DVD of the Week – Star Trek (2009)


One of the criticisms I heard of the new Star Trek film, a prequel to the original “Star Trek” TV show and a re-launching of the franchise it spawned, was that it was overly focused on action and comedy at the expense of the social commentary intrinsic to series creator Gene Roddenberry’s vision. My informal survey of people who watched the series when it first aired (that would be my parents) produced two responses to this criticism: the first, that action and comedy were just as important as social commentary to the show’s appeal, if not even more so; and the second, that the show was worth watching despite the overt sermonizing, not because of it.

My own take on the issue is that Roddenberry’s most potent social commentary in fact survived his series’ latest transition to the big screen intact; it just doesn’t pack the punch in 2009 that it did in 1966. The bridge crew is still racially integrated and includes a woman officer; earth’s civilizations are still united; Spock is still the product of a mixed marriage. In other words, Chekhov’s funny Russian accent was more than a laughing matter during the Cold War and mixed-race couples are so far accepted in American society today that the film has to work to the point of audience exhaustion to establish that Spock faces discrimination for his “inferior” human blood.

I am not going to say that Star Trek is a perfect movie. There is some very slippery temporal conundrum plotting (I expect better from the next, presumably non-time paradox based series entry) and I was not really taken with the direction of the action scenes. I am going to say that it is a tremendously entertaining film and I have no difficulty at all forgiving the flaws for the sake of everything that went right.

Paramount has catered to casual fans, people who really liked the movie, and die-hard “Star Trek” fans by releasing the film in three versions with increasing levels of extra features. Star Trek is available on DVD in a single disc edition or a two disc special edition, or on Blu-ray in a three disc special edition. By and large the extras sound pretty interesting, despite descriptions (all info here is from the movie’s official site) that frequently stray into the kind of inflated self-seriousness that is begging to be lampooned, and is thankfully absent from the film itself.

The single disc DVD has a commentary track by director J.J. Abrams, screenwriters Robert Orci and Alex Kurtzman, producer Damon Lindelof, and executive producer Bryan Burk; a short feature called “A New Vision” on Abrams’ objectives in making the film; and a gag reel.

The two disc DVD edition is the single disc DVD plus a second disc of extra features, including nine deleted scenes with optional commentary and four short features. The short features are “To Boldly Go,” in which the people on the commentary track talk about working within a franchise that a lot of people care a lot about (I’m paraphrasing here; the official description is “Taking on the world’s most beloved science fiction franchise was no small mission.”); “Casting,” interviews with the producers and actors about, uh, the casting (and I quote the publicity material again: “finding the right cast to reprise these epic roles” and “the experience of trying to capture the essence of these mythic characters”); “Aliens,” which is interviews with the creature effects designers; and “Score,” an interview with composer Michael Giacchino (“the challenge of… preserving the spirit of Alexander Courage’s celebrated theme” – well, I won’t quarrel with that one). Finally, the second disc also has a digital copy of the film.

The three disc Blu-ray edition includes all of the material on the two disc DVD (slightly redistributed), plus several additional short features and other extras. “NASA News” is about space, the real thing; “Starships” is interviews with Abrams and production designer Scott Chambliss on the various starship designs; “Planets” goes into the film’s combination of on-location and soundstage filming;  “Props and Costumes” (“that paid homage to what came before yet were relevant and timeless”); “Ben Burtt and the Sounds of Star Trek,” an interview with the sound designer, who also worked on earlier films in the franchise; and “Gene Roddenberry’s Vision,” interviews with Abrams, Leonard Nimoy, the film’s scientific consultant, and unnamed franchise writers and producers. Last but not least, for the true Star Trek devotee is “Starfleet Vessel Simulator,” views of and specs for the U.S.S. Enterprise and the movie’s Romulan vessel, the Narada.

Original Commentary Track review of Star Trek by Rishi Agrawal.

Other new releases this week: Bruno, Is Anybody There?, The Limits of Control, My Sister’s Keeper, Thirst

7 responses to “DVD of the Week – Star Trek (2009)

  1. Helen: I agree – so much has changed since the literal blood-in-the-street tensions of race, nationality and sex since the original series that much of the younger audience might never “get”. As a child of the 70’s, I was spared a great deal of it myself, though the differences between the early 80’s and now are equally astonishing, in my opinon. Attempting to re-capture that in-your-face culture clash (the first televised inter-racial kiss was from original 60’s series) is nigh on impossible, or possibly moot.
    Another great review… now, to get to that Starfleet Vessel Simulator…

  2. I thought the film was weak as a whole. Aside from Abrams casting mostly TV stars (and I don’t watch TV so a foreign cast in a hugely bugdeted film to me is a no no), I thought the story was quite stupid. Not the characters and their bakgrounds but the actual story and plot.
    Nero has to be one of the worst movie bad guys I have seen in many a year.

    I hate the millions of lense flairs, I hate the forced comedy in it, I hate Urban’s version of “Bones” McCoy, and I hate the James T. Kirk is a thrill seeker, and not the orginal risk taker. As a whole I see this as a silly film that is way too over budgeted and over ambitious and I blame it on the MTV generation’s response and filmmakers with MTV generational TV backgrounds.

    Sadly I stand alone in the entire universe with these thoughts.

  3. I went out and picked up the Steelbook yesterday.

  4. I don’t usually give so much space to describing DVD extras in this feature, but though I mock (just a little) they do sound like they’d be worth watching.

    @Nir: Clearly there’s no reasoning with you. ;) Not to bait the bear, but do you think the producers should have cast established movie stars in the Kirk and Spock roles? Because I think that it was not just a good idea to cast young, unknown actors, but absolutely essential. Those two characters carry so much franchise and cultural baggage that they needed to be filled by actors who presented a clean slate to the audience.

  5. I am aware of the marketing strategy behind the casting and the style of the film which is essential in order to make money, and lots of it. What I dislike is the that almost every person that had watched this film thinks that it’s the second Coming of Christ. “It’s one of the best movies of 2009” and “The best ‘Star Trek’ movie ever!” and those are what I disagree with greatly.

    I did slightly enjoy it originally because when I first saw it it was a cam version that I had downloaded (yes, you heard me) and it’s quality was pretty good. I then rented it last week on Blu-ray and had shut it off within 20 minutes because I almost had a seizure due to those horrible lense flairs.

    On a technical level the film is very proficient, on a visual and stylistic level it’s unwatchable. The camera doesn’t stop moving…
    I find the young cast fresh but unattractive and the bad guy sucked. I just don’t like it that I stand alone more than ever with this film which I still think could have been much better if it had not been written by the guys who wrote the 2 Transformers films.

  6. I have to say that the film is excellent on spectacle level, but I have to agree with Nir.

    The film left me utterly bored thematically. The characters weren’t round enough, and the bad guy was silly (I thought after he died the movie would still go on, but that was the end?)

    There’s no need for me to watch this film again. It doesn’t give me anything to think about.

  7. My second viewing was just to listen to the commentary track but nothing interesting or important was mentioned and I gave up because of the lense flairs. Yes, I hate them!!!

    Here’s an anecdote: http://blogs.suntimes.com/scanners/2009/11/star_trek_2009_pieces_of_flare.html


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