Review for Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
It’s the 23rd Century, and Kirk has been made a deskbound Admiral, again! He’s in the midst of a midlife crisis, as his friends try in vain to cheer him up. But still, there is the opportunity to go back aboard the Enterprise, now a training ship half-filled with cadets, to go on a quick jaunt around the galaxy. However, trouble looms as the starship Reliant, which has been searching for a suitable planet to conduct a terraforming experiment, has happened upon the survivors of a group of genetically engineered supermen. Khan, a warrior from the 20th Century had originally been defeated by Kirk, and exiled to a barren planet. The intervening years haven’t been kind, and now the psychopathic superman has taken the Reliant and the ultimate weapon, developed by Kirk’s estranged son, and is now looking to lay a little vengeance on Kirk.
The Wrath of Khan gets a 2.40:1 widescreen 1080p transfer on this disc. Of all of the Star Trek films in this collection, it’s only the second one that was re-mastered for the Blu-ray (it then got a subsequent re-re-master for the recent Director’s Cut Blu-ray which just like the DVD releases, has a different, cooler colour timing). This is the one film in the collection that I have few if any complaints about. It’s clear, sharp and stable, with no signs of print damage or age. If there is DNR it has been applied with a light touch, as there is a layer of natural film grain apparent, and even odd moments of filmic flicker. Skin tones are natural as well, detail levels are excellent, and all in all this film is a joy to watch.
You have the choice between Dolby TrueHD 7.1 Surround English, Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround German, Spanish, and French, and DD 5.1 Surround Italian, with subtitles in these languages alongside Arabic, Danish, Croatian, Dutch, Norwegian, Portuguese, Finnish, and Swedish. Unfortunately the sound hasn’t received the same treatment as the image. It’s still the original stereo audio, up-mixed to a surround track. Sure, explosions fill the room, starships go rumbling by, and James Horner’s music is still the best and most memorable of all the films. But it does feel front focused for the most part, and dialogue doesn’t have the crystal clear and dynamic quality that you’d expect. It all sounds a tad muddy, save for the obvious moments of ADR, which are a degree clearer.
Most of the extras here are carried over from the old 2-disc Director’s Cut DVD. Certainly the Director’s Commentary from Nicholas Meyer will be familiar, as are five of the featurettes in Production and The Star Trek Universe categories, running to 109:20.
New for this Blu-ray is the audio commentary from Nicholas Meyer alongside Star Trek Enterprise producer Manny Coto. You get an interview with composer James Horner that runs to 9:33 HD, there is a disposable featurette on collecting memorabilia that runs to 11:05, plus the Starfleet Academy nonsense is here as well 3:08 on Ceti Alpha VI.
There is the fancy Library Computer trivia track, the theatrical trailer in HD, and a BD Live link.
I needn’t have watched this! Our family was a late-comer to the VHS age, picking up our first player in 1984. With that player (a Matsui if you’re wondering) we got two complimentary blank video tapes. The first films that I taped off the telly were Chisum and this, Star Trek II. With tapes being rarity, and the video being a novelty, those two films got more than a little play. It wasn’t long before I had the dialogue of The Wrath of Khan memorised, and would be quoting each line before the characters when I watched it. The videotapes, and players have been consigned to the dustbin of history for over 15 years now, and I have more than enough in the way of DVDs and Blu-rays to ration out repeat viewings (the last time I watched this was over five years ago), and I was still quoting lines at the screen last night.
But after 35 years and eleven more movies, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan still rules the roost as the best Star Trek movie ever made. It’s so good that the powers that be have been trying to remake it for the last eight odd movies, always relying on the villain with a doomsday weapon to serve as a plot (and quite often throwing in some mid-life crisis as well). Say what you will about the original series cast and the movies that they made, they at least tried to keep things fresh and original from film to film.
I really don’t know what to say about the Wrath of Khan that I haven’t said twice before on the DVD reviews on this site. I love this film. In a world where superlatives are easily applied, it seems almost half-hearted to say that this film has it all, great performances, a great story and a great script, and (for 1982) great effects, all topped off with a yes, great music soundtrack as well. With such a classic villain as Khan, a fundamental tale of revenge, and one of the most stunning climaxes that you can think of (before the sequels cheapened it), this really is as good as it gets.
This is the best looking of the Blu-rays in this collection, but best is a relative term here. While Wrath of Khan has a strong presence in HD, there is room for improvement especially when it comes to the audio, although purists will always find one or two niggles with the image. They certainly had a second try with the Director’s Cut Blu-ray to debatable effect. I’ve always thought that the Director’s Cut is an inferior version compared to the Theatrical, so this will do me fine, thank you very much. If I write here that I have no intention to dip again for the DC Blu-ray, I’ll probably be reviewing it in six months, so I won’t say that.