Trek: Original Motion Picture Collection
Having viewed both the Star Trek: Motion Picture Trilogy Collection and the Star Trek: Original Motion Picture Collection, it's safe to say which one is the better release to go with. If you're a Trek fan, go all out for that collection. The video quality may not be as strong as I was hoping for, save for the incredible looking and digitally restored Stak Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, but it's great to have all of these movies in a great Blu-ray collection. For those looking to test the waters after seeing the recent Star Trek (2009) theatrical feature, you may want to consider picking up the Star Trek: Motion Picture Trilogy Collection, which is selling for more than half the price of the other release in most retail locations. While Star Trek: Original Motion Picture Collection contains all of the original Star Trek films - Star Trek: The Motion Picture, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, and Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country - the Star Trek: Original Motion Picture Collection only includes the three original sequels - Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. While I Recommend both the Star Trek: Motion Picture Trilogy Collection and the Star Trek: Original Motion Picture Collection, deciding which one to pick up depends on how much of a Trek fan you are. If you're new, test the waters with Star Trek: Motion Picture Trilogy Collection , but if you're an established Trekkie, then pick up Star Trek: Motion Picture Trilogy Collection. Each contain a wealth of bonus material that should keep both the new and casual Trek fan entertained. Hvaing viewed both the Blu-ray and DVD release for Star Trek: Motion Picture Trilogy Collection, it's a no brainer to go with the Blu-ray release of this title The only real downside to these collections is the video quality on the movies, save for the digitally restored Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, is a bit lower than expected, but, depending on how big your television is, it may not be noticeable. So, to break it down, hardcore fans wil definitely want to pick up the Star Trek: Original Motion Picture Collection Blu-ray release while those new to the franchise may want to test the waters with Star Trek: Motion Picture Trilogy Blu-ray Collection. -- James Harvey