Chief Justice Michael Stailey hesitantly goes where millions have gone before.
Our review of Star Trek (2009) (Blu-Ray), published November 19th, 2009, is also available.
It was one hell of a Summer for Paramount Pictures. All three of their tent pole pictures—Star Trek, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, and G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra—all broke the $300 Million mark in box office ticket sales, with Transformers exceeding $800 Million. While two of these pictures where skewered by the critics, only Trek emerged victorious in the hearts and minds of the press and fans alike—an amazing feat for a franchise that had been appreciatively euthanized only five years earlier. The Rick Berman era was no more. The studio was handing the keys to the kingdom over to a new generation, one fronted by their most promising creative force—writer, director, and producer JJ Abrams (Cloverfield, Mission: Impossible: III). JJ's posed only one qualifier to his team before accepting this Starfleet assignment: "Can we make it cool?" The answer: an unequivocal "Yes!"
Facts of the Case
The tumultuous birth of James T. Kirk. The tumultuous youth of Spock. An impressive rise through the ranks of the Vulcan education system. A disheartening lack of direction and accountability in the cornfields of Iowa. Two men on a collision course of fate—clashing personalities, fighting for the attention of the same girl, a battle of wills—which forged a friendship that ultimately transcended death itself. Over the years, we come to learn certain aspects of their early years together. Now we get to discover the whole story…well, at least one version of it.
The Starfleet Academy idea had been bandied about the studio and fan circles for years and years. But the original cast had retired—since suffering the loss of two key colleagues (DeForest Kelley, James Doohan)—the Next Generation had exhausted their box office potential (Star Trek: Nemesis didn't even make enough to cover its budget), and the subsequent spin-off series weren't enough of a draw to warrant a film treatment. The rumored idea came down to two options: introduce an entirely new cast of characters, or recast the originals and explore their origins. Neither came to pass and the studio put the franchise into cryogenic sleep…but cash cows are never fully out of sight or out of mind.
As a fan of the Bad Robot team's work, I knew JJ and company would deliver a great looking picture. However, as a fan of the original series and the films, my greatest concern was the chemistry of the ensemble. There was such an affinity audiences had for those actors breathing life into those characters, that's something you can't manufacture. And yet this script, in the hands of JJ and his team, with these actors, creates an entirely new and vibrant Trek family, rebalancing the ensemble to one in which everyone plays a critical role, something we didn't see until the very end of the original film series.
Since the DVD Verdict team is hard at work on a Supreme Court ruling for the Star Trek (Blu-ray), I'll defer an in-depth analysis of the picture in favor of focusing on the contents of this 2-Disc Special Edition DVD.
Just a side note: If you're thinking about just buying the Single Disc edition, it includes the film, the commentary, A New Vision featurette, and the Gag Reel.
Presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen, I have to admit I was spoiled by seeing the film three times in the theatre, the first being IMAX and the other two in digital projection. Now, the movie was shot on film using classic anamorphic lenses, and JJ's team did everything they possibly could in-camera, giving it an old school look. So, when you see the DVD, the image is not the fault the authoring process, but displays as intended…which, in all honesty, will be a step or two down from what you'll see on the Blu-ray. But that's life in a high-def world. The Dolby 5.1 audio field is suitably robust and sure to give all over your speakers a healthy workout. In fact, I had things a bit too aggressively set and had to quickly tone it down to avoid the wrath of my neighbors. There are French and Spanish language tracks (always a kick to hear the alternate voice casts), as well as subtitles in English, French, and Spanish.
On to the bonus material…
Commentary by JJ Abrams, his partner-in-crime Bryan Burk, producer Damon
Lindelof, and writers Bob Orci and Alex Kurtzman
Deleted Scenes with Optional Commentary by JJ, Bryan, Alex, and Damon
• Spock Birth
A New Vision (20 min)
To Boldly Go (17 min)
Casting (29 min)
Aliens (17 min)
Score (7 min)
Gag Reel (7 min)
Caveat Emptor: There is more content created exclusively for the Blu-ray release than is available here, and I know that will raise the ire of those not HD equipped. However, the cost of Blu-ray players are reported to drop considerably for the holiday season, so if you have even the slightest inkling about getting one for your home, Star Trek should probably the first title you purchase.
There's very little to say other than Star Trek exceeded all expectations. Not only were they faithful to everything in the franchise that came before it, but JJ and company have created an entirely new universe in which to explore strange new worlds, seek out new life and new civilizations, and craft compelling, big budget summer films accessible to audiences of all ages. You may not completely agree with how they got to this point, but you have to admit it's a thrill to have Starfleet back on active duty.
"So, the Enterprise has had its maiden voyage, has it? She is one well-endowed lady." Not Guilty!
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