- on Saturday, 11 June 2016 23:40
- by Loron Hays
PLEASE NOTE: This review is for the director’s cut of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan released June 7th, 2016. There are audio and video issues with the release we hope Paramount fixes soon. See the Blu-ray tab for an explanation of the present issues.
I literally have tears in my eyes as I write this. The new 4K scan with HDR grading of the director’s cut of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan is a thing of beauty. The space battle sequences inside the Mutara Nebula in this transfer are an absolute delight as the color grading has finally been corrected, making the 2009 blu-ray release completely disposable. Rumor has it the rest of the movies in the series will be getting the same treatment soon. Fingers crossed this means we will be seeing a director’s cut of Star Trek: The Motion Picture AND Star Trek V: The Final Frontier.
But let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves here. It is right here, with this release in 1982, where Star Trek gets its forward momentum and is launched (or re-launched) into the stratosphere of our popular culture. Complete with a redesign of the uniforms, this re-tooling of Trek lore saw Gene Roddenberry as a consultant only (a role he was reportedly displeased with) as Harve Bennett took over for the cinematic treatment. As beloved as the crew’s first outing on the big screen is, I think we can agree that the changes made were a good thing. The movie does, after all, introduce a story arc that wouldn’t be resolved for another two movies and that in itself is a stroke of genius.
Hell, the whole production is pretty ingenious if you ask me.
I mean, I haven’t even begun to wax poetically about composer James Horner’s memorable score. It is a perfect complement to this space adventure. I have a confession to make to you all. I have seen Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan at least 100 times. At least but probably more. I have even taught a college and high school course using it as a text. The first twenty times I watched it was during its run in theaters. I was 7 and the movie affected me on many levels. I remember the sobs in the audience and my own cries as Spock is laid to rest.
The bottom-line is that I have the movie memorized. Each and every line of dialogue, every musical cue, the sound effects, even the movements of the actors are all stored in my brain as if it were a damn computer program replaying on an almost daily basis. All I have to do is flip a switch and there it is. I was not alive during Trek’s original run on television but I caught all the episodes in syndication. I have seen each and every Trek movie and, by far, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan is easily the very best entertainment the series has to offer. It is not just the best Star Trek has offered audiences on the big screen; The Wrath of Khan is also one of the best movies ever made. Period.
Directed by Nicholas Meyer and made when the franchise was more than likely going to get scuttled by Paramount, the movie works as well as it does thanks in large part to the presence of Ricardo Montalbán as Khan Noonien Singh, a genetically-engineered tyrant who first made his appearance in the Star Trek episode entitled “Space Seed”. Hell-bent on revenge when he is discovered by a former member of Kirk’s crew, the movie documents the length he goes to try and defeat Kirk. As you will learn when you watch the special features, Montalbán brought his A game to the proceedings and when he finished his first speech for the cameras, every single cast member – who had been playing their parts on and off again for nearly two decades – regrouped and re-energized themselves for the revenge narrative at the heart of this journey. That’s how inspired they were by his performance.
Something special was happening and the old guard was aware of it. The Genesis Project at the center of the picture was as inspiring as Montalbán’s presence and Meyer’s direction certainly helped. In response to the much needed changes, every single member of the Enterprise crew – William Shatner as Admiral James T. Kirk, Leonard Nimoy as Spock, DeForest Kelley as Dr. Leonard "Bones" McCoy, James Doohan as Montgomery "Scotty" Scott, Nichelle Nichols as Uhura, George Takei as Hikaru Sulu, and Walter Koenig as Pavel Chekov – improved upon the material they are given, making every line memorable.
The Wrath of Khan borrows heavily from Melville’s “Moby Dick” and it is a maneuver that works on a level I’m not sure anyone at the time was aware of. Khan spits prose through gristle and blood. Kirk is his white whale. This is a movie about THE great hunt; a movie about death and life; about jealousy; about friendship; and a movie concerned with man’s mortality. All the big themes found in Melville’s grand work of fiction are in place and the script by Jack B. Sowards (with heavy uncredited input from Meyer) is a masterpiece of cinematic language; it is almost Shakespearean at times.
As it sits now, The Wrath of Khan is universally praised by critics and fans alike. And, as it was made for just under $12 million, Paramount was happy with the results. It does, of course, strike a chord of controversy as it is the film in which Spock dies. To get Nimoy back, he had to have a heroic passing and, yet, something about Spock’s death touched Nimoy and, after finding ways wiggle out of its finality, the death was presented – rather cleverly – in a manner that gave audiences hope for a new sun to rise over Spock’s resting place on the Genesis planet.
The three additional minutes that make of the bulk of the Director’s Cut are trimmed minutes that add to some serious character development. It’s amazing what a few tweaks can do for some of the outlining characters. Put back in their proper place, we get the background information on Scotty’s relative onboard the Enterprise, more details about Kirk’s son, extended conversations between Kirk and McCoy concerning the gift of the eyeglasses and the moral debate over Genesis, and some added moments with Chekov and Dr. Carol Marcus.
Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan is literally the movie that the rest of the franchise is built upon. If it had failed…shit…I don’t even want to imagine that world. What a miserable place it must be. Fortunately, Meyer saved the series and built a foundation worthy of soldiering on and on and on and on.
Warp Speed, Mr. Sulu.
MPAA Rating: PG for violence and language
Runtime: 113 mins
Director: Nicholas Meyer
Writer: Jack B. Sowards
Cast: William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley
Genre: Action | Sci-fi
Tagline: At the end of the universe lies the beginning of vengeance.
Memorable Movie Quote: "To the last, I will grapple with thee... from Hell's heart, I stab at thee! For hate's sake, I spit my last breath at thee!"
Distributor: Paramount Pictures
Release Date: June 4, 1982
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date: June 7, 2016
Synopsis: With the assistance of the Enterprise crew, Admiral Kirk must stop an old nemesis, Khan Noonien Singh, from using the life-generating Genesis Device as the ultimate weapon.
Available on Blu-ray - June 7, 2016
Screen Formats: 2.35:1
Subtitles: English, English SDH, French, Portuguese, Spanish
Audio: English: Dolby TrueHD 7.1 (48kHz, 24-bit); French: Dolby Digital 2.0; Spanish: Dolby Digital Mono; Portuguese: Dolby Digital Mono
Discs: Blu-ray Disc; Single disc (1 BD-50)
Region Encoding: A
As I wrote earlier, the new 4K scan with HDR grading of the director’s cut of Star Trek 2: The Wrath of Khan is a thing of breathtaking beauty. Presented in an 2:35:1 aspect ratio, the transfer quality does not disappoint. The color grading has been corrected and, while not as saturated as the DVD versions, there is a depth to the picture which has been missing for years. The images are strong and detailed and, as suggested, imply a depth of field that extends the frame. The black levels are consistently solid and the special effects – the majority of which are practical – sill work. The lossless Dolby TrueHD track is a rattling thing of real beauty, too. Turn up the sound and ease back. Let James Horner wipe those tears away.
A note of warning to buyers, there are a couple of issues with current release of the director’s cut. There’s a quick duplicate scene at the beginning of the movie involving Sulu that is hard not to notice and, later on, an audio dropout involving Kirk and Spock in a Jeffries Tube that was once a deleted scene. This is the scene where Kirk tells Spock that David is his son and Spock quips back, “Fascinating.” Paramount is aware of the issues and will hopefully make an announcement about fixing the errors soon with replacement discs.
- You have several to choose from. This is the definitive version to own, so every commentary from the previous releases (2002 and 2009) has been included. There are as follows: commentary by director Nicholas Meyer (Director’s Edition & Theatrical Version), commentary by director Nicholas Meyer and Manny Coto (Theatrical Version), Text Commentary by Michael and Denise Okuda (Director’s Edition), and Library Computer – interactive content (Theatrical Version).
Meyer takes the captain’s chair for the all-new retrospective that kicks off the special features. For about 30 minutes, the new documentary titled The Genesis Effect: Engineering The Wrath of Khan runs and informs its viewers of just how this classic film came to be. It is a truly fascinating retrospective. The rest of the bonus features are ported over from the 2002 Director’s Edition DVD and the theatrical cut Blu-ray disc from 2009.
- The Genesis Effect: Engineering The Wrath of Khan
- Captain's Log
- Designing Khan
- Original Interviews
- Where No Man Has Gone Before: The Visual Effects of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
- James Horner: Composing Genesis
- The Star Trek Universe
- Collecting Star Trek's Movie Relics
- A Novel Approach
- Starfleet Academy: The Mystery Behind Ceti Alpha VI
- Farewell: A Tribute to Ricardo Montalban
- Theatrical Trailer