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Star Trek Trilogy - 4K Blu-ray Review

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This reviewer is a little slow to update to new technologies. When it came time to replace some of my old equipment, I dove deep into the pros and cons of the next (and many say last) generation of home movies: 4K. The pros and cons of yet another format are involved and not a blanket statement. For example, when you hear that a lot of alleged 4K moves are in fact up-scaled lower resolution scans, why you drop extra money for a ‘fake’ 4K disc? Also true, is that most of the high end blockbusters we consume are still rendering their effects at 2K, because it takes forever to render the files. With the boom of physical media well and truly behind the average Joe, the advent of streaming becoming ever more favoured, why even bother going down this rabbit hole?

Having just watched the ‘Kelvin Universe’ Star Trek trilogy, I’ll attempt to show you why. This is what the 4K naysayers refer to as a ‘fake’ bunch of discs. IE: they are 2K up-scaled prints with the HDR. It’s HDR you should remember as we go through the movies. The film reviews are simply ported over from theatrical releases, but I’ll go into a bit of the experience of these movies on a modern system and, for the trilogy at least, show why what may be true of some discs isn’t true of all. Come to those of us who are lucky enough to indulge this wonderful pastime, and we’ll try and share our experiences as best we can.

Star TrekSTAR TREK (2009)

Many moons ago a younger version of myself was befriended by a fella in high school that loved Star Trek—REALLY loved it. Having always been a bit cold on the adventures of Kirk and Spock, and thinking the new bald guy in the new Star Trek show (The Next Generation) was a cranky old British bastard, it took him some time to bring me around. But my pal’s insistence paid off in the end, and I became an eager consumer of all the Star Trek series/films, etc. More than that, I now share in its appeal to millions of Trekkies/Trekkers/whatever the hell you like to be called, and share your passion.

Why the hell am I telling you this? Well, I am about to go see J.J. Abrams retooling of the original Star Trek characters, and no matter how much I like the creator of Alias and Lost (to name but two of his excellent works) the news that ‘Star Trek’ was to be remade did not sit well with me at all—I hated the idea.

"Paramount gave the reigns of a beloved franchise-gone-by to a very talented and respectful creator. If it had to be done, then Star Trek fans the world over can breathe a sigh of relief J.J. Abrams got the gig"


Star Trek has proven time and again its legs to continue with new permutations, new characters, and its creator Gene Roddenberry was a forward-thinking man. So what possible reason could there be to rehash what has come before? Apart from the usual money hungry corporate lack of imagination that seems to be plaguing our silver screen in ever-greater volume (and robbing new generations of future classics of its own by unimaginatively re-whatever-ing ours.)

But I digress, in two hours I may have a better answer. Having been quick to reject, slow to come around the first time to ‘Star Trek’ and its spin offs, I will not make the same mistake twice. See you in two hours.

Back. Well, there’s good news and bad. First the good: Star Trek works like Gangbusters. It’s exciting, fast-paced, has an engaging, emotional story, a powerful antagonist (Australia’s Eric Bana), breathtaking visuals, unparalleled action, and J.J. Abrams has admirably succeeded in his intention to redefine the series.

This is an origin story for all seven iconic characters (no small task to squeeze into one film), but with Abrams’ pedigree in providing great character development with large ensemble casts—while maintaining an active pace—if anyone was going to pull it off it was him. Without spoiling the story, nor getting bogged down in the multitudes of plots and subplots, this film takes our heroes from youth to the men and woman assigned to the Starship Enterprise that we remember. Any deviation from what was canon before has been answered by the plot (whether you accept it or not is up to you). The fact that they use the legendary Leonard Nimoy to achieve this is a poignant and respectful nod to all that everyone involved wants to honour what has come before them.

The actors inhabiting roles vacated by legends after five decades had their work cut out for them, but each and every one of them rises to the task and makes it their own. Karl Urban may be the closest to dangerously imitating his predecessor, but I suspect with another film under his belt, Leonard McCoy will become his own. Chris Pine is an outstanding leading man, has channeled some Harrison Ford into his Kirk, has an incredible sense of comic timing and was a joy to follow.

The bad: The frenetic pacing can get a little overwhelming, with very few moments of calm. There are several plot contrivances that seem a little too convenient, none the least being a cadet becoming a captain rather rapidly. Is it sufficiently explained? Sure. Is it believable? Not really. The trek techno-babble has been stripped to its bare minimum, and, being expounded in moments of crisis, it tends to get a little lost. If the intention of the makers is to make Star Trek more accessible to a wider audience (and they insist that is one of their goals) then more care is needed or the Sci-fi newbies are likely to miss something, or simply lose interest. But by far the most profound negative for this reviewer must be an unsatisfied answer to the question: Was a reboot necessary? With very little tweaking this film would have worked with new characters. Did it have to be Kirk and Spock and Co.? Why must we go back, when we could go forward? Well the answer is IP safety for the studio.

At least, in this era of unrelenting unoriginality, Paramount gave the reigns of a beloved franchise-gone-by to a very talented and respectful creator. If it had to be done, then Star Trek fans the world over can breathe a sigh of relief J.J. Abrams got the gig. Unlike a lot of remakes, this one is worth the time, this one truly has a shot of connecting with a new generation, and this one looks to be the beginning of something fresh and great.

4/5 beers

Blu-ray

Blu-ray Details:

Star Trek (2009) / 4K Ultra HD + Blu-ray + Digital - Review

VIDEO:

Star Trek was shot in 35mm, and upscaled to 4K from a 2K scan. This means, if you’re buying the Fake vs Real division it’s a fake. Having just watched it, however, on an 82 inch Samsung QLED, that isn’t all she wrote. The 1080p Blu-ray looks gorgeous on this set also, and would get no complaints from anyone, but the 4K release ups the ante considerably with HDR (High Dynamic Range) and makes everything on the screen pop. Dimension in every scene is sharply and firmly on another level. The colours of the uniforms leap off the screen, with every primary-coloured seam so brilliantly rendered, you feel like you could pull one off the display. JJ’s penchant for lens flare is also emboldened and given more depth in this transfer, as is Quinto’s five o’clock shadow, but by far the greatest sharpening is in the blacks in any scene (and in a movie about space, there’s plenty). You get deeply inky blacks in this picture that go beyond the blacks of the Blu-ray while sharpening its muddy details to full potential. This is an extraordinary looking picture and in no way inferior. Could they do better with a 4K scan? I would be hard pressed to see the difference. Don’t know if Paramount employed any DNR, but the only thing I could see being better, is a truer to source grain detail in the future, should they choose to bother.

AUDIO:

A 7.1 DOLBY ATMOS mix that is about as good as it gets, and extremely busy through all channels from the first scene. It’s bold, immersive, thrilling. Dialogue through the centre is crisp and never drowned out by the weighty and constant pounding of the sub and rears. Absolutely first rate stuff.

Supplements:

Commentary:

  • None

Special Features:

I got sent the trilogy set, which includes all three movies with the Blu-ray counterpart included and the features of those releases still there. As with most 4K discs these days, (as they take up a whole lot of storage space on a disc) there isn’t anything much. You do get the same commentary track from the Blu-ray.

Blu-ray Rating:

  Movie 4/5 stars
  Video  4/5 stars
  Audio 5/5 stars
  Extras 3/5 stars

Overall Blu-ray/4K Experience

4/5 stars


Star Trek Into DarknessSTAR TREK INTO DARKNESS (2013)

 You could never accuse JJ Abrams of not having courage. Here is a near 50 year-old franchise with more television and cinematic entries than most in the world, with a rich history, and a ravenous and supporting fan base, and he decides to remake it.

2009’s Star Trek was a wake-up call to the world that the adventures of the Starship Enterprise still had some legs, and with a little modernization in pacing and some stripping back of tired old formulas, the film was a roaring success—the most successful Star Trek film ever. So a sequel was a done deal.

"There is no reason you can’t come to this movie and have a good time. Set your brain to stun, and a visual, engaging feast awaits you."


Where to go? They had successfully ret-conned the adventures of Kirk and Spock and could take it pretty much wherever they liked. Without getting into spoiler territory, if you thought they had balls last time, the direction they chose this time can only be described with one word: brave.

Jim Kirk and crew roar into the sequel, breaking one of Starfleet’s most sacred mandates. In the aftermath, Kirk is relieved of his command and the crew is split apart. When a 23rd century terrorist by the name of John Harrison begins attacking Starfleet and its personnel, a great loss befalls Kirk. He begs for the chance to redeem himself and bring Harrison to justice for his crimes. But all is not what it seems, and the price will be high for Kirk to learn from his mistakes and to better himself.

Let’s go with the good first, because there’s plenty of it. Again, the pacing of this film makes it accessible to anyone. It is a fun, action packed, rollicking good ride through space. The characters, by and large, are established now and the actors playing them have settled in well. Effects are extraordinary again. Music is similar to the last movie, with no standout new themes coming through, but it’s a good continuation of the last flick. There’s great humour again, accessible and relatable characterizations, and a solid continuation of a more humanized, less sterile Star Trek universe.

The bad: the script’s attempts at complexity quite often fall flat or come across as convolution for the sake of it. They show courage in tackling things most Trekkers consider sacred, but I don’t believe it’s successful this time out—too tall an order. I was hoping to see more of Karl Urban’s McCoy become his own in this one, but he’s really not given that much to do. Not his fault. Benedict Cumberbatch’s character is full of surprises, but I think he is under-utilized, and considering the big reveal of his character, more screen time was required and a more exciting conclusion warranted. There are some poignant themes that are weakened by essential rehashes of scenes that have come before in other Trek movies: changing the players around doesn’t make it clever. And there are far too many tendrils set up in this film held over for another. Some are great, but it gets beyond a joke.

There is no reason you can’t come to this movie and have a good time. Set your brain to stun, and a visual, engaging feast awaits you. But if you’re at all familiar with Roddenberry’s original conception of Star Trek, this film is lacking it; added to which they gambled on using a Star Trek icon and don’t pull it off. They gave themselves free reign to change anything they want in this universe with the first one. Perhaps they should avoid what’s been done and, next time, ‘go where no man has gone before’.

3/5 beers

Star Trek: Into Darkness / 4K Ultra HD + Blu-ray + Digital - Review

VIDEO:

Expecting more of the same gushing about this upscale? You’re not gonna get it—you’re gonna get even more! While this is the weakest movie of the three, it looks even better than the first disc, and I didn’t think that was possible. The reason is that JJ shot some of the wow scenes in IMAX 65mm. That works out to be around 11K of resolution, and the detail at that level—even downscaled to a 2K master and then up-scaled back to 4K—is breathtaking. Although only certain scenes are delivered in the film this way, switching back and forth between 35mm shot scenes is never jarring. By picking his moments, JJ shows every colour, pore, explosion, and shadow with fine grain details that keep you glued. We don’t give half stars at Reel, and apart from a native scan of the camera negative, this is as good as it gets.

AUDIO:

FLAWLESS DOLBY ATMOS 7.1 mix. Impeccable and jaw dropping sound. A good one to show off your system’s capabilities.

Supplements:

Commentary:

  • None

Special Features:

  • Same as the other disc. Nothing new and all on the included Blu-ray, not the 4K disc.

Blu-ray Rating:

  Movie 3/5 stars
  Video  5/5 stars
  Audio 5/5 stars
  Extras 3/5 stars

Overall Blu-ray/4K Experience

4/5 stars


Star Trek Into Beyond

STAR TREK BEYOND (2016)

The previous entry in the franchise, Into Darkness, left a sour taste in many people’s mouths. JJ Abrams had decided to jump onto that other little known franchise with Star in the title. There was development and script issues galore, but when all the dust settled, Justin Lin (who had come to great acclaim helming in the Fast and Furious franchise) was chosen to helm the next entry and, they hoped, bring back some good will to the franchise.

It didn’t go to plan.

"inoffensive and decently made, but not compelling the audience to come back for more"


Star Trek Beyond sees the crew of the Enterprise going about their exploration as normal. Their captain is starting to get itchy feet, and fears atrophy is setting into his current role. Secretly, he’s been looking for other challenges, and has put into effect plans that will see him move on. But before Starfleet starts to consider his proposal, they send Kirk and company off for a rescue mission when escape pods appear and ask for aid to rescue the remainder of their crew from a stranded ship. All, however, is not as it seems, and when the Enterprise arrives at the alleged rescue site, catastrophic events besiege our beloved crew. Their rescue mission becomes a fight for survival and the threat of being stranded themselves—perhaps forever.

 This catalyst of this story is compelling and what befalls the crew early on is affecting and exhilarating, but what unfurls is an overly complicated reveal of who the main antagonist (wasted Idris Elba) is, and what his true agenda will be. Elba’s bad guy is a new creation for Trek, had the potential to be something interesting, but the execution of what we learn of him is told in past tense, not shown, and slows down the pacing of the movie. He is also just not that interesting a villain, and, considering the capabilities he’s come to have, reduces his efforts to a fist fight at the end. It’s an underdeveloped character that not even Elba can sell. Sofia Boutella had very interesting make-up and a half way decent character that has more interaction with the main players than anyone. Pine’s Kirk just seemed far too young and vital to be mentally where he is at the start of this story.  

Lin’s kinetic direction is best when he’s given terrestrial scenes. His space battles and the final charge at the end are also good, but Abram’s hyperactive camera has a different visual and Lin’s lacks his complexity.

There are definite attempts to answer some of the criticisms from fans that these movies weren’t Trek enough, and the camaraderie between the principle actors definitely earns them points, but the sum total of this one, for me, was underwhelming. 

I came out of this feeling it was okay but not great. The first of these pictures, narrative wise, gave the chance to do whatever they wanted. Their follow up made the mistake of retreading holy ground and this one stayed so closely to well trodden (and far better executed) Trek tropes that the best I can say is its safe. Inoffensive and decently made, but not compelling the audience to come back for more. They lost an opportunity to make this their own.

3/5 beers

Star Trek Beyond / 4K Ultra HD + Blu-ray + Digital - Review

VIDEO:

Beyond, unlike the first two movies, was shot with digital cameras. Paramount didn’t even release the film theatrically at full resolution, due to the amount of effects (all rendered at 2K). This gives the film a sterile and crisp as all get out appearance. Film purists will decree this look as inferior to the detail of actual film stock, but this 2K up-scale is an awesome representation of what was shot. The subject matter kind of compliments this looks in fact. I’m going to take one point off this transfer, because at 4K resolution, every technique used to make this fantasy come alive is slightly more obvious than the previous two movies. I am only guessing, as I am no cinematographer, but I would surmise the blending of layers may be a little less razor sharp in a combination of film stock and digital effects, and therefore hid the magic a teeny, tiny fraction more.

AUDIO:

Reference quality. Superb. Another DOLBY ATMOS 7.1 triumphant mix. How many adjectives can one repeat for this set? Have fun with it. Scare the neighbours across town.

Supplements:

Commentary:

  • None

Special Features:

CRAP. Again, all the features are on the Blu-ray, not the 4K disc, and are the same as the previous release, which was crap. The struggles of this film’s inception would have made for a compelling documentary, and a 5 minute nod to the late Leonard Nimoy and Anton Yelchin is a pretty insulting effort.

Blu-ray Rating:

  Movie 3/5 stars
  Video  4/5 stars
  Audio 5/5 stars
  Extras 1/5 stars

Overall Blu-ray/4K Experience

4.5/5 stars

Blu-ray

Blu-ray Details:

Star Trek: The Kelvin Timeline / 4K Ultra HD + Blu-ray + Digital

Home Video Distributor: Paramount
Available on Blu-ray
- July 15, 2019
Screen Formats: 2.39:1
Subtitles
: English, English SDH, French, Portuguese, Spanish
Audio:
English: Dolby Atmos; English: Dolby TrueHD 7.1; French (Canada): Dolby Digital 5.1; Spanish: Dolby Digital 5.1; Portuguese: Dolby Digital 5.1
Discs: 4K Ultra HD; Blu-ray Disc; Nine-disc set
Region Encoding: 4K Blu-ray: Region free; 2K Blu-ray: Region A

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