After a dismal resurrection on film with Star Trek: The Motion Picture, it appeared that the crew of the good ship Enterprise was finally stilled forever. Enter two heroes to rival Kirk and Spock in Harve Bennett and Nicholas Myers. Star Trek II is everything that shines about Star Trek. Finally the triumvirate of Kirk, Spock, and McCoy dazzle longtime fans with the chemistry that made the original series so enduring. In The Motion Picture, the characters come off stiff and cold. They hardly seem to know each other. In Wrath of Khan we believe these old friends haven’t missed a beat. Add to all of this perhaps the greatest Star Trek villain of all time in Ricardo Montalban’s enigmatic and obsessive Khan and you truly see Star Trek at its very best.
The crew of the Reliant investigates a barren planet for an ambitious scientific experiment. Science Officer Chekov (Koenig) is alarmed to learn they are on the wrong planet and are face to face with Khan (Montalban), a genetically altered superman stranded 15 years earlier by Captain James T. Kirk of the USS Enterprise. Khan manages to commandeer the Reliant in a quest for revenge on Kirk. A deadly game of cat and mouse proves victorious for the Enterprise but at a great cost.
I was a little disappointed in the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack. Although the James Horner score is vibrant and alive in ways not possible in 1982, there is actually little use of ambient sounds in the remix. Another problem, and perhaps the most aggravating, is the amount of high-end distortion that plagues the dialogue in places. The bass extension is impressive and well utilized. The background ship noises are tweaked here and add a nice touch.
There is a commentary track by director Nicholas Myers. I enjoyed it somewhat, but he tends to philosophize quite a bit and so it turns into quite a yawner at times.
Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan is presented in its original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.35:1. Considering the age of the film, the color is surprisingly vibrant. In the commentary track, Myers mentions how a film becomes dated by the way it looks and that is certainly true of the color process used on this film. Blacks are not exceptional but provide an atmospheric and detailed field of dark colors when necessary. I did notice an occasional film artifact and some shimmer in the film’s engine-room climax. Grain was consistent with the original film. There is at times a noticeable difference in film quality during some of the restored scenes. They were originally added to a TV release and stand out from the quality of the bulk of the film.
This is a 2 disc set with a nice assemblage of bonus materials. The first is, of course, the extended version of the film, about 9 minutes’ worth. Most of it enhances the story, such as the scenes where we learn that the mortally wounded cadet is Scotty’s nephew. Some would have been best left on the cutting room floor, like the extra lines McCoy spouts in his verbal duel with Spock about Genesis.
There is a collection of “Original Interviews” with Shatner, Nimoy, Kelly, and Montalban from the time of the film’s release and a newer collection called “Captain’s Log” with mostly Shatner and Nimoy. “The Universe of Star Trek” is mostly a shameless plug by two of the paperback writers of the series. A visual effects feature and “Designing Khan,” a look into the production, round out the impressive bonus features.Michael Okuda, set designer, provides a text commentary but I always find those hard to get into.
There are the usual trailers and production items along for the ride… and the menus are nice animated CGI shorts that really brighten the experience.
Star Trek returned to its roots with this film. Montalban turned in a masterful performance as did the cast of Star Trek regulars. The film is loaded with classical reference to Moby Dick as the original episode did with Dante. Even Dickens gets his two cents in when he accurately describes this Trek outing, “It was the best of times. It was the worst of times”.