Monday, June 13, 2016

Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan: Director's Cut Blu-ray Disc Review

After the release of Star Trek: The Motion Picture in 1979, Paramount Studios chose a different direction from which to bring the series to the big screen by bringing aboard well read and acclaimed filmmaker Nicholas Meyer, who in turn took the point of view of Star Trek as being essentially Horatio Hornblower in space and chose a direct link to the classic series by making the film a sequel to the classic original series episode, Space Seed and brought back Ricardo Montalban to reprise his role as the villainous Khan and gave him a lot of Melville quotes and took the series where it had never gone before by killing off a major and beloved character and throwing within the film lots of space battle action in a story that is as much about midlife crisis as it is other things and that theme would continue to play a role subtly and not so subtly in many of the Star Trek features that followed, including the ones featuring the cast of Star Trek: The Next Generation.

Set years after the events in "Star Trek: The Motion Picture," we find Kirk still in personal conflict over his desire to be Captain again aboard a Starship, which is amplified by his birthday. Kirk is still an Admiral as introduced in the previous film and the newly overhauled Enterprise is due for an inspection by Kirk with McCoy present while the ship is largely populated by trainees with Captain Spock in command on the bridge.

Meanwhile, the Federation has been developing a prototype invention that instantly terraforms uninhabitable areas of space debris or moons and planets into Class M worlds. The Starship Reliant has been searching for an uninhabited planet for a test of this project to take place. Coming across what appears to be a lifeless world, Chekov and Captain Terrell (Paul Winfield) beam down to the surface after picking up a slight lifeform sign on the planet. To their shock, they encounter the last remaining survivors of "The Botany Bay," a sleeper ship that had left the Earth in the alternate Star Trek reality of 1996 at the close of the Eugenics Wars.

The survivors are all genetically altered specimens lead by Khan (Ricardo Montalban). Six months after his encounter with Kirk, Ceti Alpha VI exploded in some cosmic disaster shifting the axis of Ceti Alpha V and virtually laying the planet to waste. Khan has gone insane with the idea of vengeance against Kirk who he blames for the death of his wife. Hijacking the Reliant, he sets out to thwart Kirk at any cost or measure. When the Genesis Device comes to his attention, Khan steals it; making the confrontation between the two ships even greater for the stakes have now been elevated to possible galactic Armageddon.

Originally released on DVD in 2002 as "The Director's Edition," this is the first time The Director's Cut has been released on Blu-ray Disc at least in the States. Previously on the theatrical cut had been available on Blu-ray and I did a direct comparison between the two and I state that while the original release looked brighter, the darker tone of The Director's Cut seems like a better fit estheticly and the picture quality, while containing a fine grain indicative of the time in which the film was made, still looks more solid than the previous release.

Approximately 4-minutes of footage previously seen only in syndicated television broadcasts before the original DVD release have been put back into the film and thus we now have a brand new  widescreen (2.35:1) aspect ratio presentation.  The English Dolby TrueHD 7.1 Surround Soundtrack is vibrant. I think both the visual and acoustic experience made me appreciate the film more so than on the previous release.  A French Language Dolby Digital Stereo Soundtrack and Portuguese and Spanish Language Dolby Digital Mono Soundtracks and English Subtitles for the Deaf and Hearing Impaired along with French, Portuguese and Spanish Language Subtitles are encoded as options too.  

Meyer is so damn articulate and talented that I am almost jealous were it not that I love and appreciate the work that I have seen from him. He gives a screen specific audio commentary that is like attending a lecture without the chilly distance between the speaker and his audience. It felt more like he was one of my college professors talking to me, the listener, personally rather than just another fan listening to the commentary. The audio commentary with Meyer and Many Coto from the previous BD release is carried over for the theatrical cut only. Both are supported by a text commentary track by “Star Trek Encyclopedia” Authors Michael and Denise Okuda and provides so much background relevant to not only what is on screen, but what was behind-the-scenes and how it relates to the “Star 
Trek” franchise as a whole and whatnot.

Previous documentaries and features from both the DVD and previous Blu-ray Disc releases are also included here like library computer option for the theatrical cut and the 27-minute “Captain’s Log,” with videotaped interviews with Actors William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, Ricardo Montalban, Writer and Executive Producer Harve Bennett, and Director Nicholas Meyer. The documentary covers the genesis (no pun intended) of the film and is very interesting. Videotaped interviews recorded in 1982 with Deforest Kelly, William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, and Ricardo Montalban, which I think adds a great texture to the new interviews on the “Captain’s Log” documentary are also included. The 1982 interviews are presented as one reel with some publicity photos at the end and has a running time of about 11-minutes. There is a 23-minute production and costume design featurette, a visual effects featurette with effects footage and  interviews with the ILM wizards behind the magical effects seen in the film. The final documentary is a combination of interviews with Authors Julia Ecklar (A Test Of Character: The Kobayashi Maru Scenario) and Greg Cox (The Eugenics Wars: A History Of Khan Noonien Singh.) What I liked about this documentary was that it gave the viewer an understanding of how these Authors develop their stories from the “Star Trek” programs and go so far as to maintain continuity with each other, but are also aware that while the books expand upon the universe created in “Star Trek,” they are not necessarily cannon that is adhered to in the television programs and feature films, which is the same case with the  Star Wars Legends novels. This is the longest of the documentaries/featurettes with a running time of approximately 29-minutes. Thirteen storyboard galleries and the widescreen theatrical trailer are included too. Also new to this release is a documentary featuring director Nicholas Meyer, producer Robert Saalin, Mark Altman, post-production exec Ralph Winter, Larry Nemecek, John & Bjo Trimble, Adam Nimoy, Susan Sackett, film critic Scott Mantz, Enterprise writers David A. Goodman and Michael Sussman, Bobak Ferdowski (JPL’s infamous “Mohawk“ guy), Big Bang Theory co-creator Bill Prady, and The Flash producer Gabrielle Stanton.

The menus for the Blu-ray feature shots of the Enterprise flying toward an ominous nebula. Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan: The Director's Cut is available now at retailers on and offline courtesy of Paramount Home Entertainment is a worthy upgrade for one's Star Trek feature film collection.

(C) Copyright 2016 By Mark A. Rivera
All Rights Reserved.