Star Trek Beyond – UltraHD Blu-ray review

The latest installment in the Kelvin timeline movies comes to physical media Tuesday, November 1 in North America. It will be released in UltraHD Blu-ray, as well as 3D and 2D 1080p Blu-ray packs to cover all the possible ways you might want to consume Star Trek Beyond. Read on for our review of the 4k UHD Blu-ray edition.

The Movie

Star Trek Beyond is the first movie in the new franchise to not be beholden to, or somehow heavily reference, the Prime timeline. The new franchise is finally able to have a unique adventure in the Kelvin timeline. The actors seem comfortable in their roles and are given lots of good bits to work with. Chris Pine really seems to have grown into Kirk, and likewise the character of Kirk finally seems like the grown up captain we knew he would become.

Like many fans, I certainly eye rolled when we heard the Enterprise would be destroyed, however the execution works well and serves the story. The destruction really just helps move the film along to the best act of the film — where the crew is split up, this lets the characters really shine, with small moments that ring true for these versions of the Trek crew. The pairing of Kirk and Chekov is one of the best unconventional pairings, we get to see the now a bit older and wiser Kirk mentor the youngest member of his bridge crew. Jaylah is clearly the breakout character of the movie, she’s gotten the attention of a lot of fans, and rightfully so, she steals the scene nearly every time she’s on screen.

Sure Beyond has plot issues, and relies on a number of tropes both from past Trek and modern-day action movies, however it still feels fresh, has the right amount of humor mixed in, is gorgeous to look at, and has a lot of the right Trek “feels” in a number of scenes throughout the movie.

stb-jaylah-escapes-altamid

 

Video Quality

About UltraHD Blu-ray:
UltraHD Blu-ray is the next generation version of Blu-ray, since it is made for UltraHD resolution (4k) it has to hold quite a bit more data, and so it is not backwards compatible. To play an UltraHD Blu-ray Disc (UHD BD) you must have a new player made for it. UHD BD is much more than just a resolution bump, since the increase in resolution alone is often not really discernible for people at typical TV sizes and seating distances.
The real “killer features” of the UHD BD standard are High Dynamic Range (HDR) and a Wide Color Gamut (WCG). This is something you can see at normal distances, because it has to do with contrast and color, both things our eyes are rather keen on detecting. A new 4k transfer of a movie graded for HDR/WCG can in effect digitally “describe” a film in more detail than we’ve had in a consumer format before.

 

The 4k UHD Blu-ray combo pack includes the UltraHD Blu-ray disc, a standard Blu-ray disc, and a code for a digital copy.

The 4k UltraHD version with HDR is of course the version to view if you have the equipment. The vibrant colors and depth in the image make it the closest you’ll get to having a premium theater experience at home. When HDR looks good, it looks really good, lifelike in a way that SDR content just can’t create. The bonus content is all on the standard Blu-ray disc, switching to it, to view the gag reel for fun after completing our watch through of Beyond in HDR really demonstrated the differences.

Taken on its own, the standard 1080p Blu-ray version looks great, as one would expect. So no matter your equipment you’ll be getting an excellent version of the movie.

stb-approach-yorktown

 

Audio Quality

About Dolby Atmos:
Atmos is a relatively new surround sound standard that is a large technical leap forward from typical surround sound formats. Atmos consists of sound objects that are positioned in 3D space around the listener, it is then up to the decoder in your A/V receiver to handle what speaker(s) these sounds comes from given the number of speakers you have and your room setup. Contrast this to typical surround sound formats which are entirely channel based, a sound is strictly mapped to one of 5 or 7 channels.
Atmos soundtracks are backwards compatible with Dolby TrueHD, so if you’re not ready to make the leap, you’ll get an excellent 7.1/5.1 version for standard speaker layouts.

 

I made sure to see Beyond theatrically with Atmos, because it really can add an extra dimension and fullness to the auditory experience. This home video version recreates that experience just as I remembered it from this summer.

Some examples: the swarm surrounds you and as it does the Enterprise, and later while exploring the crashed saucer, metal creaks and groans around you.

stb-swarm-deflector

Paramount has bucked the trend of only including the Atmos version of a soundtrack on the (premium) UltraHD release, and thankfully includes it on the standard Blu-ray releases too. So people who have Atmos equipment, but haven’t moved to a 4K-HDR display, can still get the benefit of the immersive audio.

 

Bottom Line:

The audio and video quality are top notch, and definitely have sequences that are demo worthy.

stb-trio-look-up

 

Bonus Content

The Bonus Content is found on the standard Blu-ray disc included in the combo pack.

Here comes the not so great. Bad Robot has shorted us on bonus content of substance, and worse, they’ve taken the commentary, which is the one piece of bonus content people have come to expect since the early days of DVDs, and made it an iTunes exclusive.

The bonus content that is included tends to stick to light “press kit” kind of material, but there are some gems in here.

  • Deleted Scenes – There are a measly two short deleted scenes. The first and better of the two, is the deleted scene with Kirk and Scotty (and Keenser) that was shared last month. The second scene, is only 17 seconds long, which has Scotty calling a uniform by British slang (“bib and tucker”), confusing Jaylah even more.
  • Beyond the Darkness – A rather fluffy piece with the big names behind the production: Abrams, Pegg, Lin, and Jung. We haven’t heard much from Doug Jung so it is nice that we get to hear more of him, along with a new voice, producer Lindsey Weber.
  • Enterprise Takedown – This is a disappointing segment, it features a lot of talk about the concepts of the Enterprise/Swarm battle, but nothing about how it was accomplished on screen.
  • Divided and Conquered – The cast and writers speak about how the crew was broken up and then paired up, which gave a fresh perspective on the characters.
  • A Warped Sense of Revenge – This focuses on Krall (and his two loyal crew-mates Manas and Kalara), and delves into his backstory and motivations for his anger. It fleshes out some of what was only hinted at or quickly glossed over in the actual film.
  • Trekking in the Desert – A short piece on filming in Dubai, the city was a natural choice since it had futuristic buildings and brand new state-of-the-art soundstages for the growing film industry, there’s also a bit on the diverse population of the city and the use of local Trekkies as extras.
  • Exploring Strange New Worlds – Tom Sanders (Production Designer) talks about his design process and we get tours of Krall’s basecamp, and the Enterprise and Franklin sets.
  • New Life, New Civilizations – A look at the plethora of aliens in Beyond with alien makeup master Joel Harlow. The segment features interviews with Deep Roy (Keenser), Sofia Boutella (Jaylah), and Lydia Wilson (Kalara). Sadly, one of the more interesting (and important to the plot) aliens — Ensign Syl, is barely seen in the feature.
  • To Live Long and Prosper – The Kelvin timeline cast and crew reflect on 50-years of Trek with TOS and TOS-movie clips interspersed with Kelvin timeline clips to show the parallels and inspirations from the Prime universe in the newer film franchise.
  • For Leonard and Anton – A nicely done 5-minute tribute to Leonard Nimoy and Anton Yelchin. This one may leave you misty eyed.
  • Gag Reel – This is a pretty good reel of flubs, crack ups, etc. It’s always fun to see behind the veneer of the well executed takes that make it into the polished final version.

What’s missing?

First and foremost there was a commentary recorded for Beyond, however, as with the first disc release of Into Darkness, it is exclusively on iTunes. The digital copy code included with the disc combo packs can be used to redeem the iTunes version, so technically a disc owner can get the commentary, but of course it’s not integrated with the disc copy. This is a big no-no, I thought Bad Robot and Paramount had learned their lesson after the Into Darkness fiasco, but I guess not.

There’s also a retailer exclusive bonus disc, it’s only from a single retailer, so it’s not as out of control as the initial release of Into Darkness was. In the USA, Target will have an edition with a second disc of bonus content. While annoying, if it’s anything like the bonus content included in the standard editions it probably isn’t a big loss, especially if you’ve read the various interviews about the production that were published during the lead up to the theatrical release.


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