First understand that while it was the producers desire to get rid of the D (as it was specifically designed for the 4:3 frame ratio that isn't going to be the case for films). It wasn't just about the exterior, it was completely and totally evident that the entire of the ship as built couldn't be legitimately used to look could for theatrical use. You see how much they changed the lighting scheme and changed sets to try and make it more suited for the big screen, it was just a huge issue for them and looking into the future (and I say this as someone who really doesn't like the exterior of the E, interior love though).
Sorry, I didn't mean to imply that it was ILM's decision to scrap the D. But I seem to recall hearing them say that it wasn't an easy model to work with. Of course, they did some of the original model work for "Encounter at Farpoint," but I don't believe they were the ones who built the model and they didn't work on TNG after the pilot.
I just get the feeling that different effects houses have their own unique ways of making motion control models and that ILM didn't care for the way the A or the D were designed.
Also, I understand what you're saying about the challenges of going from a 1980's/1990's television resolution to a feature film. However, I disagree that the Enterprise-D sets weren't up to the challenge. Certainly the sets and lighting would need some modifications. But I think they could have functioned fine. The fact that they are able to go back to the original film elements and produce a high definition Blu-ray transfer that looks fantastic is evidence of the fact that the sets possessed a decent level of detail and quality.
On top of which, the Enterprise-D felt like home after seven years of TNG. The Enterprise-E was just another ship. I think the emotional connection would have made it worth making the upgrades to the existing sets and models.
Of course they could have killed stellar Cartography. Though I loved that scene and the FX for the most part. Certainly a thousand times better then the set used in Lessons. OR changed other aspects of the script to remove other FX elements (like crashing into the planet). But to do what they chose to do, they were going to have to trade off with reused shots, redressed sets, ect.
I hadn't thought about Stellar Cartography in this discussion. That's a good point. It was
an impressive set, and certainly different from anything else we'd seen on the Enterprise-D. But was it worth all the money that went into it when it served no purpose other than to add a bit of a "wow" factor to a scene that lasts only a matter of minutes? Since they were destroying the ship at the end of the film, they knew that set would never be used again. So why prioritize that expense and then have to go chopping away at your climactic battle?
Even still, my priority wouldn't have been avoiding the re-use of the BoP shot, but re-directing that money to other, more story-oriented items. Heck, even spending the money to add a few extra phaser or torpedo shots to the battle between the Enterprise and the BoP would have been effective in making it seem a more reasonable fight.