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Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home
Special Collector's Edition

review by Zach B.

 

 

 

Rated: PG

Running Time: 118 minutes

Starring: William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, James Doohan, George Takei, Walter Koeing, Nichelle Nichols and Catherine Hicks

Written by: Steve Meerson & Peter Krikes and Harve Bennett & Nicholas Meyer
Story by: Leonard Nimoy & Harve Bennett

Directed by: Leonard Nimoy

 

Studio: Paramount

Retail Price: $24.99

Features:
Disc 1:
Audio Commentary with Director Leonard Nimoy and William Shatner, Text Commentary by Michael Okuda and Denise Okuda
Disc 2: Time Travel: The Art Of The Possible, The Language Of Whales, A Vulcan Primer, Kirk's Women, Future's Past: A Look Back, On Location, Dailies Deconstruction, Below-the-Line: Sound Design, From Outer Space to the Ocean, The Bird Of Prey, Roddenberry Scrapbook, Featured Artist: Mark Lenard, Storyboards, Production Gallery, Interviews, Theatrical Trailer

Specs: 2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen, English Dolby Digital 5.1, English Dolby Surround, French Stereo, English Subtitles, English Closed Captions, Scene Selection (18 Scenes)

Released: March 4th, 2003

 

 

In the fourth and one of the most successful films crticially and financially in the "Star Trek" film franchise, a mysterious probe in the 23rd century threatens to destroy earth. This isn't good news for Captain Kirk (William Shatner), who decides to face the consequences after his illegal mission to rescue Spock (Leonard Nimoy). But while Kirk and his crew plan to go back to earth, they receieve a warning from the Federation about the probe and how it is ruining the atmosphere and getting rid of oceans. The solution to get rid of the problem the probe has caused lies in humpback whales, but those have been extinct for a long while. So it's up to the crew to go back in time all the way back to the year 1986 to find two humpback whales (in San Fransisco, no less) and save the world.

I'm still not really big on "Star Trek" despite my exposure thanks to reviewing DVDs of the series and movies, but out of what I've reviewed so far, I've found the fourth film to be most accessiable and most entertaining. That is probably because it takes very interesting - and different - directions than what someone like me expects from a giant science fiction franchise. I liked the idea of time travel, and the movie isn't bogged down in science-fiction mumbo jumbo that tends to alienate people like yours truly. The film's approach to its story is very simplistic, and while true fans still probably don't like that, it really does have its benefits and makes it a much more enjoyable, straightforward experience.

The film is quite amusing since it is infused with a lot of humor. And why not? Isn't it always fun when people from the future go back into the past, unfamiliar with a whole different kind of culture and society? The film almost feels like an experiment, and one that went quite well at that. The film also has very sharp writing (credited to four screenwriters). Besides the bits of humor and time travel ordeal, it feels very cohesive and does feel like a true "Trek" adventure. Yeah there's action, but there's something in the movie for everyone to enjoy. The dialogue is strong, the themes are actually more important than you'd expect and there is some decent character development here - things that truly add on to the crew members and lets us to get to know them a bit more.

Leonard Nimoy once again takes the helm as director (he also co-developed the story) and does a fantastic job. The movie can be a bit serious, but what he realizes is that at the ctore it is really a fun, light adventure and does not disrespect that. Even though the film is two hours, he paces is perfectly. He sets everything up nicely and does not get bogged down in all the little details. He provides ample support for the plot and gives a good focus on the characters and their own dilemmas. With a strong vision and lovely shots, he makes it quite cinematic and a real movie's movie. It doesn't feel like an extension of the show or previous films, which is good for non-"Trek" fans to jump right in. He really makes it an entertaining ride.

Leonard Rosenman provides a very nice score and the special effects do look quite good for their time. The acting is also really good, which should be expected given that the cast has been with each other and played these roles long before this. William Shatner gives a clear cut and not-so-hammy performance to good old Kirk, while Nimoy is just as strong an actor as director. Nimoy has some choice moments within the movie, and is nicely strong yet subdued. DeForest Kelley's pitch is just right while George Takei, James Doohan and Walter Koeing give great back-up with their acting chops (and of course, you have a sweet Catherine Hicks). "Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home" is a bit different than other "Trek" movies, but at the point when the film came out, it's exactly what it needed. While I'm sure die-hard Trekkies don't appreciate it as much as other entries, I for one think it being a bit more mainstream is a blessing. It does hold its own well, so if you're interested in a decent romp with dramatic, romantic and comedic elements, this film is really worth checking out.

 

Presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen, "Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home" looks pretty decent and pleasing, but there could have been some slight improvements upon the transfer (or so I thought). The film does seem to look better as it goes along, but at the same time, it kinda looks its age. Edge enhancment is notciable while dirt pieces, blotches and blemishes pop up here and there. The film's look is also a bit inconsistent. At times it's a bit grainy, but other times it's rather sharp. Still, the image itself can be a distracting as some parts of the picture look "smoothed over" and are a bit unnatural. Otherwise, everything else is pretty great. Color saturation is nicely contained, bold and looks fitting. Detail is superb and fleshtones are perfect. This transfer is nice overall, but the uneven spots make it a bit rough.

 

The English Dolby Digital 5.1 remix is very engaging and much more effective than I imagined. The mix does not tilt, so all the sound elements are well balanced. What I found to be the most impressive of this mix however is just how natural the surrounds sounded. There are a lot of surrounds in this movie, big and small. The small surrounds are really wonderful like computers making noises, echoes, people working in the background or even footsteps. The bigger surrounds that involve ships and action are on a much more grand scale which really make some major punches. Subwoofer use is pretty wonderful, while dynamic range is surprisingly strong. Fidelity is good, while dialogue is very clear and easy to hear. The music, particuarly the nice score from Leonard Rosenman, fills up the channels quite nicely. In all, the track really gets you into the movie and is really strong - even competitive with mixes of recent movies. Great stuff, if a bit surprising, over all. Also included is a French stereo track as well as an English Dolby Surround track, plus English subtitles and true English closed captioning.

 

Spread across two discs, you "Trek" fans should be quite pleased with what's offered here. The Audio Commentary with Director Leonard Nimoy and William Shatner should excite fans the most. Even though the commentary is not perfect and probably misses things here and there, I really enjoyed it. It reminded me of two good friends looking at old photographs or home movies or something. They do share quite a few laughs and offer some pretty funny jokes. Shatner is quite amusing and you can sense there's some ego there. The two talk about the film's production, the budget and the story concept as a whole. There's a good deal of praise and some older "Trek" references, but they do offer some pretty worthwhile information on the film as a whole. Enjoy.

There's another great Text Commentary by Michael Okuda and Denise Okuda (as featured in other "Trek" film DVD re-releases), the authors of The Star Trek Encyclopedia. Whether you're a die-hard fan or a newbie to the "Star Trek" universe (like yours truly), the two provide a lot of great facts about the film and the universe that pop up often throughout the feature. There are many articulate details about the film's production which I found to be quite interesting. The facts are relevant to what's on screen, specific and fill in the gaps that were kinda missing from the Nimoy and Shatner track. It might only appeal to mainly fans of the franchise and movie, but it is still well worth reading through and more impressive than one might think.

That's all you'll find on disc one. Everything else is on disc two. Under "The Star Trek Universe," you'll find Time Travel: The Art Of The Possible. Using clips from the film and interviews with quantam physicists, this featurette is about the exploration of time travel and how feasible it actually is. The interviewees (Nick Herbert, Fred Alan Wolf and Jack Sarafatti) give us the basics in understandable turns and with their own visual aides. Nice stuff, lasting a bit over eleven minutes. The Language Of Whales (lasting a little under six minutes) features marine biologist Ree Brennin (who works at Monterery Bay Aquarium). Giving insight on whales and referencing the film itself, clips from the aquarium and raw footage of whales is used. This is actually fun AND educational (I learned a lot about whales from this). A Vulcan Primer (nearly eight minutes long) focuses on author Margaret Wander Bonanno. Looking like a cult leader and with a deadpan obsessed voice, it's kinda hard to think that she's only a fan and not really some nut who thinks all the events in the shows and movie did happen. Filled with clips from the show, here she tackles the history of the Vulcans and what they are made up of. I'm sure Trekkies won't get much from her babblings, but I got more since I'm not so heavily into the mythology. Finally, this section features Kirk's Women (a bit over eight minutes). While I assumed this would be a look back at the many loves of Kirk with new interviews and films clips... wait, I was right. Catherine Hicks, Katherine Browne, Louise Sorel and Celeste Yarnell give their thoughts on romancing Kirk err Shatner (Yarnell even says he ranks with Elvis). I think this is supposed to be a bit serious, but dammit, it's downright amusing and is a must watch.

In the "Production" section, you'll find four more featurettes. Future's Past: A Look Back is the strongest of the bunch, and at twenty-seven and a half minutes, why not? Interviews with Nimoy, Shatner, Catherine Hicks, writer/producer Harve Bennet, co-writer Nicholas Meyer, associate producer (and the punk on the bus) Kirk Thatcher executive producer Ralph Winter. Simply put, this is a great featurette. There are clips from the movie plus some very nice behind-the-scenes footage (including some of Catherine Hicks' screen test). The interviews here are charming and insightful, discussing the origins of the project (Jeff Katzenberg put in a lot of faith), time travel stories (Shatner loves to loathe it) and just how much fun everyone seemed to have working on the movie. It's not fake "happy smiles and laughs" - you can tell everyone was quite enthusiastic and had a great time. Simply put, this is a must watch as a lot can be taken away from this.

On Location lasts about seven and a half minutes, as Kirk Thatcher and Ralph Winter briefly discussing some of the film's memorable scenes. Using film clips and actual on-the-set footage to illustrate what the guys are talking about, this is a bit short but a welcome watch. Dailies Deconstruction (a little over four minutes) takes us all the way back to April 26, 1986 and shows two cameras from two different angles shooting the "dumbass" scene. They don't interlap so well, but I always find it interesting to see rough footage of when a movie is shot (too bad the sound is terrible here as it jumps between sides and overlaps). Below-The-Line: Sound Design lasts nearly twelve minutes as sound effects editor Nick Mangini. Mangini gives some insight on to his plights and what he had to create, but there isn't much to show off making this a bit boring.

In "Visual Effects" there are two featurettes. From Outer Space To The Ocean lasts about fifteen minutes. It's a bit promotional with the announcer voice, still phots and film clips, it's obvious this featurette was made when the film was in production. Nimoy, art director Walt Conti and a few others talk about the special effects and show footage of the creation of the major ones (yes, the whales are fake!). Still, this holds up and is good all around. The other featurette is The Bird Of Prey. In a new interview, Nimoy talks about the Klingon ship, the building of it and his ideas. Clips from the movie, stills and cheap CGI are also used here to illustrate the ship. This lasts a bit under three minutes.

Under "Original Interviews," you'll find Interviews (duh) with Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley and the Shatmeister. These were all shot during the film's production. They all last a good amount of time (Nimoy's lasts around sixteen minutes, Kelley's is thirteen minutes and Shatner's is fourteen and a half minutes) and are in rough form (meaning you hear things getting ready and the interviewer himself). The Shatner one is pretty fun because he looks and sounds a bit peeved. The best one is Nimoy though, since he's pretty passionate here. They're all worth watching overall (or so I say).

"Tributes" has the Roddenberry Scrapbook which is an interview with Gene Roddenberry's son, Eugene. It's actually a really nice interview as Eugene talks about his father and how he got to know him in a different way after he passed away when he was only seventeen. This eight minute, seventeen second interview is really good. Featured Artist: Mark Lenard has some stills and interviews with the late actor's family: his wife Ann and daughters Catherine and Roberta. It's also very nice as the Lenard women remember the man and what he did with his life, but at nearly thirteen minutes, I also found it to be a bit slow. Still, it's touching.

"Archives" is divided into Production Gallery and Storyboards. The first is a nice video montage of some production footage and stills that lasts nearly four minutes (played against a nice score) while the latter has tons of stills divided into eight sections: "Encounter With The Saratoga," "The Probe Approaches Earth," "Time War," "Mind Meld," "The Whaling Ship," "Return To The 23rd Century," "Communication" and "NCC 1701-A."

Finally, you have the original Theatrical Trailer in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen and two channel sound. On a different note, the menus are very nice (they perfectly reflect the film) and the standard mini-booklet of sorts highlighting the set and its feature is a nice touch. Oh, and in the usual Paramount touch, there's subtitles for the supplements (English OR French) and the supplements are in anamorphic widescreen (yay!).

 

Even though some of you have been disappointed with the last two "Star Trek" movie reissues as far as the quality of the supplements, Paramount seems to be back in the game with this new edition of the fourth movie and are doing quite a nice job with these re-releases. The transfer and sound remix suit the film while the supplements are enjoyable as well as detailed about the film itself. I think this is the best "Star Trek" movie special edition yet. If you're a "Star Trek" fan or really liked this entry in the franchise (I know I did), then this should make a solid addition to your DVD collection.