Hailed by many as one of the best Star Trek movies, if not THE best one, "Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan" contains all the elements that made the series so successful. While most Star Trek feature films, especially the latest ones, appear like over-length episodes of the series, "The Wrath Of Khan" has qualities that put it in a league of its own in the overall universe of the series. With high production values, a stunning look and a great script, this movie contains everything a fan’s heart could ask for.
Some time has passed since we last visited the Federation starship U.S.S. Enterprise and the familiar assembly of faces. James T. Kirk( William Shatner) has been promoted to Admiral and is facing a serious midlife crisis. He is no longer serving active duty, while Spock (Leonard Nimoy) is coaching trainees in simulations and small missions on the Enterprise. One day Kirk is coming on board the U.S.S. Enterprise for an inspection where he meets most of the original crew members, as well as an array of new faces.
In the meanwhile Checkov (Walter Koenig) is working on another mission, supporting a scientific project called "Genesis." On the outlook for a perfect planet to test Genesis, he and his ship end up on Ceti Alpha V by mistake, a prison planet, and before they realize their mistake, Kirk’s nemesis Khan and his exiled band of genetic supermen take over the crew and ship. After all these years on the desolate planet, Khan has only one burning desire - to kill Kirk and to destroy the Enterprise. He forges a plan and then lures Kirk and his crew of trainees into a deadly trap.
"Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan" is an energetic movie that contains a number of great twists along the way and a surprise ending. With high production values and a scope that feels larger than the stories told in the TV episodes, this is one of the few feature film installments in the franchise that actually had to be realized as a feature film in order to be adequately told.
While we find our usual suspects in the film in their well-known parts, it is noticeable that especially William Shatner blooms under the direction of Nicholas Meyer. Much less over-acting than in the TV series or the first Star Trek motion picture, for the first time we see his character Kirk as a real human being. With subtle nuances and facets, Shatner manages to finally bring to life Kirk in a manner that is realistic and down-to-earth. But in the face of such a formidable adversary as Khan, he’d better be. Played by Ricardo Montalban, Khan is evil to the bone and his stature commands respect in every single shot that we see him in. His voice, his mannerisms steal the show and like the bad guys in the Bond movies, Khan is the catalyst for this movie that ultimately makes it such a memorable film.
Paramount Home Video’s release of "Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan" is a beautiful version of the movie. Presented in a 16x9 enhanced widescreen transfer that is highly detailed, the film is clean and mostly without blemishes, which is a significant improvement over the other, spotty video versions that have been released in the past. Boldly colorful the transfer conjures up images of galaxies far beyond that are both beautiful and lethal. Color delineation is very good, reproducing even the most subtle hues without distortion or over-saturation. Scenes like the showdown in the Nebula are gorgeous to look at with its vibrant tinges and fine hues. The transfer also has a very good black level, producing deep shadows that never lose their definition. Always pronounced, yet naturally rendered, the highlights in the image create a distinctive look for the film that is very different from the look of the series, yet entirely authentic and true to the series’ original intentions. Together with the highly detailed production design that is perfectly reproduced in this anamorphic transfer, the video presentation on this DVD leaves a good impression.
The DVD also contains a 5.1 channel Dolby Digital audio track that has been created from the original 6-channel elements of the film. However, the mix is not very aggressive and makes only infrequently real use of the surround channels. There are a number of scenes during which sound effects are integrated to make use of the spatial possibilities of the discrete surround channels, but for the most part, surround usage is limited to low-level ambient effects and early reflections of the score, to give the music more depth. The low end is unexaggerated and the LFE channel is engaged only on occasion.
Dialogues are generally understandable, carefully balanced with the overall sound field, but the original dialogue recordings are sometimes a bit muddy and overly ambient. A lot of ADR produced dialogue has been edited into the film and the differences in quality are extremely noticeable in this film, as the ADR elements are much clearer and virtually free of the ambient reverberations and resonance that plague the live recorded dialogues. Hover, the age of the elements is audible, especially in the dialogues, as the frequency response is narrow, giving the dialogues a rather harsh quality that sounds unnatural at times.
This is a beautiful presentation of the movie on this DVD, although it also shows clearly the weaknesses and limitations of the movie’s original production - which have nothing to do with the DVD presentation. Fortunately the film itself is so engrossing and captivating that for the most part you won’t even notice them, as you are absorbed in the fantastic story, the dramatic development and the action packed battles. To me, "Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan" is one of the best feature films from the Star Trek series, and it was great to re-experience it after all these years on this great DVD.