Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, 1982.
Directed by Nicholas Meyer.
Starring William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, James Doohan, George Takei, Nichelle Nichols, Walter Koenig, Paul Winfield, Bibi Besch and Ricardo Montalban.
Years after their five year mission, the crew of the USS Enterprise under now Admiral James T. Kirk are pitched against an old adversary, Khan Noonien Singh, seeking vengeance via a devastating potential new weapon…
Without a shadow of a doubt, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan is my favourite science-fiction movie. Always has been, always will be, and while critically it’s certainly not the genres best, it would be hard for anyone to deny its place high on the list. Nicholas Meyer’s sequel to the first Star Trek movie remains, even a quarter of a century and eleven movies later, the finest picture in the illustrious franchise’s history, and this brand new Blu-ray release arguably stands as the most comprehensive home entertainment release of the movie to date. It collates numerous additional features from the 2002 and 2009 releases, punches up the 4K transfer from the previous Blu-ray release, and presents a classic piece of sci-fi with a brand new, 30 minute featurette with fresh interviews with Meyer, producer Robert Sallin, and various other crew members.
You all know why The Wrath of Khan is a great movie, so let’s not belabour that point too much; it takes all of the established character and tropes of The Original Series and The Motion Picture and fashions them into a style and texture that informed the entire franchise for the next quarter century, moving away from the grande, emotionally distant utopian Federation future presented in Robert Wise’s first film and, thanks in no small part to Meyer’s grounded, humanist approach, injects a strong vein of naval rigour, character drama, humour and Shakespearian gravitas to a revenge plot line which acts ultimately as the cover for an elegy to middle age.
It’s really all about William Shatner’s now Admiral James T. Kirk rediscovering the zest for adventure we saw him experience “hopping galaxies” during the camp 1960’s show. It’s written with a keen eye for wit and introspection by Meyer, always with one eye on narrative momentum, and is filled with iconic moments not just in Star Trek but in 20th century cinema – principally the entire performance of Ricardo Montalban’s Khan Noonien Singh, one of the greatest villains in cinema history, and the climactic ‘death’ of Leonard Nimoy’s Captain Spock. It’s beautiful, measured and moving throughout, and seems to eternally stand the test of time.
You already knew that, though. What about this new Blu-ray? For a start, it boasts two fascinating, in-depth audio commentaries. The original 2002 commentary with just Nicholas Meyer is present over his director’s cut, which in truth only consists of just over three extra minutes of cutting room footage, primarily to edit in the moment we meet young Crewman Preston, Scotty’s nephew. It was always a bugbear of Meyer’s that the studio left a key character beat out of the theatrical release, so the extra scenes simply add emotional context; indeed Meyer talks in these commentaries about how he doesn’t necessarily believe *in* the notion of a director’s cut per se, and is well aware the original cut is largely perfect, though he doesn’t frame that in such egotistical terms.
He’s a frequently self-effacing, honest companion during not just this commentary but the 2009 one also included here alongside Enterprise showrunner Manny Coto on the theatrical version, which is much more of a conversational examination of the movie between the two. In both commentaries, Meyer is relaxed, thoughtful, self-critical and in places deeply philosophical about the themes of the movie, and the concepts behind it, and he boasts a wealth of interesting production facts with a refreshing candour given the distance from production. He remains proud of his work while always maintaining a respectful, critical distance, and it makes him very endearing as a creative.
You also have the Library Computer addition on the theatrical version, which plays the film with a scrolling LCARS-style series of definitions that scroll up, available to click on, in tune with the script – a quick and handy way of learning more about the Star Trek universe and it’s constructs along the way. There is also a Text Commentary on the director’s cut from Michael & Denise Okuda, the legendary encyclopaedic official gatekeepers of the Trek universe, which throws in lots more interesting tidbits along the way in the form of trivia which pops up on the screen, and perhaps serves as an alternative to those who may not want to listen to full audio commentaries.
The exciting new addition is ‘The Genesis Effect: Engineering The Wrath of Khan’, a brand new 30 minute documentary talking about the movie from production to release, where Nicholas Meyer and producer Robert Sallin are the biggest draws as they discuss, once again with candour, the difficulties and obstacles to overcome in making the movie. Meyer revives plenty of his anecdotes from his two commentaries, but it’s nonetheless still hugely enlightening, even if perhaps it could have been a touch longer. Stocked up behind it are features from previous DVD and Blu-ray releases:
– ‘Captain’s Log’ – an older 30 minute documentary about the film called featuring some of the cast and late producer Harve Bennett.
– ‘Designing Khan’ – 25 minute featurette going into more depth on the movie’s production design.
– Original interviews from 1982 of William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley & Ricardo Montalban – running for 10 minutes.
– ‘Where No Man Has Gone Before: The Visual Effects of The Wrath of Khan’ – which runs for 20 minutes.
– ‘James Horner: Composing Genius’ – a 10 minute music featurette featuring the late composer.
– ‘Collecting Star Trek’s Movie Relics’ – an 11 minute featurette on the wider collectibles in the Star Trek universe.
– ‘A Novel Approach’ – a 30 minute featurette with Star Trek novel writer Greg Cox (a real gentleman I’ve been lucky enough to interview in the past), and fellow writer Julia Ecklar, discussing the wider novel universe.
– ‘Starfleet Academy SciSec Brief 002’ – a fictional, in-universe, 3 minute featurette presented as a Starfleet briefing about the theoretical events leading up to The Wrath of Khan.
– ‘Farewell’ – a 5 minute featurette as a tribute to the late Ricardo Montalban, featuring Nicholas Meyer.
– 13 detailed storyboards.
– Original theatrical trailer.
It’s comprehensive, basically, bringing together all of the features from the previous releases of the film and delivering a Blu-ray packed with extras which will leave you with a rounded, clear insight into a production which took a franchise in serious danger of losing relevance and a place in the cinematic landscape, and charted the course for much of the modern Star Trek fans have loved for decades. The transfer here too is gorgeous; rich, clear, and losing the blued colour grade that the 2009 release delivered, giving perhaps the most stunning 4K render of the picture yet. You can practically see the muscles rippling on Ricardo Montalban’s unbelievably not-prosthetic torso!
You’re probably a fan of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan if you’re a fan of cinema. I’ve never met many of one without the other, but this release really is your chance to fully immerse yourself in and explore one of the greatest science-fiction movies of the 20th century. If you were to ask me how this Blu-ray made me feel, as someone who first discovered this picture when I was just a 6 year old boy, I’d say “young… I feel young”.
Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan: Director’s Cut is out now.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Tony Black is a freelance film/TV writer & podcaster & would love you to follow him on Facebook& Twitter.