'Star Trek Into Darkness' Blu-Ray Punishes The Fans
Scott Mendelson, Contributor
How much does it cost to acquire the “complete” Star Trek Into Darkness blu-ray and how much effort does it take to enjoy it? That would normally seem like an odd question, but Paramount’s inexplicable release strategy has left Trekkies and general blu-ray completists scratching their heads in confusion and frustration. You see, unlike most blu-ray releases, where the studio puts the respective bonus features either on the disc that every consumer can buy from every outlet, Paramount has done something… a little silly. They have spread out the available special features into several different retail outlets. So basically, if you want the “complete” American Star Trek Into Darkness blu-ray, you have to buy it twice. Oh, and you can’t even enjoy some of those features on your television.
Offering an exclusive bonus disc to a consumer if you buy a given film at one specific store is not new. However frowned upon it might be, it isn’t that much of a headache to, for example, buy Disney’s The Avengers at Target TGT +0.21% instead of Best Buy BBY +1.39% or Amazon in order to get a 90-minute documentary that isn’t available anywhere else. It’s annoying, as when Paramount put most the deleted scenes of Mission: Impossible: Ghost Protocol in the Best Buy bonus disc, but most studios at least have the decency to usually keep their content-related exclusives (as opposed to special packaging) to a single establishment. What Paramount has done is an enhanced variation of this kind of release pattern. They have offered a near-barren disc for Star Trek Into Darkness and instead offered the various special features as exclusives at two different retailers.
Now, for those who only care about the film itself, the “regular” 2D release looks and sounds absolutely spectacular. The film was shot on old-school 35mm 2.35:1 Panavision and, for selected scenes, 65mm IMAX film and it looks stunning. But for those who want copious special features, you will be disappointed. On the standard release, you get 42 minutes of mostly solid documentary featurettes, eight in all, including an amusing seven-minute bit where the filmmakers try to justify their pointless inclusion of a certain major character from the prior canon. And that’s pretty much it, save for a PSA for a group called ‘The Mission Continues‘, which helps returning war veterans re-acclimate to civilian life through service projects. There are no trailers, no deleted, scenes, and no commentaries on the standard release disc.
If you must buy only one version of Star Trek Into Darkness, get the Target disc. The disc set contains the feature on a separate disc, with the 42 minutes of bonus features from the normal release, as well as thirty minutes of additional featurettes, along with the domestic trailer campaign, which is a nice touch. Unlike a certain retailer I’ll get to in a minute, at least Target’s retail exclusives are disc-based. The Target version has the film on one disc by itself, along with all of the respective bonus material on its own disc. The “exclusive” material is obviously cut from the same cloth as the national release material, which makes it all the more obvious that this was one big set of featurettes that were arbitrarily (and randomly) split up over three “versions” of the film. But at least the Target material is actually on the disc itself.
Unlike the Canadian Best Buy version, the American Best Buy bonus content isn’t disc-based. It’s only accessed through their online service CinemaNow. One can’t just go onto CinemaNow and watch the stuff either. You have to actually get an account with them first. Because if there is anything consumers like more than having to purchase multiple copies of a disc to view the complete available content (six featurettes totaling 31 minutes), it’s being forced to watch that content on a computer monitor for optimum playback. Now I was able to watch this material on my PlayStation 3, but it was a choppy image, with no subtitles, muffled audio, and an inability to skip from chapter to chapter. It’s sad that I would give a retailer bonus points for merely including its exclusive features on an actual disc, but that’s where we are in the “Target vs. Best Buy” competition at the moment.
Now if you’ve bought both retail versions for approximately $40 plus shipping or taxes, you’ve got the film itself, the three American trailers, and about 105 minutes of relatively solid bonus material. But the adventure is not over yet, folks. Because here’s the goofiest and most frustrating part of this release pattern. There actually is a commentary track for Star Trek Into Darkness - a pretty darn good one no less. But it is only available as an iTunes download. The good news is that the retail version comes with the iTunes download, meaning you don’t have to buy the film a third time to get that commentary track. The bad news is that it’s once again a major bonus feature that isn’t on the disc or even on a bonus disc. Not only is it a commentary track, but it’s a full video-based commentary track, a separate video file that is filled with talking heads and behind-the-scenes footage that runs nearly 30 minutes longer than the actual 132 minute feature. But you can’t watch it on your television and you have to sign up for an iTunes account and then download the hefty file before you can watch it on your computer.
These kind of ‘movie-in-movie’ commentary tracks show up on blu-ray discs all the time (think the last few Harry Potter films), but not this time. Here’s the real irony: the picture-in-picture mode also includes the film in its intended shifting-aspect ratio, so the scenes that were filmed on 1.66:1 IMAX cameras now fill your more of your screen accordingly. That’s great, but it would be even greater if you could watch that IMAX-enhanced video commentary on your big-screen 1080p HDTV. Because, as we all know, nothing brings out the awesome grandeur of IMAX like viewing it on your computer monitor or an Apple AAPL +0.97%-compatible smartphone (sorry Android users). Not only did Paramount not include the video-based commentary on the disc, they provided it on the one format that the majority of consumers won’t be able to watch on their TV. Not only did Paramount not include the IMAX version of the film on the disc, but they included it as part of a video commentary that cannot be watched as the film itself and that most people will be unable to watch on a television.
I get the idea, however theoretically mean, of splitting up the bonus features so that hardcore Trek fans have to buy multiple copies to get the complete version. But the extras are split up and spread out in a way to make them difficult to access even if you did shell out the necessary cash, lacking even the ease of switching discs. Even if you buy the Best Buy version and the Target version, you still can’t watch the Best Buy bonus material without using CinemaNow. And while you don’t need to buy it separately, you can’t even watch the iTunes-only video commentary, which presents the film in its IMAX aspect ratio, on a television unless (I presume) you have Apple TV. So of the four major portions of bonus features, two are simple and disc-based while the other two require online accounts and/or long downloads, and the potential inability to actually watch them on your television, depending on compatibility. I’d argue the extra expense, which is really only an extra $20 plus tax or shipping, pales in comparison to the extra inconvenience that Paramount will be causing its fans.
Star Trek is the kind of franchise for which the fans will crave the most complete versions of the newest incarnation and will still devour any and all supplements offered. What Paramount has inexplicably done here is basically punish the fans both for their love of Star Trek and the general consumers who still prefer the physical media that everyone tries to claims is dead. As a combined package, with nearly two hours of documentary footage, the full domestic trailer set, and a video-based commentary, the Star Trek Into Darkness blu-ray is a relatively solid package. Coupled with a superb audio/visual presentation of the main feature, it is lacking only deleted scenes and/or various bells-and-whistles (like a gag reel) to round it out. It’s just a darn shame that Paramount has made it so difficult, both in terms of expense and convenience, for fans and general consumers to actually enjoy the package they have created for us.
Sorce: Forbes (thanks to ufgator1977 for the link)