As divisive as they have been, JJ Abrams’ Star Trek movies have brought spectacle back to the franchise in a way that hasn’t been seen since Star Trek: First Contact.
The scripts for both films have deficiencies that no amount of impressive visual effects can cover up. Even so, their production values are of a quality that even Abrams’ most ardent critics should admire.
Unfortunately that’s been hard to do with Star Trek Into Darkness because of the haphazard distribution of behind-the-scenes material. When the film was first released on Blu-ray, fans were unimpressed that the rights to special features were divvied up among retailers in the service of competition.
Thankfully, Paramount has now delivered this hi-def 4-disc set, which brings together a comprehensive set of extras for both Star Trek (2009) and Star Trek Into Darkness, albeit as an import in the UK.
Unfortunately, there‘s nothing new on the two discs that cover Abram’s 2009 reboot, which effectively makes this an over-priced special edition of Star Trek Into Darkness. Nonetheless, the compilation of ‘making-of’ material with the latter movie makes it a worthwhile purchase for collectors.
That material includes several IMAX scenes that have been included in the film itself but these don’t add much to the experience unless you have a 53-foot-tall TV.
The biggest bonus is the enhanced audio commentary that has previously been available through iTunes. The highlight of this is Visual Effects Supervisor Roger Guyett and Co-Producer Tommy Harper’s detailed deconstruction of the film’s prologue. Although epic in scale, this sequence – which features Kirk and Bones fleeing through an alien forest with a volcano erupting in the background – was crafted around a set that was just 60 feet long and built next to a Starbucks.
Instead of merely overlaying an audio track on the movie, Guyett and Harper intermittently pause and rewind the action and draw on the screen to highlight details they wouldn’t have time to emphasize if the film was rolling. Together with picture-in-picture comparisons of the finished product and scenes without CGI, this provides such a good display of the magic of visual effects that it’s a shame it ends at the movie’s opening titles.
Subsequent speakers include producers Bryan Burk and Damon Lindelof, composer Michael Giacchino, and Abrams. The director dissects Kirk and Khan’s space jump above the Earth near the film’s climax but unfortunately doesn’t explain how the Enterprise got there from Kronos in only 65 seconds. Among the interesting tidbits he does reveal, however, is the fact that the USS Vengeance’s cargo bay was basically just an empty warehouse with the lights turned off.
As with Star Trek (2009), the Star Trek Into Darkness extras also include trailers and an abundance of informative behind-the-scenes featurettes. Capping it all is an amusing gag reel that affords Simon Pegg more screen time than he gets in the movie itself. It also shows much goofing off, which supports the conclusion that $190 million was well spent because clearly the cast had a great time making this movie even if many Trekkers didn’t enjoy watching it.