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STAR TREK
Blu-ray Edition

Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: John Cho, Ben Cross, Bruce Greenwood, Simon Pegg, Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Winona Ryder, Zoe Saldana, Karl Urban, Anton Yelchin, Eric Bana, Leonard Nimoy
Director: J.J. Abrams
Audio: Dolby TrueHD 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.40:1
Studio: Paramount
Features: See Review
Length: 126 Minutes
Release Date: November 17, 2009

“Your father was captain of a starship for twelve minutes. He saved 800 lives, including your mother’s and yours. I dare you to do better.”

Film ****

The feeling of having a movie you’ve been looking forward to more than any other release of the past several years not only live up to the hype but blowing you away in so many unimaginable ways is the rarest type of feeling for any moviegoer these days. And that’s exactly what I felt when watching J.J. Abrams’ reimagining of Star Trek. At a point when I was beginning to swear off all kinds of reboots/prequels, Abrams has made the one film of this kind that all future ones have no choice but to live up to.

And who better to than Abrams to finally give the Trek legacy the commercial crossover appeal it has been deserving of for so long. Until now, any film or television incarnation of Star Trek has pretty much been service to all the hardcore fans, among those myself and Admiral Jacobson, who have helped in keeping this universe alive since the dawn of the original series back in the late 60s. Both an admitted sci-fi geek and a master craftsman of extravagant entertainment both on the small screen (Lost) and the big screen (Mission: Impossible III), Abrams knew exactly what to bring to the table in terms of pleasing both dedicated trekkies and the rest of the those not so familiar with the universe.

The end result was enough to make a true Trek fan celebrate with absolute glee, as the movie dominated the box office this past summer and became a worldwide smash. It also won huge praise from just about every single critic in the country. It was so great to see a movie make a killing at the box office, win the critics over, and actually be deserving of both.

What makes the movie such the fantastic piece of entertainment that it is the way Abrams and screenwriters Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci found a way to properly reboot the entire Star Trek legacy. By incorporating a neat time traveling plot device, we are introduced to the characters we know and love in a whole new light, while at the same time never once abandoning any of the familiar aspects of the Trek universe. In short, it’s a win-win situation for all audiences.

The time traveling incident, brought forth by a bloodthirsty Romulan named Nero (Eric Bana), the life of James T. Kirk (Chris Pine) turns out much differently than once it was first perceived. Growing up in Iowa as a more rebellious type, the trouble making Kirk has a chance encounter with Christopher Pike (the always great Bruce Greenwood), Captain of the USS Enterprise. He reveals to Kirk the noble sacrifice his father made in his few minutes as Captain of a Federation starship, specifically how his heroic acts led to the safety of hundreds of lives, including him and his mother.

Pike advises Kirk to enlist in Starfleet, which he eventually does as a way of proving that he can become Captain in record timing. We are then treated to perhaps the one moment in Trek lore that everyone has wanted to see play out. That moment, of course, is Kirk beating the Kobyashi Maru, which he memorably reflected on in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.

This results in putting Kirk at odds with the one who designed the test, Spock (Zachary Quinto). They face off against each other in front of the Starfleet council, leaving us to wonder if things will end up turning out the way they did in the prior Trek universe. That is also another engaging aspect of this ingenious reboot.

It must be said right off the bat that the roles of Kirk and Spock have now been inhabited by two outstanding rising actors. Chris Pine is nothing short of fantastic in lead role, as he perfectly embodies what Kirk would definitely be in an alternate universe. Though it is always been barrels of fun to watch William Shatner work his magic, Pine is unquestionably a rousing successor and I’m certainly glad the role went to him and no one else.

Finding an actor to capture the spirit of Spock was as much an important key to this reboot as finding the right Kirk. Thankfully, the most fitting choice was made in Heroes star Zachary Quinto, who wonderfully captures the bold wisdom of our favorite Vulcan, while at the same time bringing a menacing edge to the character that plays out in some truly powerful moments. Remember, this is a slightly different Trek universe, and this is a somewhat different Spock.

And the movie has loads of fun in its re-introducing of every wonderful character, most notably that of Dr. Leonard McCoy, played with magnificent gusto by Karl Urban who beautifully echoes the spirit and wit that the late DeForest Kelly brought to the role. The first encounter between Kirk and Bones is truly a moment to behold, as Urban’s McCoy wastes no time delving into his paranoid feelings about space and the danger it can bring.

The rest of the Enterprise crew is also done justice by the likes of John Cho as Sulu, Anton Yelchin as Chekov, Simon Pegg as Scotty and the stunningly gorgeous Zoe Saldana as Uhura. There’s also a unique surprise in the dynamic between Kirk and Uhura, as we expect the same thing that happened between Shatner and Nichelle Nichols to happen once more the minute they start talking. It turns out Uhura is already spoken for, and the lucky guy she’s with might surprise you indeed!

Although the Trek universe has never been without its share of action set pieces, they’ve never been a hugely significant part of the franchise…until now! Abrams has injected some of the best action and visual effects to be seen in any movie EVER. A pivotal scene where Kirk and Sulu transport themselves (in an entirely different way) to a drilling device at the center of Vulcan has to be seen to be believed…and we even get to see Sulu put his fencing technique into action!

As far as the story itself goes, I won’t dive into too much more details except to mention that the centerpiece does involve the return of Leonard Nimoy, whose first appearance in this movie got immense cheers from audiences at every screening I went to…and deservedly so! Spock, as it turns out, is connected to the time traveling incident at the beginning of the movie. He is also the target of revenge by the villainous Nero, who’s now hell bent on destroying the Federation and all of its planets.

I could frankly go on forever about why I love this movie, which for me is THE BEST Star Trek movie to date. Don’t get me wrong, I still have immense love for Wrath of Khan, The Undiscovered Country and First Contact, but as far as mixing in elements to create the absolute perfect Trek movie, this is as great as it can possibly get. J.J. Abrams has painted a glorious big screen canvas for Star Trek live on in, and I cannot wait to see what he has in store for us in the follow up!

Video ****

Phasers set on STUNNING!!!! Sorry, couldn’t resist, but Paramount has made one amazing stunner of a Blu-ray presentation with this eye-gazing visual extravaganza. Abrams’ vision is power-packed, to say the least, in the visuals department, and every hint of color and detail in the picture is brought to super-stellar life in the 1080p. The outstanding visual effects look even more so in the world of HD. Whether it’s the dark atmosphere of space, or the bright, rocky landscape of Vulcan, your eyes are in for a big bang of a treat as this is easily one of the best looking Blu-ray presentations this year!

Audio ****

Since Paramount had recently resorted to DTS HD tracks for their Blu-ray releases for Transformers 2 and G.I. Joe, I was expecting the same thing on this release and was a bit worried when I noticed it was a Dolby TrueHD, simply because I didn’t think it would live up to the DTS mix of the previous two. Thankfully, that wasn’t the case as this sound presentation is nothing but mind-blowingly awesome from beginning to end. The movie has so much fast, furious and incredible sound presence right from the very beginning of the movie, and it never lets up for a second. Michael Giacchino’s riveting music score, which is the best score I’ve heard all year, is simply a treat for the ears, as are the incredible action set pieces and effects work. Without question, a true front runner for Best Sound at this year’s upcoming DMC Awards!

Features ****

Star Trek has been nothing but greatness on Blu-ray when it comes to extras, and Paramount was sure to keep the tradition going with a knockout 3-Disc release. Disc One includes a commentary track with writer/director J.J. Abrams, co-writers Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci, producer Damon Lindelof and executive producer Bryan Burk.

Disc Two not only gives you an abundance of behind the scenes featurettes, but also branching options while the featurettes are playing. Among the featurettes included are “To Boldly Go”, “Casting”, “A New Vision”, “Starships”, “Planets”, “Props and Costumes”, “Ben Burtt and the Sounds of Star Trek”, “Score” and “Gene Roddenberry’s Vision”. Including the branching areas on the featurettes, we’re talking around 30 individual behind the scenes vignettes. Out of this world is a fair description. We also get Nine Deleted Scenes, a gag reel a Starfleet Vessel Simulator and Theatrical Trailers.

Disc Three contains both a Digital Copy version of the film as well as a free trial of the Star Trek: D-C-A video game.

Summary:

For me, J.J. Abrams has given us The Dark Knight of 2009 in his jaw-droppingly amazing re-imagining of Star Trek. It’s an intense movie experience that is a joy to behold for both die hard trekkies and newcomers to the Star Trek legacy. And the Blu-ray handling from Paramount is absolutely fantastic and is one of the year’s biggest must-own releases!

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