Star Trek Into Darkness Ultra HD Blu-ray Review

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Boldly going forward, still can't find reverse...

by Phil Hinton Nov 14, 2016 at 7:25 AM

  • SRP: £24.99

    Film Review

    We might have to deal with some spoilers, so best move along if you don’t want to see them…

    Having set the stage so well with the first reboot, J.J. Abrams could let his hair down and focus on the characters we now know and send them on their first five year mission, or could he? The problem with this second instalment of the alternate timeline stories was the fact that J.J. couldn’t let the past timeline disappear and brought back a well-known villain from the original TV series and second original cast movie, Khan. There are of course differences to the actual storyline this time around, but where J.J. takes things too far is expecting the audience to have the same emotional attachment they had for the original crew line-up, with his new cast members. This was a serious misstep from Mr Abrams and it made certain scenes in the movie feel very hollow and emotionless. This assumption that the emotional bond had been made in such a short time also seemed to suck a lot of the fun out of the runtime. It feels like the film isn’t quite sure if it’s supposed to be playing it dark or mysterious and as such it loses some momentum during the second act and then becomes a pale action adventure romp during the third act, the one area where J.J. continues to suffer as a story teller and director.

    I don’t want to have a downer on this movie, for the majority of its runtime it is well paced, well acted and at times tense and thrilling. It just feels like Mr Abrams can’t help himself with homages to what went before, a trait that appears again with The Force Awakens. He could have told a new tale of Khan without using that name and character and without having to reverse roles and events from the Wrath of Khan to mistakenly keep the fans engaged.
    The crew from the first reboot are all present and correct for this second adventure which once again sees the Enterprise more or less destroyed within the run time of the movie. Is it possible to have a Star Trek these days where they don’t destroy one of the main characters of the franchise? The Enterprise is just as much a star of the Trek universe as the Millennium Falcon is in Star Wars, yet every film so far has seen it almost completely destroyed. The insurance premiums must be extortionate given how many times the no claims bonus has gone up in smoke. But it is cool to see such an iconic Starship act as a submarine within the opening pre-credit sequence and it flying across the planet's sky, instead of staying in a boring orbit above said planet. But again we go from such a great action packed opener to a slow pace and even slower plot reveal before the film starts to pick up again, which is a stark change to the pacing of the first film. However the casting of Benedict Cumberbatch as Khan is a nice touch and he does a great job of playing both the character and the crew with his believable vast intellect and physical power.

    Overall and despite my reservations about the points raised, Star Trek Into Darkness is an enjoyable Sci-fi romp with good action set pieces, excellent special effects work, a great score and a decent crew who can all act. So it still gets the thumbs up. Let's see if the UHD Disc presentation can provide the best possible image and sound to compliment the movie.

    Picture Quality

    Star Trek Into Darkness Picture Quality
    Star Trek Into Darkness was shot on 35mm film and 65mm IMAX using anamorphic lenses in a mix of 2.35:1 and 1.66:1 aspect ratios and finished as a 2K Digital Intermediate. As such this 2K DI is used here for this Ultra HD Blu-ray and upscaled by Paramount to 4K. The film is presented with a 3840 x 2160p resolution and swaps between aspect ratios. The disc uses 10-bit video depth, a Wider Colour Gamut (WCG) and High Dynamic Range (HDR), and is encoded using the HEVC (H.265) codec. This UK Ultra HD Blu-ray disc was reviewed using a Samsung UE65KS9500 4K HDR TV and a Samsung UBD-K8500 UHD Blu-ray player. Also in this pack is the Blu-ray edition of the film which we used for some comparisons.

    It is a shame once again that this disc is taken from a 2K DI, especially with such high resolution source material used to produce the film, but redoing the effects and other elements for a Ultra HD Blu-ray release would be prohibitively expensive. There is however a silver lining and that is the IMAX footage used for various scenes which does include some stunning sharpness and detail on view. Even with the 2.35:1 scenes there is a little more visible resolution compared to the Blu-ray but it is the IMAX scenes that really do stand out. Right from the off in the pre-title sequence of whites and reds there is a level of image sharpness that simply looks stunning on a 65-inch TV and just as well on a 10ft projection screen from a JVC X7000 projector.

    Opening out to IMAX in certain scenes adds to the picture quality and detail on view

    Add in the expanded Wide Colour Gamut and High Dynamic Range of the UHD disc and we have an incredibly good dynamic range with solid blacks that contain plenty of just above black shadow details, especially in the super-sized star ship that turns up in the third act with its dark grey interiors and hangers. Specular highlights also standout and take advantage of the excellent light design of the various locations used. Unlike the first film, lens fares are kept in check this time around, but there are still plenty of excuses for excellent highlights and flashes of detailed explosions and gun fire. Uniforms and skin pores are superbly detailed and naturally sharp with film grain also adding a nice detailed look without getting in the way of the image sharpness or causing compression issues. There are a few slight issues here and there with compression artefacts in extremely dark areas of the frame which is within the source, but these are thankfully very rare and only the title sequence is probably visible to most viewers. On our correctly calibrated display this disc looked stunningly good, it is just a shame it is not a 4K source and as such it loses that mark which would have made it a reference level image.

    Sound Quality

    Star Trek Into Darkness Sound Quality
    Star Trek Into Darkness was released theatrically with a full Dolby Atmos soundtrack and that is preserved on the Ultra HD Blu-ray. We tested the soundtrack on our reference Dolby Atmos 7.2.2 system using a Yamaha RX-A3050 AVR and MK MP300 speakers.

    Star Trek Into Darkness was one of the first theatrical releases to feature a Dolby Atmos soundtrack back in 2013 and as such the sound designers and mixers have really gone to town with their efforts. The original Blu-ray (which is included in this pack) already had a fantastic reference level Dolby TrueHD presentation of the movie, but this Atmos mix just opens things up more and adds a few subtle touches to really draw you into the various environments and the on-going action. Take the start of the movie on the red planet with Kirk and Bones being chased by the ‘locals’ and it's action all the way. We get a fantastic sense of what is going on with the rumbling of the volcano, the cries and shouts of the locals closing in and the rustles and branch snaps as they run through the red leafed forest.

    The Dolby Atmos soundtrack delivers in all dimensions

    Fast forward to the Enterprise leaving the underwater hiding place and again the soundmix takes advantage of the height channels to have the ship rise and fly over you as the locals look up in astonishment at their UFO encounter. As it rises there is water falling around you and then the thrust of the engines as it makes its way to the volcano. Inside said erupting mountain is Spock with lava falling and rising all around him, and you. Dialogue is nailed to the characters and easy to follow and the bass is tight, low and powerful throughout with excellently controlled high frequencies. An already excellent Blu-ray 7.1 track has been improved further with this Atmos mix that is truly enveloping without ever taking you out of the action. Reference level!


    The extras in this set are on the Blu-ray disc and are identical to the 2013 BD release.

    • Creating the Red Planet – a examination of the opening pre-credit sequence
    • Attack on Starfleet – Behind the scenes featurette following the action scene
    • The Klingon Homeworld – A look at the concepts involving the look of the Homeworld
    • The Enemy of my Enemy – Benedict Cumberbatch as Khan and why he makes such a great bad guy
    • Ship to Ship – A detailed featurette breaking down the action sequence so we can see how it was put together
    • Brawl by the Bay – A look at all the characters and their motives throughout the film
    All the included extras are short but to the point and never outstay their welcome. It is also a step up on the UK release of the first film on Ultra HD Blu-ray that has no extras where the US release has a full bonus disc full. However the US Ultra HD Blu-ray release of 'Into Darkness' is a three disc set with a bonus disc full of even more extras although none of them are over 10mins in length. The US release is also region free for all the discs.

    Ultra HD Blu-ray Verdict

    Star Trek Into Darkness Ultra HD Blu-ray Verdict
    Star Trek Into Darkness proved to be the difficult second album for Abrams where his enthusiasm and energy were perhaps a little misguided when it came to the audiences affections for the characters in this new rebooted series and as such it falls flat. It also struggles to really feel like a Star Trek movie and the pacing is not as frenetic as it should have been.

    The best possible presentation of the movie on an excellent Ultra HD Blu-ray

    However with all that (and more above) said, it is still an excellent slice of Sci-Fi action adventure with some stunning cinematography and effects work. The UHD image quality is excellent with superb use of HDR and WCG and it only loses a slight mark as it is once again from a 2K DI source. It has a superb score and the soundmix is reference quality Dolby Atmos with only the extra features holding it back as a complete package. But the quality of the movie presentation is the best you are going to get for the foreseeable future and it comes highly recommended.

    You can buy Star Trek Into Darkness HERE

    MORE: Read more UHD Blu-ray Reviews

    Suggested retail price when reviewed: £24.99

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