After much pre-release hoopla, we have our review copy of the Blu-ray of J.J. Abrams Star Trek Into Darkness.
In the wake of a shocking act of terror from within their own organization, the crew of The Enterprise is called back home to Earth. In defiance of regulations and with a personal score to settle, Captain Kirk leads his crew on a manhunt to capture an unstoppable force of destruction and bring those responsible to justice.
As our heroes are propelled into an epic chess game of life and death, love will be challenged, friendships will be torn apart, and sacrifices must be made for the only family Kirk has left: his crew.
Read on for our review of the Blu-ray release.
Star Trek Into Darkness is quite the rollercoaster. I agree with the favorite adjective used by anyone in the cast and crew when interviewed about STID during press junkets, it is “relentless.” They aren’t kidding. Into Darkness takes off at a breakneck pace, and with only a few pauses here and there it mostly keeps that pace.
The plot itself is a bit muddled at times, but makes for a great summer blockbuster. Into Darkness seems to be perhaps the most controversial Trek movie yet. I won’t go into a full review of the movie itself, since by now most TrekMovie readers know the plot and already know how they feel about the movie.
The opening scene of running through an alien red forest is great and could sort of be something out of a TOS episode like “The Apple”.
Bruce Greenwood returns as Admiral Pike and has some of the best scenes in the first third of the movie.
After an attack on Starfleet HQ things kick back up into high gear.
The new choice for the externals of the warp reactor is fantastic, I love that they used the National Ignition Facility at the Lawrence Livermore Labs.
Zoe Saldana as Uhura gets a great moment as she stares down a Klingon warrior while appealing to his sense of honor.
Peter Weller as Admiral Marcus gets to chew scenery and it’s generally a lot of fun and he’s pretty intimidating at times. For example: talking down to Kirk by calling him “son” while staring him down across the viewscreen in his hulking war machine of a ship.
Then we come to Benedict Cumberbatch, in the controversial role of John Harrison (or Khan if you prefer), whatever he’s saying sounds great, his voice and accent really draw you in. Yep, the old Hollywood gimmick of bad-guy-has-British-accent still works. You really get the sense that he’s sizing a person up with every word he or she says to him, looking for weaknesses both physical and psychological for him to exploit.
Before you know it, who is considered good and bad seem to be flip-flopped, and then we’re off dogfighting around the Sol System, eventually to Earth, to try and save the day once more, but with two megalomaniacs, who have different agendas, to deal with this time.
In the end Kirk and crew are (of course) chosen for the first long-term deep space mission, a 5-year mission, a positive note to end on. One I sincerely hope the writers actually use as a spring board for real unknown exploration (and danger, this is a summer movie after all) in the next movie.
Audio and Video Quality
The audio matches the pacing of the story, it’s bombastic through and through. The 7.1 Dolby TrueHD lossless track sounds great and Michael Giacchino’s score never sounded better.
As one would expect for a brand new film, the video looks fantastic. One thing that I personally like about J.J. Abrams is that he prefers to use real film cameras, he likes the style and feel of film. To that end, the movie isn’t always squeaky clean and digitally sharp to the last drop, it has a sharp yet film-like look for most of the scenes.
Now there is one somewhat perplexing decision that Paramount and Bad Robot have made, they made the same decision with Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol as well, the IMAX scenes are not expanded to full screen 16:9, they kept the aspect ratio constant at 2.35:1. However there is one exception to this, the iTunes version offers the expanded aspect ratio for the IMAX scenes (ala WB’s The Dark Knight & The Dark Knight Rises). So much for Blu-ray being the ultimate format for videophilles…. For more on the iTunes download see the Bonus Material section below.
NOTE: This review is of the general retail Blu-ray edition, not one of the exclusive versions with bonus material (i.e. Target or Best Buy editions).
As previously reported (article 1 / article 2), both the Target and Best Buy copies come with ~30 minutes of different exclusive material. Target’s comes on an actual extra disc while Best Buy’s is only available as digital content from the Best Buy owned CinemaNow service. If I were buying a copy this Tuesday, I’d say get one of the Target versions, since it comes with a real disc of extras, that you can access any time, and will never be taken down.
Also note that the DVD (both in retail box form and included as an extra disc with Blu-ray copies) is the movie only. If you want any bonus features you need to get a Blu-ray edition.
What you actually get without any retailer exclusives is a bit disappointing, to say the least. There are seven approximately 5 minute (some as short as 2 minutes, one is 8 minutes long) behind the scenes featurettes. In the industry they call this EPK (Electronic Press Kit) material. EPK material are little video bites that are usually meant to go with a news story about the movie, etc. And that’s what most of these feel like.
Some of these are a pretty good look at how practical sets and effects came together with CGI enhancements, it is nice to see that things aren’t all just actors in front of a green screen (*cough* Star Wars prequels *cough*). However, unlike a good commentary, these are all “watch it once, forget about it” kind of bonus content. Most of the supplements are pretty self-explanatory based on their titles.
“Creating the Red Planet” – Huge practical sets were made over a 6-month period, one outdoors with red foliage and one indoors for the volcano scenes, the amount of real set (versus CGI extensions) in each scene is admirable.
“Attack on Starfleet” – Another breakdown of a big action scene, we see that the production crew used a motion controlled rig with lights mounted on it that simulated the spotlights from the attacking jump ship, so there was real interactive light moving on over the set and actors faces.
“The Klingon Homeworld” – Designing the new Klingon makeup and wardrobe, the production team used a huge 40,000 sq. ft. stage to build the Qo’noS set, and some comments on how well Zoe Saldana took to her Klingon language tutoring, they even brought in Klingon language creator Marc Okrand.
“The Enemy of my Enemy” – This is basically rambling from J.J. and the writers semi-justifying why they went with Khan, in the end it’s seems to comes down to “because we wanted to.”
“Ship to Ship” – A look at the scene of the spacesuit run between the Enterprise and Vengeance that Khan and Kirk make over to a very anxiously waiting Scotty (as one would expect the spacesuit part is green screens and wires). We also get to see the giant warehouse that poor winded Simon Pegg has to run up and down multiple times, it’s an impressively simple use of a real-world location. They took an existing warehouse, gave it appropriate mood lighting and painted the floor black, everything else was pretty much left the way it was.
“Brawl by the Bay” – A look at the floating barge where Spock and Khan pummel each other relentlessly (there’s that word again!) at the film’s climax.
“Continuing the Mission” – This is a little 2 minute bit on what we reported back in May, J.J. Abrams used four real world US military veterans as the “Starfleet Ceremonial Guard” in the UFP flag ceremony at the end of the movie.
“The Mission Continues” – This is basically a PSA for the veterans group that J.J. Abrams supports.
So for all the dearth of bonus content, there is one minor consolation, which is that all the Blu-ray versions come with a digital copy code. This code can be used to activate either an UltraViolet copy (if you’re already invested in that digital ecosystem) or it can be used to get an iTunes download. I highly recommend you choose the iTunes download. The iTunes code will allow you to get the movie with the bonus commentary version. This is currently the only way we’re going to get a commentary, so you might as well take it.
The iTunes version is called “Enhanced Commentary”, this is because it is in effect an entirely separate copy of the movie with both visual and auditory commentary in the file. It is like getting an internal presentation on the movie from Bad Robot’s production staff. The commenters are actually able to draw on the movie like a sportscaster. There are also times when there is a little picture-in-picture window showing a behind-the-scenes image of the unfinished scene to compare it to the finished version. TrekCore has full details about the iTunes commentary.
Another feature of the iTunes version is that it is the only way to get the IMAX scenes opened up to full screen 16:9. All North American disc releases keep the aspect ratio fixed at 2.35:1. So the bummer here is that iTunes copies are, out of necessity to make it easily downloadable, lower video bitrate than what the Blu-ray versions offer, and it doesn’t have lossless audio. Of course you’ll also need to hookup your laptop to your HDTV or get an Apple TV box to view the iTunes download on a big screen.
Deleted Scenes? Anybody?
Since we’re provided a way to get a commentary that just leaves the biggest let down of Into Darkness on home video, there is no version, retailer exclusive or otherwise, that has deleted scenes. We know at least one existed, J.J. Abrams himself showed it to the public on Conan O’Brien’s late night talk show, the infamous Benedict Cumberbatch “Shower of Evil” scene.
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