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Star Trek Into Darkness Blu-ray 3D + Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy Review

Star Trek Into Darkness (2013) movie poster Star Trek Into Darkness

Theatrical Release: May 16, 2013 / Running Time: 132 Minutes / Rating: PG-13

Director: J.J. Abrams / Writers: Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman, Damon Lindelof (screenplay); Gene Roddenberry ("Star Trek")

Cast: Chris Pine (Captain James T. Kirk), Zachary Quinto (Commander Spock), Zoë Saldana (Lieutenant Nyota Uhura), Karl Urban (Dr. Leonard "Bones" McCoy), Simon Pegg (Montgomery "Scotty" Scott), John Cho (Lieutenant Hikaru Sulu), Benedict Cumberbatch (Khan/Commander John Harrison), Anton Yelchin (Ensign Pavel Chekhov), Bruce Greenwood (Admiral Christopher Pike), Peter Weller (Fleet Admiral Alexander Marcus), Alice Eve (Science Officer Carol Marcus/Wallace), Noel Clarke (Thomas Harewood), Nazneen Contractor (Rima Harewood), Amanda Foreman (Ensign Brackett), Jay Scully (Lieutenant Chapin), Jonathan H. Dixon (Ensign Froman), Aisha Hinds (Navigation Officer Darwin), Leonard Nimoy (Spock Prime)

Buy Star Trek Into Darkness from Amazon.com:
Blu-ray 3D + Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy • Limited Blu-ray 3D Combo Gift Set with Starfleet Phaser • Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy • DVD • Instant Video

As a network television series in the 1960s, "Star Trek" was only able to last three seasons. As a feature film franchise, however,
it is approaching its 35th anniversary, having endured no lull longer than six and a half years. The third and present incarnation of the film series shows no sign of going away anytime soon.

Under the direction of accomplished genre TV showrunner J.J. Abrams and by the pens of his repeat collaborators, we've gotten two critically acclaimed and financially successful entries to this long-running expansion of Gene Roddenberry's primetime creation. Abrams' 2009 Star Trek reboot managed to satisfy a daunting following as well winning new fans from the unversed masses. Now, Star Trek Into Darkness has illustrated that was no fluke display of beginner's luck. This sequel's reviews were nearly as glowing as its predecessor's and the potentially troubling domestic box office declines were more than offset by the steep gains of 3D-loving foreign markets.

James T. Kirk (Chris Pine) is reinstalled as the USS Enterprise, making him to blame for the excitement to come in "Star Trek Into Darkness."

Into Darkness models itself after Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, which just so happens to be most highly regarded installment of the original film franchise. We open, mid-23rd century, on the predominantly red planet Nibiru, whose primitive inhabitants are seen chasing after Captain James T. Kirk (Chris Pine) and Mr. Spock (Zachary Quinto) of the USS Enterprise. The logical, unfeeling Spock takes the necessary action to try to prevent a volcanic eruption that would wipe out the planet's existence. Kirk violates protocol to rescue his pointy-eared first officer, which the saved half-Vulcan then dutifully reports, earning both Captain Kirk and himself reprimand and reassignment.

Kirk is demoted to serve as first officer to his recruiter and mentor, Admiral Christopher Pike (Bruce Greenwood), but an attack on the Federation brings a change of plans. Reunited, Kirk and Spock agree to lead a dangerous mission to locate and kill John Harrison (Benedict Cumberbatch), the terrorist behind this attack and others. The Enterprise crew ventures to an uninhabited region of Kronos, where they hide their affiliation in an effort to avoid sparking an all-out war with the fierce and touchy Klingons. Kirk and company get their suspect and choose to arrest him, a decision that has severe consequences for the ship when their superiors come looking to kill.

In custody, Harrison reveals his real name is Khan and that his attacks are part of something much bigger and older than anyone else alive. The complicated history involves something hidden inside the 72 torpedoes with which the Enterprise has threatened Khan to bring about his surrender.

Commander John Harrison (Benedict Cumberbatch), better known as Khan, is as cool as a cucumber in the shot that introduces him. Scotty (Simon Pegg) comes through for the U.S.S. Enterprise in a huge way.

Perhaps more than any other big ongoing movie franchise, any sentiment expressed towards Abrams' Star Trek requires some perspective. I entered the 2009 reboot a fairly blank slate, having only recently seen Wrath of Khan for the first time and holding no passion or appreciation for any of the TV series. I obviously knew as much about the series as one gathers simply from regular, prolonged exposed to pop culture: a "Wonder Years" dream sequence, an "I Love the '80s" segment, a "Saturday Night Live" sketch, and Galaxy Quest, which I'd seen several times and loved despite probably missing some allusions.
I didn't dislike Star Trek; I just didn't care to ever get into any of it, with the three beloved Star Wars films long satisfying my appetite for a rich sci-fi universe. I don't think that stance was all that uncommon for someone my age and I still don't think it is nowadays, despite these new blockbusters reaching a significantly larger portion of the population than before and despite the amplification that the Internet has given the voices of geeks.

Those who like Abrams' Star Trek do not suddenly develop a love for the franchise's 43 preceding years of entertainment any more than enjoying The Avengers turns someone into a classic Marvel comic book collector. Abrams displays reverence for the source material, but not slavish devotion, which would be both pointless and commercial suicide. As a 10-year television veteran given a rare chance to build a substantial feature film directing career, Abrams owes it to himself and his loved ones to trust the storytelling instincts he honed on his lovingly consumed TV series like "Lost", "Alias", and "Fringe." Abrams was hired not for a remake, but a reboot and he was expected to bring a comfort with contemporary effects/action entertainment to this long-lucrative universe that hit commercial rock-bottom on 2002's Star Trek: Nemesis.

Even more so than its immediate predecessor, Into Darkness is sleek and exciting. It doesn't get lost in running though fanboy checklists or packing too much story into one film. There's one main villain and for the most part one hero, with a manageable, identifiable supporting cast to also invest in. As always, less than human characters are relegated to the background and sidelines. This isn't about alien wars as much as it is about humans hanging on to their hearts and souls. The friendship of Kirk and Spock is given greater weight than any set piece. In the end, that matters more than Klingons or old grudges.

Technically, the film is stellar, as, of course, it should be with a production budget just under $200 million. Abrams and his team resist an overreliance on CGI, opting for striking practical sets where possible. Many likened Abrams' first Star Trek to Star Wars, comparisons that must have encouraged his selection to take the helm of the seventh Star Wars episode, scheduled for 2015. The parallels continue here, but with neither the baggage of George Lucas' prequels nor the sheer, unique inventiveness of his original trilogy. Whereas the majority considered what would come to be called Episodes IV to VI sacred, Abrams took over Star Trek following a mix of good and bad, none of them inspiring a comparable degree of fervor or ridicule. This is Abrams' Star Trek, not Roddenberry's, and that's why it plays so well in 2013. The Khan material does seem awfully reminiscent of Loki's role in The Avengers, but any cries of plagiarism should be silenced by the fact that Marvel's dream team film opened just four days before Into Darkness wrapped filming. Honestly, in this boom of genre fare, the lines between science fiction and superhero are blurred. Star Trek is lighter on comedy than many of Marvel's biggest hits, but just plain lighter than Christopher Nolan's Batman series.

Uhura (Zoe Saldana) and Spock (Zachary Quinto) set aside their lovers' quarrel to serve and protect the USS Enterprise.

Into Darkness is flashy, escapist fun that should do more than enough to please the average male between the ages of 9 and 59. It's a well-crafted good time that doesn't ask much of the viewer but also doesn't leave them feeling like an idiot the way that lesser popcorn movies do.

With the first film having just predated the 3D boom, this one brings the series into the third dimension and quite tastefully. The depth effects get going in the unusually colored prologue and are later applied to onscreen text and a suitably charming journey through space junk to stay on track to enter a narrow chute.

Perhaps the biggest effect of the success of films like this and Joss Whedon's Avengers is where Hollywood finds its next big tentpole filmmakers. In contrast to prevailing wisdom, perhaps some of the currently unknown directors of 2020's big movies aren't in film school or slaving away on a small film that will earn them fame. They might just be working in network television.

Three weeks after its digital debut, Paramount releases Star Trek today in a single-disc DVD, a two-disc Blu-ray combo pack, this review's subject, a three-disc Blu-ray 3D + Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy, and that same edition in a limited, premium gift set with Starfleet Phaser.

Star Trek Into Darkness: Blu-ray 3D + Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy combo pack cover art - click to buy from Amazon.com Blu-ray 3D, Blu-ray & DVD Details

2.40:1 Widescreen (DVD Anamorphic)
BD: Dolby TrueHD 7.1 (English), Dolby Digital 5.1 (French, Spanish, Portuguese, DVS)
DVD: Dolby Digital 5.1 (English, French, Spanish, Descriptive Video Service)
Subtitles: English, French, Spanish, Portuguese; Blu-ray Film only: English SDH
DVD Closed Captioned; Video Extras Subtitled
Release Date: September 10, 2013 / Suggested Retail Price: $54.99
Three single-sided, dual-layered discs (2 BD-50s & 1 DVD-9)
Blue Keepcase in Lenticular Cardboard Slipcover
Also available as Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy ($39.99 SRP), standalone DVD ($29.99 SRP), Blu-ray 3D Combo Gift Set with Starfleet Phaser ($99.99 SRP), and Amazon Instant Video

VIDEO and AUDIO

Unsurprisingly but happily, Star Trek Into Darkness sports stunning picture quality on Blu-ray. Sharp, clean, vibrant, and void of any imperfections, the 2.40:1 video leaves absolutely nothing to be desired. Even the busiest and most demanding visuals somehow manage to hold up fine to close scrutiny. Similarly, the default Dolby TrueHD 7.1 soundtrack is a delight, offering an active and engaging experience that is full of directional effects and empty of annoying peaks and valleys.

Building a red planet requires an awful lot of work. Benedict Cumberbatch talks Khan while getting a shampoo in "The Enemy of My Enemy."

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

Bonus features completists will lament that Star Trek Into Darkness is the victim of many retailer exclusives that would require you to buy the movie a bunch of times from a bunch of stores to get everything out there for the film.
Celebrate Star Trek Day with $25 off -- use code LATINUM
This standard general retail edition only includes seven featurettes on the standard Blu-ray, all of them authored in high definition.

The first seven are short, topical pieces that can be viewed with a "Play All" option that turns them into one semi-consistent 42-minute, 13-second documentary.

"Creating the Red Planet" explains the creation of the opening sequence on Nibiru, from the staggering six-month process to create the red vegetation to painting extras white to filming inside a "volcano." "Attack on Starfleet" moves to the next set piece, the conference room invasion, touching on production design, planning, pyrotechnics, and stunts. The brisk making-ofs continue with "The Klingon Home World", which looks at creating an alien race with make-up and sets.

"The Enemy of My Enemy" contemplates the two major new characters introduced in the film -- Khaaaaaaan! and Admiral Marcus -- with thoughts from the creative personnel, actors, and their castmates. "Ship to Ship" addresses effects-heavy sequences in terms of pre-visualizations and minimizing post-production work with a dressed-up warehouse and wire work. "Brawl by the Bay" covers having Los Angeles stand in for the future San Francisco as a climactic setting. Finally, "Continuing the Mission" explains the film's promotional alignment with a military veteran program.

Watch a clip from "The Enemy of My Enemy":

Director J.J. Abrams is happy with what he sees in "Ship to Ship." Like the Blu-ray and Blu-ray 3D, the DVD's first-person main menu dodges space junk, which allows clips to be projected onto it.

"The Mission Continues" (1:29) is a short extolling the aforementioned returning veteran program. How it connects to Into Darkness still isn't clear, this is seemingly narrated by Chris Pine.

The same DVD sold on its own, the combo pack's third and final disc is completely void of extras,
save for "The Mission Continues", making for a not so nice offering to the majority of shoppers still buying standard definition.

The Blu-ray opens by streaming trailers, a design that left me needing to stop and restart my player three times to get to the menu. Actually encoded on the disc, the DVD's trailers promote Anchorman: The Legend Continues, World War Z, and G.I. Joe: Retaliation. From the menu's "Trailers" listing, they're repeated, prefaced by ads for "The Mission Continues" and Jack Reacher.

On all three discs, the creative main menu sees you dodging space debris with clips popping up here and there.

The standard-sized blue keepcase is topped by a lenticular-faced slipcover and adds your combination UltraViolet/digital copy code to the three plainly-labeled discs.

Khan (Benedict Cumberbatch) and Spock duel it out physically and mentally in the action climax of "Star Trek Into Darkness."

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Well-made and engrossing, Star Trek Into Darkness is the rare sequel that stands strongly on its own. It requires no love for the franchise or even for the previous film to thoroughly enjoy.

Despite its fantastic picture and sound, Paramount's Blu-ray 3D combo pack is more ordinary than it should be. The seven making-of featurettes are insightful and well-produced, but fans will be left wanting a commentary and deleted scenes. While it's likely that this will get a better edition down the line, the film itself isn't going to be able to look or sound any better in HD than it does here.

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Reviewed September 10, 2013.



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