Star Trek (Blu-ray)
Studio: Paramount Home Video
Rated: PG-13 (for some intense sequences of sci-fi action and violence and brief suggestive content)
Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1
HD Encoding: 1080p
HD Video Codec: MPEG-4 AVC
Audio: English 5.1 Dolby TrueHD; Spanish, French 5.1 Dolby Digital
Subtitles: English, French, Spanish, Brazilian Portuguese; English SDH+
Time: 126 minutes
Disc Format: 2 SS/DL BD’s, plus a Digital Copy on a third disc.
Case Style: Keep case
Theatrical Release Date: 2009
Blu-Ray Release Date: November 17, 2009
Star Trek had become a conundrum for fans and Paramount alike: what to do with a 40 year old franchise whose stories now seemed stuck in the mire of its own mythology. One option was to utilize one of the prior cast and crew of any number of the TV franchises. Another, far more interesting option, was to take it back to the beginning and start over, so to speak. Star Trek as a property was no longer cool or hip and it was becoming more the parody of its once proud self. As society and the means of personal expression (Tweets, Facebooks or what have you) have advanced, Star Trek no longer held such relevance that it once did.
Enter J.J. Abrams and his writing team of Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci with a bold idea to go where Star Trek had yet to explore: the initial meeting of Kirk, Spock, McCoy and the rest of the crew. This was a task that could not be taken likely as Abrams, Kurtzman and Orci had to be respectful and aware of the 40 years of history while still satisfying the demands of today’s generation of viewers. Abrams cast a hot young cast, the only one even close to a household name being Zachary Quinto (from TV’s Heroes, who plays Spock here), shot the film in as many practical locations as possible, and choreographed the action and effects in such a way to satisfy the new generation. Then, in a masterstroke of convention busting, he brings back arguably the franchise’s most famous character, Spock, or Spock Prime as he’s sometimes referred to, (Leonard Nimoy) and utilizes him as a conduit between the Star Trek of old and the Star Trek of new.
The plot, some what convoluted until you sit down after the movie and really think about it, has a renegade Romulan, Nero (Eric Bana), travelling through time to stop the destruction of his home world of Romulus. As he lies in wait for other events to transpire, a young James T. Kirk (Chris Pine) is engaging his delinquent side in Iowa, eventually being persuaded by Captain Christopher Pike (Bruce Greenwood) to join Starfleet and see the universe. Kirk gets himself in trouble beating the infamous Kobayashi Maru test, bringing him into a prolonged confrontation with Spock. Kirk makes it aboard the Enterprise thanks to Dr. Leonard “Bones” McCoy (Karl Urban) and he is quickly put to the test and his ego pushes others into action. Once Kirk meets Spock Prime, the film quickly picks up speed as it sprints to its thrilling conclusion. At the end of the picture, Abrams has us cheering on this new faced crew, caring about them and their adventures and assuring us the franchise is in good hands.
Abrams, Orci and Kurtzman take great pleasure and time to ensure they satisfy both sides of the fan base. There is enough in the plot to appeal to the Trekkies (we get to see how Kirk beat the Kobayashi Maru finally, some of Spock’s childhood and how the crew meets) but also enough to captivate a new viewer to the franchise as the story does not rely on 40 years worth of continuity to work. This is an exciting and bold move for the franchise, and, as I said earlier, when you sit down and think about how Nimoy’s Spock fits into this movie, and thus how he ties together the old and the new, it becomes very easy to accept this new Star Trek with it’s new faces and look. Gone are the stiff uniforms of the past replaced by a new take on the original series v-necks and mini-skirts; there’s a love interest for Spock; the repeating themes of age, life and death are now minimized in favor of the vigor of youth and adventure when you believe nothing can hurt you. The cast is very up to the task, with each of the actors emulating their forbearers in the roles, especially with their quirks and humor (Urban is a riot as Bones), yet you can feel overriding guidance of Abrams, and to an extent, Nimoy who seems to have the best idea of what to do to maintain the balance between the old and new viewers.
The picture clips along throughout, and by the time you reach the end of the story, you are breathlessly waiting for more. The effects are state of the art, and Abrams use of quick tracking shots of the ultra sleek new Enterprise and Nero’s vicious mining vessel leaves us in a dizzy rush of battle fatigue and vertigo, happy as a child on a rollercoaster. I have been a Star Trek fan for many years, but this was the most excited I’ve ever been in any of the Star Trek films. The first few minutes of the movie, where George Kirk must say farewell to his wife and new son, captures the essence of the emotion we felt during Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan and encapsulates all that is great about this series and why it lives on like it does. We can relate to these characters and their trials even though they’re doing it on spaceships and alien worlds hundreds of years in the future. Star Trek can confidently stand on its own, free of its history, as a fully formed work, which I hope will go boldly into the future and continue to live long and prosper.
Note: I’m watching this title using a Marantz VP 11-S1 DLP projector, which has a native resolution of 1080p. I am using a Sony Playstation 3 Blu-Ray player while a Denon 3808CI does the switching and pass through of the video signal. I am utilizing the HDMI capabilities of each piece of equipment.
Star Trek is encoded in the MPEG-4 AVC codec at 1080p with a 2.39:1 aspect ratio. This is a very slick transfer with both CG effects and practical sets and locations intermingling to form a believable and dynamic image. Colors are somewhat stylized yet accurately represented: the bridge of the Enterprise maintains a very pop-art appearance with various light boards, buttons, joysticks and other controls hovering around the pastels and whites (such a difference from previous bridge sets) while the interiors of Nero’s ship are dreary and dirty. This contrast of colors further enhances the good vs. bad aspect of the picture. Flesh tones are very well represented, although I was a little disappointed not to see a green tint to Spock’s face as had been done in previous movies. Colors remains strong and bold and don’t bleed: check out the scene in the Starfleet auditorium and see just how sharp the definition is between the bodies clad in a sea of maroon. There is also a nice difference seen in the barren deserts of Vulcan as compared to the fields of Iowa, with the former conveying a dusty, hot feeling and the latter a humid and lush feeling.
Detail is excellent, especially in the CG scenes as I could see humans and Romulans interacting with one another in the windows of their respective ships. This level of clarity in the picture also contributes to the depth of field giving us a very interesting experience. The picture is just slightly soft but that helps to maintain a consistent look between the CG work and the filmed elements. The image is free from any type of processing and I noticed no edge enhancement or DNR. I thought there may have been a minor tweak in the form of DNR when I looked closely at Quinto, but it appears as if his make-up was applied slightly thicker to suggest a slight difference inherent in his Vulcan roots. Since this is such a new release, there was no dirt or other distractions. Black levels were also excellent showing some good depth and detail.
The 5.1 Dolby TrueHD soundtrack was attained by the HDMI connection of the PS3 to the Denon 3808CI.
This 5.1 Dolby TrueHD seems to be following the trend of some other action movies where they are actually toning down the loudness and complexity of the sound designs and focusing more on the primary elements of the scene. This is really driven home during Nero’s attack on the Kelvin when open space invades a breached ship and the area quickly depressurizes. The sound mutes itself as it truly would to conform to the rules of space. By doing this, the sound designer, Ben Burtt, adds a much more realistic dimension to what is in effect, a fantasy. There is just enough information in the action scenes to keep us focused on the story without being distracted by too much information in the surround channels. That is not to say the surrounds don’t get a workout, they do, but they integrate and support the very active front channels. I particularly liked how the classic “pinging” sounds of various computers always seemed to be present when we were on the Enterprise. Transitions between each of the channels are seamless. Fidelity is excellent producing a clean and clear presentation that is free from any distortion. Bass effects come alive in the action scenes, obviously, but they do not overshadow the rest of the soundtrack. Voices are natural sounding but ADR is noticed in a couple scenes. Michael Giacchino’s score is also very well represented here and he adds so much to the opening scenes between Kirk’s parents. I’ve become a fan of his during his time spent scoring Lost and he adds a great emotional punch to these scenes.
Bonus Material: all of this material is in HD unless otherwise noted.
Feature Length Commentary by director J.J. Abrams, writers Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman, producer Damon Lindelof and executive producer Bryan Burk: the group turns in an action packed commentary with no breaks or gaps. Abrams does a great job corralling everyone and spends enough time on both scene specifics and the overall issues they dealt with in the film. What comes through here more is the groups reverence for the original and the various people and resources they used to ensure they were maintain consistency within the Star Trek universe. This is a really great commentary and comes recommended!
BD-Live – NASA News: this is an RSS feed giving us the ability to read the current highlights from NASA. You can get information on future space missions and look at featured galactic imagery.
Disc Two: in some of these pieces, you are given the option of jumping to various “branching pods” which will give you further information about the general topic. Once the Starfleet insignia pops up, you can go to these pods, or you can watch them individually. The pods are fun, but ultimately disposable bits, perhaps a new trend of deleted scenes from bonus features.
To Boldly Go (16:41): The branching pods included are “The Shatner Conundrum” (1:58), “Red Shirt Guy” (:43), “The Green Girl” (3:25), and “Trekker Alert” (2:22).Abrams, Orci, Kurtzman, Lindelof, Burke and others ease us into the bonus materials with a primer and history of the project. This team’s enthusiasm is very contagious and gets us hyped for the rest of the features. I was glad to see the writers and Abrams gave some consideration of what, if anything, to do with Kirk.
Casting (28:53): Each of the seven primary actors is featured here (as well as Nimoy, Bruce Greenwood and Bana) as they discuss how the new crew interpreted the roles and brought their own personality to them. Most of the remaining living members of the original cast each met with the new cast to give them pointers and insight into the roles and this is a real kick to get to eavesdrop on them. Quinto and Nimoy are the most interesting out of all of them, but it’s still a very good piece.
A New Vision (19:31) has one branching pod, “Savage Pressure” (3:08). Not only were the producers competing against 40 plus years of history, but they also felt some pressure from the Star Wars trilogy in terms of storytelling and pacing. For us filmmaking fans, this is more about the nuts and bolts of how movie making was going to enhance this picture. Abrams did as much as he could practically utilizing and inventing some great movie making tricks. The pod spotlights first assistant director Tommy Gormley, and “heerwehgoh”!
Starships (24:33) contains five branching pods: “Warp Explained” (1:22), “Paint Job” (1:14), “Bridge Construction Accelerated” (1:18), “The Captain’s Chair” (:45), “Button Acting” (1:44), “Shuttle Shuffle” (1:46) and “Narada Construction Accelerated” (1:20). Production Designer Scott Chambliss and others discuss the ret-con done on the look of the ships and their sets. As is to be expected, a lot of work goes into the space ship sets, particularly the bridges of the Enterprise and Narada. The pods are pretty good here, especially the one where the cast is trying to figure out what to do with all those buttons.
Aliens (16:30) branching pods are: “The Alien Paradox” (1:40), “Big Eyed Girl” (1:25), “Big Bro Quinto” (1:26), “Klingons” (1:57), “Drakoulias Anatomy 101” (1:35). Neville Page and Joel Harlowe, two of the primary alien designers, and others, including the effects guys, take us through the creation of the numerous aliens and the challenges the produced. This is one of the duller pieces of the supplements.
Planets (16:10) branching pods “Extra Business” (2:29) and “Confidentiality” (2:45) which shows just how hard it is to keep the lid on a production this big. The main portion of the doc shows us a lot of pretty pictures of the locations and shows us how they fit into the final picture. I love seeing the concept paintings finally realized in the film and how close the two are.
Props and Costumes (9:22) has a branching pod on “Klingon Wardrobe” (1:08). Prop master Russell Bobbit shows off the updated weapons, insignias and all those little things that contribute to the world. We jump to the costuming with Costume Designer Michael Kaplan as he details the evolution of the costumes.
Ben Burtt and the Sounds of Star Trek (11:45): Renowned sound effects artist Burtt gets the spotlight in his contributions to the movie. Burtt’s been covered numerous times on the Star Wars discs, but how he achieves certain sounds is always interesting.
Score (6:28): Composer Michael Giacchino describes the themes and inspirations he had for his theatrical score. The score adds so much to this picture and I wish this part was a little longer.
Gene Rodenberry’s Vision (8:47): Nimoy, Abrams, Michael and Denise Okuda and others discuss what Rodenberry did with Star Trek in the 60’s and how this has carried through to this new film. Nick Myers, director of Star Trek II, and Rick Berman, producer of The Next Generation series help to make this a more cohesive piece.
Deleted Scenes with Optional Commentary (13:03 total): nine deleted scenes in various forms of completion: “Spock Birth”, “Klingons Take Over Narada”, “Young Kirk, Johnny and Uncle Frank”, “Amanda and Sarek Argue After Spock Fights”, “Prison Interrogation and Breakout”, “Sarek Gets Amanda”, “Dorm Room and Kobayashi Maru (Original Version)”, “Kirk Apologizes to the Green Girl”, and “Sarek Sees Spock”. Most of the scenes don’t add too much to what we’ve already seen, and it’s good to see how tight the script was that this little was cut. The biggest tease is the helmeted Klingons, but maybe we’ll see them more in future movies. Abrams and the others contribute commentary on why it was cut as well as joke around a little.
Starfleet Vessel Simulator: This feature allows you to choose either the Enterprise or the Narada. You can then explore the ships in more detail and their component parts. Once you choose one of these parts, there is a pop-up text box giving you more details. With the capability of Blu-ray I was expecting a little more functionality in the exploration of the ships.
Gag Reel (6:22): Pike narrates the “Space: the final frontier...” speech as an intro to the gag reel which features the cast and crew cutting up and introduces J.J. Abrams: Beatbox and more move busting.
Finally, there is the teaser trailer and three theatrical trailers.
The third disc in this set contains a digital copy of the movie, a Star Trek D-A-C Free Trial Game for XBOX 360 and weblinks to the same game for PC and PlayStation Network
Bonus Features: *****/*****
It is such a pleasure to have this disc at home and the fact that all of it came together so well. The movie itself is a home run, Paramount has done an exceptional job on the audio, video and extras, and the movie makers contribute heavily and convey such a sense of excitement in the project you can’t help but be enthused.