To boldly go where no man has gone before? Guess again as this sequel retreads familiar ground
After violating Starfleet's prime directive while attempting to save the indigenous population of an alien planet from a volcano, Captain James T. Kirk (Chris Pine) is stripped of command of the U.S.S. Enterprise. However, when rogue Federation agent John Harrison (Benedict Cumberbatch) starts a one-man war against Starfleet that results in the deaths of several high-ranking officers, Kirk is reinstated and the Enterprise is sent on a mission to track down and terminate the galactic terrorist.
In 2009 J.J. Abrams achieved what many thought impossible. He took the reins of the increasingly insular and aimless Star Trek franchise and transformed it into a motion picture blockbuster that mainstream audiences could connect with. Sadly, his eagerly-awaited sequel finds Star Trek ignoring this newfound mainstream appeal in favour of keeping geeks happy with obscure references and lifting scenes wholesale from the previous fan-favourite sequel Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.
Mercifully, Star Trek Into Darkness is never as dull and plodding as the majority of the original films were. Instead it literally hits the ground running and moves from epic action scene to epic action scene at a blistering pace, ensuring that the 132 minute running time never drags.
Particularly worthy of praise is the continued development of Kirk, Mr. Spock (Zachary Quinto) and Dr. 'Bones' McCoy (Karl Urban). The film always comes to life whenever the trio start bantering with one another, and there's never any doubt about how strong their friendship is, or the high regard they hold for one another.
Cumberbatch also excels in his turn as genetically-enhanced superman Kahn Noonien Singh (possibly the worst kept secret in the history of cinema and one that is even blown on the back of the Blu-ray sleeve). Switching from almost reptilian cool to barely suppressed rage at a moment's notice, it's the kind of performance that's sure to make Hollywood sit up and pay attention.
Unfortunately, the rich characterisation elsewhere also servers to highlight a problem with Star Trek Into Darkness' female characters. While Uhura (Zoë Saldana) gets time out from simpering over Spock to join the action on a couple of occasions, poor old Carol Marcus (Alice Eve) seems to only exist so that Kirk (and teenage boys) can leer at her as she strips down to her underwear in a completely gratuitous scene.
So even if it is far from being a disaster, Star Trek Into Darkness remains a problematic film. And changes are clearly needed if the franchise is to live long and prosper.
Picture: Star Trek Into Darkness looks absolutely sensational on Blu-ray. The AVC 2.40:1 1080p encode starts off incredibly strongly with a chase through a bright red alien forest and never lets up.
Colour reproduction is absolutely spot-on, with beautifully rich primaries evident throughout. Detailing is immaculate, revealing the most intricate textures on screen. Blacks are deep and luxurious. And while whites sometimes run a little hot, they don't impact negatively on the overall contrast of the hi-def imagery.
Picture rating: 5/5
Audio: We have a sneaky suspicion that you're going to see mention of the Star Trek Into Darkness Blu-ray cropping up a heck of a lot in loudspeaker and AVR reviews in future issues of Home Cinema Choice.
Like its predecessor, this sequel's reference quality Dolby TrueHD 7.1 soundtrack is a thing of beauty. Mixing the intricately detailed with the astonishingly bombastic, the acoustic imaging the track provides completely immerses the viewer in the on-screen action and is guaranteed to push your home cinema setup to its absolute limits.
Highlights are too many to mention, but we'd happily recommend spinning up Khan's fight with the Klingons in Chapter 6, the space jump in Chapter 10 or the crash landing in Chapter 13 for great examples of the excellent range, power and channel separation inherent in the sound design.
Audio rating: 5/5
Extras: Paramount seems to have gone out of its way to annoy fans with its handling of Star Trek Into Darkness' extra features.
As if the fact that the Blu-ray only includes six short behind-the-scenes featurettes (Creating the Red Planet, Attack on Starfleet, The Klingon Homeworld, The Enemy of My Enemy, Ship to Ship and Brawl by the Bay) wasn't insulting enough, it turns out that this is only about a quarter of the bonus features created to support the film.
So where are the rest of them? Well, in its infinite wisdom, Paramount has divvied the rest of the features up as retailer exclusives – meaning there's no way that a fan of the film can get them all without buying multiple copies of the Blu-ray from different stores. And to compound the problem, J.J. Abrams also recorded an 'Enhanced Commentary' for the film, but that is only being made available via the iTunes version of the movie – and even then Paramount has yet to confirm what (if any) territories it will be available in outside the US!
Extras rating: 1.5/5
We say: This middling Star Trek sequel is lacking in extras, but still makes for a superior HD demo disc
Star Trek Into Darkness, Paramount, All-region BD, £28 Approx
HCC VERDICT: 3/5
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