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Featured Blu-ray / DVD Review: Star Trek Into Darkness

September 9th, 2013

Star Trek into Darkness - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray Combo Pack or 3D Combo Pack

Star Trek: The Original Series began nearly 50 years ago and created a TV and movie franchise that is still going on. The franchise has had its share of low points, but the 2009 reboot, Star Trek, revitalized the franchise at the box office. Star Trek into Darkness did even better at the box office. But did it deserve this box office success? Does it live up to franchise as a whole?

The Movie

The film begins with the crew of the Enterprise on Nibiru. The crew had been sent there to do a routine survey, but they discovered there was a volcano that was going to erupt soon, which would wipe out the indigenous species. The Prime Directive states they cannot interfere with this, but Captain Kirk isn't one who is a stickler for rules. He tries to avoid detection, but that doesn't work out so well. At least they save the planet.

Meanwhile, we meet a couple living in London traveling to a children's hospital. The daughter is dying and there's nothing the doctors can do. However, the father is approached by a man who says he can save her, but he has a very high price. The man is to go to the archives in London, send Starfleet a message telling them he is this man (whom we learn is John Harrison), and then blow up the place. It's a rather large explosion, unnecessarily so. Fortunately, only a few dozen people die.

Meanwhile, Captain Kirk and Spock are summoned to Admiral Pike's office. Kirk thinks they are getting a new mission; however, they are being reprimanded for breaking the Prime Directive. It seems while Captain Kirk was creative in his report, Spock was accurate down to the last detail. As a result, Captain Kirk is stripped of his command and Spock is reassigned. Obviously, Captain Kirk feels betrayed by Spock's actions. Spock is surprised Captain Kirk would lie. He really shouldn't be.

However, this takes a backseat to the act of terrorism. All of the Starfleet captains and their first officers are summoned by Admiral Alexander Marcus to discuss the event and what will Starfleet's response be. We learn two important facts right away. Starfleet is tiny and stupid. Firstly, all of the captains and all of the first officers in the region are in one room, and there's less than two dozen people there. Secondly, they hold a meeting with the most important people in Starfleet in a tall building in a world where flying cars are commonplace. This is why in the real world, the White House Situation Room is a bunker underground. Needless to say, John Harrison attacks, killing many people there, including Admiral Pike.

Further investigation by Scotty shows John Harrison used a portable transwarp beaming device to teleport... all the way to Kronos. Kirk then asks Admiral Marcus to reinstate his command so he can go after Harrison. Admiral Marcus does so and even gives him a newly developed long range, untraceable photon torpedo, that can be fired from the Neutral Zone to kill Harrison.

Kirk accepts the mission, but there are problems right away. For instance, Spock argues that he is against the very nature of the mission, as killing a man without trial is against Starfleet laws. Later, Scotty refuses to allow the torpedoes on his ship, because he can't figure out what powers them. He's worried whatever makes them tick could interfere with the warp core causing a meltdown. Given what we see in the show, this is not a surprise. He's so passionate about this, he resigns his duty in protest. Spock is able to convince him to capture Harrison, not kill him, and after a run in with the Klingons, in which Harrison saves their lives, and then surrenders, after asking how many special torpedoes they have on the ship.

Strange... but the explanation for this enters deep, deep into spoiler territory. Unfortunately, in order to talk about the movie in any real detail, spoilers become unavoidable. You could always just jump to here to avoid all spoilers.

Before we get to the review, let me first re-tell a story about my childhood that I think I've said in the past. I grew up on a farm in a small town with only three channels. Every Saturday, each station would air Star Trek: The Original Series in sequence, and I would watch all three episodes, even if one of them was repeated. I really, really wanted to love this movie; however...

Joss Whedon recently made comments about Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom and how a particular scene was a call back to the original Indiana Jones. It's Fan Service, although not the jiggly kind. This movie is loaded with Fan Service. I don't mind a callback or two. I don't mind a name drop here or there. Hell, it's nice continuity. However, if you are rebooting a franchise, you don't go out of your way to remind the fans about the best movie in the franchise.

Here's where major, major spoilers come in... it's your last chance to skip them by clicking here.

John Harrison is Khan Noonien Singh, the same Khan we were introduced to in Star Seed and who was the main villain in Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan. That made sense, because in that universe, Kirk and Khan had a history together. It also has a very good storyline, while the plot for Into Darkness was much more complicated and a lot less believable as a result. We are not just talking about the instances where they stomp all over continuity. Worse still, they took the most iconic scene from Wrath of Khan and redid it, only in reverse. What were they thinking? The unoriginality just sucked out all of the emotional impact in that scene.

That said, Star Trek into Darkness is a good sci-fi action film, if you ignore the connections to The Wrath of Khan and the confused plot that is a direct result of those connections. There are many good actions scenes, the acting is again good, for the most part. (I'm still not sold on Chris Pine as Captain Kirk. He just doesn't have the natural charisma.) Also... Enough with the damn lens flares. It is seriously driving me nuts. It is a major distraction in many scenes. It also feels too cliché to bring it up, but it is so obnoxious.

The Extras

The main extra on the DVD and the Blu-ray is a seven-part, 42-minute long making of featurette. Individual segments look at the opening sequence, special effects, casting, etc. There is also an ad for The Mission Continues, which is a community outreach program that helps returning soldiers find community service projects to work on.

The film looks amazing, assuming you are not concerned with the aspect ratio. Parts of the film were short on IMAX, which has a different aspect ratio than the rest of the movie. For the home market releases, the studio decided to keep all of the scenes the same aspect ratio. The level of details is mostly excellent, although there are a few softer scenes here and there. The colors are great, as is the contrast level. The audio is even better with a very immersive 7.1 surround sound track. The dialogue is always crisp and there are not only ambient sounds throughout, but dynamic effects and the like.

I don't have the 3D version to review.

The DVD cost $15, the Blu-ray Combo Pack cost $20, and the 3D Combo Pack costs $25. These are good prices, both absolute and relative to each other.

The Verdict

I'm of two minds when it comes to Star Trek into Darkness. As a Sci-fi action film, it's good, but not great. There are some great action scenes, as well as some good acting, but a flawed plot. As a Star Trek film, it is a pale copy of a previous film in the franchise. It should have been a much better movie than it was, if only the filmmakers treated the source material with more respect, or created an entirely new story to tell. Either way would have been better. There are not a lot of extras on the home market releases, so the DVD is just worth a rental. The Blu-ray Combo Pack doesn't have any additional extras, but the improved technical presentation is worth the extra money. Finally, I didn't get the 3D Combo Pack to review, but $5 or 25% extra is not a bad deal for 3D.

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Filed under: Video Review, Star Trek Into Darkness, Star Trek, Benedict Cumberbatch, Bruce Greenwood, Ricardo Montalban, Simon Pegg, Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, William Shatner, Peter Weller, Joss Whedon