The 4K Adventure is Just Beginning- ST:TMP 4K?

sttmp1Coincidences can be… well, curious. Sunday before last, I spent an idle afternoon re-watching Star Trek: The Motion Picture on Blu-ray. It’s easily my favourite Star Trek film and still holds up pretty well; indeed, Robert Wise’s 1979 film is one of those odd films that seems to get better with age. Partly I think that’s due to the slow pace of the film, something that was a major criticism at the time of its release but seems a boon these days, as the rapid cutting of films only increased over the decades afterwards, particularly in action sequences, and I much prefer slower pacing in films. Also, the slow pace in ST:TMP‘s case tends to add a sense of the ‘epic’, of gravitas to the story, a hallmark of ‘old’ science fiction movies in which ideas took precedence over action.

The film certainly isn’t perfect, but the Directors Cut that was released on DVD way back in 2002 was definitely stronger than the theatrical. Unfortunately it was rendered strictly within the limitations of the SD age and is wholly unacceptable for HD, which was why we are stuck with the 1979 theatrical  in recent years. What is getting people excited are rumours that the film is being readied for a 4K release and that Paramount seem to have gotten serious about re-building the Directors Cut (overseen by the late Robert Wise back in the day, and hopefully still respectful of his intentions). The first rumours surfaced at the end of last year, and this week Bruce Botnick announced he has been remastering the original music masters for a Dolby Atmos mix for the film– presumably for the rumoured 4K edition.

Naturally they could be just intending a 4K release of the theatrical version, but if they are going to the trouble of a Dolby Atmos mix, that suggests additional work being done which would seem to make an updated Directors Cut (with effects rendered in 2K, most probably) more likely. Well, fingers crossed. Some people seem to be expecting it before the end of the year -which would be great, no doubt- but I think early next year more likely; I just hope if they are doing it, they do it right. Really improve those CGI effects, maybe push things a little more. Perfect the damned thing- after all, it’s surely the films Last Chance Saloon.

stbookIncidentally, what got  me re-watching the film in the first place was the news that Preston Neal Jones’ well-regarded book Return to Tomorrow: The Filming of Star Trek  –  The Motion Picture has been released as an ebook (just £8 on Kindle). The book is an oral history of the making of the film, based on interviews Jones made for an in-depth Cinefantastique article that was commissioned but never published (I remember reading hints/promises about them printing that article for years in that mag). I could never afford to order the paperback edition for fear of import duties etc so its great to finally have the opportunity. The book doesn’t have any illustrations/images from the film so is ideal for porting to an ebook, I  haven’t finished it yet, but its a fantastic summer read.

I don’t know, is it wrong to think that the omens seem to be in the air? We have Titan Book’s Art of ST:TMP tome still due later this year (currently September I think), Preston Neal Jones’ book finally being affordable over here in the UK, and now rumours of the 4K release. Who knows? Its been a great year for 4K releases of catalogue films, and a really good 4K edition of the Directors Cut of ST:TMP would be fantastic, albeit yes, highly surprising. I dearly hope its coming-  my copy of the ST:TMP Directors Cut DVD is a R1 copy that I can’t watch anymore, which has been a sour Romulan Ale in my gut for a few years now.

10 thoughts on “The 4K Adventure is Just Beginning- ST:TMP 4K?

  1. Matthew McKinnon

    How odd – I was just watching the DC the other day, for the first time in at least 15 years. It’s the last remaining Star Trek DVD on the shelf, and I had a lot of downtime with working at home that day, so I gave it a spin.

    I’d welcome a 4K release of TMP, as it’s complete the holy quadrilogy of Douglas Trumbull movies in 4K; some of the visuals in TMP are still astonishing, and the film desperately needs a thorough digital cleanup – even on DVD you can see the dirt and sparkle and density fluctuations, and for the Blu they just slathered on noise reduction in an effort to hide it.

    But I also hope they include the theatrical version, as it really is the definitive. Yes, there’s some clumsy effects here and there, but that’s part of what I grew up watching.

    I sort of agree about the pacing: I think mostly it’s fine – there’s not a dull moment for just over an hour, but I do feel that as soon as the Ilya / Vger robot turns up, things do grind to a halt a bit. The Spock Walk livens things up, but the fact that the Enterprise is stalled for a good half hour stalls the movie.

    The fact that the Titan hardcover has been pushed back repeatedly suggests to me that we may see this sooner rather than later. Certainly in time for Christmas.

      1. Coming to a JJ Abrams re-edit of ST:TMP, no doubt. He’d just love to funk it up and make it all rock and roll like the horrible Enterprise Hot-Rod redesign.

    1. The one thing that ST:TMP needed back in 1979 was a few weeks for finer editing. The film would always have problems but it would have fixed so many. People forget that Kubrick was still tinkering with 2001 after its premier; just a shame Paramount couldn’t give Wise another week or two and snuck out a ‘proper’ finished edit during its release window. Back then, after all, films got gradual releases so maybe it wouldn’t be as daft as it sounds, rolling out an updated edition. Unless Wise was just too washed out at the time and wanted rid of it.

  2. I really ought to get round to watching all my Star Trek movie BDs before I feel they’re outdated and I need the 4K releases!

    I hope they do put the effort in and do the Director’s Cut too, just because I have the same hope about any alternate version of any films. People often talk about 4K as almost certainly being the last physical media format, but I also reckon it might be the last major restoration effort for many films. Sure, 8K is on its way, but I don’t believe that’ll be commonplace in homes (unless it becomes literally the only option, obviously) and the vast majority of cinemas are still 2K — what’s 8K for? Once a film has been digitally archived in 4K, I think that’ll be considered it — so I hope they do them all as best they can!

    1. I have to confess, for home viewing, if they’d just got HDR included in the standard Blu-ray spec (which its quite capable of, apparently) then even 4K would seem a bit of an overkill. Most of the time watching a 4K disc etc, its the HDR that impresses more than the resolution, the sense of ‘pop’ and depth it adds to shots. 8K? Give me a break- do they really think they need that to shift more tv panels? Its obviously more about selling display tech than giving film fans anything better.

      1. 4K’s resolution really shines when the old HD transfer was poor. For new films, or re-releases where the 4K transfer is used on the accompanying Blu-ray, the quality is so much closer. Though I often find it ‘feels’ sharper. Like, with SD to HD you could easily point out all the areas of improvement, whereas with HD to 4K it’s less definable. But yeah, the improved colour overall and in particular HDR is a much more striking change.

        So I really don’t know how they think they’re going to sell 8K. Each resolution development interests fewer consumers — you see self-proclaimed videophiles who don’t even care about 4K, so the early adopter base must be dwindling. And many regular folks still happily watch in SD on their HD/4K TVs, so why would they ever upgrade? Obviously if they only sell 8K TVs then anyone buying a new TV will buy 8K, but I can’t imagine many people will actively choose to upgrade, unlike with HD and 4K.

        If 8K flops (or even if it doesn’t), what are they going to try to sell us on next? I wouldn’t bet against 3D making a(nother) comeback, especially if the Avatar sequels are a hit and/or they can make it work without glasses…

      2. So, related to this, I’ve just discovered I’m not actually getting Disney+ in 4K. It’s a weird fluke of the system, it seems, and they won’t acknowledge or fix it, by the sounds of things. The reason it tricked me is because they apply Dolby Vision and/or HDR to just HD streams where available (considering DV/HDR is only available on 4K TVs, it’s ridiculous it doesn’t know my TV is 4K, but ugh). So, yeah, shows how much HDR is the real focus when you’re not zooming in to compare intricate details up close. (I don’t wholly believe this — sometimes you do get a “wow” factor of clarity with 4K resolution — but, if you’re engrossed in what you’re watching enough, that’s a bonus rather than something you miss.)

      3. Its something I’ve noticed in video-games, oddly enough, especially with the new consoles coming out in the Autumn. They seem to be focused on pushing graphics in games to full 4K, which seems like overkill. To me,1080p is perfectly fine, with HDR the added ‘wow’ factor giving depth to imagery like I see in 4K movies. I’d sooner the added power of the new consoles be spent on better AI and more complex game worlds and game architecture, than just over-detailed graphics. I think game developers are missing the point, frankly, just in the same way as TV manufacturers etc. It all seems to be about the bigger numbers, and the irony that Disney+ and Netflix etc are highly unlikely to ever move any further than 4K. isn’t lost on me, as they clearly will be the big movers of any trends in future. Without a 8K physical format whats the point anyway?

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