Review: Star Trek: The Compendium Blu-ray

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On Tuesday Star Trek: The Compendium will finally be released. TrekMovie has had a chance to check out the set. The full review is below.

REVIEW: STAR TREK: THE COMPENDIUM

Star Trek: The Compendium is a new four-disc Blu-ray box set for both of JJ Abrams Star Trek feature films (2009’s Star Trek and 2013’s Star Trek Into Darkness) on Blu-ray, which also compiles all the previously released special features into one package.

Packaging

The set comes in very nice case which folds out to reveal the four disc-set. It is made of a sturdy material with a higher-end feel with silvery raised lettering and Enterprise ship design. . Each disc has its own printed design

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The form factor for the set is slightly taller than standard Blu-ray releases, but fits the size of the previous two Star Trek Blu-ray movie sets for the original cast movies and Next Generation movies.

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The navigation for all four discs is consistent and very simple.

The Content

The Star Trek: The Compendium brings together the 2009 Star Trek movie (see TrekMovie review) plus all the previously released special futures from the 2009 Blu-ray release. TrekMovie reviewed this set back in 2009 so you can read that review for more details, but suffice to say it is a solid release with a good selection of special features. 

What is new for The Compendium is the two discs for Star Trek Into Darkness. The movie (see TrekMovie review) presented is the IMAX version (not 3D), which was not released last year. The transfer is excellent and looks good on both small and large screens. About 40% of the film was shot with IMAX cameras, so that means that the aspect ratio of the film switches around as they go from IMAX content (mostly action sequences and location shots) to the anamorphic content (mostly stuff done on stages). This ratio switching is a bit more noticeable at home than in theaters, but you soon stop noticing it and having the IMAX version is a treat to really get to see all that content.

Commentary

Also included on the Into Darkness movie disc is the "Enhanced Commentary" (originally only available for iTunes downloads) which is (mostly) quite amazing. Unlike the audio commentary for the 2009 Star Trek movie, Into Darkness allows those commenting to freeze, back up and use a telestrator to highlight sections of the film they are talking about. It also features picture-in-picture elements, showing behind the scenes moments and raw film before effects are added.

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Example of “enhanced commentary” for “Star Trek: Into Darkness” (image from Ultraviolet digital copy)

Unlike the commentary for the 2009 movie – and most commentaries in general – the Into Darkness feature has different commentators come in and out to cover different sections of the movie. This has a lot of advantages as it gives you a lot of perspectives. While the ‘supreme court’ of Abrams, Orci, Kurtzman and Lindelof do a good job for the 2009 movie it does get a bit repetitive (how many times can they say "oh so and so is just amazing!"). For Into Darkness, the movie starts off with VFX supervisor Roger Guyett and Unit Production Manager Tommy Harper talking over the Nibiru scenes, then composer Michael Giacchino jumps in to talk over the scene at the hospital, and when you get back to Starfleet it is the editors’ turns and so on. Also jumping in are producer Bryan Burk and writer/producer Damon Lindelof (together), producer/director JJ Abrams (solo) and the directors of photography Robert Bruce McCleery and Dan Mindel.

All in all the commentary is quite interesting and with all the pauses and backing up it actually adds about thirty minutes to the film. Probably the most interesting discussions are with the editors Mary Jo Markey and Maryann Brandon, who really show you how much the film changed during filming (and after filming with pick up shots).

One of the downsides of this type of format is that there is limited time with each commenter. Abrams is only talking during a couple of sequences for a total of maybe 15-20 minutes. Also disappointing is that writer/producers Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman are not part of the commentary. A nice value-added for this set would have been a new commentary from that pair (even audio only would have been nice). There are also some long gaps where there is no commentary at all.

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JJ Abrams demonstrates the original plans for Khan’s hair in “enhanced commentary” for “Star Trek: Into Darkness” (image from Ultraviolet digital copy)

Features

Again, the features for the 2009 movie are exactly the same as the 2009 release, as discussed in our previous review. All in all an excellent mix and quite entreating. This review is focusing on Into Darkness. As has been noted before, the Into Darkness release in 2013 appears to be some kind of experiment in marketing for Paramount, doling out special features to different retailers. forcing fans to chose what features to pursue based on where they bought their set. The Compendium brings all of them together on one disc, and adds three brand new ones as well.

All together there are 20 featurettes, plus the trailers and some deleted scenes. The standard Blu-ray release in 2013 included only seven featurettes, with extra bonus featurettes available at Target or Best Buy, and the deleted scenes available to X-Box downloaders.

You can see a complete list of the featurettes here. Almost all of them are informative and interesting. Most of the featurettes focus on the process of shooting the film, including eight dedicated to specific sections of the movie (like the space jump, the Khan/Spock fight, Nibiru, etc.) With these, not only do you learn quite a bit about how the film was made, but you get a better sense of the amount of work and dedication to detail that went in to Into Darkness. Regardless of how you feel about the film, it would be hard not to be impressed with the expertise and craftsmanship that went into the work. Also after years it being treated as a second tier franchise, it is still kind of amazing to see the amount of resources expended on Star Trek.


Clip from Into Darkness “Fitting the Future” featurette on costumes

Different departments also get their own special features, including music/sound FX, visual effects, editing, make-up, props, costumes, and set construction (focusing on the Enterprise). For Trek fans some of these should be of particular interest because they allow you to get a closer look a lot of elements of the movie that go by in a flash of JJ Abrams frenetic pacing. You get a much better appreciation of some elements you may have never even noticed, like the details on the Klingon disruptors or some of the new sets (and newly interconnected sets) for the USS Enterprise. Another good example is the "Aliens Encountered" featurette which both gives you a good look at some of the more interesting aliens (many of which you may not have noticed) and lets you see how they were created.

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“Rebuilding the Enterprise” featurette takes you behind the scenes with a close-up look at the sets for the sthip (image from Ultraviolet digital copy)

There are also some fun featurettes. “Mr. Spock and Mr. Spock" is dedicated to Leonard Nimoy’s cameo, showing how it was filmed at Bad Robot’s offices with Zachary Quinto. It would be hard for even the most cynical Trekkie to not get choked up watching that one. There is also a hilarious bit (titled “Safety First”) about the famous "neutron cream" prank and the famed gag reel. The clips that have already been released are only a fraction of what is included.

Probably the weakest element of the special features is that there really isn’t much discussing the film’s plot and scripting. There is a good featurette on "Kirk and Spock" that explores the characters and their arc in the film. And there is a (rather apologetic) featurette (called "The Enemy of My Enemy") that attempts to explain why they twisted themselves into pretzels trying to keep Khan’s identity a secret. But even with twenty special features, you may still feel there should be more like those. Also, while they do appear a few times throughout the featurettes, there just doesn’t seem to be enough from the writers (especially Orci and Kurtzman). In the end, after watching all of the features on disc four (and listening/watching the "enhanced commentary") you will have a very good understanding of how they made Into Darkness, but you wont have much insight into how they developed the story.

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JJ Abrams and Leonard Nimoy in “Mr. Spock and Mr. Spock” featurette (image from Ultraviolet digital copy)

Deleted Scenes

There are seven deleted scenes  – which are always fun for Trek fans to see the what ifs. Three of them are alternatives to scenes already in the movie (Marcus’ Office, Starfleet Room Attack, and Uhura’s Klingon Conversation). There is also a scene extension where Carol Marcus explains to Kirk why she has a British accent while the two of them walk to the shuttle.

The other elements that got cut were a scene with Kirk lying in his captain’s log as they leave Nibiru (but removing it makes the Pike/Kirk office scene better), an (only kind of funny) bit with Scotty talking himself into the Vengeance space dock and a strangely awkward scene with Kirk meeting the little (cured by Khan blood) Harewood girl. In the end – like with the 2009 movie – you can also see why each of them wasn’t used.

Of all the deleted scenes the one that will probably most interest Trek fans is the alternative Marcus Office scene which was based on a call between Marcus and Harewood (the guy who blew up the Kelvin Archive). The main reason it is interesting isn’t the conversation but the giant model of a TOS Constitution class-style ship model hanging from the ceiling of Marcus’ office. Unfortunately, as a deleted scene, this ship is now non-canon.

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"USS Biddeford" model in Marcus’ office in "Indo Darkness" deleted scene

Digital Copies

One of the value-added elements of Star Trek: The Compendium is the inclusion of digital copies for both the included films. You can view your digital copies on any device either streaming or download. These are available in both Ultraviolet and Apple iTunes. The digital copy for Into Darkness also includes the special feautres, including the commentary.

Recommendation

All in all for a Star Trek fan and a fan of the JJ movies, it is a no-brainer to pick up this set if you don’t have either the 2009 movie or Into Darkness on Blu-ray. However, things get more complicated if you have one or both already because you are clearly going to be double-dipping. Paramount is offering a $5 rebate for those who have previously purchased a set, so the new set after rebate will cost around $29 based on current Amazon pricing. I would say that if you own the 2009 movie and don’t own Into Darkness, then I would still recommend this set due to how much you are getting (and you can always sell your 2009 Blu-ray on Ebay).

The hardest decision will be for those who have Into Darkness, especially those who have one of the special sets with some of the ‘extra’ bonus features. Even though this is a great set and the IMAX version is cool, it is hard to justify spending $29 to just get a few new features. If you have a lot of disposable income and/or you are a completist , sure pick it up. Otherwise it is probably best to either wait to see if it goes on deep discount (CamelCamelCamel.com is a good site to notify you of Amazon price drops) or perhaps it will show up for rental.

Star Trek: The Compendium will be released on Tuesday.

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