Directors Cut of Star Trek: TMP 4K in 2022

Fascinating! Well, unless someone is winding me up with some elaborate geek scam (and I’ll be honest, it does feel a bit like a ‘pinch-me’ moment), this is a turn-up indeed, and one surely worthy of Spock’s raised eyebrows. Paramount have announced that a 4K restoration of Robert Wise’s 2001 Directors Cut of Star Trek: The Motion Picture is indeed coming after all. This is after the recent news of a set of the first four Star Trek films on 4K UHD being released this September as part of the franchises’ 55th Anniversary celebrations, the inclusion of the theatrical cut-only of ST:TMP seemingly shutting the door on the Directors Cut ever appearing in HD or UHD.

It transpires that a full restoration (i.e. rebuild) of the Directors Cut., originally created only in SD format back in the days of DVD, has been greenlit for a premiere on the Paramount+ network in 2022. Apparently the work hasn’t begun yet, and it is assessed that it will take between six to eight months to complete: on board  for the project are producer David C. Fein, restoration supervisor Mike Matessino, and visual effects supervisor Daren R. Dochterman, all of whom worked previously with director Robert Wise preparing the original 2001 re-cut of his 1979 feature. So, a mid-late 2022 premiere over in the States followed by a disc release over here and in other international territories. Feels a lot like what happened with HBO Max financing Zack Snyder’s Justice League: maybe streaming is not the Great Evil after all –  it certainly seems good for SOMETHING. 

Anyway, if done right – and I certainly have faith with Matessino involved- this will be great indeed. I still watch my Blu-ray of ST:TMP from time to time and while its fine (oddly one of those films that seems to improve with age, for all its numerous faults) I always wish I could sometimes turn to Wise’s revised cut. Heck, with advances in CGI this could actually be a vast improvement over the 2001 edition (lets see those artists fully match their CGI Enterprise with the film’s gorgeous original model photography). So you know, the long wait looks like it has been worth it. 

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.

Star Trek: The Motion Picture Art & Effects Book

stmpbook.jpgDue next May from Titan Books (although on the strength of how often their books slip back, I’d expect to see it maybe by next Autumn with a little luck) is this hopefully fantastic book about the art and visual effects of 1979’s Star Trek: The Motion Picture. On the one hand, if its a similar project, say, to the original Cinefex article way back when the film originally came out, then it could be really special. On the other hand, if its just one of those vacuous coffee-table art-books with lots of stills from the film and little else, it’ll be heartrendingly disappointing (albeit likely pretty).

Here’s hoping though. I’d love to see a really good decent-sized book, plenty of text with lots of images of the miniatures being  built and well-sized reproductions of the films matte paintings, the kind of behind the scenes stuff lost to us in this age of CGI workstations. Pre-production paintings, sketches, all that stuff. Say what you like about the merits of the film itself (and hey, I’ve always had a soft spot for it) the film certainly had a sense of scope and scale that remains quite refreshing to this day. This film was made back when stating ‘The Motion Picture’ really meant something, like it was a statement of intent, and certainly dates from a time when the difference between television and film was much more pronounced than it is today.

I think this book is a great idea and could be something very special if handled right. Having Jeff Bond’s name attached makes me cautiously optimistic on that front: Jeff is a Star Trek historian whose writing has graced several Trek soundtrack albums, notably the Star Trek The Original Series complete soundtracks boxset and the 3-disc Star Trek: The Motion Picture expansion.

Thin Red Expanded

thinredost1This may prove to be the soundtrack release of the year. La La Land Records have confirmed a 4-disc set of Hans Zimmer’s gorgeous score for The Thin Red Line is going to be released next week. The film is one of my favourites and so is the soundtrack, so this is great news. Its also, I believe, the last project from the late Nick Redman, and is surely a marvelous way to celebrate him and remember his contributions to film music ( I believe a dedication to him has been added to the inside inlay of covers being reprinted to fix a typo that slipped through, which is a lovely gesture by the label).

There does seem to be a little bit of a backlash though from the film music community. Of the four discs two have been previously released – the soundtrack album and a later compilation of Melanesian chants, of which I think just three are from the film (I have the soundtrack album, naturally, but never bothered with the other). The main draw of course is the full score on the first two discs, hugely expanded from the original album and featuring some alternates. As a souvenir/record of the music this set is fantastic, but some music fans have balked at the high price ($59.98) considering two of the discs are nothing new (albeit they have been remastered). I suppose this is the problem with some releases, especially as there is a tradition of including original album assemblies for completists’ sake (this may be a legal requirement, too, I’m not sure). Most of the time it’s fine, the new material heavily outweighing the old (I’m thinking of the 3-disc Star Trek:TMP set, which included the original 1979 album but that was lost in all the new goodies) but two discs of old/two discs of new, considering the price point of the set,  seems to be annoying some. I think they just need reminding how sublime this score is- its some of the finest music ever written for a film.

thinredost2Foolishly, perhaps, as I have always adored this film and its music I’m pretty much at the ‘whatever the price, I’m in’ set, but it does mean I’ll have to reign in purchasing other stuff (and indeed just cancelled two pre-orders on Amazon). I’d rate this set as one of the biggest, most important and unlikeliest releases ever- up there with the aforementioned 3-disc Star Trek: TMP and 3-disc Conan the Barbarian. These are all releases that, when the actual films came out, you would not have dreamed were possible. I suppose what may be troubling fans is all the rumours of six hours of music cooked up by Zimmer that some had hoped we’d hear something of, and initial word of a 4-disc set for TRL had some -hell, me too- wildly speculating about contents. Well, the final tracklist has brought us back to the real world, but it’s not too shabby at all and really, an expansion of this was so unlikely I still have to pinch myself. There is some utterly gorgeous, beautiful music on this set for the first time.

Unfortunately, I will likely have to wait until March for it to arrive over on these shores- expect a review then!

Enterprise

CGI EnterpriseWhilst on the subject of Star Trek: The Motion Picture in my previous post, here’s an image I came across recently of the Starship Enterprise from that film; surely the most beautiful-looking spaceship miniature to ever grace a movie, rendered here in a CGI image that rather lovingly recaptures the ‘look’ from the film. Images such as this throw me right back to 1978/1979 when I was a young Trek-geek in awe of how they were re-creating the Enterprise and making it ‘more’ after so many years of enjoying the tv show.  I could stare at images like this for ages (and don’t get me started on all those fascinating behind the scenes photos of the actual miniature being built and photographed, I’ve been a sucker for those for years).

startrekmovieposterThat CGI image actually reminds me of the pre-release poster, a slight variant of the one here which I remember from the back of an American Marvel comic in Winter of 1979 which I stared at for much longer than the actual contents of the comic. Ah, those were the days, back when you could so excited about a Star Trek movie….

Anyway, I don’t care how the actual movie turned out (I still like it, so sue me) but I still get weak at the knees remembering how it was back then, the anticipation for the movie (hey, I was a Star Trek nut many long years before Star Wars came out) and how beautiful the Enterprise redesign looked and was realized in miniature.

Sigh. Where’s that blu-ray….

V’ger Annunciation

Over Easter I saw a documentary which featured this painting by Henry Ossawa Tanner from 1897, of the Annunciation. Its an unconventional image depicting Mary being visited by the angel Gabriel – Mary is depicted as an ordinary young woman, without halo or any holy adornment, and Gabriel is, brilliantly, simply depicted as a shaft of very bright light…

The Annunciation by Henry Ossawa Tanner 1896

…and immediately this sprang a connection in my mind to the V’ger probe from Star Trek: The Motion Picture, in which the probe penetrates the Enterprise defenses and appears on the bridge of the ship, examining the crew and the ships equipment/computer. I wonder if Tanner’s painting was an inspiration for the effects crew’s realisation of the V’ger probe? It does look particularly close, a bit like one of those ‘separated at birth’ captions from Private Eye etc.

In any case, that Tanner painting is quite exquisite, and the decision to render the angel as a strange shaft of light was a stroke of genius on Tanner’s part.  Astonishing really; I was quite taken aback by the sheer audacity of the painting and the realism of it, considering how embroidered with symbolism and religious tropes many such paintings were. The V’ger connection just made it all the more weird. Its a strange world sometimes.