STAR TREK: THE COMPENDIUM Blu-ray Review

     September 30, 2014

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Paramount committed an egregious faux pas last year with its release of Star Trek: Into Darkness by sprinkling different extras on different Blu-rays.  If you bought your disc at Target, you got one set of extras.  If you bought it at Best Buy, you got a different set.  If you wanted all of them, you basically had to buy multiple copies of the same movie, then vent your fiery wrath across the Internet.  Trekkies hit the roof and with good reason: it took the double-dipping crime to a whole new level.  The new Star Trek Compendium is intended to correct that issue, and I suppose it does… if you’re waiting for all those features in a single collection.  Unfortunately, it compounds the original sin with a whole new one and slaps a higher price on the results in the bargain.  That leaves a sour taste behind for a collection that should have come as a huge relief to long-suffering fans.  Hit the jump for my full review.

star-trek-the-compendium-blu-ray-box-cover-artThe Compendium contains the two movies in the Trek reboot, which includes both 2013’s Into Darkness and 2009’s “original” Star Trek.  Much has already been made of both, and I hazard that no one eyeing this collection needs filling in on their content.  The first film infused badly needed energy into the flagging franchise, with new actors in place of the original cast and a sterling adventure covering the early days of the U.S.S.  Enterprise.  Director J.J.  Abrams brought his own sensibilities to the series without losing the core of what made these characters so appealing in the first place.  Leonard Nimoy arrived as part of a complicated time travel/alternate universe thread to give his blessing to the entire affair, and the new cast slipped comfortably into their roles without treading on the toes of their lionized predecessors.  The movie was a huge hit, both critically and commercially, and swiftly moved the venerable space opera into the 21st century.

The second move… well, I’ll just put my cards on the table and say that I enjoyed it quite a bit as well.  Mine, however, did not prove the prevailing opinion, as fans expressed their unhappiness at what they felt were unconscionable oversteps.  Most of it stemmed from the admitted boner of an ending, revamping the beloved climax to The Wrath of Khan and copping out on the stinger to boot.  I won’t defend it, but I don’t felt that it detracted from the remainder of the film, which took the gang in some very interesting directions.  The conspiracy theory storyline turned its eyes inward to flaws within the Federation, and what happens when the need for security overrides its more idealistic principles.  Hardly a new concept, but framing it in the previously bright and sunny Trek universe gave it some real bite.  It also didn’t hurt to cast Benedict Cumberbatch as a new version of the beloved villain Khan, bringing his own take on the character that set him apart from Ricardo Montalban’s beloved performance.

And to be sure, the film made money, but bad word of mouth spread quickly, and Into Darkness proved a disappointment despite solid box office returns.  (We’re all still waiting to see what adjustments they make for the third film.) The Compendium collects both it and the first Trek into one attractive package… and that’s where the trouble begins.  In the first place, anyone interested in these movies likely has stand-alone copies on their shelf already, and its status as a sort of rump box set will be rendered irrelevant the instant a third picture comes out.  In order to justify the purchase, the set needs to include something new.  It does, but it’s not nearly enough.

chris-pine-zachary-quinto-star-trek-imageAs far as the 2009 film goes, the Compendium engages in a flat-out double dip.  The movie disc and bonus features disc are exactly, precisely the same as the original Blu-ray release.  The good news is that sound and video quality are brilliant, and the bonus features are slight but fun.  (For the record, they include a piece on recasting the iconic characters, a look at the revamped starships, a piece on new planets, a short look at Gene Roddenberry’s influence on science fact and fiction alike, and the expended array of cut scenes and promotional material.) A clever “branching pod” format lets you check out different mini features attached to the main ones.  They’re short, but very good if you’re interested in flipping around.

The problem, again, is that you likely already have a disc that contains all of that.  The Compendium does absolutely nothing new with the first film, leaving two of the four discs completely useless and charging you for the privilege to boot.

That leaves Into Darkness to redeem the set, and here at least, it begins to earn its keep.  The sound and video quality don’t differ significantly from the stand-alone Into Darkness disc from last year.  (Both are first-rate.) It does include a nifty new feature however: “enhanced commentary” from the major behind-the-camera players.  Each of them has the ability to pause, rewind and fast-forward the film, then draw on the screen with Wacom pens to make their points.  It proves an enlightening experience, especially since a wide array of talent gets involved.  (The participants include Abrams, DPs Dan Mindel and Bruce McCleery, editors Maryann Brandon and Mary Jo Markey, composer Michael Giacchino, producers Bryan Burk and Damon Lindelof, and special effects gurus Roger Guyett and Tommy Harper.) The disc also includes a brief PSA/commercial called “The Mission Continues,” ported over directly from the original Blu-ray.

star-trek-into-darkness-chris-pine-1The second Into Darkness disc carries the presumed purpose of the exercise: all of those scattershot features from the first release gathered into one place, along with a few new ones.  While it’s nice seeing them all together, they prove somewhat disappointing as a whole.  There’s about two dozen tidbits, none of which are longer than ten minutes and most of which feel like press kit promos rather than substantive examinations of the making of the movie.  They include the following:

  • Creating the Red Planet: The development of the alien world from the movie’s terrific opening sequence.
  • Attack on Starfleet: A look at the stunts and action of Khan’s assault on a Starfleet meeting.
  • The Klingon Home World: Revamping the Klingons and their native planet for the new franchise.
  • The Enemy of My Enemy: Examining Cumberbatch’s version of Khan, the reasons for using him and the differences between this incarnation and the older one.
  • Ship to Ship: Looking at Kirk and Khan’s white-knuckle race between two starships in open space.
  • Brawl by the Bay: Examining Zachary Quinto’s big action sequence as Mr.  Spock.
  • Introducing the Villain: A second examination of Khan, specifically in relation to his early scenes.
  • Rebuilding the Enterprise: Looking at making the Enterprise sets interconnected, and how the film’s design integrated smaller props into its overall look.
  • Vengeance is Coming: Looking at the big, scary Federation ship that ultimately squares off against the Enterprise.
  • Mr.  Spock and Mr.  Spock (HD, 4:08): A look the friendship that has developed between Nimoy and Quinto during the making of this film.
  • The Voyage Begins…Again: Looking at the first day of the shoot and the camaraderie between cast and crew members.
  • National Ignition Facility Home of the Core: Looking at one of the film’s primary on-location shoots.
  • Aliens Encountered: Looking at the make-up and application process for the film’s aliens.
  • Down with the Ship: Covering the sequence in which the Enterprise plummets towards Earth.
  • Kirk and Spock: An examination of the two characters and their long-standing relationship.
  • Fitting the Future: Looking at costume designer Michael Kaplan and his work on the film.
  • Property of Starfleet: Looking at the film’s props.
  • Unlocking the Cut: Looking at the film’s edits.
  • Visual Affection: Looking at the film’s CGI effects
  • The Sound of Music: Looking at Giacchino’s musical score, as well as sound design with the legendary Ben Burtt.
  • Safety First: Looking at an on-set prank.
  • Gag reels, deleted scenes and theatrical trailers.

star-trek-into-darkness-zachary-quinto-chris-pineThey all range from the perfunctory to the enlightening, and their brevity lets you skim and sample as you wish.  But at the same time, none of it never rises above surface impressions, and each featurette comes and goes so quickly that you hardly have a chance to get comfortable.

Perhaps most importantly, they fail to justify any of the various stunts Paramount has pulled in bringing them to us.  Scattering them across different outlets during the initial release didn’t do them any favors, and stapling them onto superfluous reprints of the movies themselves means that ardent Trekkies will still need to pay more than they should in order to get them all.  The list price feels positively usurious in relation to the material, and even the biggest fan will be hard-pressed to find the results worthwhile.  One wonders why such shenanigans were necessary, especially considering Into Darkness’s reasonably shaky reputation.  In an effort to please their distribution outlets, Paramount alienated the customer base who ultimately pays for it all.  The Compendium appears to redress the oversight, but the final result comes across as too little, too late.

Star Trek Compendium Blu-ray Review

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