Star Trek Ultra HD Blu-ray Review
Boldly going onto Ultra HD Blu-ray
To boldly go where no one has gone before and, due to a new timeline, no Star Trek film either…In a world back in 2009 where Star Trek films and TV series had appeared to have run their course and the franchise seemed to be out of steam, J.J. Abrams was up against it to relaunch and reboot the original crew to the big screen. Thinking back to that period I remember quite a backlash from Trekkies at the thought of a new crew, new Enterprise and a new universe. It seems quite strange now, in 2016, looking back at this first new Trek movie and the positive and negative buzz around it online, and then looking at where we are now with two Star Trek movies and the rebooting of Star Wars added to J.J.’s CV. And they have all been successful to a certain degree and won most fans over.
The main gripe people still seem to hold against Star Trek 2009 is the use of an alternate universe to wipe away all cannon that has gone before in the previous 10 movies, TV series and other stories, and to a certain extent, that just had to happen. There was no way to reboot the original crew and then navigate the stories that had gone before without major issues, so the timeline had to change along with some of the character histories. In the terms of a relaunch this approach worked perfectly in wiping the slate clean for new adventures and stories, something J.J. himself would go against slightly in the second film, but we’ll cover that later in a separate review.The casting of the original characters with new faces is certainly one of the master strokes of this reboot with what now seems like a perfectly put together group of actors. Chris Pine fits as James Tiberius Kirk, Zachary Quinto does Leonard Nimoy proud as Spock (and the two get a scene together as well) and the rest of the cast from Karl Urban as Bones, Zoe Saldana as Uhura and the late Anton Yelchin as Chekov. Where the casting and indeed story is a little weak is with the bad guy Nero played by Eric Bana. As far as bad guys go his character lacks presence and his motivations strange and full of plot holes, but not everything could be perfect, right?
Overall as a vehicle to kick start the franchise with a new cast and crew as well as an enjoyable movie, Star Trek 2009 is a success and offers excellent excitement, effects, score and entertainment. It also managed to win over most fans and brought in new blood in terms of Star Trek viewers with its action adventure storyline. In fact many at the time claimed it felt like a Star Wars inspired Star Trek movie which was amusing seeing where things eventually went. However despite the inevitable update of the new film, it still felt like a Star Trek adventure that harked back to the original concepts of Gene Roddenberry and his vision of the future.
Picture QualityStar Trek 2009 was shot on 35mm film using anamorphic lenses in the 2.40:1 aspect ratio 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 in the correct 2.40:1 aspect ratio, 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 comparison.
Although the original source for this UHD Blu-ray is a 2K DI there is slightly more fine detail on view when compared to the Blu-ray edition, but it is a minimal improvement in that respect alone. However add in the vastly superior dynamic range and colour volume of the UHD Blu-ray and it stands well above the normal Blu-ray in overall picture quality.
If you like HDR lens flare you'll love Star Trek on UHD Blu-ray
There is no doubt that this is the best that Star Trek has looked on a home format and the High Dynamic Range (HDR) picture is stunning in shadow detail and highlights. The lens flares are bright and forthright – almost blinding in some cases, but with detail within the specular highlights. Explosions and fire also have a three dimensional feel with detail seen within the brightness of the flames. The lighting design of the movie comes to the fore and skin tones are accurate and blacks are deep with excellent definition within the darkness of Nero’s ships interiors. With the Blu-ray they are there but do not stand out as much as they do within the 4K UHD version. There is extra depth and detail without it looking mushy or lost in a swirl of darkness.
Skin pores and costumes also have excellent detail and definition with the textures of the uniforms standing out against the bright white of the bridge and continual flash of lens flare. There were a few instances of poor compression and blocking seen within the title sequence, but these were rare occurrences and for the vast majority of the run time we didn’t see any blocking, posterisation or gradational banding. Colours were well saturated and natural looking with no red push or overblown tones and overall the image had excellent dynamic range without ever looking washed out. Film grain was also visible as we would expect having been shot on 35mm film stock, but it was well behaved and never distracting, although a little more obvious than on the Blu-ray.
Overall thanks to the 2K DI upscale and HDR colour grade the image from the Star Trek UHD Blu-ray is excellent but just not quite reference.
Sound QualityStar Trek was released in cinemas in 2009 with a Dolby Digital 5.1 soundmix. For this UHD Blu-ray the film has been given a full remix with a Dolby Atmos soundtrack. We tested the soundtrack on our reference Dolby Atmos 7.2.2 system using a Yamaha RX-A3050 AVR and MK MP300 speakers.
Right from the start of the film the soundtrack is called into action with the U.S.S Kelvin encountering a strange alien craft that attacks them. The soundstage is filled with explosions, phaser blasts, crew being sucked through holes in the hull of the ship and more. Bass is deep and powerful with every speaker used to great effect in creating an enveloping and immersive environment. Dialogue is loud enough and anchored to the characters on screen so you never miss a line while everything is being blown to bits. Even in quiet exposition sequences the Atmos mix is used to add greater atmosphere to scenes or when old Spock mind melds with young Kirk his voice appears all over the sound stage to great effect.
The highly dynamic Dolby Atmos soundmix really adds to the excitement on screen
Another well-loved aspect of the original Trek adventures was the music scores that accompanied them and the themes for characters like the Klingons. I was a bit worried about how Michael Giacchino would manage to also reboot the musical side of the franchise and whilst unsure after the first viewing in the cinema, I now associate Giacchino’s themes and cues with this new crew and can instantly hum them, which is always a good sign of a score working in my book. Within the mix the score is well integrated and moves between being front and centre and giving way for effects laden sequences.
The original Blu-ray’s 5.1 Dolby TrueHD track was extremely good to start with but this Atmos mix takes it to an even higher level of immersion and effects placement. It truly is a modern beautifully layered mix with stunning dynamics and enveloping soundscapes and can be considered a reference track.
ExtrasThe only extra on both the Ultra HD Blu-ray and the normal Blu-ray is the full length commentary track with J.J. Abrams, Bryan Burk, Damon Lindelof, Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci.
This is in stark contrast to the US UHD Blu-ray package which has three discs. The UHD version, a Blu-ray disc of the film and a Blu-ray full of extras and all the discs are region free. So if you want the most complete set you could import the US package.
Ultra HD Blu-ray VerdictIf you already own the 3 disc Blu-ray release of Star Trek which contains all the extra features then you could seek out this UHD Blu-ray at a good price in the UK which would give you the full package. If you don’t have that original Blu-ray release and want all the extra features that should have been in this edition, you will have to import the US three disc UHD Blu-ray which is identical in terms of image and sound quality, but which includes a third bonus Blu-ray disc not included in this UK UHD edition.
The reboot of Star Trek was a risk, but with J.J. Abrams at the helm and an excellent ensemble of actors to fill the boots of previously well know characters, it succeeds by filling the screen time with superb action, breathtaking effects and fantastic adventures that hark back to what Star Trek used to be with a young crew. The following movies also did the franchise justice and it stands up well to repeated viewing.
An HDR and Atmos presentation that fully explores the benefits of the UHD Blu-ray format
This is a decent package even without the bonus disc and the UHD Blu-ray certainly adds more to the image quality with HDR and the WCG along with a slight increase in resolution detail. The Dolby Atmos soundmix is also reference quality which makes this an excellent presentation of the film in every way. It might be early days for the format and we really would like to see a move away from using 2K DI’s for these disc releases, but at the same time that doesn’t mean the presentation here is not first class; this is the best Star Trek has looked (so far) and with a reference soundtrack to boot. Highly Recommended!
You can buy Star Trek on UHD Blu-ray here
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