Judge Christopher Kulik has been awarded an all-expense paid vacation to Rigel VII.
Our reviews of Star Trek: The Motion Picture (published November 12th, 2001), Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan (published July 19th, 2000), Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan: Director's Edition (published September 16th, 2002), Star Trek III: The Search For Spock (published April 19th, 2000), Star Trek III: The Search For Spock: Collector's Edition (published November 12th, 2002), Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (published March 10th, 2000), Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home: Collector's Edition (published March 4th, 2003), Star Trek V: The Final Frontier: Collector's Edition (published October 21st, 2003), Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (published December 4th, 2000), Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country: Collector's Edition (published February 13th, 2004), and Star Trek: The Original Motion Picture Collection (Blu-Ray) (published May 18th, 2009) are also available.
Six films starring Kirk and Spock.
Paramount knew it was taking a huge gamble with its summer release of Star Trek, a reboot of the 40-year old franchise. Considering how Trek seemingly died several years before, the studio's attitude was no doubt speculative. Executives must have breathed a huge sigh of relief when the film became a critical and commercial success, the biggest and most acclaimed entry in series' history. It's a shame creator Gene Roddenberry (who passed away in 1991) wasn't around to witness the resurrection of his cult sci-fi spectacle.
It was only natural Paramount would begin double-dipping the series and films due to the massive acceptance of director JJ Abrams' reboot. Beginning with Blu-ray versions of Star Trek: The Original Series (1966-69), the studio has also re-issued all of the theatrical films (10 in total) on DVD and Blu-ray. Now we have all six films in a cool box set with all-new bonus features, but is it really worth buying as replacement for the original DVDs?
Facts of the Case
Star Trek: The Motion Picture—The Enterprise crew is re-united after a decade, with Admiral James T. Kirk (William Shatner) confronting two challenges after taking command. One is Willard Decker (Stephen Collins, 7th Heaven), angry at Kirk for usurping his position as Captain due solely to experience. The other is a giant, mysterious alien force quickly heading towards Earth and destroying all ships in its path.
Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan—When Kirk gets wind of something wrong at Space Station Regula 1, he changes the course of The Enterprise to investigate. Little does he realize the USS Reliant has been hijacked by Khan (Ricardo Montalban), a genetically-engineered madman who 15 years earlier had taken over The Enterprise and nearly murdered Kirk. Khan now seeks vengeance, at the same time gaining control of a terraforming device known as Genesis.
Star Trek III: The Search For Spock—When Dr. McCoy (DeForest Kelley) starts to exhibit strange behavior, Kirk realizes Spock had injected his "katra" (living spirit) into McCoy's mind during the climax of Star Trek II. Realizing he could rescue his friend, Kirk re-assembles his crew, shanghais The Enterprise, and heads towards the now off-limits Planet Genesis. At the same time, a Klingon warship commanded by the ruthless Kruge (Christopher Lloyd, Back To The Future) is circling the planet, holding Lt. Saavik (Robin Curtis, Hexed) and Kirk's son David (Merritt Butrick, Shy People) hostage on the surface.
Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home—Kirk and company plan on returning home in their borrowed Klingon warbird, knowing full well they expect to go to Court Martial for their actions in Star Trek III. But the trial is put on hold, due to a mysterious alien probe which is literally sucking the Earth's oceans off the planet. Spock identifies the probe's signals as being the calls of Humpback whales now extinct in the 23rd century. Yhe crew has no choice but to travel back in time to 20th Century San Francisco, pick up some whales, and transport them back to the future.
Star Trek V: The Final Frontier—Kirk, Spockn and McCoy are on shore leave at Yosemite National Park when they receive emergency orders from Starfleet. A Vulcan named Sybok (Laurence Luckinbill, The Boys in The Band) has taken hostages on the desolate planet of Nimbus III. When The Enterprise arrives, the crew discovers Sybok's true motive, which is hijacking the ship and traveling to Sha Ka Ree, a mythical planet believed to be the home of God.
Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country—When the Klingon moon Praxis explodes, the dwindled alien race finally decides to negotiate peace with the Federation. While many accept the proposal, Kirk is incensed, considering the Klingons murdered his son. The Enterprise is tasked with meeting Chancellor Gorkon (David Warner, Time After Time), and while the formal dinner goes well, things go awry when two men in disguise murder the Chancellor. Gorkon's Chief of Staff, General Chang (Christopher Plummer, The Sound Of Music), is convinced the killers were Kirk and McCoy and put them on trial. Found guilty, they are sentenced to life on the frozen planet of Rura Penthe, while Spock and his crew work to clear their names and find the real killers.
I loved the new Star Trek film, even though I'm not what you would consider a "Trekkie." I grew up watching the original films, enjoying them as sci-fi adventures and not necessarily Trek films. In fact, I hadn't gotten around to watching The Original Series or The Next Generation until around a year ago. The more I've watched of them, the more I'm getting into them. Seeing the first six films in the franchise in succession was a real treat. In general, I agree with the majority of fans, with II being excellent; III, IV, VI as being very good; TMP as being merely okay; and V being a dismal mess. Let me quickly give my two cents on each and then we'll get into the tech specs and bonus features.
Fans waited a whole decade for Trek to return in one or form or another (not counting Star Trek: The Animated Series). When Star Trek: The Motion Picture was released, it was greeted with mediocre reviews by critics and fans alike, all agreeing it was a disappointment on many levels. Some blame has been placed on legendary director Robert Wise (The Day The Earth Stood Still), but most would agree the script (a failed pilot to the Star Trek: Phase II television series) had been revised and re-written so many times that much of its spirit was lost. The film is a genuine mixed bag, with superb special effects, a creepy story, and grand Jerry Goldsmith score making up the positives. The negatives are slow as molasses pacing, acting which never rises above adequate, and a complete lack of humor or pizzazz.
Luckily, the franchise was given a much needed shot of adrenaline with Star Trek II (originally released without the "II" in its title). Everything wrong with the first film was made right here, beginning with bringing back the spirit of the original series. In fact, Wrath of Khan is a not so much a sequel to the first film as it is a follow-up to the classic Season 2 episode "Space Seed," which introduced villain Khan Noonian Singh, played brilliantly by the late Ricardo Montalban. Director Nicholas Meyer (Time After Time), who knew nothing of the franchise, was able to craft an intense and exciting outer space adventure which drew upon Trek's inspirations, like Horatio Hornblower. Star Trek II is very nearly a perfect film, with occasionally erratic effects being its only flaw. Otherwise, the action, humor, performances, James Horner's score, and the endlessly quotable dialogue add up to a terrific package. It's notable as being the film debut of Kirstie Alley (Cheers) in the role of Lt. Saavik.
Immediately picking up where Wrath Of Khan left off, Star Trek III is the first film in the series of direct sequels. Leonard Nimoy takes the director's chair, in a somewhat controversial deal. The storyline, which involves resurrection and friendship, maintains the tone of the original series and gives us a juicy turn by comic actor Christopher Lloyd as the heavy. Some have cited the film as unmemorable, simply because it falls under the "odd-movie curse," but Search for Spock is quite entertaining, with an equal balance of drama and humor. I find the sequences where Kirk shanghais The Enterprise, the buildup to the ship's destruction, and the showdown between Kirk and Kruge all riveting stuff. Bonus: Try to spot funnyman John Larroquette (Night Court) as one of Kruge's minions.
While the previous two films had moments of death, tragedy, and sadness, Star Trek IV makes a complete U-turn. Nimoy and producer Harve Bennett's intention was to have some fun, while at the same time make an important environmental message. As a result, The Voyage Home was influential without being preachy. As a comedy, the picture was hilarious without being silly, with most of the jokes being wrung out of solid improvisation. I've seen the film many times, and my favorite moment remains when Gillian asks Kirk and Spock if they love Italian food (the reaction is simply priceless!). In fact, many of the regulars give their best performances here, particularly Walter Koenig as Chekov ("Can you tell me where the nuclear wessels are?") and Nimoy ("A joke is…a story with a humorous climax?"). This was the biggest Trek to date in terms of box office dollars, and it's easy to see why.
Unfortunately, once you set the bar high, there's nowhere to go but down. While Star Trek IV managed to pull in non-fans and still satisfy the long-time fans, Star Trek V was a colossal failure from every conceivable angle. Spit on by fans, who were ready to throw tomatoes at director William Shatner, it felt uneven and rushed (its production coincided with a writers strike). The Final Frontier boasted laughable special effects, a dull story, comic moments which reeked of desperation (fan dances, campfire songs), and a particularly awful climax which felt like The Wizard Of Oz on acid. It may not have served its characters well, but the film isn't a total bust, and didn't deserve all the Razzie awards it won. Still, it will forever be regarded as the black sheep of the franchise.
The Final Frontier may have been a fiasco, but Star Trek VI serves as the perfect antidote. With Nicholas Meyer returning to direct the final bow for the original Enterprise crew, The Undiscovered Country combines adventure, humor, and mystery in a unique way, cleverly paralleling the fall of Communism. There is much to relish here, with Shatner and Nimoy never better, a delicious villain in Christopher Plummer sporting a bolted eye patch and weird facial hairs, and Sex And The City's Kim Cattrall scoring highly as the Vulcan Lt. Valeris. Star Trek VI also takes the award for Oddest Cameo, with Christian Slater popping up as an officer on the USS Excelsior (Editor's Note: His mom, Mary Jo Slater was the casting director).
In an effort to rake in some more cash before the home video release of Star Trek (2009), Paramount has released all six films in a box set. What's a little shady is the regular DVDs contain the new bonus features only and not the ones on the 2-disc Collector's Sets and Director's Editions, which the Blu-ray set largely retain. As for the transfers, the films aren't pristine but they minimize grain, keeping both the black levels and flesh tones solid. The Motion Picture and Search For Spock have been given subtle upgrades from the previous releases, with striking images despite their age. Wrath Of Khan, The Voyage Home, and Undiscovered Country all look terrific, with sharpness and clarity to spare. Final Frontier is pretty good, but lacks the visual "wow" of the other films, with some murky palettes and visual anomalies. All the soundtracks have been ramped up to Dolby 5.1 EX but, honestly, I couldn't tell much of a difference between these and the previous DVD releases. Still, the music pounds through your speakers, dialogue is crystal clear, and environmental sounds (such as the whales swimming) are beautifully natural.
The new bonus features are welcome, yet run hot and cold, particularly the audio commentaries. All six films have new commentary tracks, largely from a fan perspective. On The Motion Picture and Final Frontier, we hear thoughts from VFX supervisor Daren Dochterman, franchise writers Judith & Garfield Reeves-Stevens, and graphic designers Michael & Denise Okuda. The Okudas are also the authors of The Star Trek Encyclopedia and supplied text commentaries on the previous 2-disc releases. On Wrath Of Khan, we have director Nicholas Meyer (who previously provided a solo commentary) and Star Trek: Enterprise executive producer Manny Coto. Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman, writers of Star Trek (2009) team up to talk about The Voyage Home, while Star Trek: The Next Generation and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine writer/producer Ronald D. Moore hooks up with frequent collaborator Michael Taylor for Search For Spock. Finally, writers Larry Nemecek and Ira Steven Behr talk over Undiscovered Country. While I'm glad none of these commentaries consist of "chopped-up interviews" (which The Motion Picture and Search for Spock had before), they're only marginally interesting, save for Meyer and Coto's. The conversations are steady (rarely any dead spots) and all have their moments, but one listen is more than enough.
The other features consist of a Starfleet Academy "training lecture" (discussing a specific story-related element) and two or three featurettes on each disc. The lectures are kind of pointless, and only appeal to the most die-hard Trekkers. On the other hand, the featurettes contain interesting interviews and good info about the series. For example, on The Motion Picture, we get to hear from many of the writers, and on The Voyage Home we meet Greenpeace members who talk about the film's message. Wrath Of Khan has a respectable tribute to Ricardo Montalban from Nicholas Meyer, and Walter Koenig pops up in several featurettes, most notably on The Voyage Home. The best bonus feature, "Captain's Summit," features William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, Patrick Stewart, and Jonathan Frakes coming together for the first time to talk about Trek and how it has affected their lives. This is a sheer delight to watch, with Whoopi Goldberg (Guinan on The Next Generation) serving as the moderator. My only complaint is the editing, its 70 min runtime nonsensically sliced into three parts. This seems kind of short to put onto a single disc, and it's clear that more footage exists. Perhaps Paramount is saving it for the next dip?
This collection is for casual fans, those who don't already own or care about the lost bonus features from previous releases. Hardcore fans will benefit more from the Blu-ray package, which contains that absent material.
All of the films except Final Frontier are free to go. Shatner's film
is found guilty and the director is hereby sentenced to a lifetime of singing
"Row, Row, Row Your Boat," every Sunday. In addition, Paramount is
found guilty of double-dipping, but receives a reduced sentence for a nice
package with agreeable bonus features at a decent price.
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What's "fair"? Whether positive or negative, our reviews should be unbiased, informative, and critique the material on its own merits.
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• IMDb: Star Trek: The Motion Picture
Review content copyright © 2009 Christopher Kulik; Site design and review layout copyright © 2014 Verdict Partners LLC. All rights reserved.