I will kind of start this review by echoing what I said over here in my first 4K UHD review of Star Trek. It was two months ago when Paramount Home Media Distribution announced that director J.J. Abrams’ global blockbusters Star Trek and the reason why we are all here, Star Trek Into Darkness, would be the studio’s first two titles released on the new 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray format. The releases also coincide with the 50th anniversary of the Star Trek franchise in 2016. Don’t know what 4K Blu-ray is all about? Well, it’s simple. 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 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. So now that we have that mumbo jumbo out of the way what do you say we get started?
Being a huge Star Wars fan all my life, who has more times than I care to admit called Star Trek boring, dull and lifeless with the exception of The Next Generation episodes Ashley Judd breathes life and beauty into, I was astonished by how much fun I had with J.J. Abrams fresh take on the franchise back in 2009. In my opinion, he resuscitated the franchise, actually made it enjoyable even to loyal Star Wars fans and brought much needed life and energy back into it, not to mention some really humorous moments too. And for that, I appreciated J.J. Abrams even more as a filmmaker and didn’t even bat an eye when this sequel was announced back in 2011. I was so thrilled and taken aback by the first one, 2009’s Star Trek, that I had actually been genuinely pumped, geeked and uber excited for this next chapter in what I would presume to be a trilogy, Star Trek Into Darkness. And quite honestly, I never thought I would ever utter those words that I am excited for anything Star Trek. It feels like a betrayal to everything Star Wars (my life’s gospel) and that goes against all my rooted values, but sometimes you need to spice life up and stop being a hater, right? Different is good! Sometimes. In this case…most definitely!
So this time out, J. J. Abrams returns to helm the USS Enterprise once again with a script written by Robert Orci, Alex Kurtzman and Damon Lindelof. The cast from the 2009 hit film returns with a few new faces. John Cho, Benedict Cumberbatch, Alice Eve, Bruce Greenwood, Simon Pegg, Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Zoe Saldana, Karl Urban, Peter Weller and Anton Yelchin comprise the star-studded cast, sadly minus my girl, Rachel Nichols. And in the grand scheme of things, this is actually the twelfth film in the Star Trek series, but make no mistake, this is a direct sequel to the 2009 flick. Thanks be to God because the other franchises bore the bejesus out of me.
I have a sneaky suspicion that you’ll like this one regardless of what kind of presentation you see it in, that is if you like non-stop action and a bikini clad, for no reason at all, hot Alice Eve. Do I have your attention now? Good! So with no colons in the film’s title, Star Trek Into Darkness is set after the events of the former film and we immediately find ourselves amidst the heat of the action as the USS Enterprise and its heroes, namely Kirk (Pine) and Spock (Quinto), attempt to save the inhabitants of Planet Nibiru from a volcanic eruption that threatens to wipe out civilization there. Picture Raiders of the Lost Ark right here. We open brilliantly in the middle of a high speed foot chase through what almost looks like an exotic pink forest with a hurried sense of urgency and nostalgia that magically transports me back to 1981, watching Indiana Jones flee from the natives in the jungle after taking the golden tiki statue. Hopefully you’re picking up what I’m dropping here. I can’t think of a better way to open up a film than to drop you right in the heart of the moment and let you catch up to it while your adrenaline pumps away. Bravo J. J.!
However, no matter how heroic the actions of James T. Kirk were in the very beginning of this movie, as usual, he is scolded and eventually reprimanded for his inability to follow the rules no matter how successful he is, time after time. He’s labeled as arrogant and sadly demoted to First Officer under the TLC care of Christopher Pike (Greenwood), who re-assumes responsibility of the Enterprise. Simply put, Kirk isn’t ready for the chair yet. Boo hoo. I ask myself this every time during each of my viewings…this again?! However, without dishing any spoilers, we all know this will change. And change it does after a short couple of scenes involving a certain family and a mysterious man unravels and results in an Enterprise facility in London being attacked (more like annihilated) and Federation officers being targeted. It isn’t too long until Kirk and team are sent on a tactical, secret mission to a planet far off that I think, deep down inside, every Trekkie wanted to see played out on the big screen once again. Come on. You know you did!
So on the surface, sure Star Trek Into Darkness is a blockbuster, popcorn film. However, to me it’s much more than that. It’s a rousing visual and riveting space adventure that grabs a hold of you from the beginning and truly never lets you go. And of course you have to know it’s so much better enjoying it in the privacy of your own home in 4K on the new UHD Blu-ray format, right? And sure there’s no reason to see Alice Eve’s character bikini clad, but so what if we do? Those three seconds of beauty were needed to tell this tell of bravery, camaraderie and leadership that touches all too sharply upon the fragile nature of our world currently, namely the fear we live in of terrorism. Truly no one’s safe. And wouldn’t it be grand to know that there’s a Federation out there devoted to peace keeping and procurement of aiding lifeforms to ensure their survival? I think so. Make no mistakes ladies and gentlemen, this isn’t your father’s Star Trek…it’s mine…and I love it.
I can’t really talk more in depth about the film’s story without ruining any of the secrets, so I’ll keep a tight lid on it just like Disney did with Iron Man 3’s villainous betrayal to all of man kind who have read comic books. But I will go on record by saying the following. All the chemistry and humor the majority of us loved about the first film and its tangible character relationships/developments are here once again. But the stakes are higher. They’re bolder. And more importantly, more mysterious. What’s really the purpose of this secret mission Kirk is sent on? Is it really to capture this terrorist or is there a hidden agenda the Federation isn’t letting anybody in on? I’ll leave you to think about that. That’s all I can say other than I think fans of the original Star Trek films will be relatively pleased at the revelations and events that unfold here. Please keep in mind that these new Trek films are a reinterpreting of a legendary past franchise, not a butchering or a mockery of them. This is a Star Trek universe for a brand new generation. Keep your grumblings to a minimum and enjoy it for all its marvel and spectacular. And if you have kids into sci-fi, involve them too. Build memories. Foster relationships. Grow those loving and nurturing bonds. This is why these movies are made…to bring us all together. Now how about those 4K A/V specs? Hungry for more? Good! Let’s get cracking!
Star Trek Into Darkness 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 against the UHD disc. The Blu-ray’s video score and comments can be found here.
- Encoding: HEVC / H.265
- Resolution: 4K (2160p)
- Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1 – However, it should also be noted that this presentation graces us with the IMAX version meaning there is aspect shifting going on, but believe me, it won’t damper your viewing pleasure. It will only enhance it! It’s a thing of beauty when that screen opens up. I just wish it all could have been shot in IMAX.
- Clarity/Detail: Star Trek Into Darkness on 4K UHD Blu-ray is absolutely stunning in every which way. It’s like a wet reference dream. There is a bonafide money shot in just about every sequence here, and I’m not just talking about the lightning brief Alice Eve scene every one loves. The textures and impeccable details in just about everything here is razor sharp and crisp throughout from the beginning of the film’s first frames with the crackles in the paint on the alien race’s faces to the intricate panels that litter the Enterprise’s bridge. I can go on and on and talk about the intro’s colored vegetation stalks or the fabrics in the clothing to the wrinkles in the faces, but I think you already got the big “picture.” It’s remastered in 4K and it’s a beaut, Clark!
- Depth: The depth of field goes on for miles in this presentation. It’s too bad there’s no such thing as 3D 4K Blu-ray as I would love to check this one out in it if it existed. Depth of field is wildly on display here from the corridors well beyond the opening doors on the USS Enterprise to the exploding volcano in the film’s beginning in the distance from the pink stalks Jim and Bones are running through. Let’s not forget the expansive landscape shots of a futuristic looking London.
- Black Levels: The black levels, for the most part, are all deep and inky throughout.
- Color Reproduction: I know we’re talking about the HDR presentation here, but I believe the colors are more in check here than its previous Blu-ray cousin. Take the opening scene for example, my favorite by the way. It’s not scorching red anymore, but a softer pinkish tone that allows for really defined individual vegetation blades and stalks. Don’t worry either. The bright, unmistakable J.J. trademark lens flares are all in tact in this remaster. This is a bright one so enjoy it. The volcano scene alone will convince you of that.
- Flesh Tones: The skin and flesh tones all appear natural and authentic throughout, especially on Alice Eve. Haha. I could not resist.
- Noise/Artifacts: Other than some light 35mm grain, there are no problems visually with any artifacts, excessive noise or blemishes to be found anywhere on this print. So in other words, you’re in for a real treat here better than any ice cream goodie you could ever imagine. Be prepared to be dazzled and wowed. If this is how good all the 4K UHD Blu-ray presentations are going to look, I’m never going to buy another regular Blu-ray release ever again.
Star Trek Into Darkness 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. To keep this review simple, the below audio criteria was judged against the UHD disc. The Blu-ray’s audio score and comments can be found here.
- Audio Format(s): English Dolby Atmos (defaults to Dolby TrueHD 7.1), 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: Just when thought it couldn’t get any better than the video section above it does…well equally at least since we can’t go any higher than the scale of 5 doggies that we have previously established here. It’s almost like the sound never lets you go here as all channels are continuously active throughout in this immersive Dolby Atmos (or Dolby TrueHD 7.1) surround mix. From the subtle to the bold, things are both atmospheric, engaging and terrifically bombastic here. Besides the excellent dimensional qualities here, spears being thrown overhead fly right at you and past in the film’s beginning, which will instantly have you begging for more and hooked. Trust me!
- Low Frequency Extension: The LFE channel will rock your world through the many explosions, the blasters being fired upon you and the wild action sequences that never cease to let up until the film’s final triumphant moments. You sure this is a Star Trek movie?! I know one thing that’s for sure. There’s no doubt your system is going to get a much needed workout from this one. From an abrupt ship stop mid-warp speed to a crashing Vengeance on planet Earth, the bass is powerful and aggressive here.
- Surround Sound Presentation: The score’s rousing, emphatic and moving throughout the movie’s runtime, even in your rear speakers. Heck, the experience here begins before the movie even ticks a second with the Bad Robot opening logo swirling behind you. From the blasters to the many explosions, you’re surrounded here, but perhaps one of the coolest uses of the rear channels was on the USS Enterprise when you hear over the loudspeaker “docking clamps, 1, 2 and 3…”
- Dialogue Reproduction: The dialogue levels that are all loud, clear and intelligible throughout.
Star Trek Into Darkness is presented here in a three-disc UHD/Blu-ray/Digital HD Combo Pack. The UHD and Blu-ray discs include the spectacular IMAX version of the film and the package also includes a bonus Blu-ray disc with more than two hours of special features. Also included is a redeemable code for the Digital HD copy of the film, which includes both the iTunes HD and UltraViolet versions of the movie. So without further ado, let’s take a look down below at everything you’ll find spread across the three discs in this UHD/Blu-ray set. It’s a pretty hearty collection of extras in this set, even many that were not in my coverage of the original Blu-ray release in 2013 found here.
- Feature film in 4K UHD – IMAX Version
Blu-ray Disc #1:
- Feature film in high definition – IMAX Version
- Enhanced commentary
- The Mission Continues PSA
Blu-ray Disc #2:
- The Voyage Begins…Again (HD, 2:28) – Go behind-the-scenes as filming begins on the next Star Trek adventure in this very short featurette. J.J. and crew examine how they crafted this follow-up story and decided upon what is what as the cast reunite like a family. It looks like a great time!
- Creating the Red Planet (HD, 8:28) – Experience the creation of a never-before-seen alien world (think red leaves and volcanic sets), as featured in the action-packed opening sequence of the film where the crew talks about abandoning plans of shooting this in Hawaii. This is a gorgeous sequence, by the way.
- Introducing the Villain (HD, 2:16) – What do you think this is? It’s not exactly what you think it is. It’s basically the concept of human family and what risks what you endure to keep your family safe. This was much heartfelt than I ever thought this extra could be. But nonetheless it is ultimately about the intro of the bad guy here.
- Rebuilding the Enterprise (HD, 5:31) – Here you can see the design and construction of a bigger, interconnected Enterprise set. In the first film the different parts of the ship were on different sets, but not this time because they are shooting on a much larger soundstage this time.
- National Ignition Facility: Home of the Core (HD, 4:32) – J.J. talks about the location shooting at the National Ignition Facility. Real locations were very important to him here.
- Attack on Starfleet (HD, 5:25) – Go behind the scenes with the cast and filmmakers and witness the creation of the shocking attack on Starfleet Headquarters as we get a closer look at the set design, stunt work and action pieces.
- Aliens Encountered (HD, 6:54) – This one is exactly like it sounds, the many designs and application of alien makeup, including Zach’s ears. We even get to see him shave. I had fun with this seeing all the alien designs and how awesome the jobs look here.
- The Klingon Home World (HD, 7:30) – Spoiler alert! There are Klingons in this film! Discover the stunning world of Kronos, and see how the filmmakers reinvented the Klingons for a new generation by exploring the set design, the makeup and even the language. Very cool!
- The Enemy of My Enemy (HD, 7:03) – Spoiler alert again! Find out how, and why, the identity of the film’s true villain was kept a mystery to the very end. Obviously they teetered here with how to delicately handle this with long term Trekkies and newcomers alike while paying sensitive homage at the same time.
- Vengeance is Coming (HD, 4:28) – Here’s a comprehensive look at the design and production surrounding the dread, big black enemy ship. J.J. calls it a stealth version of the Enterprise that they call the Vengeance, which represents the dark side of everything the Enterprise is.
- Ship to Ship (HD, 6:03) – An in-depth and thrilling look at the filming of the iconic space jump sequence, which both defied the laws of physics and pushed the limits of visual effects. Now with a sentence like that, how can you not watch this film or this associated feature too?
- Mr. Spock and Mr. Spock (HD, 4:08) – Leonard Nimoy makes a cameo appearance and reflects on his history with Star Trek as his Spock ears are sculpted and his eye brows are buzzed and shaped.
- Down with the Ship (HD, 6:09) – This is the exciting part folks! Discover the stunt and VFX work involved to make the Enterprise roll over. It’s not as easy as you think, or is it?
- Kirk and Spock (HD, 5:36) – In this one you can explore the dynamic relationship between the film’s heroes and their contrasting philosophies and mentalities.
- Brawl by the Bay (HD, 5:44) – Sit in with Zachary Quinto and Benedict Cumberbatch as they revisit their intense preparation for the film’s breathtaking climax. And let me go on record by saying I fricking love this scene! The movie went out on a rousing triumphant note because of it in my opinion.
- Fitting the Future (HD, 5:03) – Here we take a closer look at the film’s out-of-this-world costumes and designs from Michael Kaplan.
- Property of Starfleet (HD, 4:53) – Here you can track all the film’s myriad props. You know you want a tricorder. These are things you can’t buy in stores, folks.
- Unlocking the Cut (HD, 5:10) – Here’s a quick discussion with the film editors about all their monumental tasks. Is there where we get all the lens flares?
- Visual Affection (HD, 9:03) – Here we have an in-depth look at the creation and implementation of the many visual effects throughout. They touch upon my favorite sequence here too, the film’s beautiful opening run through those red crops.
- The Sounds of Music (and FX) (HD, 5:26) – Here we have a discussion with film composer Michael Giacchino and sound designer Ben Burtt as they discuss the gorgeous music in this film. I just love that theme in these first two Star Trek reboots.
- Safety First (HD, 2:27)– Simon Pegg pulls a prank on the cast with this cream.
- Continuing the Mission (HD, 1:57) – Here we have an inspiring look at the partnership between the film’s crew and the organization that assists returning veterans to find meaningful ways to contribute on the home front through an organization called The Mission Continues.
- Gag Reel (HD, 5:48) – It’s quite a lengthy, goofy gag reel here.
- Deleted Scenes (HD, 5:26) – There’s a Play All selection for the following deleted scenes: Nibiru Captain’s Log, Marcus’ Office (Alternate Version), Room Attack (Alternate Version), Carol’s Accent, Klingon Conversation (Alternate Version), Scotty Cargo Bay Door and Kirk Meets Girl.
- Theatrical Trailers (HD) – Here you will find the Announcement, Teaser and Trailer 2 trailers for this film.
In conclusion, all I have to say is this is how you do a summer blockbuster. Star Trek Into Darkness is a ferocious and unforgiving frenzy of action, mayhem and most importantly a heaping serving of fun. So drop everything you are doing right now and click here to order this precious cargo. It doesn’t matter all that much if you haven’t seen the 2009 film, although the references may be helpful, or even if you are not a Star Trek fan in general, because I’m not. You’re guaranteed to have a rowdy, hooting good time with this one. There’s no complex time traveling. There’s no overly long introductions. We all know who everyone is or supposed to be in case you didn’t see the 2009 one. It’s just a pure injection of adrenaline from the start to one hell of a knockout finish of an ending with knockout audio and reference video to boot. This is how you do it, INDEED…and on UHD! An instant MUST-OWN!
DISCLAIMER: This 4K UHD Blu-ray review was judged and graded using the following 4K certified A/V gear found here.