Star Trek Into Darkness at times looks and feels like nothing else we have seen in the long history of the Star Trek franchise. Since 2009’s reboot with the ‘alternate timeline’ concept, and the overwhelming success that followed, much discussion and pre-scrutiny accompanied the lead-up to the sequel’s release and what (and who) would be involved in the plot. Some wondered if the writers and producers would re-explore one of Star Trek’s greatest villains – Khan – as the antagonist, others hoped for a brand new adventure into the great unknown, while others still sought a new story featuring some of Star Trek’s most popular species, like the Romulans or the Klingons. What audiences were treated to when Star Trek Into Darkness premiered in May 2013 was an unlikely take on something we’ve seen before – but told in a way we haven’t seen before. It was both a good and bad idea. There are compelling arguments to be made for why this was a bold choice (a chance to re-examine a beloved foe in an interesting way, paying homage to what has come before while seeking to forge new ground for the characters, etc). But there are equally compelling arguments to be made for why this was a misstep (the original telling more than stands on its own, the idea is no longer fresh, comparisons inevitable and unfair for the reboot, and the idea is contrary to the opportunity afforded the writers in this ‘new timeline’). The reality – for me – is somewhere in-between.
Distributed By: N/A
Video Resolution and Encode: 1080P/AVC
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
Audio: English 5.1 DD, English 7.1 Dolby TrueHD, Spanish 5.1 DD, French 5.1 DD, Other
Subtitles: English, English SDH, Spanish, French, Portuguese, Other
Run Time: 2 Hr. 11 Min.
Package Includes: Blu-ray, 3D Blu-ray, DVD, Digital Copy, UltraViolet
Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
Release Date: 09/10/2013
The Production Rating: 3.5/5
“There will always be those who mean to do us harm. To stop them, we risk awakening the same evil within ourselves. Our first instinct is to seek revenge when those we love are taken from us. But that's not who we are...”When the indigenous and primitive species on Nibiru witness the grand spectacle of the Enterprise rising from the ocean, as Captain Kirk flagrantly abandons the Prime Directive, and Spock’s wishes, to rescue the Vulcan science officer from within an exploding volcano, Kirk is stripped of his command. His superior officers learned of his violation of the directive, which dictates that no member of Starfleet may take an action or omission of action that interferes with or exposes to technology, a non-warp species, through Spock’s submission of his report, a report which differed from Kirk’s considerably. Feeling betrayed by his science officer, whom Kirk broke the rules to save (for reasons Spock is unable to grasp) the now former captain drowns his sorrows in a bar. He is then approached by his friend and mentor, Admiral Pike, to serve as his first officer aboard his former ship. It is Kirk’s second chance.
When an act of terrorism destroys a Starfleet facility in London, Starfleet officers – the senior ranking members of the ships in the vicinity – are called, per procedure, to headquarters to meet with Admiral Marcus. It is here that a mysterious individual, reportedly a former member of Starfleet, unleashes a vicious strike, killing many in attendance. Kirk is enraged and, upon getting his command back, seeks to track down the murderer, John Harrison, and end his life. Harrison has retreated deep into Klingon territory, to a place where he believes Starfleet cannot and will not pursue him due to the escalating relations between Humans and the Klingons. But Kirk, under the orders of Admiral Marcus, is undeterred. With orders to head to the edge of Klingon territory and unleash a new type of cloaked photon torpedo, Kirk sets out with a vendetta, acting, as his crew begins to observe, without regard for safety and the tenets of what Starfleet is supposed to stand for. But all is not quite as it seems.
It is hard, even months after the release of Star Trek Into Darkness in theaters, to resist talking about the details of the character reveal in the film; a revelation that divided fans and sparked a great debate. I’ll work to remain vague in this review out of deference for those that have not seen the film.
There are elements to celebrate and elements to lament when watching Into Darkness. At its core, the film is an exploration of (or at least an attempt at exploring) outcomes – decisions, allegiances, actions, and inaction. In this regard, Into Darkness is travelling some of the same ground as the 2009 reboot, though that film partnered its foundational theme with that of fate as lives seem to flow among the eddies of existence, destined to cross paths one way or another . J.J. Abrams’ follow-up narrows its focus considerably even while it expands the visuals to a scale Star Trek has never seen. The film is much darker in tone. Kirk is fueled by revenge, as is John Harrison, and the still emerging relationships of the crew, particularly Kirk and Spock, hit a rough spell. But first and foremost, Into Darkness is an action-adventure with a mightily impressive scale– something Director Abrams handles with confidence and skill.
The cast continue to fill the iconic roles well. Chris Pine’s Captain Kirk is still learning to be a leader. Saddled with a cracking disregard for authority and undeniable arrogance, his character has the most to learn from his mistakes. Pine makes good strides in making Kirk his own, filling very big shoes surprisingly well. Zachary Quinto as Spock remains likeable though tonally more variant than the version created by Leonard Nimoy. A more emotional Vulcan than we’ve seen before, Quinto nonetheless possesses the skills necessary to deliver lines with a knowing fluency. And he certainly has the right look. Zoe Saldana’s Uhura is perhaps the most challenging of the recast. A fine actress in her own right, here she is given little more to do than react emotionally (and unprofessionally) to her love interest’s (Spock) detachment. It’s a step back for the character that in 2009s Star Trek channeled the communications officer with forthrightness and charge. Karl Urban’s Bones continues to be the most alike with the previous portrayal, mimicking the great DeForest Kelly’s Dr. McCoy’s grumpy mannerisms. It is likely the reason he is called out by those that least favor the reboot as a positive casting. Simon Pegg’s Scotty has a good set of scenes in Into Darkness, elevating his character in terms of focus and attention from the previous incarnation. Clearly adept at comic relief, it is in the more dramatic moments however that his portrayal of the loveable Chief Engineer most shines. Disappointingly, John Cho’s Sulu and Anton Yelchin’s Chekov are given very little of substance to do in the sequel. While both are involved in a few key elements of the film, neither is given any weight in the story, though Sulu’s stern warning to John Harrison from the Captain’s Chair gives us a glimpse at how exciting he would be in assigned permanently to that chair. Supporting players like Bruce Greenwood’s terrific Pike, Peter Weller’s no-nonsense Admiral Marcus, and Alice Eve’s charming Carol augment the already fine cast. And then we have Benedict Cumberbatch as John Harrison.
Cumberbatch’s task in taking on the John Harrison role was both weighty and liberating. Given a role that is a twist on an iconic one in Trek lore, he at once must establish anew a notorious Trek villain while remaking the role as the different plot, setting, and circumstances demand. A character of uncompromising intellect and physical strength, Cumberbatch portrays the menace and sympathy with strident turns. At times he is chewing the scenery, not unlike the fine actor portraying the original version, but it’s oh so much fun to watch. Cumberbatch has a natural sense of menace in his often stoic stare – something he manipulates with perfection in his portrayal of Sherlock Holmes in the BBC series Sherlock – and he manages to entertainingly deliver threats and predictions with a knowing sense of outcome. Sparring with the more rugged and unpolished hero that is this incarnation of James T. Kirk, Cumberbatch succeeds in making this character his own.
One of the successes of Star Trek Into Darkness is in the steps taken to bring these characters closer to the ones we have loved and cherished since the 1960s. On the back of the prime directive quandary present in the storyline is a testing of the friendship between Kirk and Spock. In many ways witnessing how they earned each other’s respect and friendship – and a reliance upon each other that served them well in the prime universe – is one of the unique and interesting opportunities of this alternate timeline. How the remaining cast demonstrates innate capabilities to survive and thrive in extraordinary situations is another joy of this reboot. But, as with the James Bond reset that found Daniel Craig filling the 007 spy character, there is a yearning and apparent impatience to get these films back to the ‘groove’ of the original cast dynamic, and quickly.
Star Trek Into Darkness is a surprising Star Trek film. In all of the big screen adventures, featuring Kirk and crew or the crew of The Next Generation under Captain Picard, there has always been a somewhat confined feel to the scope and scale. Largely budget driven, that tighter feel commonly gave rise to an inwardly facing drama accompanying whatever the outwardly facing threat or mission was. While that exists in Into Darkness, because the film is so big, it feels dwarfed at times. And the scope of the film is considerably larger as well. Delivering a more global feel, with important scenes taking place in a futuristic London as well as San Francisco, where the cities are fully realized in superb detail, it is clear that Paramount and the producers are appealing to the international markets in a way they never had before.
In the days of the original Captain Kirk, as he led his experienced crew to explore the V’ger phenomenon, battle Khan, find Spock, save the whales, journey to the center of the universe, and become the olive branch to the Klingon race, the adventures of the U.S.S Enterprise were always grander in idea than in execution. Modest budgets and varying levels of box office success kept the spectacle relatively small though the ideas at the heart of each films plot were earnest if not always well-executed. But for this new cast, following the surprising box office haul and subsequent home video market success, the budget was increased to around $190MM –enough to have paid for the all the original crew films plus Generations (in unadjusted dollars) combined (or the first three films in adjusted dollars), and the result is a film that is a wonderful visual treat, resplendent with Industrial Light and Magic’s masterful skills in the visual effects domain, and technical skills throughout the crew that render Into Darkness a contender for the most impressive looking film of the summer.
Star Trek has always occupied a different space depending upon the medium. On television, with smaller budgets and a focus on more science-fiction concepts, bold and revelatory ideas had fertile ground to grow. Allegorical stories had space to hold a mirror up to the human race and explore who we are, have been, and could be as a species through the more perfect future imagined by Gene Roddenberry and a stellar group of writers. On the big screen, The Motion Picture notwithstanding, it became less about looking at ourselves and more about enjoying the iconic characters act, and interact, in heroic and interpersonal ways. And that’s what Into Darkness has aimed for. Big, bold summer tent pole motion picture status is entirely new for Star Trek, a franchise whose greatest moments have come on the small screen. The hour-long drama format has long best served the idealistic storytelling at the heart of what Star Trek is. In that regard, it is tough to watch the crew of the enterprise evolve into the beloved characters we know in two-hour movies spaced three or four years apart. And in a summer spectacle blockbuster, the evolution of these characters doesn’t have as much room to breathe as we might like. Star Trek has a place on the big screen, but its rightful place is in the medium of television.
Having said all that, Star Trek Into Darkness is so energetically paced; so exciting and explosive; so visually arresting and aurally overwhelming, that it is near impossible not to be entertained by it all. And though there is clearly work on screen to move the characters into and through challenges that let us continue to see them develop into the beloved crew we were enamored watching on their original 5-year journey, we just need more of it among the spectacular scenes of cities crumbling and starships being ripped apart.
Home Media Trailer
The quality of this Blu-ray release is reference quality – both in terms of audio and video. Stunning color contrast exist throughout the feature, with deeply saturated blacks, vivid bright colors, notably the red on the opening planet Nibiru and the crisp white of the pristine bridge and hallways. Detail is fantastic. Having been shot on film in 2.35:1, and about 40% shot in the 15-perf IMAX® format, the texture of the movie is a delight. It was stunning on IMAX screens and at home, though considerably smaller, still demonstrates a wonderfully involving image.
Video Rating: 5/5 3D Rating: 4/5
J.J. Abrams agreed to direct Star Trek Into Darkness following the triumphant success of the first film in the reboot. Paramount insisted on 3D, but rather than film native, Abrams chose to allow a post-conversion (to allow him to make the film with his stated filming preference). Shown in 3D and IMAX 3D the results on the big screen were really quite good. While filming native will always be preferred if there is to be 3D, this post-conversion was done with the right level of care and attention to detail that the experience works nicely. There are one or two noticeable 3D effects (pop-outs), most obviously the spears thrown toward camera on the planet Nibiru, but generally the 3D here adds a good level of depth to scenes. In fact, the 3D helps add additional scale to the size of some of the sets, such as the interior of USS Vengeance and the brutal fight in the isolated rocky lands on the Klingon home world.
The 3D isn’t a necessity and the 2D image is brighter and just a little crisper when all is said and done, but if you have the set up it’s worth checking out.
The English 7.1 Dolby TrueHD audio is brilliant. Audio tracks don’t come much better than this. Handling an exhausting amount of action, with phaser fire zipping around the sonic sphere of the 7 channels, chaotic and explosive action sequences placing heavy demand on the subwoofer, the surrounds, the front channels, and Michael Giacchino’s expanding themes running alongside, the quality of the audio never fails. Precision of sound and exemplary sound design conspire to thrill throughout the 2-hour plus running time. A seriously impressive audio.
Audio Rating: 5/5
Oh dear! What were Paramount and/or Bad Robot thinking?
Special Features Rating: 2/5
Paramount’s premiere release for 2013, their biggest film of the year, a tent-pole summer extravaganza that cost almost $200MM to make, a film from a legendary franchise that has earned money for the studio for decades, a franchise with dedicated fans that have been with it similarly for decades, earning new fans with the reboot, gets the shaft on special features.
It isn’t so much that the list of special features is light or that the substance of the extras is equally light, it’s that a generous amount of extra material was produced to accompany the release – but to get your hands on the breadth of special features, including an audio commentary featuring director J.J. Abrams – you have to slap down your hard-earned cash on multiple retailer exclusive editions the likes of Target, Best Buy and digital only iTunes.
Star Trek fans, well-known for their passion and willingness to indulge in collectibles, appear to be ripe for the plucking. It’s a frustrating situation. Response from fans of the film have been near-universal. They are displeased. As many have stated, fans aren’t ‘owed’ anything by way of special features, but for a release of this magnitude, from a franchise with this many dedicated fans, to have solid special features spread out among retailer exclusives takes the cake (as they say).
For this release, we get a 3D version of the film, a 2D version, a digital copy (redeemable from Vudu or iTunes) and 42 minutes of glimpses into various aspects of the making of Star Trek Into Darkness, perhaps the most interesting of these being ‘Creating the Red Planet’ and ‘The Enemy of my Enemy’. These are surface glimpses that aren’t in depth enough to genuinely deconstruct the making of this film.
3D Version of the film
2D HD Version of the film
Creating the Red Planet
Attack on Starfleet
The Klingon Home World
The Enemy of My Enemy
Ship to Ship
Brawl by the Bay
Continuing the Mission
DVD version of the film
Enemy of My Enemy
Star Trek Into Darkness is a very good summer action film but just a ‘good’ Star Trek film. That judgment is based on perhaps more than the content delivered onscreen. Of my nearly 40 years, an enormous number of them have been with a love of Star Trek firmly in my heart. I thoroughly enjoyed 2009s Star Trek and how the new crew came together aboard the Enterprise despite living in an alternate timeline from the Shatner/Nimoy/Kelly/Nichols/Doohan/Takei/Koenig embodied crew before. There was a sense of adventure about the film and though the characters did not always conform to the parameters long established (Spock in particular), there was real energy and fun infused into the reimagined Roddenberry creation. Into Darkness just doesn’t boldly go where Star Trek hasn’t gone before. I found the alternate take on history (the matchup between Kirk and the foe that is the revealed John Harrison) intriguing to say the least. It’s a great take on the ‘what if’ question and reasonably explained as a result of the alternate timeline. I like ‘what ifs’, and I like the story explored here, but my desire for something unique to this timeline, something that doesn’t beg comparison, or irk skeptical fans, or awkwardly parallel what has come before, means that I would have preferred they not touch this idea…at least not this early on.
Overall Rating: 4/5
As a summer film, four stars easy. As a Star Trek film, just three and a half.
Reviewed By: Neil Middlemiss
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