Star Trek Into Darkness
2009’s big-budget reboot of the beloved sci-fi franchise was a zippy, inventive outer-space thrill ride that lacked an ethical conundrum (the soul of "Star Trek") but made up for it with flashy production and colorful characterizations of familiar cosmic heroes.
The first sequel, "Star Trek Into Darkness," is bigger, louder, and, during its theatrical run, presented in the requisite 3D. (There is also a home video 3D version.) This time, however, the filmmakers’ reliance on speed fails to carry the day; in an epic show of pandering to the fans, the writers and director have created a movie that’s almost entirely built out of memorable moments and high concepts not only from earlier "Star Trek" movies, but also from Sci-fi films of all sorts.
There’s a silver lining to this Blu-ray release, and that’s the happy news that on the small screen, the new movie’s flaws are less glaring and its strong points -- all to do with style, rather than narrative, character, or storyline -- seem a little sturdier and numerous. Maybe it’s due to the oft-voiced observation that Star Trek’s natural habitat is television, rather than the cinema; or, maybe it’s simply a matter of being able to pause the film for a few minutes when one grows too fatigued (or bored, or irritated) to carry on without a gulp of Red Bull and a half a bag of something crunchy, plus a stroll around the block.
For a summer tentpole movie, this Blu-ray / DVD Combo release seems curiously shy of extras. The reason? Paramount has decided to release the special features across the various DVD, Blu-ray, and online editions. (Head to iTunes if you want to hear J.J. Abrams’ director’s commentary audio track.)
Here’s what the Blu-ray disc offers. It’s a little disappointing: These featurettes seem rote, as if intended for some sort of catalogue. We get little documentaries about "Creating the Red Planet" (this includes a close-up look at filming the scenes in which it’s Spock Versus the Volcano), "The Attack on Starfleet" (terrorism in the perfect world of the 23rd century: How topical!), and "The Klingon Home World" (the reinvented bad guys of the Trek universe now sport piercings and, strangely, pointed ears).
We also take a closer look at the movie’s villain, "John Harrison," a name that turns out to be an alias for a decidedly English-looking Punjabi war criminal whose true identity is Khan Noonien Singh. (Actor Benedict Cumberbatch mouths the name in a manner consistent with his overall acting style: He practically gnaws its limbs off, his mouth growing large and alarmingly animated as he utters The Big Reveal.) There’s even a featurette that shows us what Chris Pine (who plays Kirk) and Cumberbatch had to go through in order to film a sequence in which they space-hop from a critically battered Enterprise to a huge, and much more powerful, enemy vessel. (Say, haven’t we seen this, or something very much like it, in each of the last three Trek films?)
Finally, we get a featurette that focuses on the fisticuffs that erupt between Spock (Zacharay Quinto) and Khan, as they ride a garbage scow through the skies above a half-destroyed San Francisco. There is also a pair of short subjects about a real-life project to reorient returning American service members by organizing community service outings in which they may participate. With this last, we finally see something resembling authentic military culture, not to mention real heroism.
This release is for "Star Wars" fans (if J.J. Abrams has proven one thing, it’s that the two franchises don’t have to be mortal foes -- not if they can pull off the creative equivalent of a corporate merger), die-hard Trek completists, and those who wonder what the updated Sherlock Holmes of the popular BBC drama would be like (brilliant, insufferable... genocidal...) if stripped of his moral compass and hurled into the future via a cryogenically-equipped sleeper ship.