[img]http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51p5vX6KF3L._SY300_.jpg[/img]Releasing/Participating Studio(s): Paramount Pictures/Skydance Productions/Bad Robot
Disc/Transfer Information: Region A; 2.40:1 (Original Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1); 1080p High Definition 50GB Blu-ray Disc
Video Codec: MPEG-4 AVC (26.27 Mbps)
Running Time: 131 Minutes
Tested Audio Track: English Dolby TrueHD 7.1 48kHz, 24-bit (Tested in 5.1 Configuration)
Director: J.J. Abrams
Starring Cast: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Benedict Cumberbatch
This is going to be a sort of preview of the official review I will do once I get a chance to sit down with the disc tonight; I will return to the thread and add my thoughts about the plot and specifications once I can analyze them for you guys. I wanted to just get some of my thoughts down and out regarding my feelings on Paramount and Bad Robot’s J.J. Abrams-helmed “reboot” of the Trek franchise as a diehard fan of the original ‘60s TV show and the subsequent film franchise that followed. Perhaps even more so than when George Lucas made the decision to go back and digitally tamper with some Star Wars effects or even introduce the so-called “prequel” tales that were “Episodes I, III and III,” Abrams’ reboot of Gene Roddenberry’s original space odyssey that so many of us grew up on over TV dinners or Saturday night marathon reruns on public access channels has caused polarizing ripples throughout the science fiction and motion picture entertainment sectors like, truly, nothing I’ve personally seen before – just Google keywords that would fit with the release of these films or “Star Trek” in general, and you’ll be directed to forums, links and worldwide sites that are all over the map in terms of opinions, thoughts, perspectives and debate. Some of these, I have seen on other sites and forums, have degraded into such arguments and quasi-threatening rhetoric you’d never believe these idiots are fighting over a motion picture – something that isn’t even based in any kind of reality. Indeed, “Trek” fanboys are a strange, uber-passionate lot – I have to admit to possessing a bit of that passion when I first saw 2009’s attempt at re-telling and reimagining Roddenberry’s world by Abrams and I even admit to acting on it in some forum debates. To me, Abrams’ Star Trek wasn’t “Trek” in the least serious sense of the word; it did not contain the Kirk, Spock, Uhura, Sulu, Chekov, Scotty and Bones that we knew and loved, nor did it contain any kind of logical – pardon the pun – time formula or timeline with regard to any connection to old Treks (not that this is entirely important, as timelines are constantly played with in film and were even tweaked amidst the original show’s airing run). I understand and realize why Abrams introduced the whole “Kobayashi Maru” test sequence because it was of such importance and interest to original series fans – and those like me who feel Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan was one of the best science fiction films ever made – as they finally got a chance to witness an arrogant young Kirk eating his apple and swinging around in the captain’s chair defeating the computer-generated scenario (the famous no-win scenario against a simulated Klingon attack) after hearing so much about it…but the sequence in Abrams’ film didn’t work and came off as silly, ridiculous filler in my opinion.
Some other things about 2009’s Trek that totally bothered me: The interior setpieces of the Enterprise which looked like inside shots of some kind of high-tech warehouse rather than a technologically advanced battleship from the Federation; what was up with those interior design elements? Was I the only one who thought these were ridiculous? And what was up with the setpieces of the ship’s bridge, which made the sequences shot there seem like the characters were operating in some kind of strange holographic chamber with surreal, wispy types of equipment and screens? The outside of Abrams’ reimagined Enterprise I could live with as it came off as a fusion of old variants of the ship on steroids – but the interior shots were beyond laughable. There’s also the issue of Chris Pine in the role of a younger Kirk; doesn’t work. Quinto as Spock? Yeah, I could buy him; but the guy we got playing Chekov? And what about the ridiculously forced versions of Scotty and Bones with their horrifically un-funny one-liners and attempts at humor? There was nothing here that contained the same sense of gel, camaraderie, comic fusion and ultimate charm the original cast shared amongst one another. I realize these are younger versions of the characters we have come to know and that they’re first “getting to know” each other, but come on…there’s like zero reason to care about this cast or their oddball behavior both on and off the ship. And what was up with the “love” triangle between Uhura, Kirk and Spock? Don’t buy it. And the desperate attempts to appeal to original series fans by throwing in the “Captain Pike” angle that I didn’t really buy anyway? The film, in my opinion, was just awful and wasn’t something that seemed designed to appeal to any of the older fans of the material.
That said, I am aware that Abrams and crew weren’t necessarily going for that, instead concentrating on introducing a new generation to the mystique of this time-honored franchise – as so many of these reboots attempt to do, mainly in the horror genre – while tipping a proverbial hat to old fans. But therein lies yet another issue I had with his film…the whole thing just felt, from start to finish, like a slick, mass-produced, glossy GAP or Banana Republic ad of some kind only set in outer space…a Star Trek designed to appeal to the Smallville, True Blood, Twilight and post-Buffy generation that would swoon and ooooh and ahhhh when the female sector of that demographic lays eyes on Chris Pine without a shirt on…or vice-versa when the utterly attractive Zoe Saldana as Uhura sheds her clothes. I mean, what was up with Kirk hitting on Uhura in that ludicrous way in the bar in the beginning of the film? And then hiding under the green Orion girl’s bed when she comes back to their room, the two Starfleet cadets chatting as if these were two college roommates at NYU not nearly as “advanced” as civilization was supposed to be by their time? The whole thing felt forced to cater to a very specific demographic by Abrams and it was extremely off-putting to older fans such as myself.
Still, I don’t want to be strung up to a lamppost on Main Street USA and beaten with bricks, bottles and bats for this opinion about the old versus new Trek – I saw where that was going in my “Abrams to Direct the Star Wars reboot!” thread in here which I quickly abandoned – as that’s what ultimately happens when such a “sensitive” subject is discussed in public discussion forums (I am very thankful that we have a moderation team here at Home Theater Shack that tolerates not one ounce of flaming or hurtful commentary towards other members). I just wanted to share some of my feelings about Abrams’ attempt at rebooting this franchise and where I felt it went wrong for older fans. There are a ton of other problems I could discuss – the stupid, unnecessary inclusion of Leonard Nimoy as an older Spock that “meets” his younger counterpart in situations that completely defy rationale or sense, the “modern day” facial tattoo jobs on the Romulan adversaries of the film that suggest they recently stopped at a modern day ink shop on the Vegas Strip or something just before beginning their mission to…whatever it was they wanted to do with the old Spock and the timeline, the chrome-covered controls of this new Enterprise that look like they were picked out of a Fortunoff’s home design catalog – but there’s just not enough time to cover everything I could get into. I appreciate some of Abrams’ nods to the original elements – the “gooseneck” style lamps hanging over the ship’s controls at the helm which is a reference to the way the ship looked during the “Where No Man Has Gone Before” episode era plus the raw inclusion and exploration of Captain Chris Pike – but it still wasn’t Roddenberry’s vision.
Now – if you stumble upon other reviews of Into Darkness you’ll see what I’m talking about with regard to the polarizing controversy this and the original film has sparked, to the point quasi-threatening arguments between people who are seemingly complete strangers to one another have broken out over the merits-versus-inaccuracies of the new take on “Trek” and the classic take; last night, I noted that one journalist in particular who writes for High Def Digest as well as other home theater hobbyist publications and outlets (I won’t mention his name) put up an early review of Into Darkness on Blu on High Def Digest and was almost immediately bogged down with cruel and hurtful commentary about his take on the film (which wasn’t good or promising), ultimately leading to attacks on his “reviewing abilities” and abilities as a journalist, which it always seems to degrade into (I speak from experience in these matters). While a good majority of the commentary was positive towards the reviewer and his efforts with writing reviews for the site and the Into Darkness review in particular, there were a handful of members that got so out of line with comments to him and what he “missed” it caused the reviewer to not only get a bit defensive but also stand his ground with many of them. Subsequently, I noticed that one haranguing member in particular was actually banned, presumably after these debates. But what I found interesting were some members’ comments about how original “Trek” fans simply complain about everything – and that they hated Into Darkness because it “disrespects” the “legacy” begun with Nicholas Meyer's take on the “Khan” villain in Star Trek II. But seriously, who doesn’t have the right – as a devoted “Trek” fan – to complain about such disappointing disasters as The Motion Picture…or The Final Frontier…or Insurrection? Yes, Meyer's The Wrath of Khan was a monumental piece of science fiction motion picture history for many reasons I can’t get into here – so fans of the original film franchise and that entry in particular I can see being a bit peeved that the entire lexicon and essence about the Khan character has been altered here by Abrams for the sake of…what? Creativity? Simply being different? A change of pace? From what I understand – and I’ll have more on this when I view the film itself – the Khan character has gone from being played by a buffed-out Ricardo Montlaban in the original “Space Seed” episode to his repeat performance of the role as a slightly older and white-haired variant of the super-engineered madman in the 1980s’ Wrath of Khan to now being portrayed by one Benedict Cumberbatch who is more of a scrawny, lanky, death-pale British guy having nothing to do with the “region” Khan and his followers were supposedly from. Don’t get me wrong – there are no official “blueprints” or “documents” or “origin stories” that must be followed here for this character (as it’s often better to do when a character steps out of a comic book, for example) so I can understand Abrams taking some kind of liberties – but this seems too extreme. We go from remembering the late great Montalban in the role to this shriveled-up Brit playing him?
It’s also been argued by fans and critics that Abrams merely used the Khan character as a cheap way of creating a quick sequel and trying to appeal to “whining fans” of the original legacy – even going so far as to ask “What’s next for the third film…they’re gonna save some whales again or find Sha Ka Ree?” While some of this is humorous, there’s also some truth imbedded there that we should look at – why, if Abrams is attempting to reboot this into a new direction for a new generation of “fans” (I’ll believe that when I see it), did he recycle a character from the 1960’s and then 1980’s? And why the dramatic altering of this character to the point he looks, acts and speaks nothing like Montalban’s Khan did back then?
Look, fellow ‘Shacksters, I’ll reserve final overall judgment after I see the film tonight and report back with the finalized Blu-ray Disc review – I just wanted to get some of my feelings out about the differences between the franchises, where many stand and what kind of feedback the sequel Into Darkness has been getting (it has not been good from what I gather). I didn’t see the film theatrically but from what I understand the plot involves a war waged on the Federation by this new supervillian known as “Khan Noonien Singh” who doesn’t divulge his real identity early on in the story, instead going by some kind of alias, while Kirk (Pine), new commander of the USS Enterprise and crew request permission from Starfleet to go after the madman; from what I could tell from the trailers, the poor Enterprise takes more of a wallop and beating in this film from Khan’s hijinks than it ever did in The Wrath of Khan, The Search for Spock or The Undiscovered Country when the Klingons possessed that cloaking device that allowed their flagship cruiser – a prototype model – to fire torpedoes while engaged (cloaked).
Also worth mentioning – as I failed to do so before – is that though I’m a diehard fan of the original show and film franchise, I was able to tolerate the “Next Generation” film entries in the series (yet I wasn’t a big fan of the long-running show) including Generations and First Contact but excluding the awful Insurrection; however, to me, that’s where the tolerance ends. I couldn’t stand the spinoff shows like Enterprise or DS9 and I’m glad they’re currently discontinued; further, the Paramount-sanctioned box set of the original film franchise titles as well as the “Next Generation” additions is still one of my favorite DVD box sets in my entire collection, and in my opinion is the consummate “Trek” gathering of all the “important” films of this sci fi phenomenon. That collection looks like this:
…and won’t be something I’ll be getting rid of.
I’ll check back in tomorrow to add my thoughts about the film and the Blu-ray presentation; thank you, everyone, for allowing me to vent!
PLOT ANALYSIS UPDATE:
Okay. After putting Star Trek Into Darkness through its (skeptical) paces last night I must say...it wasn't half bad. I know! I know! This is the clown sitting before you now -- well, figuratively, not literally -- that swore there is no "Star Trek" but Gene Roddenberry's "Star Trek"...and I'm not saying I have been swayed to "the dark side" (he he)...but this film wasn't as bad as I was preparing for mentally and was actually quite engaging in certain areas. Like Triple J stated, the actors did a good job in this one, the new "take" on the Klingons and their radical looks was tolerable, the action was pretty intense and the awesome hand-to-hand fight scene between an enraged Spock and Khan at the end was simply magnificent...especially that last massive jab Spock crashes upon Khan's face/jaw before the screen fades to black to interweave into the next scene. The premise here actually isn't that confusing; it seems the Federation is under attack by a mysterious British-esque guy who is hiding his true identity (the infamous Khan Noonien Singh) and who supposedly has prior ties with the Federation. It's up to Spock and Kirk and the brave Enterprise crew to stop him. That's actually it in a nutshell, refreshingly -- but of course there's a ton of other stuff in between, so let's dispense with the foray into analyzing Into Darkness...
Well, first, let me get off my chest something that bothered me about Abrams' take on a certain element and theme -- do you hardcore Trek fans recall in Wrath of Khan when Spock sacrifices his own life to save the ship at the end when Khan rigs the Genesis Device to self-destruct? Of course you do; it still elicits teary-eyed tendencies when I watch it to this day. The ship’s warp drive is damaged and Khan’s Reliant vessel drifts out in space ready to explode with the Genesis Device on an overload buildup, so the Enterprise can’t escape the blast radius on impulse power alone. Spock (Leonard Nimoy) descends into Engineering, where, against the warnings of McCoy, he enters a chamber filled with deadly radiation to “fix” the problem with the warp core. The warp drive is restored and the ship blasts off away from the exploding Reliant, Khan unsuccessful with his plan to get final revenge on his old enemy, James Kirk. Of course, we learn Spock isn’t really “dead” per se as McCoy is carrying his essence, which must be returned to him via a special ritual that can only be performed on Vulcan – hence the plot of Star Trek III. Here, Abrams takes this aspect of Nick Meyer’s Wrath of Khan and turns it around so that Kirk is the one sacrificing himself for the ship and Spock is the one alerted to his sacrifice, watching Kirk die in front of him within the radiation chamber. Some vital aspects must be discussed here, before anything else: First, this is the very first time we see Spock shed tears out of sheer sadness and loss – it was rumored that at some point in the original film franchise run, Spock was going to cry at Kirk’s funeral, whenever that was going to happen in the series to transition it into the “Next Generation” cast and crew-helmed versions. Being that Kirk seemed to be the closest friend Spock ever had and that his “very human” friend taught him ways to touch on his own emotions and feelings, Spock was supposedly going to break down at either Kirk’s funeral or after hearing of his death; this also touches on the comment Kirk (Shatner) makes in The Final Frontier when he, McCoy and Spock are sitting around the campfire and Kirk says “I always knew I’d die alone…” Indeed, in Generations, Kirk is whisked away from the crippled Federation ship to his “death” (actually into the mysterious “Nexus”) when he’s trying to save it from catastrophic damage but neither McCoy nor Spock are present. And so this may be a reason why Abrams decided to include Spock crying in the scene when he’s speaking to a dying Kirk at the end of Into Darkness – he may have in fact stumbled upon those old rumors of the way in which Spock was going to react to learning of Kirk’s death. But I had a problem with the way in which Abrams “flipped” this scenario from Wrath of Khan into what we saw in Into Darkness – there are even some dialogue lines ripped directly off from that film, such as when McCoy tries to stop Kirk from entering the radiation chamber when he sees Spock lying in it, saying “You’ll flood the whole compartment!” In Abrams’ film, Scotty actually says the line to Spock when he approaches the radiation-flooded room. There’s also a repeat of the line when Kirk, in Wrath of Khan, is told by McCoy over the intercom that he “better get down to (Engineering) in a hurry…” in reference to Spock sacrificing himself to save the ship – in Into Darkness, the line is stated by Scotty to Spock about Kirk lying in Engineering. The whole thing seemed like a cheap and deliberate cop out by Abrams to either save production time, replace dialogue he didn’t care for or, again, desperately attempt to connect with fans from the original film franchise. I mean, these sequences were almost so blatantly copied, it reminded me of what Carpenter did between his own Escape From New York and Escape From L.A..
While the reviewer I mentioned from High Def Digest ripped apart this film’s opening sequence which depicts Bones and Kirk on some wildly alien planet running from Dead Man’s Chest-like natives while Spock attempts to “drop into” a planetary volcano of some kind (the whole thing was a bit hokey, I’ll say that) and the Enterprise sits on the bottom of an ocean – that’s right, an ocean – I didn’t think it was quite as bad; this sequence is mere window dressing for what we know is going to come: The unveiling of villain Khan Noonien Singh. As the Enterprise warps out of the planet’s ocean and into space, the crew’s “mission” apparently over, the native aliens watch in awe, beginning to draw their own “blueprints” of sorts for a starship. Thus, the Prime Directive here was violated, and once back at Starfleet Headquarters in San Francisco, Spock and Kirk are brought before Admiral Pike after Spock files a report about what happened. Again, we see Chris Pine playing the (too, in my opinion) young Captain Kirk with sheer arrogance and wanton need for self gratification while his performance is counterbalanced by Quinto’s steel rendition of a young Spock. Pike, meanwhile, recovering from his injuries in the last film at the hands of the radical Romulans – in the original series he ends up permanently in a wheelchair unable to speak or move – informs Kirk, angrily, that his ship has been taken away from him for the danger he got himself and his crew into on this last mission. Meanwhile, the action shifts to London of this future society, where a Federation officer and his wife are visiting their sick child at a hospital. The officer is approached by a strange, brooding man (Benedict Cumberbatch) who tells him he can save his child from death – however, we learn there is a consequence, as the Starfleet officer is next seen reporting for duty and then blowing himself and a Federation data storage facility to bits somewhere outside London.
After the facility bombing, Federation commander Marcus (Peter Weller) convenes a mandatory meeting with senior ship commanders about the attack – including Captain Pike (who is back commanding the Enterprise after Kirk's been kicked off captain status) and his new first officer James Kirk, who has been demoted. At the meeting, Cumberbatch’s character's identity – well, one of his identities – is revealed, leading to the board believing he once was connected to the Federation. Kirk then hypothesizes – all too late – that all of them there in the conference room are a sitting duck for this madman who would have known they’d all retreat there for an emergency conference. At that very moment, Cumberbatch’s character arrives outside the windows of the conference room in a craft of some kind and attacks, phasers and exploding glass raining down viciously. As Kirk and others scramble to help those injured or get them out of the way, some key figures here meet their demise; but Kirk isn’t done with Cumberbatch's character yet – he figures out a way to cripple the madman’s craft he’s whizzing around in just outside the windows, causing the ship to crash and explode below but not before Cumberbatch’s character is beamed out of the ship to…somewhere and by…someone.
Kirk goes to Marcus and demands he have the Enterprise back in order to pursue the Federation attacker alone without the help of the fleet – as going in with other Federation ships over the Neutral Zone, where it is believed Cumberbatch’s character is hiding, would result in a war with the Klingon Empire – and after some back-and-forthing, the crew is reassembled and the hunt for the Federation’s most deadly enemy thus far is on. In between are the ridiculous recurring themes of the love affair between Spock and Uhura and how she’s just so desperately head-over-heels for him, the inclusion of overtones suggesting Kirk is still the biggest womanizer in outer space (which he always was, even in the Shatner years) when he’s seen in bed with two alien chicks that boast tails and pop up from under his covers with him and some new ones such as Scotty’s “banishment” from the Enterprise when he learns Kirk is taking on specialized torpedoes to go after Cumberbatch’s character with (and which also carry this madman’s superengineered crew – like in “Space Seed” and Wrath of Khan). There’s also the ridiculous, yet again, return of an old Spock in Leonard Nimoy who appears to the young Spock (Quinto) at some point and discusses with the young Spock the dangers surrounding this nemesis they’re hunting…a reference to the older Spock “knowing” the infamous “Khan” even though this is a totally new take on the villain and his origins (this whole thing was mishandled by Abrams here in my opinion).
Additionally, we get the inclusion of yet another Wrath of Khan character and element here in the form of “Carol Marcus,” played by Bibi Besch in Star Trek II and played here by the lovely and gorgeous blonde Alice Eve. Marcus in this film is the daughter of Peter Weller’s Federation commander character, joining the crew of the Enterprise on this mission unbeknownst to him. In Nicholas Meyer’s Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, it’s suggested that Carol and Kirk ended up getting together, perhaps at some point married, and had a son, David (who appears in Star Trek II and Star Trek III) – and while it’s not entirely explored here in Abrams’ film, there are hints, by the way Kirk and Carol look at each other, that the two of them are gonna “get it on” at some point. Yet the whole attempt by Abrams to introduce all these Wrath of Khan elements, overtones, dialogue lines and characters was downright confusing to me – is he trying to do a complete reboot and freshen up this series for a new generation? If so, why all the parallels to the 1980’s-esque film that most of this targeted demographic doesn’t even know about anyway? I mean, for deep fans such as myself these flashback-esque references were cool, but they just didn’t work in this “new” universe Abrams has created; and I still don’t know, truly, what to make of that “flip-flopping” of plots Abrams used in making Kirk, instead of Spock, be the one who saves them all from disaster at the end, setting up that whole scenario as an almost exact duplicate of the end of Meyer’s Wrath of Khan. I mean, either do something new…or don’t.
Anyway, the Enterprise chases Cumberbatch’s character down to the edge of the Klingon Neutral Zone outpost where the Federation suspects him of working with the enemy alien race. Kirk, Spock, Uhura and some others lead an away team to what appears to be a desolate planet where their craft is surrounded by Klingon Birds of Prey. When the Klingons’ communication efforts go unanswered, the aliens are prepared to shoot their craft down – but Uhura utilizes her limited Klingon lingual abilities to communicate with them, leading to her explaining to them, in Klingon, that they have come merely to hunt down this fugitive responsible for murdering many people. Suddenly, Cumberbatch’s character arrives and single-handedly takes out the Klingon soldiers through a brutal phaser and physical confrontation, leading to his surrender at the hands of Kirk and the Federation officers surrounding him. But not before Kirk, enraged for this man’s murderous rampage back at Federation Headquarters, attempts to beat the ever-loving sweat off the lumbering madman who stands there and takes the beating with a shrug as if he didn’t feel one of Kirk’s blows. Of course, the team doesn’t yet know who this man is and that he’s a specially engineered superhuman of sorts. Important to note that in this sequence, Abrams manages to introduce a new yet refreshingly stylized take on the Klingon race – gone are the awkward makeup jobs and strange facial hair of shows and films past, replaced with creepy kind of glowing eyes and powerful body armor. I really thought I was going to have a big problem with Abrams’ take on the Klingons – but they weren’t as bad as I was expecting.
With Cumberbatch’s character in the Enterprise’s secured brig, his true identity is eventually revealed by him to Spock and Kirk – his real name is “Khan” and he has come from Earth’s past as a genetically-altered human with beyond-reproach strength and intellect. He also reveals that the torpedoes the ship is carrying to supposedly be used to take him out are harboring the life support chambers of the remainder of his followers – all “supermen” themselves just like Khan. If this wasn’t bad enough news, Kirk is told a vessel has arrived in their sector that looks an awful lot like a souped-up, heavily modified Federation battlecruiser...with Enterprise-like design cues. Kirk is hailed by the commander of the ship who turns out to be Marcus himself, come to claim possession of the now-captured Khan. Kirk, through a witty dialoguing between him and Marcus, figures out the Federation commander really isn’t playing with the best interests of the Federation in mind by wanting control of Khan and when he refuses to drop the Enterprise’s shields in order to beam Khan over to him, the commander fires his advanced ship’s weapons, leading to a brutal one-on-one space battle. The Enterprise, being severely outgunned and outmatched by this advanced starship, ends up warping away in a desperate attempt to escape but Marcus’ ship boasts advanced trans-warping capabilities (remember what they were experimenting with in The Search for Spock on the USS Excelsior?) and immediately catches up to the Enterprise even in mid-warp. The ships continue fighting at this warp speed velocity – something pointed out in the High Def Digest review for being “impossible” to do based on the physics of space and time and which I somewhat agree with – until the Enterprise is so badly damaged it breaks out of the warp continuum and limps on in a confused state of direction.
At this point, Kirk actually goes to Khan at the brig and looks for his help in bringing down Marcus – who apparently has double-crossed both of them – and to learn the secrets of this advanced ship he’s in, as Khan had his hand in developing or weaponizing it…or something (it’s a bit hazy). What follows was a bit silly – that the renegade Khan assists Kirk and crew with getting onboard Marcus’ ship via spacesuits so they’re not detected while Scotty, meanwhile, arrives back in the story to help them get onboard from inside the renegade Federation vessel. Some of this got, admittedly, thick at this point, leading to me not really paying attention in certain places but in a nutshell, we have Kirk and Khan arriving in Marcus’ ship where the madman they captured leads them to the bridge – in between, we witness a violently strong Khan taking out every guard they encounter along the way. However, we know something isn’t right because why would this madman that’s been genetically altered and who wanted to destroy the Federation before suddenly want to help James Kirk and his loyal band of soldiers now? This is hinted at by Kirk at one point when they’re following Khan through the bowels of the ship and he says “I have a feeling WE’RE helping HIM.”
Once on the bridge, Marcus is confronted but Kirk orders Khan to be taken out by phaser stunning because he doesn’t trust him – and his feelings are confirmed when Khan awakens from the stun and begins killing everyone around him, leading to the madman’s true intentions…he is clearly not a friend of the Federation. Khan hails the Enterprise and speaks to Spock, now In command, showing how he has complete control of a now-beaten Kirk, demanding the torpedoes containing his frozen people be beamed over to the ship they’re now on. Spock complies – but a plan is hatched to blow up the torpedoes once they’re on Khan’s ship in order to stop the madman. In the midst of all this, as I said earlier, Kirk ends up – or so we’re lead to believe – meeting his fate in this mild re-telling of Wrath of Khan instead of Spock, which sends the half-human science officer into an uncontrollable rage. It’s here we also get Abrams taking another cue from Star Trek II in which Shatner, as Kirk, bellows “KHAAAAAAAAAAANNNNNN!!!!” into the communicator in a rage towards his adversary – in Into Darkness, it’s Spock that screams Khan’s name in a rage when his friend and commanding officer perishes in front of him.
The remaining sequences of Into Darkness were pretty kinetic and exciting, as the Enterprise loses all propulsion and power while the modified Federation ship Khan is on explodes from the detonating torpedoes containing his followers; the Enterprise begins spiraling downward into Earth’s atmosphere (somehow, the action shifts back to Earth but I don’t know how that happened) as the crew desperately attempts to restore some kind of power. At the last second, the massive starship is seen dipping into the clouds just above Earth’s skies before it shoots back up and towards space, the propulsion restored and our heroes safe. This whole theme Abrams used throughout this film that suggests the Enterprise can do all these things outside of outer space was a bit much after awhile – I realize that in at least one of the original TV show episodes, I think it was “Tomorrow is Yesterday,” the ship is indeed shown “hovering” right inside the planet’s atmosphere but here it was just off-putting after awhile…first the ship is seen at the bottom of an ocean, warping out into the atmosphere and then at the end it drops into Earth’s skies as it falls from a loss of power. Cool visuals and all, but unnecessary after awhile.
We know this isn’t the end of Khan, though, right? I mean, he wouldn’t go that easily, correct? Alas, we see the Federation ship he was on tumbling out of space behind the Enterprise, damaged and completely out of power from the exploded torpedoes within, eventually crashing into the buildings and structures below (taking out most of what appears to be San Francisco – Starfleet’s home base, unless I am mistaken about the location). Khan is seen on the run again, surviving the crash and now attempting to escape on foot through the crowds of this 23rd century society. Spock, still enraged over the (apparent) death of Kirk, beams down and goes off after him and a foot chase between the men ensue, Spock eventually catching up to the genetically altered Khan atop moving transports that are floating above the ground. Here, Abrams sets up what are perhaps the most exciting – if a bit too brief – sequences of the whole film as Spock engages Khan in a hand-to-hand fight that pits the Vulcan’s unusual strength against that of the genetically-engineered superhuman. In many respects, this makes more sense than a hand-to-hand fight between Kirk and Khan – as Nicholas Meyer considered for the end of Star Trek II but then abandoned for the final cut – because Spock is just so much stronger. The fight sequence was staged perfectly, the action shifting from the two men beating the sweat off of one another while they attempt to remain upright on the rapidly moving transport they’re atop to the bridge crew of the Enterprise deperately continuing to gain altitude and climb out of Earth's atmosphere. At one point, Khan gets the upper hand, man-handling Spock like he’s a child’s doll, but Uhura beams down from the Enterprise with a hand phaser to assist, striking Khan multiple times with phaser blasts until Spock can regain his footing. Once on top of the fight again, the Vulcan harnesses all his strength, boiling rage, emotional conflict and sheer ferocity under his surface towards beating on the genetically-engineered terrorist, delivering horrific, powerful punch after powerful punch, nearly beating Khan to death. However, Uhura stops him to inform the science officer that McCoy needs him alive because his blood may be the key to reviving Kirk. In what was perhaps the most stimulating, rah-rah moment of the film, the boiling-with-rage Spock takes one last whack at Khan, delivering a swift uppercut that I think would have knocked Mike Tyson out. Seriously.
This whole notion that Khan’s blood was “needed” to “resurrect” Kirk was a bit farfetched – in what was a cool, charming moment earlier in the film, McCoy ends up experimenting on a Tribble (remember those from the original TV show?), injecting a dead one with a serum of some kind derived from Khan’s blood and which ends up bringing the little furry creature back to life. Of course, the legendary Captain Kirk isn’t dead at all, brought back to functioning consciousness and ready to accept the Federation’s next mission. Abrams ends the film with another nod to Roddenberry’s “Trek” world, as the crew sets out on their famous “five-year mission” to “explore strange new worlds” and…well, you know how that goes. And what of Khan? Well, Abrams would like us to believe he has been re-frozen – along with his surviving followers – to never again be awakened any time soon. But isn’t this leaving a massive “what if” loophole? I don’t know…
I applaud many efforts made by Abrams here -- trying to look past the franchise-killing writing team that assisted him with this – in attempting to re-inject themes and elements from The Wrath of Khan because this was, after all, a film that resurrected this legendary villain in a new vision. But the injections weren’t subtle and some of them came off to obvious or blatant – I mean, having “Scotty” here (Simon Pegg) say the line about “flooding the radiation compartment” just as McCoy did in Wrath of Khan when Spock (Quinto) discovers Kirk (Pine) has been killed? Or using that whole scenario about Spock saving the ship at the end – but turning it completely around so that Kirk saves them instead and Spock is the one going after Khan? I don’t know; it seemed kind of corny and obvious to me. Still, the target audience for these rebooted projects are those with not that much knowledge – if any at all – of the older films or shows so perhaps the filmmakers were counting on most people watching this not to know who Khan originally was (Ricardo Montalban) or what events transpired in this storyline. The whole reimagining of Khan here was still ridiculous to me – as cool as those fight scenes with him were – and ended up coming off like a Khan that belongs in a Deep Space Nine episode or “Next Generation” followup film or something; those of us who grew up on steady doses and reruns of The Wrath of Khan, or who played our VHS copies until the tape wore out, were used to the cock-diesel Ricardo Montalban portraying this cold, heartless villain and I just couldn’t accept the scrawny, lanky, give-that-guy-a-sandwich Benedict Cumberbatch playing him here.
That being said – I actually thought this was a good action flick, even if it stood on its own and didn’t wear the “Star Trek” moniker. Additionally, I thought it was better than the first one, fusing “Trek-esque” overtones with amped-up action sequences and setpieces that gripped especially towards the end. Do I like Pine as Kirk? No. Will I ever come to accept Karl Urban as Bones, Simon Pegg as Scotty, John Cho as Sulu or, worse, the ridiculous Anton Yelchin as Chekov? NEVER. But I admit to maybe considering this for a buy down the road if I can find it cheap and used…
A word to note: The Blu-ray copy I sampled last night was crippled – about halfway through – by freezing, stuttering and locking up problems that really got annoying after awhile. The disc would freeze the scene in place, then continue a bit, then show the actors as if the fast-forward button was pressed, proceeding in an odd, dramatic slow-motion effect; I didn’t stop the disc and reload it to remedy this, rather just waited to see if it would “correct itself” which it eventually did after about 10 minutes of this nonsense. I am uncertain if it’s just a bad disc that I got – or if there’s a batch of these floating around out there that may be defective. If you experienced this stuttering/freezing issue, please let me know.
[img]http://t2.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcTGNc9yimevEkARiPC0zf0HIrv1nGl9XDFhSLXPMTX-Ye_cMt2kJ8x_21yXrg[/img]VIDEO QUALITY ANALYSIS: HOW DID THE DISC LOOK?
Sound and picture were absolutely fantastic on this Blu-ray release of Star Trek Into Darkness by Paramount in conjunction with Bad Robot. Aside from the aforementioned stuttering/freezing problem about halfway through the feature, the 2.40:1 transfer in 1080p clearly outshined the 2009 film’s visuals (to me anyway), bursting from beginning to end with ridiculous amounts of detail, clarity and an almost surreal look in certain sequences – take, for example, the opening scene when McCoy and Kirk are running on that alien planet through those sticks of “red plants”…this sequence was rendered with an eye-popping quality that really can’t be explained in words. The clarity, dimensionality and vividness of the elements on display during this opening scene were jaw-dropping, the eye-searing reds of the plants the characters are running through making for a beyond-cartoony characteristic that truly shows off a high definition display’s capabilities. I can only imagine what this scene looks like on a modern-day expensive LCD set or one set in “Vivid” or “Dynamic” picture mode – it would be fun just to view this one sequence in one of those “torch” modes.
Beyond the opening sequence, the Blu-ray transfer of Star Trek Into Darkness was gorgeous in nearly all aspects of judgment – detail, depth of field, color saturation, accurate skin tone representation, black level…the close ups of Chris Pine and Bruce Greenwood’s (Chris Pike) faces in particular were rendered with a stunning quality, as if the characters were about to pop off the screen. Nearly every stich in the throwback-style Federation uniforms were able to be made out, while the material used for the pants the male officers wore and the miniskirts the female officers donned were clearly visible and vibrant. That typical J.J. Abrams “lens flare” was all over the place yet again here, as it was with the first film, so those flashes of blue and white streaking across some sequences were seen in all their annoying glory – but aside from that (and some cool/cold/steel blue color temp swings) this was an outstanding Blu-ray presentation from Paramount.
[img] http://b-i.forbesimg.com/johngaudiosi/files/2013/05/Star_Trek_Into_Darkness_32.jpg[/img]AUDIO QUALITY ANALYSIS: HOW DID THE DISC SOUND?
Wow – this one was a barnstormer. While not quite as aggressive and punch-you-in-the-gut in characteristic as G.I. Joe: Retaliation, the 7.1 Dolby TrueHD mix accompanying the Region A Blu-ray of Star Trek Into Darkness was a loud, obnoxious (in a good way), aggressive and bone-crushing audio experience. You know, when I read some critics’ and reviewers’ opinions about the first film’s TrueHD mix and how they gushed about it, I just didn’t understand it – I didn’t find the mix on that disc to be all that great to be honest. It held a subtlety about it that I didn’t care for, as if it were purposely being hushed behind a secret trap door. That’s not the case with the sequel – from the beginning scene when the Enterprise zooms out of the ocean of that alien planet, the TrueHD mix, played on my system in 5.1, was bombastic and utterly enveloping, with no sense of any kind of restraint. The bass in the LFE channel walloped enough to shake the walls and everything on it of my listening room while not being so “sloppy” and “loose” that the bass notes lost their tightness – the bass was uber-tight and controlled, thudding enough to engross you totally in the action onscreen.
Surround activity, meanwhile, was absolutely off the charts, directional cues and effects being thrown this way and that during action and ship battle sequences; there were moments, such as the Klingon/Khan confrontation scene at the edge of the Neutral Zone, when the zaps of phasers and other weapons were so aggressive and sharp, the audio effects could almost be felt in the center of the chest. Really, really nice audio work here by the designers and Paramount. My only regret is not having the extra back surrounds hooked up to get fully immersed in this 7.1 track. In particular -- hold on for that sequence in which Khan's ship is falling to Earth and taking out building after building...wow. The dynamic range and sheer crush of the pressure levels here were incredible.
Not nearly as bad as I was expecting, based on what I had read on other sites and via pre-reviews. In my opinion, it was better than Abrams’ 2009 Trek but of course I’ll never enjoy any of these more than I do Roddenberry’s original vision with Shatner, Nimoy, Doohan, Kelley et al. This was not Khan – at least the one I and other old “Trek” fans know – as conceived initially and it was really bizarre to have a pasty, pale and scrawny British guy play him. But executed and taken as a whole, Star Trek Into Darkness was surprisingly entertaining with powerful action setpieces, sequences depicting the poor starship Enterprise taking a beating in battle yet holding its own and returning fire, well-choreographed hand-to-hand combat scenes and a kinetic feel missing, of course, from the 1980’s/1990’s-era Trek feature films. That being said, I really can’t imagine Leonard Nimoy – or William Shatner of the ‘80s for that matter – engaging in such physical fights with “Khan” as Zachary Quinto did here; it just wouldn’t work. And the whole reversal of the Wrath of Khan plot as it connects to Kirk/Spock saving the day I still have issues with; it doesn’t sit right with me.
That’s all I can really say about Into Darkness right now, but I’m sure I’ll think of some more points to analyze – in the meantime, let’s discuss the film, fellow ‘Shacksters, as well as your thoughts on the audio and video presentation on Blu-ray!