Into the Beyond
The summer of 2016, where even Star Trek wasn’t well enough to survive. Inundated with visual effects and superfluous action, the story never finds its footing while themes whittle away. There’s an intriguing anti-Federation angle at work and the exploration of humanity’s need for conflict seems interesting too. Burying that under overlong motion sickness-inducing action suffocates anything of consequence. Tiring, and not in a thoughtful way.
Things look a bit bland for this latest Star Trek, frequently muted and often dry. Saturated primarily with cool tones and at times even oppressive blues, the visual appeal catches only on occasion. Any visual exertion comes from the Enterprise. On the bridge with bright light sources (with fewer lens flares!) beaming onto the cast, color and contrast escapes. Elsewhere, this is all a battle.
Taking in the more morose tone through the color choices – that’s fine. Black levels too often do not suffice. The look flattens key scenes, and robs the film of depth. Composed with browns and weak grays (even when in space) the image density is strangely off key for a blockbuster. In a summer with Ghostbusters, a movie bleeding contrast in every frame, Star Trek Beyond’s look is unique, if not appealing.
Thankfully, detail remains. Somewhat inconsistent, much of the appeal comes in via close-ups. Facial definition resolves with plentiful fidelity. Thank some gorgeously focused lighting. And again, the Enterprise offers light sources en masse. Once onto a planet’s surface, the exteriors draw excellent horizons and rich jungles/forests. However, everything feels a victim to lackluster resolution, as if encoded at less than 1080p. Of course, the visual effects layer on texture and Paramount’s powerful encode reacts to the villainous swarm attacking the Enterprise. No visible compression errors when in motion.
If the 2D visuals stand as a slight disappointment, this 3D doesn’t change. In fact, it’s rather pitiful. Take away some glamour shots of the Enterprise which stretch the field and it’s hard to tell when Star Trek Beyond even uses the format. Dialog scenes fall incredibly flat, offering no visual intensity. At times, it’s a mystery if certain shots were converted in the first place.
A few moments stand out, generally alongside the action as anticipated. Flying ships and asteroid fields at least try to produce depth. Forest scenery will, in a few spots, make a strong background. Holographic displays take charge into the front plane, but forget about pop-out. A shot of Scotty hanging from a cliff is the peak of this movie’s 3D. While strong, nothing else comes close.
After a couple of disappointing blockbuster audio mixes, the format shines again with this Atmos/TrueHD 7.1 track. Enormous LFE captures the Enterprise’s engines at full thrust, the eventual crash, the suite of explosions, and asteroids clanging onto the hall. The weight and power is certainly substantial, creating the necessary scale.
Better still is the soundstage, absolutely flawless in bringing viewers into the film. Doors are heard closing directionally behind characters as they walk. The bridge sends dialog into multiple speakers to sustain a sense of panic. A Federation space port opens wide to accept the hundreds of citizens passing by. Along with the bass, asteroids collide in multiple channels. A motorcycle chase is reference in its ability to send lasers and impacts around. The passing masses of Krall ships whip seamlessly between speakers, and all of these effects (and more) perform naturally. Absolutely perfect mixing and the right level of enveloping audio.
Two deleted scenes open the disc, a paltry one minute of smartly cut material. Following that, nine featurettes appear, ranging from three to ten minutes. Offering no play all option, you’ll need to menu surf to see it all. Most fall stagnant, discussing director Justin Lin’s approach, some story recap, and specific characters. Others go into the practical effects and physical set design. Those dig into the actual filmmaking process. The pleasing 50th anniversary tribute To Live Long and Prosper deserves a specific nod, opening with a sharp montage before allowing the cast to speak about the event. For Leonard and Anton is an emotional send up for the pair who sadly died while the film was in production. A gag reel listed afterward isn’t in the best place, but it’s a joy.
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As much as Star Trek Beyond tries, it sacrifices all to the gods of action and special effects.
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