Star Trek: Into Darkness (Blu-ray)

August 28, 2013 10 Min Read

Review by: Matt Brighton

Plot: What’s it about?

It’s hard to believe that after nearly a half a century Star Trek is still going strong.  Gene Roddenberry’s creation of a unified human race exploring the galaxy seems simple in concept, but it’s the multi-layered plots of the television shows and feature films that keeps us coming back for more.  In 2009 the series went through a “reboot” and, essentially, going back to basics.  Let’s face it – there are fans of Trek in every capacity and be them fans of the original series, The Next Generation or any of the other shows…there’s most likely a cast of Star Trek for you.  However it took J.J. Abrams’ imagination, determination and pure grit to bring the series back from the “dead”, but he did so with great force (and success).  Four years later we now have something to compare it to and, yes, Star Trek: Into Darkness has superseded its predecessor in nearly every conceivable way.  That’s saying a lot since Star Trek was highly regarded to begin with.  The cast is all back, plus a few new faces (Alice Eve and Peter Weller), a familiar name in Khan poses a threat like never before and we see that the Enterprise doesn’t need to be light years away to wage a battle against an enemy.  Sit back and enjoy this because the film takes off at, you guessed it, warp speed.

As the film opens we see selected members of the crew on a strange alien world and narrowly avoiding disaster.  Things go from bad to worse and an alien race is exposed to the Enterprise and therefore violating the Prime Directive.  Capt. Kirk (Chris Pine) has to be reprimanded for his insubordination.  He’s summarily demoted to first officer while Admiral Pike (Bruce Greenwood) will once again take the helm of his old ship. However, before this can happen, a terrorist attack on Starfleet headquarters takes out a number of senior members, so it’s up to Kirk and company to track down the culprit, John Harrison (Benedict Cumberbatch) and make him pay for his actions.  Of course, there’s more to Harrison than meets the eye and even with “new” torpedoes to assist them, the crew will find their hands more than full.  Along the way, they figure out that it might not be Harrison that’s at fault and that there might be something even more sinister right underneath their noses.  Will Kirk and Spock (Zachary Quinto) find a way to defeat their enemy(s) or is the Enterprise destined for failure?

Star Trek introduced us to the new crew of the Enterprise and Star Trek: Into Darkness picked up and gave us one of the best installments that the franchise has ever seen.  The cast seems to have gelled a bit more since the first installment, playing well of one another.  The characters have more depth, the story a bit more intriguing and I don’t think I’m revealing anything by saying that Benedict Cumberbatch (best-known for his work in television’s Sherlock) emerged as one of the baddest ass villains in quite some time.  Running at just over two hours, the movie movie runs along at a brisk pace with nary a dull spot along the way.  And if you’re looking for the typical Trek one-liners, they’re there: “Captain I need more power!”, “Dammit I’m a doctor not a torpedo technician!”, “Captain, that is most illogical.” The list goes on.  Star Trek: Into Darkness isn’t only a worthy sequel to the franchise reboot, it could easily stand on its own as a bona fide action movie.  And for those clamoring for more Trek, I’m sure the critical and commercial success of this will ensure we see at least a few more films with this cast and crew. The only downfall – how do they top this?

Video: How’s it look?

In a word – perfect.  The 2.40:1 AVC HD image is really that stunning.  Colors are bold, bright and beautiful throughout.  Consider the opening sequence in which we find Kirk and Spock on the planet that’s a forest of trees with red leaves.  This, contrasted against the mud-ridden ivory skin of the inhabitants makes for a very unique look.  Detail is also amazing, I found myself noticing the little Starfleet emblems that are patterned in the crew’s jersey-like uniforms.  A good majority of the film takes place in space (obviously) and the black levels are rock solid.  There’s no hint of artifacting, any softness or noise. Contrast is rock solid.  Simply put – there’s not a thing wrong with the way this looks on Blu-ray.

Audio: How’s it sound?

The Dolby TrueHD uncompressed soundtrack leaves nothing to be desired as it’s one of those that literally rocks from beginning to end.  This isn’t one of those movies that has a few isolated examples of some good sound here and there, no this is a display of audio-goodness for 132 minutes.  Vocals are crisp and sharp, Chris Pine’s rough, gravely voice takes front and center while Chekov’s adorable Russian accent resonates at three octaves higher.  You want bass?  Oh there’s bass.  The battle scenes resonate with a “thump!” that makes your speakers earn their keep, the LFE slowly churn away and shake your room while the surrounds contain sounds that had my head spinning.  Literally.  All of this plus Michael Giacchino’s revamp of the Star Trek theme make for an audio experience so immersive, there’s just nothing wrong with it.

Supplements: What are the extras?

In addition to the “standard” offerings of the film, there are also a handful of “exclusives” out there.  Why get your money once when they can get it half a dozen times?  Paramount has offered up the film with a decent selection of supplements, but retailers like Target, Wal-Mart, Amazon and Best Buy also have proprietary versions each with different packaging and some exclusive content of their own.  I really don’t think this is that fair to the consumer, but we’ll take what we can get and will review what Paramount sent.

The disc is essentially a series of seven short featurettes, mostly showcasing the art direction and technical aspects of the film.

  • “Creating the Red Planet” shows the technical crew members as they prepare for the opening scene.  Originally to be filmed in Hawaii, they found it too expensive so manually painted and stapled hundreds of thousands of red leaves to trees.  Tedious?  Yes, but worth it.
  • “Attack on Starfleet” takes a look at the terrorist attack on Starfleet headquarters was done, what they used for point of reference and the weapons used.
  • “The Klingon Home World” shows us the ever-present race of the Klingon’s, a race that’s nearly as old as Star Trek itself.  We see how the makeup and costumes were fabricated as well.
  • “The Enemy of My Enemy” is probably the least technical of the group with the casting of Benedict Cumberbatch as the nemesis.  With the array of plots out there, why they chose to go back to a well-established character and how it worked out.
  • “Ship to Ship” analyzes the action sequence in which two characters literally avoid a veritable minefield of debris to make it to the other ship.  We get a look at how the scene was thought out and filmed and get to see the final product.
  • “Brawl by the Bay” gives us a look at the ultimate scene in a post-modern San Fransisco, the battle that Spock and his enemy have and how it all came to be.
  • “Continuing the Mission” deters from the typical Trek material as we see veterans of our armed forces, how they give back and even their small role in the film.  There’s also a more “official” informercial, also included.

There’s also a standard DVD copy of the film as well as an UltraViolet copy for your other devices.

Some iTunes extras
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See if you can defeat Khan and enter for a chance to win a live Star Trek: Into Darkness orchestra by composer Michael Giacchino.

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