Warp Factor Trek

The Star Trek Fan Website

Reviewing a Reinvigoration of a Movie Masterpiece

For years, I’ve wanted to see a theatrical release of the 2001 Director’s Edition of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, further enhanced and in glorious 4k definition on the big screen. That particular dream is now coming true, with a further enhanced version of the Director’s Edition now available on Paramount+ and a theatrical exhibition of it coming next month. Having already watched the new version once on my dad’s sixty-five-inch hi-def television on Paramount+ (he has a subscription whereas I do not), I’m not in the least bit disappointed and I look forward to the theatrical screening. Having first viewed the film when my dad took me to see it as a five-year-old, I’m truly gratified by the excitement over its latest release!

Recapturing the Director’s Vision

In 2000, Producers David C. Fein and Michael Matessino, along with VFX artist Daren Dochterman, crafted the Director’s Edition under the auspices of the film’s director, the late Robert Wise. Ironically, it was with the intention of honoring the film and how well it has aged, even to the extent of crafting new VFX shots that would be as “dirty” and “grainy” as the old work by John Dykstra and the late Douglas Trumbull. By doing so, the new team hoped to create a truly seamless viewing experience on the then-new DVD format. Unfortunately, that philosophy wound up working against them when it came time to discuss transfer to the 4k quality picture (which restores film quality so well that it can make even black-and-white films from the silent era look like they were shot recently!). As a result, the effort to upgrade the new VFX shots to bring the film to Wise’s vision for 4k would have to be done all over again!

Fein and Dochterman watch Matessino as he inspects the 4k remastered footage of V’Ger (Paramount)

However, the team decided to take the opportunity to make this latest version even more spectacular than ever before, in subtle yet effective ways. Although the pacing of the film is almost completely unchanged, a few tweaks were made to fix previous errors – however slight they might be – and give the story or settings more logical sense. They are too numerous to mention here but will be fun little Easter Eggs for fans to spot.

The Effects of an Effective Experience

Suffice it to say, the entire experience is both spectacular and seamless! Not only were the new VFX sequences given greater detail, but the older FX work was also broken down to their individual analog elements and recomposited using digital compositing technology. The Enterprise, the Klingon ships, and V’Ger all look sharper and more colorful than was possible with analog technology. I’ve already seen some complaints that the matting was not as ‘cleaned up’ as it could have been, but frankly I think this is nitpicking. The painstaking effort to make this film the very best it could possibly be is deserving of nothing less than fan praise. Don’t forget also that this is still a 1979 film, and Fein and his team were going for VFX work that could have been accomplished (and would have been, given sufficient time and funding) during the original production. So, when I say this re-edit is seamless, I mean seamless in the true sense of the time and circumstances in which this film was made.

A rocky explosion from the two versions of the Director’s Edition (Paramount)

Equally deserving of praise are the improved sound mix and color correction, which bring the film to life in a way we could not have imagined. Ambient sound is arguably an even more important element in immersing the audience in the illusion and story than VFX, and this sound effects track makes sure things aren’t too quiet on the bridge when no one is speaking. Even something as simple as a low rumbling in the background in Kirk’s quarters can transform the scene by reminding us we’re on a starship, not just a set!

Editing the Story

For all our talk about the amazing resolution of 4k remastering, amazing visual and sound effects work, and modern digital editing techniques… what good is any of that without a good story for this technology to back up?!

This is still the cut that was approved by Robert Wise for video release in 2001, and nothing has been added, taken away or changed that would affect the narrative. The very best thing about the Director’s Edition from that initial 2001 release as well as today is how the editing made all the difference in the world in how the story itself was received by the audience.

When the Director’s Edition was first released in 2001, I felt Robert Wise, David Fein and the rest of the team struck the perfect balance with this film. They included several character-building scenes that had been added for the Special Longer Version, which had first been aired on ABC-TV in 1983. The Director’s Edition incorporated the best of those scenes (i.e., the ones which actually added something to the narrative). It also trimmed a lot of the excess fat – especially in the second act. Now, the flights into the cloud and over the V’Ger vessel itself are just long enough that we get the point. And the incorporated extra scenes missing from the original cut center mostly around Spock’s character arc in the film.

Spock’s homeworld of Vulcan from the 2022 Director’s Edition (Paramount)

My dad started me off on the Human Adventure begun in 1979, by taking me to see this introspective adventure. And now…with a newly 4k remastered version that looks like it was just filmed last year, the Human Adventure can begin with this film for future generations as well. Like many great works of art, The Motion Picture has grown in esteem over time and has aged like a fine wine.

The 2022 version of Star Trek: The Motion Picture – The Director’s Edition will be released to movie theaters on 22nd, 23rd and 25th May. Tickets are now available to book in advance on Fandango. A physical media release will follow, sometime in September.

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