Devious super human Kahn (Benedict Cumberbatch) returns to bridge Star Trek universes in J.J. Abrams’ bombastic and revitalized Star Trek adaptation. Captain Kirk (Chris Pine) is slung from his command chair for reckless protocol misalignment, dissent which designs itself to pull an increasingly bold crew of the USS Enterprise together.
A thematic circle of self sacrifice will bound this sequel with dramatically heavy application, souring this script from two returning and one new writer, Prometheus penman Damon Lindelof. Kirk’s Enterprise rescue run to pluck Spock (Zachary Quinto) from certain death in the maw of a volcano is an introductory visual effects sequence of enormity; Into Darkness has many to come, and this script ensures a motif of self-sacrifice is embedded into all.
Events push the Enterprise to Kronos, Klingon homeworld, to take pot shots at Kahn’s rest hole. Into Darkness is predictably structured, a series of dramatic peaks unwound as exhausting action plunges into the film’s center. This is softer science fiction, with little – if any – of 2009 Star Trek’s dimension flipping. Into Darkness proves personal, deeply ingrained with its smartly established characters, whom broaden under lens flares.
Mainstream ideals have been pushed onto Trek, and fan internet revulsion subsequently lambasted Into Darkness an irreparable failure, branded the worst of any Trek feature. It is a befuddling reaction. Into Darkness is aggressive and brash, yet hosted by a commendable recreation of Captain Kirk whose engaging attitude mimics the overall intensity of this sequel/reboot series. This Kirk demands to be surrounded by visual lavishness, something digital effects artists have imbued into this science fiction realm.
Abrams second run seems built on simplification. Narrative paths tighten to eschew convoluted story arcs, brought to a level of generalized good versus evil. Work is done with emphatic reverence for character building, elevating the film into a popcorn extravaganza hall of fame. Whereas writers Robert Orci & Alex Kurtzman Transformers work collapses into piles of computer generated mush, their Star Trek responsibilities double up on carefully molded balance.
This is not a film which finds itself constricted and suffocating on digital artistry, but rather embracing pure visual methods. Kahn’s imposingly silent, often wordless structuring in the first act is genuine exploitation of human melancholy, producing a villain with an odious moral code. Establishment is edited without waste, identifying a tremendously stalwart threat in conjunction with re-establishment of Kirk’s stubborn measures and Spock’s often impractical Vulcan code.
Into Darkness closes on a breathtaking crash landing in the heart of Earth’s USS training center, for non-fans a depiction of the film’s stumbling, ungraceful plummet from long standing lore. Those invested will be staggered by scale, which begins with seemingly innocuous rescue banter before blossoming into character driven spectacle.
Abrams’ cinematography carries no basis for its inconsistencies, whether behind those ridiculed lens flares or not. Imagery is burned with a softness bug, even carrying filtered appearances, lacking in resolution and/or definition – all of this shot dependent.
Into Darkness is flush with Hollywood’s glossy veneer, brightly lit, visibly expensive, and stocked with sharp effects. Sequences of Enterprise or any computer generated sights are astounding in their clarity. Screens fill with grandiose precision, while depth reaches levels reserved for those finest productions.
Visually, Paramount’s AVC encode is replicating a film which strives to avoid boredom, opening on a planet rich in red foliage, bolstered by exterior contrast. Spock dips into an erupting volcano, driven by black levels and glowing oranges. Enterprise is crafted with illuminated whites and pushy teal, with light impact on lively flesh tones. Expanses of space? Deep as black levels are capable of going.
Then, medium shots fail to draw similar excitement, even squandered close-ups and the use of distorting lenses pull away from Trek’s refreshed atmosphere. Into Darkness often misses its futurism angle for miscalculated rushes of intent, sans any bearing for these choices. Randomness becomes the source’s imposing quality. None of this should detract from attractive high spots – and fidelity is around – but this work is distractingly inconsistent. At least Paramount’s colossal encoding remains invisible.
Despite qualms with 3D post-conversion, Into Darkness is a compelling example of the process when handled with utmost caution. Dramatic scenes aboard Enterprise cautiously layer depth as to not distract, or boost scale where necessary. Unavoidably however, lens flares are shot to the forefront of the effect. They can be distractingly forceful.
Highlights here are numerous though, plentiful action scenes showing an invigorating 3D temperament with few visual boundaries. Into Darkness’ rush of depth defying camera work during an opening chase is dazzling, naturally exploiting technology to hide characters amongst this alien worlds indigenous plant life. While some objects are thrown into the lens to hook those seeking 3D prostitution, the rest is comfortably noticeable without shocks.
Three dimensions link space to over perform beautifully, placing Enterprise in the vastness of open orbits. Stretching effects before subspace entry are pure spectacle, and a daring ship jump with masses of debris catapulted into the lens proves flawless. There are pockets of embers or weather effects which can additionally build an engrossing visual extension.
Employment of TrueHD 7.1 further bolsters this disc’s home theater stock, with outpourings of LFE and impossibly precise mixing. If anything needs to be drudged up to knock Trek’s audio work down, it’s a series of fisticuffs with cartoon level punching response. It’s embarrassing in a grounded sci-fi world otherwise in tune with its aural embellishments.
Personal Blu-ray review notes have “bombastic” written twice for the volcano interior alone, out of accident, and also emphasis. It’s remarkable, with bubbling lava and low-end gurgle that shakes up the sub. Cue up engines from a submersed Enterprise, in addition to the water surface breaking, and the audio math equation indicates supremacy.
Into Darkness runs a gamut from shoot-outs on ground, into space for ship-to-ship rumbles, and raised into a skyscraper boardroom. None of them carry signs of weakness. A mid-space jump pans debris in appreciation of two extra surround channels, and the closing sequences are unbelievable enough to charge admission for anyone interested in demoing.
Even ambiance is mindfully positioned, with echoes on Enterprise’s deck and attention to detail employed for a short party/club scene. Praise in text seems feeble compared to the results.
Paramount chose to enter into controversy with regards to extras, splitting items up between releases, and even charging for commentary via iTunes. Others are being sent to Best Buy, Target, or other digital platforms. Consideration of the included 42-minutes (a freaturette split into seven parts for easy digestion) seems to push against the end consumer. No less than four purchases of Into Darkness are required to find everything, and across different distribution platforms.
Retailer exclusives are hardly new, but usually tapered as to be inoffensive bonuses of minimal consequence. Paramount’s approach is pathetic and unnerving if it becomes a trend. Instead of creating a value proposition, the studio has distanced content from paying customers in a deplorable exploitation of a dedicated fan base. Thus, no credit is due or given.
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