Directed by: Nicholas Meyer
Starring: William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, Deforest Kelley, James Doohan, Walter Koenig, George Takei, Nichelle Nichols, Kirstie Alley, Ricardo Montalban
Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan is inarguably the best of all of the trek films. Other installments such as The Undiscovered Country may have a stronger core story that Wrath of Khan but they don’t have the balance or melodrama and space opera bravado of Khan. Love him or hate him Kirk is at his best when he’s a badass. Apparently this director’s cut has been previously released on DVD but somehow I missed it so it’s fresh to me.
The film begins with the iconic training session featuring Starfleet students on a simulated starship with some of the Enterprise crew. The failed training session sets the stage for the emotional story arc that will drive the entire film. Kirk as the teacher rather than the starship captain is feeling his age and questioning is mortality, and through the events of the film, set against this opening sequence, questions a very important part of his own emotional growth. How does Kirk deal with death, and with losing? Both questions are answered by the time the closing credits roll.
The action begins when Kirk is taking the new Enterprise on a shakedown cruise and an old flame looking for help contacts him. She is only one ghost from his past making a re-appearance in the film. The villain, Khan, has a vendetta against Kirk for the sins of his past. Cleverly the film grabs Khan and original actor Ricardo Montalban, as the cinematic protagonist. That emotional story arc established in the opening scenes of the film is fleshed out when Kirk is faced with the mistakes of his youth and the consequences of them.
Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan is a tight script with almost no fluff. The characters are established and developed in tight constantly paced scenes that lead us into the big action at a breakneck rate without ever feeling rushed. Quiet scenes of introspection and character development effectively break up the pace. Everything in this film just works. Yes the film is campy, but campy in an almost Shakespearean stage play way that is fun, action packed, and melodramatic. For a 25-year-old film everything here really holds up well. The special fx are dated yes, but the models offer a sense of realness that even the best modern CGI still can replicate. Yes the lasers are a little dated looking but they kind of work with the overt campiness.
The glue that held all of these films together was the chemistry between the actors and the feeling that they all know each other and are connected is in full affect here. In fact this film finds the entire cast settling into their roles as movie stars rather than TV actors. So, this director’s cut doesn’t offer as much additional footage as real fans might want. It ends up being about four minutes and only really hardcore fans will notice the slightly extended scenes throughout the film that make up the added time. Some scenes are flushed out just a little better though without killing the pace of the film. Star Trek II: the Wrath of Khan reaches a level of entertainment that will never be reached again by any trek film with any crew. I think the problem with the other films may be two-dimensional thinking. That will get you every time!
This new restoration is the real reason to get this blu-ray. The image quality is clean and crisp throughout and the odd blue hue that plagued the previous version of the film is gone so everything looks more natural. The 1080p presentation offers few compression artifacts and skin tones are natural throughout but there is a thick layer of film grain on many key scenes. This is the best the film has every looked and will look until the inevitable 4k version.
Here we get a 7.1 Dolby TrueHD presentation that just sounds fantastic! The hum of the Enterprise in the subwoofer highlights quiet battle scenes between starships and dialogue is always crisp and clean. The sound stage isn’t utilized as much as it could be but overall this film sounds excellent.
The Packaging and Bonus Features
The cover art on the slipcover and blu-ray box is a love it or hate it situation. I quite like it because it deviates from what we’ve seen from Paramount so far. The art comes from a limited edition custom designed Mondo poster. I do wish it could be something more than just illustrated floating heads though.
The main selling point of this film is the director’s cut and you get that along with the theatrical cut of the film. The only new bonus feature is a 30-minute featurette on the making of the film dominated by interviews with the director. It could definitely be longer but it’s a nice addition to the features here carried over from the previous release of the film. The original director’s commentary, the vintage cast interviews, the making of docs and special fx featurette are all carried over from the previous release. All together the supplements offer a lot of insight and behind the scenes stories. Good stuff.
While this director’s cut blu-ray could have used just a little more sprucing up in the presentation department the upgrades that are present make this re-issue a worthy upgrade for hardcore fans and the only version to buy for folks that don’t yet have the movie on their shelf.