I was just as surprised as the rest of the Trek fanbase when we discovered that the commentary track for Star Trek Into Darkness was not included with the film's Blu-ray release, and was instead available only as a digital download through the iTunes store. Even though the redemption code included with the Blu-ray packaging allowed us to access the iTunes features at no additional cost, it still seemed like a rather strange move to separate what is usually the most insightful piece of bonus material from the primary release of the film.
First off, let me reiterate that the enclosed redemption code will allow you to view the iTunes material at no additional cost. This has been proven in both the United States and in the United Kingdom (where the "Enhanced Commentary" only appeared on September 2, the film's UK release date). While I cannot yet confirm it, I also believe that it should work just fine for Canadian residents as well - but for anyone else looking for the iTunes features, you may need to wait until the Blu-ray is released in your country to access them (if available).
The biggest question people have been asking is, "Why isn't the commentary just on the Blu-ray itself? Why keep it separate?" While I don't have answers to explain the split distribution methods, it does appear that this commentary feature is not something that would fit on a standard Blu-ray disc with the original cut of the film.
This is actually a screen recording of an internal Bad Robot presentation of the film, with various commentary participants pausing, rewinding, frame-by-framing, and even drawing on still movie footage; an entirely separate encoding of the movie which would seem to difficult to adapt to a "branching" commentary style.
There are often times when you can actually hear the participants clicking next-next-next on the control keyboard as they go frame-by-frame through the film. In addition, behind-the-scenes footage often appears in an overlay to enhance the audio segments of the commentary, as a participant describes a certain set-building process or post-production visual effects shot.
Frequent use of a telestrator device also serves to highlight specific in-camera elements (or in some cases, poke fun at the actors' facial expressions when paused in an unflattering moment).
Editors Maryann Brandon and Mary Jo Markey discuss a unique lighting challenge.
While the existing commentary sections do provide a great deal of insight into the film's production - talking about scenes being rearranged during the editing process; filming certain shots on partially-built, 'fake' bridge sets to later insert into certain sequences through the use of creative compositing; staging particular close-ups inside a Bad Robot producer's personal office - there are certain notable sequences that are not accompanied by an audio track.
While the entire film is included in the commentary file, around twenty-five minutes of film goes without voice-over, including:
- Scotty and Keenser drinking in the San Francisco nightclub
- McCoy and Carol Marcus' attempt to disarm the torpedo on the barren planetoid
- Scotty's discovery of the Vengeance construction facility near Jupiter
- The Enterprise-vs.-Vengeance warp-speed battle
- Khan's violence on the Vengeance bridge, including the murder of Admiral Marcus
- Spock's call to New Vulcan
Most surprisingly, Leonard Nimoy's appearance is completely ignored in all of the audio segments. All in all, the frequent pauses and rewinds of film adds over twenty minutes to film's running time.
Perhaps the most unfortunate part of this whole situation is that the commentary is performed over the 1.78:1 IMAX version of the film, which is largely unavailable to the majority of Into Darkness purchasers who may not be able to take on the 4.8Gb download, and to those who don't wish to spend over two-and-a-half hours watching a movie on their computer screen.
|iTunes IMAX 1.78:1 Footage vs. Blu-ray 2.40:1 Footage
(Commentary video available in 720p only)
The IMAX version of Into Darkness is only set to be available in physical media as part of the German 3D/Blu-ray/DVD combo set - as far as we know - something which I hope is remedied in any future release this film may have.
Update: Despite advertising on the official press release an IMAX aspect ratio for the 3D Blu-ray "Super Set", we've confirmed that the standard 2.40:1 presentation has been used on all German versions of the Blu-ray.
As reluctant as I am to ask for a "double-dip" release of Star Trek Into Darkness, it only seems fair that Paramount produce an all-in-one release down the road which includes not only the full-format IMAX version of the film, but all of the original and retailer-exclusive bonus features as well, including this commentary presentation. If that means a new three or four-disc release, so be it - but it's not something I'm anticipating.
Paramount's history of re-releases leaves much to be desired, as often bonus features are left out of reissued films, or they're left completely unchanged - just pushed out again and again with new packaging, like the first ten Star Trek films, which are being re-released again this fall in the UK. If the studio has yet to show interest in restoring the fairly terrible transfers of the films led by William Shatner and Patrick Stewart - which would likely be big sellers if given a TNG-type remastering - then it's unlikely that we'll see any kind of "upgrade" to the current Into Darkness releases in the foreseeable future.
I can only hope that Paramount decides to treat long-time fans a bit less poorly when Star Trek XIII comes around in 2016 - but I'm not holding my breath.
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