Arriving today on Ultra HD Blu-ray is the latest installment in the Star Trek Franchise, Star Trek Beyond. Whether you're a Trekkie or not, this film is a mostly fun ride that will give home theater systems a workout for virtually its entire two-hour runtime.
Beyond takes place three years into the scheduled five-year mission of the U.S.S. Enterprise and follows the now familiar crewmembers reprising their rolls for the third time. The first Trek film was a terrific reboot of the series, deftly handled by J. J. Abrams, and the casting is wonderfully spot on of the original television crew. If you haven't seen the 2009 Star Trek, I highly recommend it (also available on UHD), though viewing is by no means prerequisite for enjoying Beyond.
The UHD Blu-ray reserves its entire storage capacity to holding the film, and features the full HDR, BT.2020, and Dolby Atmos complement. The Blu-ray disc (included in the UHD combo and sold separately) is packed with numerous extras and also gets the Atmos soundtrack treatment.
Picture quality on the UHD disc is mostly reference quality, with terrific detail visible in nearly every shot. From the texture of the Enterprise's hull, to the fabric of the crew uniforms, to the elaborate interiors, those 8.3 million pixels let you appreciate everything. The uniforms and numerous video displays also definitely benefit from the wider color gamut. If I have one complaint on the video side, it is that the HDR seemed a bit restrained, with the image just a bit flatter than some other HDR titles.
Audio-wise, Beyond definitely doesn't disappoint. While there are the big action scenes you'd expect, some of the film's most nuanced Atmos demos are actually during quiet outdoor scenes, where there are subtle atmospheric audio elements that just immerse you in the moment. Or little electronic beeps and mechanical noises happening off in the sides of the room that you're almost not aware of. Nearly every scene has some bit of sonic ear candy for you to enjoy, and this is a top-notch sound design that certainly plays to the strengths of having a full 7.1.4 Atmos install.
The film offers some outstanding, theater-worthy demos, and the movie really lends itself to showroom demonstrations as the violence is mostly tame and there is very little swearing. Below are my top five demo-worthy scenes.
Teenaxi Negotiation - Chapter 1: Begin 1 minute in, stop at 3:30
This opening scene lasts about 2.5 minutes, but is a perfect demo with all the right ingredients. It has humor, surprise, a beginning and a clear end, and wouldn't be offensive to anyone. Plus it shows off several strengths of immersive audio, from creating an entirely different atmosphere to hard-panned, directional effects. The scene begins with Kirk speaking in a large, cavernous space and his voice echoes off the walls and ceiling all around you, turning your movie room into a massive hall. The alien's voice is deep and booming, his voice located high up in the room. The dialog is pretty brief but pretty humorous. There are subtle roars and growls around the room as the aliens get worked up, and when the Teenaxi attack Kirk, they come jumping in from all sides of the room, closing in all around you.
Enterprise Under Attack - Chapter 3: Begin at 17:49, stop at 22:00
The scene begins with the Enterprise sailing overhead to the front of the room and the crew is about to encounter a swarm of alien ships. The red alert siren echoes through the room and then the swarm engulfs the listening space, flying past the side walls, swirling overhead, ripping through the room and out the back. The alien swarm is in constant movement and travels every inch of the listening space, crisscrossing from corner to corner, front to back, and every point between. At 21 minutes in, the aliens penetrate the Enterprise and they battle up close. You can hear hatches being pried open all around you, and phaser blasts ripping through the room. Krall crashes into the ship, and you clearly hear him dropping into the room from the ceiling. The scene ends with a door exploding through the center of the room and smashing into the wall behind you.
Enterprise Destroyed - Chapter 3: Begin at 30:00, stop at 34:33
The attack and destruction of the Enterprise continues, and the scene begins with Krall's army blasting its way onto the bridge of the ship. The Enterprise is reduced to just the saucer, and there are sounds of the ship breaking up and groaning metal all around. Much of this scene is filled with a sweeping musical score as the crew abandons ship while what's left of the Enterprise hurtles toward the planet below. I love the rocks and debris that fall all around the room at the 32:30 mark, when the Enterprise plows into the ground, letting you clearly hear all the points where the chunks settle. Seconds later, Scotty's escape pod flies by, and you are treating to a great first-person perspective of the pod opening. The last bit of the demo gives you a wonderful sense of the atmospheric audio on the planet, with creature sounds off in the distance and all around you. Listen for Kirk’s call of “Chekov!” way off in the distance beyond the right wall of the room.
Crew Rescue - Chapter 8: Begin at 1:14:50, stop at 1:21:21
Kirk uses a PX70 motorcycle and Jaylah's cloning device to create a diversion while Spock, Bones, and Jaylah attempt to rescue the crew. Kirk races around the room, his motorcycle audible in the distance moving around the room, even when you can't see him. There are a couple of phaser shots at the 1:15:20 mark where you hear the blasts hitting high up on the front wall, with other blasts lancing right past your head and through the room, or kicking up dust and debris just to the side of you. The scene concludes with Kirk encircling the crew in a protective wall, his motorcycle driving around and into the back of the room. There are a couple of cuts in perspective at the end of the scene, switching between Kirk on the motorcycle and Jaylah fighting on a tower, and the audio changes perfectly to match what the current character is experiencing.
Sabotage - Chapter 9: Begin at 1:29:50, stop at 1:36:25
This is a demo that is about guaranteed to put a smile on the face of any Gen X-er. Kirk and crew are piloting the Franklin into battle with the swarm, and need something loud and obnoxious to disrupt their communications. The swarm circles all around them, closing in on the Franklin from all sides, and then at 1:31:41 Kirk says, "Let's make some noise." And, then, well, it's a sabotage! At 1:33 the music disappears and it returns to sounds of the ships flying and getting destroyed all around you as the crew races after Krall into Yorktown. At 1:34 a ship crashes out of water with a great splash around the room. The chase in Yorktown is visually dynamic and frenetic and filled with the sounds of ships zipping by overhead and along the sides of the room. At the end of the scene, the Franklin comes crashing down into the water, and a huge wave washes and bubbles up over the ceiling of the room.