Following the heels of last year’s Star Trek The Original Motion Picture 6-Movie 4K Collection, we now have The Next Generation 4K collection. This boxset features the final four movies of the ‘prime’ timeline before the alternate reality jump in 2009. These films are, of course, Generations (1994), First Contact (1996), Insurrection (1998), and Nemesis (2002). Given Star Trek: Picard Season 3 is airing right now, it’s a perfect time to dive back into The Next Generation.
This boxset represents what will likely be the best versions of these films we receive, and in that respect, it feels somewhat… Lacking. While the more popular The Wrath of Khan had a comprehensive remaster effort in 2016, followed by the recent remaster for The Motion Picture Director’s Cut. None of The Next Generation films has had a similarly comprehensive ‘new coat of paint’.
The pricing for this set is especially strange in this regard. A boxset with six films, including a just-completed, remaster and three different directors’ cuts, was priced at £99.99 (UK), or £16.50 per film in only September. Then we have four films that have not had this treatment, with no additional cuts, priced at £79.99 (UK), or £19.99 per film.
Artwork and Packaging
The cover art of this boxset follows in the footsteps of the previous 4 and 6 movie collections of the Original Motion Picture Collections. On the box itself we have artists renditions of a selection of hero and villain ships from the movies in the set. Our respective heroes and villains accompany them. In many ways this artwork is an improvement on that of the previous releases, the ships depicted are in the correct configuration for their appearances. There is also the subtle detail of the outline of the Enterprise E saucer above the heads of Picard, Data and Riker which brings the artwork together in a pleasing manner.
But it’s far from perfect. The portrait of Patrick Stewart immediately takes the eye as not being quite… Right. In an ‘uncanney valley’-esque manner. You recognize it’s him, but it seems like a mash-up of different publicity photos that don’t quite mesh together. Riker bears the strongest resemblance, while poor Gates McFadden is shrunk down and then pushed behind all the other characters. Sadly she seems to have had her face distorted in the process.
It shares the same lack of innovation as The Original Motion Picture 6-Movie Collection. We have the same three large portraits from the box art, missing the opportunity to show the artwork of the other characters in more detail. The disks are similarly uninspired, just black or blue with the film’s title art and the rating. The rating that confusingly is set at 15 on the box and Blu-rays, despite the films being PG, 12, PG, and 12 on their own.
The Films – Technical advisories and historical context
Like my previous review of the 6 Movie collection, this review is based on viewing the 4K versions of the films released in this box set. The Boxset also contains standard Blu-ray versions, which are not a repack of the 2009 masters, but the scans of the film used for the 4K versions are further compressed and without HDR. The screenshots present these features throughout this review due to the difficulty in capturing 4K HDR images.
Like the previous six movies, The Next Generation films also suffered from colour shifting and overuse of Digital Noise Reduction (DNR) in their original high-definition presentation released in 2009. The new masters have restored the films to their original state, a change that, depending on your perspective, may come across as a relief or disconcerting as you watch.
Fortunately, the edits to the later films weren’t quite as aggressive as they were to the original cast outings for those that didn’t mind the previous releases. But Generations especially suffered from a greenish hue over the film. One that, fortunately, has now been removed. For those that preferred the older, sharper images. Remember that they were originally shot slightly soft, as the director’s intention.
Generations was always a slightly controversial film due to its killing off William Shatner‘s iconic James T. Kirk. Those hoping for a greater look into the film, the original cut of Kirk’s death (that was re-written after test audience feedback). Will be disappointed. The presentation and extras are exactly as they were for the 2009 release. The Next Generation 4K Movie Collection DVD extras are in standard definition, and the 2009 extras are in HD.
With that said, the film looks fantastic in its restored form. Like with the previous films, the extra resolution makes some of the seams (both literally and figuratively) more noticeable if you’re looking for them, but overall improves the presentation. The HDR makes some moments, like the 6-foot model of the Enterprise D’s slow approach on the Amargosa observatory, jump off the screen.
The ‘set piece’ of the film – the crash landing of the Enterprise D saucer – looks similarly spectacular. Aside from the slightly more obvious background matte paintings, the practical effects work holds up really well. The scale and impact of the Enterprise reaching her (not quite so) final resting place hits as hard as it did the first time I saw it (again, both literally and figuratively).
From the moment the film opens, it becomes obvious that First Contact got most of the budget for these remasters. The HDR pass on the film is quite simply fantastic, with the colors of the (at the time) new uniform undershirts really standing out on screen. The entire film makes great use of the advances in display technology and the introduction of HDR to add another level of ‘moodiness’ or in some cases ‘spookiness’ to some scenes, in a way that complements and improves the original cinematography.
Being the most popular of The Next Generation films it’s no surprise that First Contact got a little more attention and the improvements are welcome. The variety of set pieces throughout the film really benefit from some improved contrast and color enhancement. Particularly the EV scene set against the backdrop in space. You gain a whole new appreciation for Worf’s unease.
But no review of First Contact would be complete without a dedicated section on how The Battle of Sector 001 looks. First Contact fans, you have nothing to fear. It looks better than ever. The CG models of the fleet hold up and the practical model work for the Sovereign class continues to be outstanding. Star Wars fans – the falcon is also a bit more noticeable now. Does this make it canon?
Insurrection was a bold movie. If nothing else, due to the fact it was the first Trek film to ditch physical models for the space shots entirely. The results of this in The Next Generation 4K Movie Collection, unfortunately, are as mixed as at the time of the original release. If there was ever a film needing a few extra weeks of work to give it that bit of extra edge, it is Insurrection. Sadly it seems that this, the likely final version of the film, has still not been given that time.
That’s not to say it’s entirely unimproved though. It seems that the color depth added by the HDR pass does manage to bring out some previously unnoticeable (or subtly added) reflections on the Enterprise at times, this is especially noticeable when the ship enters the Briar Patch. In the 2009 release, the ship was distractingly dark, so it didn’t fit with the background. That has fortunately been fixed for this release.
But even in my scanning through the blu-ray copies to get screenshots, I could notice some errors introduced by it as well, such as Phasers being shifted yellow. The higher resolution in the 4K master also makes some production errors more obvious. A good example is the crash mat for the poor Sona hit by Picard and Data.
The tag, line A Generations Final Journey Begins, was much more appropriate than we could have ever imagined at the time. Especially considering that Star Trek: Picard is referencing and picking up threads from Nemesis to this day. When I first heard of The Next Generation 4K Movie Collection, Nemesis bizarrely was the film I was most excited to see improved. Tragically, it seems it by far, has the worst ‘final’ presentation.
The scenes on the planet where they discover B-4 were always harsh to look at due to the shooting method used – shooting overexposed images through a yellow filter. This was presumably to give the impression that the planet was somewhat alien. This sequence is absolutely not enhanced by HDR and was almost painful to watch at moments. The film also suffers from the addition of greater resolution, making the seams in the darker Reman sets much more obvious at points.
But it, like the rest of the boxset, is not without its redeeming factors. The CG for a film released in 2002 is absolutely fantastic and holds up well to this day, even after a pass under the 4K scanner. The additional contrast added by Baird to the external space shots (in comparison to previous films) works really well with a lick of HDR, as does the introduction of Shinzon, which takes on a new level of ‘creepiness’ with the darkness fully realized.
After the fantastic presentation of the original cast films back in September. A presentation that included the new Motion Picture director’s cut remaster and even a new master of The Undiscovered Country director’s cut. The Next Generation 4K Movie Collection feels like a big missed opportunity in terms of content and capitalizing on the current hype around Star Trek: Picard as its third and final season airs.
While the release date seems almost intended to coincide with it (and First Contact day, of course). There has been little to no hype building around this set. Given that the entire Next Generation cast was united for at least a small amount of time on set. It seems a waste that they didn’t even have them sit for a roundtable discussion. Equally, given that Frakes is still a very active part of the Star Trek director team, it seems a shame not to offer him the opportunity for a director’s cut (or two). Or perhaps even a Frakes cut of Nemesis…
If you’re looking for the ultimate versions of these films, this is the boxset for you. Even if you hate the other three, First Contact will not disappoint. However, if you were hoping to have a similar level of love and care given to the films in this set as some of the older Trek films have seen in recent years, I expect that, like me, you will leave it somewhat disappointed.
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