If there’s one thing the folks at Bad Robot have proven through two previous home video releases of their Kelvin Timeline films, it’s that they know how to put together quality special features – even if finding a way to watch them all is sometimes an aggravating experience.
That truth is once again evident in the wide release of Star Trek Beyond to home video. While Target stores will carry an additional disc of content in their retailer-exclusive edition – which we’ll review once in stores – every Beyond Blu-ray will include nine expertly produced behind-the-scenes featurettes detailing every aspect of the film, as well as two brief deleted scenes and a blooper reel.
Beyond may not arrive on Blu-ray in North America until November 1, but these primary features are included in today’s iTunes digital release of the film, now available for viewing.
1. “Beyond the Darkness” (10:07)
As a fan of the show, I assumed they would hang out off screen somewhere, but I felt like if I was ever going to make a Star Trek film, I wanted to see that on screen. I wanted to move the camera and put it on these characters. – Justin Lin
That quote perfectly sums up how director Justin Lin approached his filmmaking duties when he was brought on board, with very little notice, to helm Star Trek Beyond. In “Beyond the Darkness,” the longest of the eleven extras featured on Beyond’s standard home video release, we hear extensively from Lin and the entire executive team behind the film.
“Beyond the Darkness” is ultimately a standard behind-the-scenes featurette that broadly covers Beyond’s initial production phase and story development. While the video doesn’t tread any new ground in style or substance, it does a great job of demonstrating how Lin and co-writers Simon Pegg and Doug Jung coalesced as a team.
The feature is a solid introduction to the creation of many of the film’s key elements, including the Yorktown Station, the Franklin, Jaylah and a villain who is basically “a deconstruction of the Federation.”
The video includes quite a few sound bites from Doug Jung, who does a great job of highlighting the creative team’s goal of “showing the friendship, not just talking about it” – a reference to their initial target to differentiate themselves from Star Trek (2009) and Star Trek Into Darkness.
We also hear from executive producer Lindsey Weber, who shows up in a number of features on the disc. She offers a fresh perspective from what we saw in the film’s press junkets, including her realization that Jung was “just the right person” to play Sulu’s partner in the much-discussed plot development regarding Sulu’s same-sex relationship.
The featurette closes with a goosebump-inducing comment from Lin, who shared executive producer J.J. Abrams’ advice when he handed over the reins: “Be bold; make it yours.”
Our take: With no background details on the film’s hands-on production team, this story-driven discussion at the executive level feels a little bit light.
2. “Enterprise Takedown” (4:30)
“…in a very literal way we were tearing it apart, and tearing all the characters apart.” – Justin Lin
One of the first criticisms from fans regarding Star Trek Beyond, before the movie was released, was the apparent destruction of the Enterprise. In the “Enterprise Takedown” featurette, the executive producers and writers discuss their motivations for this early plot twist. The feature includes sound bites from Lydia Wilson, who plays Kalara, the double agent who sets the entire plot in motion, and her big bad boss, Idris Elba (Krall).
Even though we also hear from editors Greg D’Auria and Dylan Highsmith, the feature only really hits on the motivations behind the ship’s early destruction in the film. It fails to delve into the technical machinations that were required by the production staff to pull off the complex array of visual effects and tricky character movements in and around the ship.
Our take: A lack of production focus doesn’t help this piece rise to the next level, and instead it is a bit of a rehash of the plot motivations for destroying the Enterprise.
3. “Divided and Conquered” (8:16)
“The scenes between Spock and Bones are, in my opinion, really quite at the heart of the picture.” – Karl Urban
This meaty vignette includes a cornucopia of cast interviews, film clips and on-set production outtakes, all of which allow the viewer to get a real feel for how the producers and writers approached each character’s storyline, as they work in pairs to get the gang back together.
The intricate discussion moves briskly as it explores Bones and Spock trying to survive the Altamid canyons, Scotty and Jaylah creating their strong partnership, Kirk and Chekov working to regain their footing, and Uhura and Sulu resisting Krall and his drones.
The bittersweet inclusion of Anton Yelchin discussing Chekov’s strong story arc will leave you feeling both happy and sad: thankful for his incredible contribution to the Star Trek franchise, and devastated by his tragic loss.
Our take: A wonderful behind-the-scenes feature in all the ways you want a behind-the-scenes feature to be, including a large number of third-camera production views of the crew in action.
4. “A Warped Sense of Revenge” (5:14)
“The philosophy of Krall was one of the instruments Justin was using to make a film that felt a little bit challenging to the whole Star Trek universe. Some of those lines are really digs at the structure of Star Trek.” – Idris Elba
One of this reviewer’s favorite elements of Star Trek Beyond was the layered, complex motivations of Krall, the film’s villain, and the surprise reveal that he was once a Starfleet captain and MACO soldier. In “A Warped Sense of Revenge,” everyone responsible for this character’s development delves deeply into both his motivations and the mechanisms he uses to enact his plan.
The feature doesn’t focus on the make-up or production design of Krall’s world, but that’s not an issue here, as the complexity of Krall’s character receives the attention it deserves with a number of lengthy interviews with Elba. The vignette also features a great sound bite from Joe Taslim (Manas), who explained his character’s allegiance to Krall as his “captain, brother, best friend.”
Our take: An insightful examination of Krall’s motivation and structure. Should be required viewing for anyone who didn’t comprehend those deep layers in the film.
5. “Trekking in the Desert” (3:05)
“It could have been an easy choice to say, ‘Hey, let’s make the Yorktown on a soundstage; let’s make everything CG.’ But I felt it was important to make everything tactile, to make everything real.” – Justin Lin
During the production shoot for Star Trek Beyond, it was widely reported (and promoted) that a number of scenes would be shot in the city of Dubai for the first time. And there’s no way to miss it in the movie: Dubai’s “outrageous, vertical and futuristic” architecture featured prominently in basically every shot on the Yorktown Station.
In addition to Dubai’s stunning cityscape, Lin also used the city’s massive sound stages to shoot a number of other tricky green-screen scenes, including the zero-gravity fight between Kirk and Krall. Watching Idris Elba and Chris Pine soaring majestically on wires across the span of a humongous green screen is the kind of production background shot people who watch special features are looking for.
The highlight, though, of this strong featurette is its shots of the local extras reveling in their chance to be a part of the Star Trek universe. One proud background artist interviewed in a large outdoor plaza pointed gleefully at a building to say, “The office I work in is right there.”
Our take: A fascinating (but too short) video that showcases the many different ways Dubai helped make Star Trek Beyond such an amazing-looking feature film.
6. “Exploring Strange New Worlds” (6:01)
“I’m used to coming up with ideas, even in the process of shooting, and you’re like, ‘Fine. Let’s go shoot on this street corner.’ But in Star Trek you can’t do that. Every idea is a build.” – Justin Lin
This fantastic look at Tom Sanders’ epic production design for Star Trek Beyond is one of the more impressive features in this release. Interviews with Sanders and much of the cast (Pine, Quinto, Urban, Yelchin, etc.) are accompanied by a number of interesting before and after shots of the large outdoor sets on Altamid.
· A massive quarry converted into yellow canyons and a blue planet with huge mushroom/sand dollar platforms? Check.
· A crashed Enterprise hull (pictured above) towering seven stories tall? You got it.
· Revolving Enterprise sets that allow the actors to scramble in any direction along the walls? Yep.
All of these epic designs as well as the specific elements of the Franklin interiors are discussed and shown in detail throughout this special feature, as are Sanders’ extraordinary miniature models that he uses as part of his creation process.
Our take: The film’s production design clearly aimed high and scored big. It’s one of the film’s many strengths and it is showcased in all its glory in this great vignette.
7. “New Life, New Civilizations” (8:03)
“With Jaylah, there was a very conscious effort to make her distinct, to make her iconic. And the elegance of the lines on that make-up is what makes it really stand out.” – Joel Harlow
You can say that again! More deep-dive production goodness here as makeup designer Joel Harlow narrates the entire piece and discusses the exquisitely intricate work of his crew in Star Trek Beyond. From initial design, to sculpting, to molds, to re-designs, this featurette does a superb job of showcasing the art of creature design. Fifty unique aliens were created for the film, and you’ll quickly lose count trying to spot them all in this packed special feature.
Additional interviews from Sofia Boutella (Jaylah), Deep Roy (Keenser) and Lydia Wilson (Kalara) add to the piece. The only slight disappointment is the lack of any discussion on what went into the amazing design of Ensign Syl, the crab-head alien who ended up being a pretty major plot point in the film. Unfortunately there are only a few fleeting shots of Syl in the entire piece.
Our take: Seeing Harlow’s brilliant creature design coming to life in the workshop is what makes this video a true behind-the-scenes classic. It’s fantastic – minus the odd exclusion of Syl.
8. “To Live Long and Prosper” (7:50)
“The core of Star Trek is a powerful, simple idea of what happens if we all work together.” – JJ Abrams
Wow. Just wow. We’ve all seen clip reels before, but this celebration of 50 years of Star Trek, with a strong amalgamation of shots from Original Series television episodes, the first six Trek films, and the Kelvin Timeline movies – as well as sound bites from the entire Beyond cast and crew – might just surpass them all.
From “I don’t believe in the no win scenario” to “There be whales here,” this adrenaline-fueled video gets your blood pumping and pulls at your heartstrings. And the beautiful juxtaposition of Uhura extolling Krall that “there’s strength in unity,” with a clip of Kirk berating Kruge with “If we don’t help each other, we’ll die here” shows the deep connection from The Motion Picture all the way through to Beyond.
Our take: When Doug Jung says, “Ultimately, Roddenberry presents this hopeful universe. We are the answer. We are the thing that will evolve and will bring about a better way of living,” all you can do is nod your head in agreement. That’s Star Trek.
9. “For Leonard and Anton” (5:03)
“I’m grateful every day that I’m on set. This is what I do and I love it very much. I’m always with my friends and it’s been the loveliest thing. I’m so grateful, because they’re such good people and they’re so much fun to be around and they make me happy.” – Anton Yelchin
You literally can’t make a more moving tribute. From the opening one-minute shot of Spock’s awakening at the end of The Search for Spock to the powerful reflection above from Anton Yelchin as he is surrounded by his friends, it’s the perfect tribute for the Trek family coping with the loss of their elder statesman and their ebullient young star in an unfathomable confluence of sadness.
Our take: Tears. And more tears.
10. Gag Reel (5:12)
“Captain, we are not engaged for this level of engagement!” – Zachary Quinto
A gag reel for the ages, with a perfect mix of short bloopers, fits of laughter and lines repeated ad infinitum that the cast just can’t get right. Based on these clips, it’s quite possible Chris Pine only said “Fibonan” correctly on one take, and that’s the one they used in the film.
Our take: Laughter. Lots of laughter. (You’ll definitely watch this more than once!)
11. Deleted Scenes (1:04)
While nearly half an hour of content may have been trimmed from the final cut of Star Trek Beyond, there are only about one minute’s worth of deleted scenes included here.
Deleted scenes usually serve only as a curiosity for fans and completionists, and are rarely essential to the final product (and often make it worse). In the case of Star Trek Beyond’s very slight inclusion of two short deleted scenes, all of the above is true.
It’s probably a good thing “Scotty in the Terminal” (released to the web in late September) didn’t make it into the final film.
While the early attention paid to Kirk’s ongoing angst works fine and Mr. Scott’s reference to his friendship with Lt. Romaine is a fun Easter egg, the inclusion of Keenser’s toxic mucus sneeze would have been excessive (and would have dumbed-down even further his eventual role in the Uhura/Sulu jailbreak).
However, in “Scotty Gets Bib and Tucker,” any chance to get even one additional line of Jaylah dialogue is well worth it. The 19-second scene provides an unnecessary explanation as to how Scotty and Spock suddenly appear in uniforms from the Franklin, but hearing Jaylah say: “Your words are really strange, Montgomery Scotty,” makes it a winner. Jaylah never disappoints.
Our take: Surprisingly only two deleted scenes are included, and as with most cut footage, they add very little to the overall package.
If you can’t wait for the Beyond Blu-ray release next month, you can purchase Star Trek Beyond on iTunes now and watch all these features today. Here’s a few preview clips of these features which Paramount has released ahead of this week’s digital debut: