MovieJ.J. Abrams has to be one of the most infuriating people active in Hollywood at the moment. Whilst I acknowledge than many adored it for it's bravery in ignoring any unwritten rules of television, Lost was, for me, a completely demoralising experience - each to their own I guess. There's definitely a consistency to Abrams work, and though I don't think I'll ever hold him in any great regard when it comes to storytelling, one thing you can be sure of is that he knows how to do action.
Has he managed to boldly go beyond what's expected of him by tackling perhaps one of the most visceral and emotionally charged storylines in Star Trek's history?
Answer: He comes damn close, Jim.
PictureThis review focusses on the 3D edition of the Blu-ray which does include a 2D version of the movie.
I fully expected Star Trek Into Darkness to be a glorious visual feast, and I can confirm that I'm certainly not disappointed. It's a great looking Blu-ray with a fantastic 2.40:1 1080p MVC encode. The movie wasn't shot natively in 3D, but I have to say I was pleasantly surprised by the conversion, mostly because it seems to have been handled well enough not to have had much noticable adverse effects on the image quality. All in all, it's a pretty decent conversion and the image does have some convincing depth to it at times That's probably about as far as the praise goes with Into Darkness and it's 3D video presentation, though I hasten to add that I find little to be overly critical about with it either. The truth is that the worst thing about this conversion is that it was just unnecessary. It adds very little on the whole and although it's not bad, it does feel like a distraction.
How about the rest of the image? Well, blacks are deep and rich, contrast is great and shadow detail, along with most of the rest of the image, is as crystal clear as we could hope for. Fine object detail is as good as I've seen on any modern release, and the grain structure is pretty robust and adds a classic filmic quality to the picture without ever geting too obvious. Colours are vibrant and tend to pop off the screen all over the place, but unfortunately the colour palette was noticeably affected by wearing 3D glasses - this problem manifested itself mostly in brighter colours taking on a slightly green hue. It's a shame, but it's par for the course in my experience.
Yes it looks great, it really does, but there are other problems too, most notably in that Abrams' insistence on using lens flare to such colossal excess simply doesn’t translate well to 3D and often makes it look as though there are reflections on the screen, or that one of the characters has a luminous green beard, which is weird when it's Uhura. I like a bit of 35m lateral flare as much as the next man, but J.J takes it to an absolutely mind boggling extent. I suppose it could be argued that that's just his style, but surely someone should give the guy an nudge on this one at some point soon?Also, Abrams' penchant for using depth of field to frame his characters with lots of foreground props out of focus comes with it's own set of problems. It tends to make a great deal of the screen end up filled with out of focus objects, which is amplified slightly by the fact that everything looks a little “toy town” or tilt-shift style.
It's pretty tough to be to harsh on the visual content of Abrams' sequel to the classic cult TV show here, in 2D it really is demo quality material. It'll wow, and it'll have audiences "cooing" with wide-eyed wonder, but the 3D is a distraction and I can't help but feel that Abrams should have followed suit with his first Star Trek installment and delivered no 3D whatsoever. Do yourself a favour - save a few pennies and go with the 2D version.
Otherwise it's bright and sharp.
SoundDelivered in a magnificent Dolby True HD 7.1 chest pounding handful of utter awesomeness, the audio track simply cannot be faulted. It's mesmerising from start to finish. Dialogue is crystal clear, foley is cued to perfection, atmospherics engulf you from moment to moment, and the detail in the surrounds is a swirling tangle of absolute audio heaven.
There's nothing that overwhelms in any area. Everything is so precisely mixed and carefully crafted. Bass never gets too overbearing, and the high frequencies never once suffer and remain sharp. It really is a tour de force in how to do audio production for movies, demonstrating that you really can have huge dynamic range without home listeners reaching for the remote to turn up the dialogue, then diving at the coffee table when an explosion nearly brings the house down. Speaking of explosions, wow - I don't think I've heard explosions as rich and with such impact yet with an incredible amount of detail. You can almost hear each element occupying it's own space - the thudding boom in the sub, the crackling mids crunching away, the tweeters literally sizzling with fire and sparks, followed by the debris flittering across the surfaces.
Then there's the soundtrack for which Abrams teams up with his favourite composer Michael Giacchino once more. The theme is as strong as ever, and the soundtrack is wonderfully recorded. It never gets annoying or cheesy, and fills the emotional gaps absolutely perfectly.
Your surrounds are going to be worked comfortably too, with most scenes containing beautifully vibrant and rich soundscape ambiences. There's constantly something going on, but never ever too much. It's full marks on the dialogue from me - great work, and certainly my new go-to disc for demoing just what my speakers can do.
ExtrasThere's a reasonable amount on show here. Enough to whet the appetite of any trekkie. Though all of it is on the 2D disc, it's all presented in HD and it all looks great.
- Creating the Red Planet - A look at the production design for the films opening sequence
- Attack on Starfleet - Behind the scenes footage of one of the movie's more energetic action sequences
- The Klingon Homeworld - How the concept of what the Klingon homeworld came to be
- The Enemy of my Enemy - A featurette focussing on Benedict Cumberbatch that highlights the reasons why he makes such a great bad guy
- Ship to Ship - One of the movie's most nail biting scenes is dissected and we're given a full disclosure on how it was put together.
- Brawl by the Bay - Examining the characters' motives and how their emotions affect their actions throughout the movie. Hard to give more information about this without spoilers - suffice it to say, it's worth a look.
All in all, with nothing lasting more than 8 minutes on the extras, I found it just about enough for me not to spoil my appetite. Decent, without going above and beyond the call of duty.
VerdictI was expecting more of the same from J.J. Abrams' sequel to his colourful reimaging of the cult TV show Star Trek, and boy did i get more than I had hoped. It's a visually stunning and emotionally charged action packed blockbuster in every regard. It has it's problems, sure, but the lack of convincing writing is carried by the cast and Abrams; vision here. It's one thundering set-piece after another, but I'm ok with that. The narrative content may upset some of the more stalwart trekkies out there, but I felt that it's handled well enough, and punctuated by enough sweet booms and bangs to make me forget about story gripes I might have anyway.
As for the package, it's a fantastic visual feast, and with both 3D and 2D versions of the movie included what more could you ask for? The 3D is unconvincing but it's not terrible, just unnecessary. The audio track is phenomenal, and really shows what's possible with sound. It's hard to find reasons not to recommend this Bu-ray wholeheartedly if what you're after is a smash, bang, whollop roller coaster ride of an action movie with great visuals and fantastic sound. Maybe just skip straight to the 2D disc though - it has everything you'll need on it.
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