So a couple of months ago Paramount Home Media Distribution announced that director J.J. Abrams’ global blockbusters Star Trek and Star Trek Into Darkness would be the studio’s first two titles released on the brand new 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray format. The releases also coincide with the 50th anniversary of the Star Trek franchise in 2016. What’s this I hear about 4K on Why So Blu? Well, 4K UHD represents the next evolution in home entertainment, offering four times the resolution and more than double the number of colors available with full HD. In addition, these spectacular 4K UHD releases deliver exceptional vibrancy and contrast through High Dynamic Range (HDR) technology, which reveals hidden details and shades of color that more closely mimic real life. And best of all…WSB is now 4K compliant (see here)! Let the good times roll…indeed.
This one is probably going to be the most intimidating movie to talk about review-wise, simply because growing up I have never been much of a Star Trek fan at all. In fact, I always went out of my way previous to this new crop of films to avoid anything and everything Star Trek related. I just didn’t care as the excitement of it all did not compare in the least to my love and lore for everything Star Wars. I have always been a Star Wars nerd my entire life and to love Star Trek almost felt like a betrayal to my code of ethics. Then something magical happened, J.J. Abrams came on board and not only resurrected this franchise, but also that of Star Wars too with Episode VII. Suddenly now it’s cool to like both. Who would have ever known?
It all started back in 2009 when J.J. boldly took us to a place where we have not been before…before it all started that is. To think, this idea originally was developed way back in 1968 by creator Gene Roddenberry, but took all this time to come to fruition. This what would be 11th film in the franchise showed us how it all began, how the crew of the Enterprise came to be and how their characters seemingly developed into who we have known all these years…should you have been a Trekkie all your life that is. Of course I’m talking about the major players you should know and be familiar with even it you’re not a Trekkie, James T. Kirk (Chris Pine) and Spock (Zachary Quinto).
The main gist of this sort of “prequel” story here finds us aboard the USS Enterprise, but now with backstories on how James and Spock came to be (really fun to see), as they combat the evil Nero (Eric Bana), a Romulan from their future who threatens the well being of the United Federation of Planets. The beautiful part about all of this is that this film takes place in an alternate reality so to speak because of time travel invoked by both Nero and the original, older Spock (Leonard Nimoy). I’m told the alternate timeline was an attempt to free the movie and the potential new franchise here from previously established continuity constraints while still preserving many original story elements somewhat. Makes sense, right? At least it’s not as bad as the mess they have created in the X-Men movies, but it still gets a bit confusing for newbies of the space series.
What made this new Star Trek film appeal to me and I’m sure the masses was the F-U-N factor J.J. infused into it not to mention the much needed injection of adrenaline, for the action the franchise has always been severely lacking in my opinion. Couple these two elements together with the all-star ensemble cast that was assembled together for this one plus a Beastie Boys song and you have one hell of a good time on your hands, even if you’re not a previous fan of all this rich, sci-fi lore. I can watch this and the sequel over and over again. Oh yeah! I just mentioned an all-star studded cast, right? Absolutely! Feast your eyes on such names as Simon Pegg, Bruce Greenwood, Zoe Saldana, Karl Urban, Anton Yelchin, John Cho, Rachel Nichols and even the mighty god Thor as James T. Kirk’s father. So even if you hate sci-fi with all your heart, how can you not have a good time with all these names? I know! It’s impossible! Simon Pegg alone will have you in stitches. Add in a dose of Cho, Yelchin (R.I.P.) and even Urban and you have a recipe that’s finger lickin’ good.
So in addition to the fun factor and energized action of Star Trek what I liked equally about this first outing too was the Rob Zombie Halloween-like element to it all. In other words, I’m talking about the backstories to these major characters and introductions to all the other faces that drew me in and kept me invested. Instead of just faces on a floating space vessel, I can now identify and even sympathize with some of their plights and whatnot. I could never do that with the television series and even The Next Generation, more akin to my actual “generation,” took a long time to establish and win me over, but in the end it was still all a bore. However, J.J.’s Star Trek franchise is anything but a bore. It’s a breath of fresh air to me, a lifeline so to speak that birthed much-needed, new life into the series. I don’t know about you, but I’m lovin’ it with or without white meat in my Chicken McNuggets. I’m very interested to see what Lin brings to the franchise in Beyond this summer, but I digress because we have our very first 4K presentation vitals to dissect and discuss down below.
Star Trek has been digitally remastered with a new 4K UHD transfer for exceptionally brilliant picture quality. To keep this review simple, the below criteria was judged solely against the UHD disc’s presentation and given that this is my very first 4K Blu-ray review, you can bet I’m going to be a little harsh on my critiquing of things.
- Encoding: HEVC / H.265
- Resolution: 4K (2160p)
- Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
- Clarity/Detail: While for some reason or another we don’t have a Blu-ray review up of this 2009 film on the site here, but rest assured this new transfer (albeit taken from a 2K digital intermediate source) is a mighty upgrade. Every spec of grain and dust is accounted for here giving it that much desired cinematic look that’s not commonly seen in today’s slick digital shots. That’s not to say everything is razor sharp throughout as there are a few soft shots due to effects and backgrounds, but for all you pore whores like me I dare you to find anything to complain about. The closeups are out of this world, no pun intended. From Urban’s stubble to Nero’s Romulan tattoos, fine details are prominently found throughout here in this 4K presentation. Of course there’s more to comment on here like the detail in the infamous uniforms and intricacies in the set environments such as the steel pipes in the engine room or the individual snowflakes in the island Kirk is deserted upon, but you get the picture (again no pun intended). Detail looks great here in this almost ten-year-old film.
- Depth: You’ll have to excuse me as I just watched Gravity on Blu-ray 3D today so nothing is going to stand up to the depth of field in that one, but with the three-dimensional pop these characters have in this presentation, Star Trek on UHD disc gives a 3D Blu-ray a run for its money with the distance of characters in the foreground as opposed to their background, especially in vast scenes within the interior or hull of the USS Enterprise and whatnot.
- Black Levels: The first thing I noticed here when we were first on planet Earth in the beginning before James T. Kirk gets in that bar skirmish are the deep, deep, inky blacks in the night scenes of that establishing shot and more importantly, pretty much all throughout. I love the contrast here how the blacks pop against the contrast of the vivid colors where fine detail is abound. There’s really too many examples to list here, but I think you get the “big picture.”
- Color Reproduction: The HDR (High Dynamic Range) enhanced colors of this UHD presentation are both vivid and powerful from the opposing colors of the classic style uniforms to the fiery, bright orange explosions that rock the beginning of this film. If the particular shot in question is not soft, make no mistake it’s going to pack a colorful punch to the gut with strong hues and contrast that screams take notice of me, here’s what a 4K UHD can potentially look like.
- Flesh Tones: The skin tones are accurate and lifelike throughout. I have absolutely zero qualms with this category.
- Noise/Artifacts: Other than a few white specks I noticed in the remastered print this one looks spectacular. I couldn’t imagine this looking any better than it does here. Everything is in check and the grain structure is intact and tight. You gotta love it!
Star Trek has been digitally remastered and features a Dolby Atmos soundtracks remixed specifically for the home theater environment. To those not in the know, Dolby Atmos delivers captivating sound that places and moves audio anywhere in the room, including overhead, to bring entertainment alive all around the audience. As like with the video up above, to keep this review simple, the below audio criteria was judged against the presentation found on the UHD disc.
- Audio Format(s): English Dolby Atmos (which defaults to Dolby TrueHD 7.1 if not set up with proper Dolby Atmos capable speakers), French 5.1 Dolby Digital, Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital, Portuguese 5.1 Dolby Digital, English Audio Description
- Subtitles: English, English SDH, French, Spanish, Portuguese
- Dynamics: The first thing you’ll notice from the opening action sequence is holy hell this Dolby Atmos (Dolby TrueHD) surround track is loud, aggressive and kicking. It takes no prisoners in any and all directions. The dynamics of this audio presentation are what makes this a fun listen from a quiet ambient, soul searching moment loss in the symphony of the beautiful score to the kicking music in the bar scene or the robust punch of action and lasers blasting against metal surfaces. The channels are well prioritized throughout equipping you the listener with a clear sense of direction up (thanks to the height aspect of the Dolby Atmos equipped surround track), down and sideways. It’s almost like your part of the Enterprise crew in this one.
- Low Frequency Extension: The LFE channel expands your listening room to its fullest potential within the booming/blistering action sequences, kicking bass in the opening bar scenes and adding the overall beefiness to the track as a whole like the elevator scenes for example. You feel the rumble in regards to the pull of the elevator. However, kudos to the action sequences here with the subwoofer bringing to life the many explosions, laser blasts and the employment of the planet killing Romulan drill in this one.
- Surround Sound Presentation: And here lies probably my only complaint here in the surround audio track, the rear channels. They weren’t always jumping like they should have been in my opinion. I wanted more from them. However, the firefights due ensue all around you when the action stakes are high like my favorite example here, when Kirk and Spock get beamed upon the Romulan vessel and all hell breaks use. That and the ship-to-ship outer space attacks are probably the best use of surround sound in this presentation. Again, I’m not knocking the surround presentation, but given this is my first 4K critique of a UHD disc, I’m being less forgiving so please “forgive” me Paramount.
- Dialogue Reproduction: Last but certainly not least, the dialog levels are not up to my snobbish standards here. Things get a bit muted in the quieter scenes and hard to hear as well. For example, when old Spock recollects his time traveling tale to Kirk I thought something was wrong with my center channel. I understand it to be the way it was recorded, but for this presentation you’d think they would bump it up just a touch and not have it so muted. However, for the most part, the dialogue throughout is clear and understandable, but I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t nitpick the things I did not like about it. Brian out.
Star Trek will be presented in a three-disc UHD/Blu-ray/Digital HD Combo Pack. It bonus Blu-ray disc loaded with over three hours of behind-the-scenes content. As usual from a release by Paramount the redeemable code for the Digital HD copy will be good towards both an iTunes HD and an UltraViolet Digital Copy of the movie. So let’s stop stalling and tackle all the extras below that you’ll find in this 4K package as it relates to what disc they’re on and all that jazz. There’s a wealth of material to discuss here as unless I’m missing something there’s pretty much everything you could ever ask for in a supplemental package.
- Feature film in 4K UHD
- Commentary by J.J. Abrams, Bryan Burk, Alex Kurtzman, Damon Lindelof and Roberto Orci
Blu-ray Disc #1:
- Feature film in High Definition (1080p)
- Commentary by J.J. Abrams, Bryan Burk, Alex Kurtzman, Damon Lindelof and Roberto Orci
Blu-ray Disc #2:
- To Boldly Go (HD, 16:41) — Taking on the world’s most beloved science fiction franchise was no small mission. Director J.J. Abrams, writers Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman, producer Damon Lindelof, and executive producer Bryan Burk talk about the many challenges they faced and their strategy for success of rebooting this franchise from the casting to pleasing the hardcore fans.
- Casting (HD, 28:53) — The producers knew their greatest task was finding the right cast to reprise these epic roles. The cast, for their part, talk about the experience of trying to capture the essence of these mythic characters. The piece concludes with a moving tribute to Leonard Nimoy.
- A New Vision (HD, 19:31) — J.J. Abrams’ vision was not only to create a Star Trek that was a bigger, more action-packed spectacle, but also to make the spectacle feel real. Every aspect of production—from unique locations to the use of classic Hollywood camera tricks—was guided by this overall objective. Obviously this means the use of his trademark lens flare. Haha.
- Starships (HD, 24:33) — Abrams and production designer Scott Chambliss were careful to pay tribute to the design of the original Enterprise, but they also wanted to make it futuristic and cool for a modern audience. This chapter focuses on the unique stories behind the creation of the film’s starships, both inside and out. You have to realize, we have a budget here because this ain’t your pops television show.
- Aliens (HD, 16:30) — Designers Neville Page and Joel Harlow talk about the hurdles they faced creating new alien species, recreating the Romulans and Vulcans, and designing the terrifying creatures on Delta Vega for the new Star Trek and more.
- Planets (HD, 16:10)— From the frozen landscape of Delta Vega to the desert plains of Vulcan, Scott Chambliss and the art department had a number of radically different planets to create. Abrams’ desire to shoot on real locations whenever possible led the production team to a number of strange and surprising locations in order to double for alien worlds here.
- Props and Costumes (HD, 9:22) — Property master Russell Bobbitt had the unique challenge of designing props (phasers, tricorders, etc.) that were both true to the original series and pertinent to today’s technology. Likewise, costume designer Michael Kaplan talks about how he designed costumes that paid homage to what came before yet were relevant and timeless. Think the 2000 version of the Starfleet uniforms, similar but modern looking.
- Ben Burtt and the Sounds of Star Trek (HD, 11:45) — When famed sound designer Ben Burtt was hired to create sounds for the first Star Wars film, he took his inspiration from the original “Star Trek” series. Burtt jumped at the opportunity to pay tribute to the sounds that sparked his career with the sounds he created for the new Star Trek. Or maybe this was all brilliant foreshadowing as to how J.J. would go on from Star Trek to Star Wars. Sounds like a conflict of interest, huh? LOL.
- Score (HD, 6:28) — As a fan of the original series, composer Michael Giacchino embraced the challenge of creating new music for Star Trek while preserving the spirit of Alexander Courage’s celebrated theme.
- Gene Roddenberry’s Vision (HD, 8:47) — J.J. Abrams, Leonard Nimoy, previous Star Trek writers and producers, and scientific consultant Carolyn Porco describe and commend the optimistic and enduring vision of Gene Roddenberry.
- Deleted Scenes with Optional Commentary (HD) – There are nine deleted scenes with optional commentary by J.J. Abrams, Bryan Burk, Alex Kurtzman, and Damon Lindoff. The scenes include Spock Birth (1:52), Klingons Take Over Narada (0:46), Young Kirk, Johnny, and Uncle Frank (1:36), Amanda and Sarek Argue After Spock Fights (0:38), Prison Interrogation and Breakout (3:08), Sarek Gets Amanda (0:22), Dorm Room and Kobayashi Maru (3:59), Kirk Apologizes to the Green Girl (0:54) and Sarek Sees Spock (0:12). Hey I get more Rachel Nichols (green girl) in this one. Who said life was bad? Haha.
- Starfleet Vessel Simulator — Explore extensive data on the U.S.S. Enterprise and the Romulan ship, the Narada. Submerse yourself in breathtaking 360° views and close-ups and review detailed tech information.
- Gag Reel (HD)
- Trailers (HD)
So I did it! I made it through my very first UHD 4K Blu-ray review and I’ll tell you what. I can’t be more excited for what comes next on the format. I’m looking feverishly at tackling every new release I possibly can in the new 4K Blu-ray format. It’s like crack and I’m hooked! Are you ready to upgrade? I hope you are. This is the best Star Trek has ever looked in the home and I can’t wait to tackle Star Trek Into Darkness up next. From what I read, I understand that presentation to be reference. Here’s to hoping so. Until then…live long and prosper.
DISCLAIMER: This 4K UHD Blu-ray review was judged and graded using the following 4K certified A/V gear found here.