Bill Hunt is reporting over at the Digital Bits that Paramount is finally releasing the Star Trek Into Darkness bluray that they should have released from the start. Hunt’s enthusiasm, however, and especially his gratitude, offer troubling signs of the sado-masochistic relationship many of us share with these companies. Warner Brothers has gotten into the habit of rerealeasing old BDs that were exemplary to begin with (their latest wave includes, alongside a repackaged reissue of Ben-Hur, The Green Mile, but this time with bonus extended documentary!), MGM won’t even bother to allow a restoration of The Alamo (which is liquefying in their vaults as you read this), and Paramount is gouging its customers with what was once supposed to be a premium format.
If there’s a lesser evil here I’m sure I don’t see it.
Although I’ve already bitched about this capitalist edifice before, Hunt’s innocuous remarks suggest there’s more to be said on the matter. It’s one thing for a studio to simply not produce any content for a film in the first place (indeed, Paramount were under no obligation to do so with Star Trek), but it’s insulting when it smashes the features into pieces and scatters them to the four big retailers of the world in a corporate fit of sadistic glee, and it’s offensive to our collective intelligence when people express gratitude to their kidnapper for offering them a choice that could be considered fair only after prolonged abuse. Hunt may be happy to report that Paramount is offering people the choice to fork over more money for a product that should’ve been released alongside the first edition, I’ll simply report that the option is available to you. Still, just to twist the knife, Paramount is said to be preparing a rebate for those who bought the first edition.
I feature the image above because it typifies what J.J. Abrams captures best in his newest trek: impeccable lighting, chic cinematography, sleek mise-en-scene that condenses fifty years of futurist imagery into a single set, and heavy overtones of Kubrick’s seminal science-fiction film rounding out the design. And Cumberbatch stands alone. Giving his all to a thankless and underwritten role, Cumberbatch triumphs as the villain–despite the character being woefully underutilized in a cumbersome and bastardized blow-by-blow of Star Trek II. It’s a pity then, with nearly half a decade at his disposal, Abrams couldn’t do more with this opportunity than to make a competent action film.
As a standalone action film Star Trek Into Darkness is thrilling, engaging, competently photographed and manufactured to move at a clip pace (if remaining uncomfortably derivative of its 2009 predecessor all the while). As anything other than a guilty pleasure though it’s problematic. Abrams guts the heart and mind out of the Enterprise and her crew to make room for warp chases, laser beams and fisticuffs. Characters and starships alike communicate only in truculent bursts; no small wonder then that the film struggles to amount to anything with all the destruction on screen. Though Abrams has made it quite clear he’s not interested in the ennobling philosophy underpinning Roddenberry‘s vision, by the time he crams in a presumably unintended homage to the climax of Speed one has to wonder where Abrams is boldly trying to go instead. Paramount’s release is notoriously dodgy to boot, with special features spread thin as multiple retailer exclusives.
Read more of my thoughts on this film, especially on the role of Khan in the script, over at my one-shot rant on the film:
After reading Bill Hunt’s rant over at The Digital Bits about Paramount’s decision to split the special features for its upcoming Star Trek Into Darkness blu-ray amongst retailers, Star Trek fans may want to reconsider buying the title now. In short, if you want all the content created for this release, you need to purchase the blu-ray at Target and Best Buy (if you live in Canada, or download the title from CinemaNow in the US), as well as download a copy from iTunes for the director commentary. Don’t ask about the various physical retailer exclusives (Wal-mart has an amazing Vengeance 1:50 scale model). As Hunt notes, Paramount seems to forget that its duty should be first to the consumer, and not the retailer. Though I suppose the latter pays better.
While the practice of retailer exclusives remains a familiar standby for Paramount (I recall that Mission: Impossible 4 bonus disc which could only be found at Futureshop), the tactic of splitting bonus content between retailers seems entirely counter-intuitive. Cases and physical bonuses (like Starfleet badges and Enterprise models for the last Star Trek movie) are one thing, but when it comes to disc-based content consumers already purchasing a premium format at a premium price should be treated to a premium selection of content at a reasonable premium (astute readers will notice a pattern developing here in my rant). It would be one thing if Paramount offered all of the additional bonus content as an extra disc (as Touchstone did with the War Horse 4-disc blu-ray) and then gave consumers the choice to pay the premium (roughly $10 more in the case of War Horse), it is quite another to require customers to pay upwards of $100 to receive all of the supplemental content created for a particular title. Moreover, all of the content created for this release pales in comparison to the material created for Paramount’s 2009 blu-ray release of Star Trek. I hasten to add that there the voluminous special features were all provided on a single bonus disc as the sole blu-ray edition–which Paramount seems to have discontinued in favour of a single disc sans extras! For Star Trek Into Darkness the customer can purchase the title on DVD, on blu-ray, on blu-ray 3D, as a digital download, and still not receive all the content. When studios treat their films like prostitutes customers tend to perceive those films as such–and the studios, by extension, as shameless pimps. Behold then the syphilitic corpse of Star Trek and lament for the ennobling enterprise envisioned by its glorious future is without doubt a dream consigned to the past.
Is this a pseudo-reboot of arguably the best trek in the series, Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan? Is it an homage? Do the writers even know? Why do people keep trusting Lindelof with sci-fi? Didn’t anyone learn anything from Prometheus other than how to make a good idea utterly incomprehensible? Continue reading →