The franchise comeback story of the year, if not the decade, is Star Trek, which arrived in theaters with an amount of buzz that could only be matched by a metric ton of tribbles, and eventually grossed almost $400 million worldwide. This week Trek debuts on Blu-ray in a 3-Disc Special Edition, and the set includes enough extras and special features that one can expect the series to continue on successfully for the foreseeable future – even if it's only because you can't get it out of your head.
Though it's unnecessary to revisit the merits of the movie itself – by now you're either with J.J. Abrams' reinvention of the series mythology or you aren't – it looks absolutely wonderful in high definition, emphasizing every last lens flare and visual flourish injected into its agile, lyrical cinematography. The color quality itself is just positively luminous, but augmented by the sound design, which offers a muscular 5.1 TrueHD mix, you're completely immersed in the film; in fact, so great is the sound on Disc One that even the menu screens rumble with house-shaking bass.
As for the encyclopedia of bonus materials.....
....well, it seems fairly impossible to ask for much more, although as a colleague observed, some of this might have been better served by being combined in a comprehensive documentary instead of as individual featurettes. Ultimately, I think that there are different rules for creating documentaries than featurettes (the difference between the two being a literal matter of running times), which is probably why it was more cost-effective for Paramount to put together 15 or so featurettes or mini-docs instead of a single feature-length piece, but either way there's nothing absent from this set that fans new or old could possibly want.
Backing up a little, however, on Disc One there's a terrific commentary track featuring J.J. Abrams, Bryan Burk, Alex Kurtzman, Damon Lindelof and Roberto Orci, where they not only examine how and why they came up with what eventually made it into the movie, but offered some insights and explanations about what didn't, and further, what their goals were when faced with the task of re-creating a world that is already do full of fantastic mythology. (They also explain those lens flares as well.)
Disc Two launches with "To Boldly Go," the first of ten featurettes exploring various aspects of the conception and production of the film. This one, like a few others, is viewable in an "Extended" version that offers branching interludes, behind the scenes footage, and other tidbits that might only be of interest to folks interested in poring over all of the minutiae that makes up the film. At the same time, there are some really clever and interesting details included here, exploring everything from obvious questions like why William Shatner wasn't included in the movie (in "The Shatner Conundrum") to simply rating the Trek fandom of the folks involved (complete with a goofy, futuristic "barometer"). Regardless whether you dive into the sidebar featurettes or just follow the main narrative of the main piece, this offers a great overview of the movie's origins and sets the stage for the other featurettes' more in-depth examination of various aspects of its futuristic universe.
My favorite featurettes were "Ben Burtt and the Sounds of Star Trek," "Casting," and "Gene Roddenberry's Vison," because they really address the decision-making that went into re-imagining or reviving the iconography of the series from its '60s origins to today. But the rest of the featurettes will absolutely be of interest to any Trek fan because they reveal not only the challenges but the ideas behind making characters look a certain way, and finding new ways to marry that into the existing mythology, if at all possible.
Meanwhile, a collection of deleted scenes further expands the film's narrative landscape, explaining details such as where Nero spends the intervening 25 years between when he first appears in Kirk's life and when Kirk becomes captain of the Enterprise. Additionally, the "Starfleet Vessel Simulator" gives fans a chance to explore the ins and outs of the important ships and vehicles in the film with detailed, navigable digital models. In fact, only the gag reel is mildly disappointing, because it seems like everyone was having a lot of fun, but there didn't seem to be a lot of "real" goofs, only line flubs and other standard-fare screw-ups.
Ultimately, however, there's nothing here that shouldn't fully satisfy Star Trek fans, even if you have no interest at all in the extras, because if nothing else even the presentation is pitch-perfect. Star Trek was one of the summer's best blockbusters, and now it's one of the year's best Blu-rays as well.