STAR TREK II: THE WRATH
After having released almost all the STAR TREK films as movie only editions on DVD, and in inverse order nonetheless, I am glad to see that Paramount is moving forward with the franchise by revisiting the films as special editions. Of the STAR TREK movies featuring the original cast, the even numbered movies are certainly the best, which may be the result of writer/director Nicholas Meyer polishing those particular screenplays. The Meyer influenced films certainly have the best dialogue of all the films that featured the original cast, especially numbers II and VI, both of which Meyer also directed. I also have to credit Meyer's dialogue on those films for bringing to life the kind of adversaries worthy of going head to head with James T. Kirk and the crew of the Enterprise. These unforgettable villains truly helped make STAR TREK II and STAR TREK VI stand out from the rest of the pack.
As I've stated STAR TREK II: THE WRATH OF KHAN ($25) is certainly the best of the STAR TREK movies, and it is the strength of this film that guaranteed that there would be future cinematic voyages of the Starship Enterprise. STAR TREK II: THE WRATH OF KHAN is a direct sequel to the SPACE SEED episode from the original series, although Meyer throws in more than a few references to Moby Dick. After fifteen years of exile on Ceti Alpha V, Khan Noonien Singh (Ricardo Montalban) is able to hijack a starship and sets off on a mad quest of revenge against James T. Kirk (William Shatner)- the man who left him and his followers marooned all those years ago. When Khan finds Admiral Kirk, he is in command of the Enterprise, which is on a training mission with a crew of green cadets and is ill prepared to go into battle with another starship- let alone one captained by an obsessed madman.
STAR TREK II: THE WRATH OF KHAN features the grandest space battles in the history of the film franchise and the finest acting of all the films that featured the original cast. As Khan, Montalban is the greatest of STAR TREK villains; bringing the right quality of madness and genius to the genetically enhanced superman, who pursues Kirk with the dogged determination of Captain Ahab in his quest for the great white whale. Montalban also has a knack for having the character's wonderfully florid dialogue roll off his tongue with absolutely no effort- making for one unforgettable quotable line after another. Shatner also does his finest work in STAR TREK II; his performance is his most naturalistic and poignant, especially as the film comes to its climax. Leonard Nimoy also manages his finest performance as Spock, walking a very fine line in which the non-emotional Vulcan is the focal point for the most emotional scene in the movie.
The Director's Edition of STAR TREK II: THE WRATH OF KHAN restores roughly three minutes of footage to the movie, which helps flesh out the characters even further and clarifies a plot point that has left quite a few audience members scratching their heads for two decades. None of the major plot points are changed by the restored footage, but STAR TREK II becomes a slightly stronger movie in its Director's Edition form. The cast of STAR TREK II: THE WRATH OF KHAN features series regulars DeForest Kelley, James Doohan, Walter Koenig, George Takei, Nichelle Nichols, John Winston, as well as, Bibi Besch, Merritt Butrick, Paul Winfield, Kirstie Alley, Ike Eisenmann and Judson Earney Scott.
Paramount Home Entertainment has made the Director's Edition STAR TREK II: THE WRATH OF KHAN available on DVD in a 2.35:1 wide screen presentation that features the anamorphic enhancement for 16:9 displays. In terms of video quality, this edition offers modest improvements over the previous movie only DVD, which had been the best-looking edition of STAR TREK II. The image is almost always very crisp and very nicely detailed. Occasional shots appear slightly soft, but that is attributable to original lighting and photographic factors, not a weakness in the transfer.
Color reproduction is the area where this DVD offers noticeable improvements over the previous DVD. All hues appear a bit more natural, as do the flesh tones, which are decidedly realistic and appealing. Reds are strong component of the film's color palette, and while the first DVD edition offered a marked improvement over the wildly unstable Laserdisc and VHS editions of the film, this DVD cleans up the reds ever further, reproducing them with greater clarity and stability. Blacks appear solid and inky, whites are clean and contrast is very smooth. Film stocks from early eighties didn't have the sensitivity of those in use today, so the level of shadow detail isn't quite as good as a new film. I should also note that some of the darker shots appear just a bit flat, although better-lit sequences have a very nice sense of dimension. The film element used for the transfer displays very few blemishes; although a bit of noticeable grain does creep into picture from time to time. Digital compression artifacts are very well camouflaged on the dual layer DVD.
STAR TREK II: THE WRATH OF KHAN features the same Dolby Digital 5.1 channel remix that was featured on the previous DVD release, with the restored sequences being the only difference in the soundtrack. This is a pretty good remix of twenty-year-old material, but there are limitations in the recordings that keep this from sounding like a new film. Directional sound effects seem to be limited primarily to the battle sequences, but the mix does offer a whole lot of punch during these key moments. The forward soundstage is where most of the activity lays, with the surround channels adding ambience, engine noise and musical fill. Speaking of music, James Horner's fine score sounds cleaner and more detailed in this remix than it ever did in its matrixed incarnation. Dialogue is always completely intelligible, although anything looped after the fact sounds a little unnatural. The bass channel is solid and enhances the battle sequences, although it never enters planet-shaking territory. English and French Dolby Surround soundtracks are also encoded onto the DVD, as are English subtitles.
3-D animation and sound serve to enhance the DVD's nicely designed interactive menus. Through the menus, one has access to standard scene selection and set up features, as well as a solid supplemental section. Most of the supplements are contained on a second DVD, but disc one of the set does offer some goodies. Director Nicholas Meyer is featured on a running audio commentary, which proves to be as entertaining as it is informative. Disc one also features a text commentary on a subtitle track by Michael Okuda, co-author of The Star Trek Encyclopedia. The text commentary is great, offering everything you wanted to know about STAR TREK II and related aspects of the Trek universe.
Moving on to disc two, we find The Captain's Log. Running approximately twenty-seven minutes, the program is comprised of new interview footage with Nicholas Meyer, producer Harve Bennett, William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy and Ricardo Montalban. The interviews are interesting and give insight into the people who made STAR TREK II: THE WRATH OF KHAN the great movie that it is, as well as how the project developed. Next up, is Designing Khan, a twenty-three minute program that features production designer Joe Jennings and costume designer Robert Fletcher discuss their collaboration with Nicholas Meyer to achieve the overall look of STAR TREK II. Original Interviews is an eleven-minute blast from the past, featuring interview footage with William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley and Ricardo Montalban from 1982.
Where No Man Has Gone Before: The Visual Effects of Star Trek II runs approximately eighteen minutes and features storyboards, photos, incomplete effects and interview footage with members of the Industrial Light and Magic team, who discuss how the effects for the movie were achieved- including the use of cutting edge CGI for Genesis Project demonstration. The Star Trek Universe is a twenty-nine-minute program that features interviews with Star Trek fans and authors Greg Cox and Julia Ecklar, who have created novels around the Kobayashi Maru scenario, as well as the life of Khan Noonien Singh. Storyboard Archives is an extensive stills gallery that covers thirteen individual sequences in the film. Closing things out is the film's original theatrical trailer.
STAR TREK II: THE WRATH OF KHAN is one of the best, if not the best movie to feature the original cast. Paramount Home Entertainment has done a marvelous job with the Director's Edition release by giving fans a longer version of the movie, a better looking presentation, plus the ton of supplements that they have been clamoring for. If you are a Trek fan, you must own the Director's Edition of STAR TREK II: THE WRATH OF KHAN on DVD- this is a truly great disc.
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