Star Trek Into Darkness Blu-Ray Review
Posted by Joseph Lee on 09.10.2013
Come for the Enterprise, stay for the Cumberbatch.
*Chris Pine as Captain James T. Kirk
*Zachary Quinto as Spock
*Benedict Cumberbatch: as John Harrison/Khan
*Zoe Saldana as Nyota Uhura
*Karl Urban as Dr. Leonard "Bones" McCoy
*Simon Pegg as Montgomery "Scotty" Scott
*John Cho as Hikaru Sulu
*Anton Yelchin as Ensign Pavel Chekov
*Bruce Greenwood as Admiral Christopher Pike
*Peter Weller as Admiral Alexander Marcus
*Alice Eve as Lt. Dr. Carol Marcus
Story: After the crew of the Enterprise find an unstoppable force of terror from within their own organization, Captain Kirk leads a manhunt to a war-zone world to capture a one man weapon of mass destruction.
Trivia: Michael Dorn, who had played the Klingon Starfleet Lieutenant Worf, was contacted for a role during the start of filming, and was asked to play an officer. Eventually the filmmakers decided that "they didn't want to mix the old with the new" and cut him out.
Before 2009's Star Trek arrived, many Trek fans were skeptical that JJ Abrams could pull off the reboot. As a fan myself, I was especially skeptical of Chris Pine in the main role and hoped that the movie would be respectful of what came before. Luckily all fears were erased when it presented a new storyline that doesn't replace the Trek everyone knows and loves, but is merely an alternate timeline to that series. That gave the filmmakers to bring back old favorites in new ways if they chose too, without alienating fans for changing too much. It was an ingenious way to reboot the series.
The film itself was one that pleased older fans and probably brought in some new fans as well. The action was tremendous and it was overall an enjoyable movie. A sequel promised to be only better, now that the universe was properly set up. The new Star Trek series is a lot of fun, but has yet to introduce a story that is as intellectually smart as Gene Roddenberry's television series could be. That's not to say it won't get there eventually, but right now it is still an sci-fi action series with Star Trek as the name.
Into Darkness picks up some time after the first one, with the crew of the Enterprise off having adventures and immediately establishes everyone for those who may not have watched the first film. Once again, Kirk doesn't play by the rules and that gets him removed as Captain. This is before Starfleet is attacked by the mysterious John Harrison, who is then chased through space by Kirk and his crew for vengeance.
The story once again doesn't go so much for the exploration part of the franchise but that's okay. When it comes to action it was still a lot better than other blockbusters to come out this summer. The choreography and cinematography combined to make the fights fluid and the CGi special effects (when used, as it turns out they went practical as often as they possibly could) make the starship battles as good as they can be. If you're looking for a really good action movie with some sci-fi elements, this is one of your best bets.
The actors are all now completely comfortable in their roles and any growing pains shown in the first film are completely gone. Once again John Cho as Sulu and Anton Yelchin as Chekov don't really do much, but that's more of a fault of the script. The two minor members of the crew did fine with what they were given.
New to the cast this time are Benedict Cumberbatch as Harrison (later revealed to be Khan in the worst kept movie secret of 2013), Peter Weller as Admiral Marcus and Alice Eve as his daughter Carol. Cumberbatch makes for a great villain, as he's still a bad guy but much like the original Khan, you have some idea of where he's coming from and so he's not stereotypically evil. Peter Weller gives a usually great performance. Alice Eve is the weak link this time, as she doesn't really seem to have much of a place on the ship and the script leaves her, like Sulu and Chekov, extraneous.
As mentioned before, the special effects and cinematography are top notch. As revealed on the special features, they went practical as often as they could and while some things could never be pulled off without computer effects, you'd be surprised at how much they were able to do. It just goes to show that CGi doesn't have to equal lazy filmmaking and can be used not as a tool to create movies, but merely to enhance them. The various locations that the Enterprise visits look great, as do the shots of the futuristic Earth. Visually, this is leagues better than the last film.
The movie itself isn't as good as the last incarnation but it's still quite entertaining. The story itself has some problems, particularly in the third act when it all seems to fall into very generic action movie territory. The film even offers a spin on a familiar Trek story, but the result feels forced and out of place. The biggest problem with this movie is that the story just doesn't feel like Star Trek. If the actors weren't so good in their roles and there wasn't enough touches here and there to remind us what franchise we're in, it would be hard to distinguish it from other movies at times, in terms of the plot. The other only problem was the lens flares. You would think that Abrams would have removed them after so much complaining the last time around, but they're here and prevalent here.
Complaints aside, it's still a good movie. It's not necessarily the best example of a good Trek movie (although still better than Insurrection, Nemesis and The Final Frontier in that regard) but it's a really fun sci-fi action sequel with likable characters, a tremendous turn from Cumberbatch and some surprises for fans of the original series.
The film sounds superb, as Paramount's releases all tend to be. Paramount's not quite as good as Universal yet, but they're close. From the score and the sound effects and the dialogue both loud and quiet, everything is as clear as a bell. It's presented in English 7.1 Dolby TrueHD with 5.1 Dolby Digital in French, Spanish and Portugeuse. There is also an option for English Audio Description.
As with the audio, the film looks fantastic on blu-ray. Colors pop off the screen, the picture is as sharp and vibrant as you could possibly get with details everywhere. Even the lens flares look good, as distracting as they can be. You have a 1080p HD transfer with an aspect ratio of 2.40:1.
Sadly, the special features are the place where this Blu-ray set falters. The 2009 reboot had a three-disc special edition with a commentary track and hours of extras. This has maybe an hour at best. Along with a DVD and UltraViolet copy of the film, you get:
Creating The Red Planet: This runs at about eight and a half minutes and focuses on creating the planet from the start of the film. Once again, this is where I learned how much hard work went into the film as an amazing amount of the opening sequence (even in the volcano) was practical. A volcano set with flames and ash (or what looked like ash) was built and augmented with CGI lava later on. It gives a movie fan more respect for the filmmakers to see how much work they put into something.
Attack on Starfleet: This one is a little shorter (five and a half minutes) and focuses on Khan's attack on Starfleet. Once again, it uses actual on-set explosions, stunt guys and practically done sliding doors to create the effects.
The Klingon Home World: This seven and a half minute short looks at the return of Klingons to Star Trek and their redesign for the new version.
The Enemy of My Enemy: A seven minute feature on Khan and how the filmmakers had reservations about making him the villain of the second movie.
Ship to Ship: A six minute look at the "ship to ship" sequence, which had real actors but a green screen background. Pine and Cumberbatch had to stand in one position, occasionally reacting to nothing and getting pulled around on wires to make it look like they were dodging debris.
Brawl by the Bay: The fight between Spock and Khan on Earth is chronicled, showing Zachary Quinto's preparations to do some of the work himself.
There is also Continuing The Mission and The Mission Continues, two brief looks (about two minutes each) at a veteran public works service called the Mission Continues program and its work with the film.
Special Features: 4.0
The 411: Star Trek Into Darkness isn't as good as the 2009 reboot, but it's still a solid and entertaining sci-fi action film in its own right. The blu-ray release lacks very many special features but the transfer more than makes up for that as it's stunning to watch and listen to. If you are a Trek fan or enjoyed this movie, definitely pick this one up for your home video collection.