In Short: Very strong DVD edition of what I consider the most enjoyable "Trek" film.
It may be one of the more off-center ideas that the Trek franchise has ever come up with, but I must say that although I'm not a fan of the series(and especially not of the newer films), this is easily the one that stands out in my mind as being the most enjoyable. We meet up with the crew of the Enterprise where they left off in the third film, but soon after they return to space, they run into a strange probe that is sending out signals in a language that they cannot understand.
It turns out that the signal is the same language that Humpback whales talk in. So, since the whales no longer exist, they must return to the 20th century to bring a few whales back to save Earth. Of course, easier said than done. Kirk and the crew must venture to 1986 San Fransisco to retrieve the creature and instead of taking the campy humor level too high, everything is kept in fine balance, with humor that is funny but not too goofy.
It's the one Trek picture that I really did like, with a well-written script and fine performances from the entire cast. Even if you're not a Trek fan, you may like this edition of the series, which has been given a new life on DVD by Paramount.
VIDEO Paramount does it again with anamorphic and although the results aren't perfect, they are certainly pleasing for a film that's now about 13 years old. Although it's certainly sharper than all previous home video releases were, there are still a number of darker or dimly lit scenes that still lack clarity. Colors are bright and fairly vivid throughout, and look especially fine during a lot of the San Fransisco scenes. Only once or twice did the colors look slightly smeared.
The only really noticable problem is grain. During some of the darker scenes, the grain begins to become a little distracting, but these instances are only occasional throughout the movie. I don't want to sound totally down on this transfer because a lot of it really isn't that bad and there are some scenes on this anamorphic transfer that really stand out, looking clear and if not sharp, at least quite crisp- especially a lot of the San Fransisco scenes. Aside from the previously issued mention of some grain, we don't play host on this disc to some of the other usual problems: no shimmering, no pixelization, and the print used looks quite good with the exception of a mark or two. Definitely a good presentation for cinematographer Don Peterman's("Men In Black", then "Mighty Joe Young"(where he was injured while filming).
Paramount is really begining to put all of the steps together. Image quality has greatly improved since they've gone back to doing anamorphic on all discs and once they get the kind of extra content together that other studios are offering, Paramount will be an even bigger presence in the DVD market. "Star Trek IV" occasionally exhibits a few flaws in the image, but it's very likely the best this film can look at home. The image is properly letterboxed at 2.35:1.
SOUND: Although this isn't exactly a new movie, I was pleased and slightly suprised with how dynamic this picture did sound. Although surrounds are only occasionally put into use, the rest of what is involved still sounds very good; dialogue is very clear and natural, without any problems. The forward soundstage is clear, clean, strong and put to fine use- every detail is well captured here. Although again, it's not going to be as agressive as some new films, I think that Trek fans will be more than pleased with the work that Paramount has done here.
MENUS:: The usual basic Paramount menus, taking the film's poster art and working into the main menu background. No animation, etc.
Featurette With Leonard Nimoy:: This is an enjoyable 15 minute presentation with comments from the director. It really does provide a nice handful of shots that show the production at work and some of the sets that the movie used. It's very cool to see Nimoy at work, directing Shatner in a scene in the begining of the presentation. Nimoy also leads us through his history at Paramount as well as his history as a part of the "Star Trek" series. His comments on the series are informative and really quite interesting, listening to how he views his role in the "Star Trek" saga. After watching this entire documentary, I really wished that Nimoy had done a full-length commentary for this DVD. He certainly has plenty of information about the making of this picture that he can share and it's too bad he couldn't be talking throughout the whole film. What is really FANTASTIC about this featurette is a segment where Nimoy talks about why he shot the film in widescreen and a comparison with how much picture is lost in the pan/scan edition. I only watch movies in widescreen because I already know the benefits of seeing the film as it was intended to be seen. Those people who do not or don't seem to understand the benefits should watch this for a very simple explanation of just how much you're missing. For an older featurette, I was really impressed with just how much detail was covered in a matter of 15 minutes. A great extra.
Trailer: The trailer(presented in 2.35:1 widescreen).
Final Thoughts: My favorite of the "Trek" series and a fine presentation on DVD.
The Film: 85/B = (425/500 possible points)
Video 88/B = (352/400 possible points)
Audio: 87/B = (348/400 possible points)
Extras: 81/B = (243/300 possible points)
Menus: 70/C- = (140/200 possible points)
Value: 88/B = (264/300 possible points)