Star Trek (2009) Review

Star Trek does not have a subtitle, settling on a basic, to-the-point naming scheme for this franchise prequel. However, one specific potential subtitle pops-up numerous times during this otherwise fantastic sci-fi piece: Star Trek: Revenge of the Lens Flares.

No, it is not the remaining Romulan’s that cause the biggest threat to the crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise, but a non-stop assault of director of photography David Mindel’s lens flares that draw a cause for concern. They interfere everywhere, from emotionally powerful moments to high-energy action scenes. More lens flares are shown than lasers fired, a distracting photographic tool that is used here to diminish the impact of countless shots.

It is a bit of reach, but not one that will go unnoticed by many in this otherwise fantastic and involving J.J. Abrams reboot. Newcomers and veterans alike are treated to spectacle and beginnings, even if the time traveling, inter-dimensional story is a source of confusion.

Brisk pacing brings the Enterprise crew together quickly, establishing home life for Spock and Kirk, the backbone of those iconic characters that will fuel this franchise to a new generation of moviegoers. Lavish visual wizardry brings the action scenes up to date, and kinetic hand-to-hand combat on a massive drill adds a personal level to the combat, certainly a far cry from rubber lizard men in the original series.

More importantly, Abrams (along with writers Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci) gives a purpose to the action, drawing the audience into Spock’s inner turmoil as his planet is being sucked into a black hole. That scene is necessary later as a hotheaded Kirk tries to gain the Captain’s seat on the Enterprise, breaking down the otherwise controlled Spock.

Star Trek also appreciates its source material. Instead of hiding it or trying to avoid it, it relishes the opportunity to pay homage, something other reboots and remakes seem to miss. Karl Urban obviously has a blast as McCoy, overacting one-liners such as, “I am a doctor!” It is the ability of this summer blockbuster to entertain while remaining intelligently scripted that makes it a success, something McCoy is able to convey through his character, or at least when a lens flare doesn’t cut his face in half.

Movie ★★★★☆ 

Paramount’s wonderful AVC encode is mostly flawless until a deeper look. First glance reveals an immensely detailed, razor sharp, and wonderfully dimensional effort. Faces are richly textured, and the uniforms of the Enterprise crew are incredibly well defined. The depth of space is aided by rich black levels that only rarely lead to crush. A bright contrast is satisfying and never dips.

Looking deeper, small chips in this film’s visual prowess begin to show. Slight aliasing is evident on the finest of details on the ships. The same goes for Scotty’s jacket during his first appearance. Ringing is briefly evident during Spock’s meeting with the Vulcan council, and detail drops are noted multiple times, the first inside the bar as Cpt. Pike sits down to chat with Kirk. Pike’s face loses any defined detail during the conversation. Truly observant viewers will notice the image stretching slightly during certain shots, a result from the use of Panavision cameras, not the fault of Paramount’s encode.

Video ★★★★☆ 

If Star Trek’s TrueHD mix tells us anything about the future of space travel, it’s that vessels will be loaded with activity. This track is full of strong ambient audio, from the hiss of escaping steam in the Romulan ship to clanging tools inside hangar bays, immersion is a priority here.

From the start, this track begins assaulting the viewer with powerful low-end jolts from explosions. Lasers clip the hull, and debris clearly moves to the rear channels. Clarity is remarkable, and dialogue is flawlessly integrated with the chaos.

A firefight late into the film inside the Romulan ship captures all that is right with this track, from the above-mentioned steam to lasers flying by to explosions, all the way to sparks popping from missed shots in the appropriate channel. Include the score which is always maintained and this becomes a stunner from the opening moments through the end.

Audio ★★★★★ 

Three discs are crammed inside Star Trek, beginning with a loaded, active commentary on disc one with J.J. Abrams, producers Bryan Burk & Damien Lindelof along with writers Alex Kurtzman & Robert Orci. BD-Live support here will take you to a page that, as of now, features one extra, a RSS feed from NASA.

Disc two is host to a number of featurettes and documentaries, although annoyingly, many of these utilize interactive branching into additional content, although thankfully it is included elsewhere on the disc. Casting is the longest of the features, minus any branching pieces, running a half hour as cast and crew discuss the challenges these iconic characters created for the fresh faces. Additional featurettes focus on aliens, the ships, planets, and costumes. In total, this is well over 90 minutes of excellent, detailed material.

A making of is called To Boldly Go, capturing the challenge of updating the series for this generation without offending the long-time followers. Sound designer Ben Burtt has his own feature where he details the process of recording and updating classic audio effects. Likewise, composer Michael Giacchino details his approach towards the music. Deleted scenes, outtakes and trailers are followed by a detailed 3-D ship models (with trivia), while a demo for the rather awful Xbox 360, PS3, and PC game Star Trek: D.A.C is included on the digital copy.

Extras ★★★★★ 

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