Star Trek: The Compendium – Blu-ray Review

The Movie (Star Trek: 5/5, Star Trek Into Darkness: 3/5)

Star Trek: The Compendium is a comprehensive release of the first two Star Trek reboot films, contained in one convenient package.

Star Trek:

Star Trek, after the forced conclusion of Enterprise, and the box office disaster of Nemesis, was in a dire state. The powers that be at CBS, who owns the Star Trek brand, decided to pursue redeveloping an old idea to revitalize Star Trek as a feature film franchise. This idea of course, was the story of the Enterprise crew during their academy days, a concept that series creator Gene Roddenberry tossed around in the late 60s, and one that was revisited by Harve Bennet unsuccessfully in the late 80s, forcing his exit from the franchise. Paramount studio head Gail Berman, impressed by their work on Mission Impossible 3, recruited writers Roberto Orci, and Alex Kurtzman to develop a script based on that premise, with J.J. Abrams signing on as a producer, to help craft the film for newcomers and franchise fans alike. After realizing how much he wanted to make the film based on the script they had crafted, Abrams signed on to direct in 2007, and the rest is history.

Star Trek

Star Trek starts with the arrival of an alien starship appearing through a mysterious lighting storm in space. Arriving to investigate the strange occurrence, the U.S.S. Kelvin is intercepted and attacked without warning, disabling the ship and forcing the crew to abandon ship. Left in charge of the compromised ship, George Kirk must stay behind to save the escaping crew as his son is born – James T. Kirk. 17 years later, challenged to live up to his father’s legacy by a starfleet captain who served with his father, James joins starfleet, and meets his future crew members Uhura and Leonard “Bones” McCoy. Three years later, a mysterious lightning storm in space appears in the Vulcan system, and Kirk is forced to team up with the rest of the Enterprise crew members, comprised of returning characters Spock, Hikaru Sulu, Pavel Chekov, and Montgomery Scott to defeat the evil Captain Nero and his crew, as they return to destroy life as they know it.

Star Trek, upon its release in 2009, proved that the Star Trek franchise could successfully be revitalized as a big screen property. The script takes the traditional action core that exists in the background of many of the older Star Trek films, and brings it to the forefront. As many fans will note, this is not the classic Enterprise that we knew and loved from the original film franchise that ended in 1991. Instead, the film moves at a breakneck pace, starting off with an incredibly intense action sequence, which leads to the birth of our main character. Wasting little time, it establishes the contrasting origins of both Spock and James, establishing the core ideals that drive each character in a lean, efficient manner. It then moves quickly, wasting little time in establishing the supporting cast members, and working to place them in their appropriate places aboard the Enterprise. As soon as they’ve found their place, the film immediately places them into places of extreme peril, pushing them to the limits, and forcing them to create the bonds that make them the classic Enterprise crew we know and love.

Star Trek

In recasting the iconic characters that fill out the main crew of the Enterprise, Abrams and his team allowed them to pick and choose elements of their characters that they felt fit them best as individuals – Chris Pine carries on with the arrogant and humorous nature of Kirk’s character, but abandons the goofy speaking style that Shatner is known for, while Zachary Quinto plays the role of Spock much closer to Leonard Nimoy’s portrayal, playing the role with a cold and intellectual style, while adding a layer of physical intimidation to his portrayal of the character. Karl Urban, in filling the shoes of the classic character “Bones”, chose to recreate the speaking style and character traits created by DeForest Kelley, while Zoe Saldana, Anton Yelchin, and John Cho chose to strip their characters to their barest elements, leaving behind much of the characteristics that made the characters iconic, forging new paths. Simon Pegg perfectly embodies the role of Montgomery Scott in almost every way, while a supporting cast that includes actors such as Bruce Greenwood as Captain Pike, and Eric Bana as the nefarious Nero play their roles with gusto and believability. Leonard Nimoy returns as Spock Prime, in his last major film portrayal of the character, and one of the finest, most touching performances of his career.

The film is visually stunning, presenting the Trek universe with an extra layer of color and brightness that gives the film a highly stylized look. It separates itself almost immediately, with its heavy reliance on lens flaring and CGI visual effects that are used to create a sharper, more idealized vision of the Federation and Starfleet. It feels like comparing the original Star Wars trilogy to the prequel trilogy. The older Star Trek films are more visually grounded, and darker, while Trek 2009 almost looks artificially sharp and bright in comparison, even in the most dire of moments. The bridge and interiors of the Enterprise have gone from a moderately lit military style, to a modernized, brighter style, and I love it. Many will argue that the contrast in style dilutes it as a member of the Star Trek canon, but it helps is set itself apart. It feels overwhelmingly fresh.
Star Trek is the complete package – the film has an incredibly faithful script, full of classic Star Trek moments that help define the characters, refining Trek into a leaner, tougher, more intensely paced style of movie. With a new visual style, and an engaging villain who goes toe to toe with the Enterprise in some of her most intense battles yet, Star Trek is the breath of fresh air that the franchise needed to recapture classic fans, and reel in new fans. With a great cast, an excellent score by Michael Giacchino, and a strong sense of confidence in its world building, Star Trek serves as one of the, if not the greatest of the modern franchise reboots of all time. It succeeds in nearly every way.

Star Trek Into Darkness:

After Star Trek released, and I went full on Trekkie in the aftermath, I was starving for more of the new vision of the Star Trek universe. After four years of waiting, I sprinted to theaters to see Star Trek Into Darkness on opening night with a group of friends and family. The resulting film polarized fans splitting them into two camps – some consider it to be one of the better Trek films to hit the big screen, others consider it to be a derivative, manipulative film that abuses fan service,  straying even further from the traditional vision of Trek, reducing the brand to a generic big-budget blockbuster franchise, no different from its peers. Where do I stand? Somewhere in the middle. It’s tough for me to denounce it outright – on its release, I saw it in theaters 4 times, twice in IMAX, and loved it each time, but that doesn’t make it flawless by any means.

For his second turn in the captain’s chair, J.J. Abrams reunites the Enterprise Crew once again to face a new threat – a terrorist named John Harrison, who has staged a number of high profile attacks against the Federation and its officers. After losing command of his ship after violating Starfleet’s Prime Directive, Captain Kirk reclaims the ship and volunteers his ship and crew to head up the efforts to stop Harrison. Along the way, the Enterprise crew uncovers a dangerous conspiracy led by a Starfleet admiral to transform the fleet into a war machine, forcing Kirk and his crew to reluctantly join forces in order to potentially save the Federation.

Unfortunately, instead of creating a new villain, with fresh motivations, Abrams and his creative team decided to make a controversial decision – halfway through the film, John Harrison is revealed to be the classic Star Trek villain Kahn Noonien Singh. In a bizarre moment of fan service, an imposing villain suddenly becomes a bastardization of one of Trek’s greatest villains of all time, in an attempt to make a pseudo-remake of Wrath of Kahn. The problem with that, is that Kahn had this incredible backstory, elaborated on in not only a movie, but in an episode of the original program that explained his past and his motivations. In this film, we get little to no reason as to who Kahn is, or why he would be a significant character to the crew of the Enterprise. He just shows up, shouts his name, and tries to kill everybody. It feels unsatisfying, shallow, and disrespectful to classic Trek fans who hold the character of Kahn so dear to their hearts.

And yet, looking past that one fatal flaw, the rest of the film falls apart under scrutiny as well – McCoy seems to be reduced to a character that spits cheesy one liners, and many of the other characters are reduced to the bare minimum of screen time so that we are made aware that they’re at least in the film. The two main female roles in the film, Uhura and Carol Marcus, are reduced to caricatures, one reduced to a stereotype, and the other mainly present simply for sex appeal. Consequences are levied  against main characters, and then repealed shortly afterwards with little ramifications, and important scenes of Wrath of Kahn are remade in the most embarrassing of ways. It feels like certain portions of the script were haphazardly improvised in the face of deadlines.

But, in the face of a substantially weaker script, Abrams and his cast take the film’s more interesting premise, which involves terrorism and a conspiracy that threatens to mutate and distort Starfleet from within to great heights. The film is full of expertly directed action sequences, with fast paced, brilliant gunfights and incredible space battle sequences, taken to new heights with IMAX 15/70 large format sequences. Chris Pine, who returns as Captain Kirk, plays his role with humility, displaying new amounts of depth for the character as he is forced to face his own limits in the face of incredible odds. His performance is a delight, as is that of fellow cast members Zachary Pine, Simon Pegg, and Benedict Cumberbatch as Kahn.

The film is edited competently, and moves along at a fine pace. Michael Giacchino returns to score the film, creating new themes that fit perfectly with the new characters and themes of the film. The visual effects and style of the film maintain the bright, sharp style that Abrams and his team brought to the 2009 reboot, although this time slightly more militaristic and darker, much like how Wrath of Kahn was slightly more militaristic than the The Motion Picture.

Star Trek Into Darkness unfortunately falls short of the high bar set by its predecessor. With a weaker script, the film is held up almost entirely by action sequences, which makes for an exhilarating, if not moderately shallow viewing experience. With some incredible set pieces and large format IMAX sequences, is an unbelievably flawed, but fun experience. Rewatching the film three years after its release, I think I was just incredibly excited for new Star Trek upon its release, and blinded by Trek enthusiasm to all of its glaring flaws, but it’s no more offensive than any of the other summer blockbusters available during the summer seasons.

The Video (Star Trek: 4.5/5, Star Trek Into Darkness: 5/5)

Star Trek

Shot on 4-perf 35mm film with Panavision anamorphic lenses and finished digitally in 2K resolution, Star Trek was shown theatrically using the 2.35:1 aspect ratio. This Blu-ray presents the film in 1080p, maintaining the original theatrical 2.35:1 aspect ratio.

Originally released in 2009 on Blu-ray, Star Trek was the first Blu-ray that I ever watched that truly changed my opinion on the quality of the format. I remember being amazed at the amounts of detail you could see in close-ups and visual effects sequences, but how well does it hold up in 2016?
Star Trek is still an incredibly sharp movie, with a distinct visual style that shines in 1080p. Colors, especially reds and yellows, are beautifully saturated, and visual effect sequences render detail in the most obscure and insignificant pieces of debris as starships get blown apart. The film’s shallow depth of field due to the use of anamorphic lenses is recreated with total accuracy. The transfer is incredibly filmic, with a healthy layer of grain that never becomes intrusive or overwhelming. If I had any complaints to levy against it, is that sometimes the live action plates are much sharper than the visual effects integrated into them – the Delta Vega sequence is a great example; Kirk is running through the across the surface of the ice planet, and is being chased by a large CGI creature, and it just looks soft and somewhat phony. Otherwise, Star Trek looks like it hasn’t aged a day since it’s original Blu-ray release.

Star Trek Into Darkness

Shot on a combination of 4-perf 35mm anamorphic film, 8-perf 65mm film, and 15-perf 65mm film, Star Trek Into Darkness was presented in IMAX film theaters using a multi aspect ratio presentation that switched between 2.35:1 and 1.66:1. Digital IMAX 2K theaters saw the film switch between 2.35:1 and 1.90:1, while regular theaters saw a standard 2.35:1 aspect ratio presentation of the film. For reference, the film was finished digitally in 2K resolution for all presentation. The Blu-ray included as part of Star Trek: The Compendium presents the film in 1080p, with a multi aspect ratio presentation that switches between 2.35:1 and 1.78:1, falling in the middle of the two IMAX presentations.



Star Trek Into Darkness did not originally release with the IMAX large format sequences maintained upon its original Blu-ray release in 2013. The transfer, while gorgeously filmic and incredibly detailed, did not accurately represent how the film was meant to be seen. The IMAX sequences, which were new to this Blu-ray package, are absolutely a sight to behold. The scale of these scenes is second to none, and hold up incredibly well in 1080p. Unlike the first film, which favored yellows and reds, the follow up shifts into a darker tone, which favors saturated blues and blacks, as much of the film takes place in space, which look great. Detail is rock solid across both the 35mm and 65mm film sequences, and there is a light layer of grain across the 2.35:1 sequences due to their lower resolution origination materials. Star Trek Into Darkness is by far my favorite looking of the feature films that have used IMAX to date, and it is presented with absolute perfection on Blu-ray.

The Audio (Both Films: 5/5)

Both Star Trek and Star Trek Into Darkness were presented in theaters using a 5.1 sound mix, and in some select locations, even a 7.1 sound mix. On home video, the Star Trek films are presented using a 5.1 and 7.1 Dolby TrueHD surround sound mix. 5.1 for Star Trek, 7.1 for Star Trek Into Darkness. For review purposes, both sound mixes were listened to using a 5.1 surround sound setup.
Both of these films are absolute joys to listen to. Starships and explosion ping from speaker to speaker, moving all over the surrounds and stereo speakers. Subwoofer activity is aggressive, but feels natural, considering the activity going on in the frame. Dialogue is mostly centered, but doesn’t ever seem to hold  Both Star Trek and Star Trek Into Darkness have fairly equal sound mixes in terms of overall activity and clarity. Both are a ton of fun to crank up and experience.

Special Features/Packaging (4.5/5)

Star Trek: The Compendium, released to Blu-ray by Paramount Home Video, is packaged in a cardboard, almost hardcover book textured. Upon opening the case, which opens like a book, reveals two plastic disc holders, one the left the two Blu-ray discs from the Star Trek 3-disc Special Edition from 2009. On the right is the brand new IMAX formatted feature disc for Into Darkness, as well as a disc that compiled all of the special features created for the film that were previously split across various retailers in exclusive retail and digital releases. As for artwork, the front of the book style package features a metallic drawing of the Enterprise and titles, while back features a few logos, and that’s it. The disc holders are a little wonky, and the packaging art leaves a little bit to be desired. It feels oddly minimal.

Onto the special features, which will be broken down for each film.

Star Trek:

All of these features were previously included in the 2009 3-disc Special Edition Blu-ray release of Star Trek.

Disc 1

Audio Commentary – commentary for the film, led by J.J. Abrams, Bryan Burk, Alex Kurtzman, Damon Lindelof, and Robert Orci. Informative, casual, and fun; especially if you want to know amusing details about the film.

Disc 2

To Boldly Go – a fifteen minute long documentary about the genesis of the reboot, the process of writing the reboot, and the shooting of the film. They go over working with Leonard Nimoy, and all of the homages that they’ve made to the original series in depth. There are a few breakout sections, that go over extra bits, such as the inclusion of William Shatner.

Casting – A 30 minute feature that breaks down each character, and the actors that they chose to recast the iconic roles, including the return of Leonard Nimoy as Spock, with a great amount of insight.

A New Vision – a 20 minute feature on how Abrams and his creative team approached bringing Trek into the modern era, and how they designed the more action oriented Trek universe that we have now.

Starships – 25 minute feature on the design of the starships featured in the film, and the various influences that weighed in on each one, with breakout pieces for many of the various parts of the Enterprise specifically.

Aliens – a 16 minute feature on the design of the alien creatures that appear all over the film, with several breakout pieces on specific creature designs.

Planets – a 16 minute feature on the design of the mane planets from Star Trek, including Vulcan, Delta Vega, and Earth, with a few breakout pieces to extend the feature.

Props and Costumes – a ten minute feature that dives into the various props, and….who would have guessed it, costumes. Includes a breakout piece about the Klingon Wardrobe

Ben Burtt & the Sound of Star Trek – a ten minute feature about Ben Burtt and the techniques he used to create the convincing world of Star Trek. Ben Burtt is one of the coolest guys in the industry, and the way he breaks everything down is really digestible and entertaining.

Score – a 6 minute piece about Michael Giachhino, and the recording of the score for Star Trek

Gene Roddenberry’s Vision – an 8 minute piece about Roddenberry’s vision of the future, from the perspective of various science consultants, Star Trek TV crew members, and actors.

Deleted Scenes – a selection of 9 deleted scenes from the film, that expand the first act of the film greatly, and feature some alternate takes of finished scenes in the film, with effects in various states of completion.

Starfleet Vessel Simulator – a basic, cheesy simulator included on the disc for the Enterprise, and Nero’s ship, the Narrada

Gag Reel – a clip out outtakes and flubbed lines, leading to humor on set.

Trailers – a collection of 4 trailers used to promote the film, including 3 theatrical trailers and one teaser trailer.

Star Trek Into Darkness:

Disc 1

Enhanced Commentary – a collection of clips from the film, in which crew members such as visual effects supervisors, cameramen, and producers talk about 9 different scenes from the film. Often times, they point little things, or crack jokes at the expense of the film which makes for an entertaining experience.

The Mission Continues – a short ad, narrated by Chris Pine, which urges you to support military veterans who are coming home, and need our support.

Disc 2

Featurettes – 23 individual featurettes, covering a massive quantity of material, such as set design, lighting, costumes, character motivations, effects creation, and various other topics, each of varying length and depth of coverage. They are as follows:

  • The Voyage Begins….Again
  • Creating the Red Planet
  • Introducing the Villain
  • Rebuilding the Enterprise
  • National Ignition Facility, Home of the Core
  • Attack on Starfleet
  • Aliens Encountered
  • The Klingon Homeworld
  • The Enemy of My Enemy
  • Vengeance is Coming
  • Ship to Ship
  • Mr. Spock and Mr. Spock
  • Down with the Ship
  • Kirk and Spock
  • Brawl by the Bay
  • Fitting the Future
  • Property of Starfleet
  • Unlocking the Cut
  • Visual Affection
  • The Sound of Music (and FX)
  • Safety First
  • Continuing the Mission
  • Gag Reel

Deleted Scenes – 7 deleted scenes from the film, mostly consisting of alternate of existing shots, such as Uhura’s Klingon conversation, and Harrison’s attack on Starfleet Headquarters. Mostly fluff stuff, that got cut from the film without much impact.

Theatrical Trailers – a collection of the three of the film’s trailers, which bring back a lot of memories for me, as I spent three months or so before the film’s release hyping it up to all of my peers. The trailers are suspenseful and intense. One is even mixed in 5.1 surround sound.



The packaging for this release is a little uninspired but this release features an encyclopedia of extras to make it worth your time. The fact that we finally got all of the Into Darkness features all under one roof, after Paramount scorned fans with exclusive features on all sorts of platforms, is fantastic. It’s sad that there’s no new extras for Star Trek, but we do get the excellent disc of extras from the original 3-disc Blu-ray Special Edition that came out in 2009. This one gets high marks on the strengths of its extras alone.

Technical Specs (click for technical FAQs)

Video

Codec: AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1, 1.78:1

Audio

Star Trek

Dolby TrueHD 5.1 (English)

Dolby Digital 5.1 (French, Spanish)

Into Darkness

Dolby TrueHD 7.1 (English)

Dolby Digital 5.1 (French, Spanish, Portugese)

Subtitles

English, English SDH, French, Spanish, Portugese

Overall (4.5/5)

I love Star Trek, but I especially love new Star Trek. The action-filled, guns blazing attitude that Abrams and his crew took towards revitalizing the franchise was the exact breathe of air that it needed to become a mainstream film franchise once again. The 2009 reboot is a masterful reboot, with a great script, fantastic acting, and a fun and fresh visual style that just feels right from start to finish. Unfortunately, Abrams tripped up a bit with Into Darkness, creating more exciting action sequences, but lacking an exciting script that can hold up the plot between the explosions and fist fights. It is still fun, but it’s not nearly as good as its predecessor. Star Trek: The Compendium features an identical, but mostly flawless audio and video transfer for the 2009 reboot, and the perfected IMAX video transfer for Into Darkness, which was sorely missed in its original 2013 home video release. The extras are plentiful in number, and while the packaging isn’t great, it gets the job done. This is a fantastic release – come for the Trek, stay for the extras, as they’re well worth your time.