STAR TREK II: THE WRATH OF KHAN Director’s Edition [Blu-review]

As part of the 50th anniversary celebrations of Star Trek first hitting our screens, Paramount has gone back to perhaps the most venerated film spawned from the series and given it the royal treatment for re-release on Blu-ray. Remastered from the original negatives, the release contains both the original theatrical editions and a Director’s Edition put together under the supervision of director Nicholas Meyer. In addition to previously released special features, the re-release also includes a new documentary, The Genesis Effect: Engineering The Wrath of Khan which gives more behind the scenes details on how Khan came to be and how its vision changed the direction of the Star Trek universe.

As Adm. James T. Kirk (William Shatner) and Capt. Spock (Leonard Nimoy) monitor trainees at Starfleet Academy, another vessel from the United Federation of Planets is about to try out the planet-creating Genesis Device in a seemingly deserted portion of space. In the process, two of Kirk’s officers are captured by Khan (Ricardo Montalban), an enemy Kirk thought he’d never see again. Once more, Kirk takes the Enterprise’s helm, where he meets Khan’s ship in an intergalactic showdown.

I don’t need to spend time going over how good the movie is; if you’re reading this and entertaining a purchase you’re likely already a fan. Suffice to say, it’s perhaps the greatest slice of Star Trek ever served up to its fans. After the bloated but beautiful mess of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, Wrath Of Khan was a tense, well-constructed tale of revenge that showed a return to the feel and camaraderie of the original series. It boasted a magnificent soundtrack by James Horner and one of the all time great cinematic villains in Ricardo Montalban’s Khan.

This isn’t the first time the “director’s cut” has seen a release, having appeared on DVD and VOD. What we have here is a fully remastered Blu-ray version of that. This version has around 3 minutes of extra footage, a few scenes use alternate shots, and character exchanges are more fleshed out. Overall it just adds a little depth rather than adding anything truly groundbreaking. There’s a great video available on YouTube comparing the two versions of the film. An in-depth comparison can also be found here.

There is footage in existence of various deleted scenes which have not been incorporated into any home release, and again they are missing here. There is some clamor among fans to have them integrated, but their wait continues. Addition in the extra features would surely have been feasible.

THE PACKAGESimply put, the film has never looked better. I have seen the 2009 release, and there is a noticeable blue tint throughout. That is gone, and in its place is a warmer tone, more natural colors, true to the original release. A little grain is evident, but the transfer and overall treatment is a thing of beauty.

* I will mention one issue with the release and that is a mistake in recompiling the film. Editing during the Kobayashi Maru scene has led to a incorrect insertion, where Sulu reminds Saavik about the consequences of entering the neutral zone; the accompanying footage is a repeat of a earlier scene, not the correct one. It’s a little sloppy to be honest, but a minor irritant rather than a deal-breaker for purchase.

Special features include everything from the previous release, and they are pretty extensive. A full list is below, but they include commentaries with director Meyer, text commentaries with the Okudas (tech advisors to the show), interviews with the cast, features on the special effects and score, storyboards, and a tribute to Montalban, who died back in 2009. The package also comes with new artwork by Tyler Stout for his Mondo poster release for the film.

• Director’s Edition in high definition
• Theatrical Version in high definition
• Commentary by director Nicholas Meyer (Director’s Edition & Theatrical Version)
• Commentary by director Nicholas Meyer and Manny Coto (Theatrical Version)
• Text Commentary by Michael and Denise Okuda (Director’s Edition)
• Library Computer (Theatrical Version)
• The Genesis Effect: Engineering The Wrath of Khan—NEW!
• Production
• Captain’s Log
• Designing Khan
• Original interviews with DeForest Kelley, William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy and Ricardo Montalban
• Where No Man Has Gone Before: The Visual Effects of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
• James Horner: Composing Genesis
• The Star Trek Universe
• Collecting Star Trek’s Movie Relics
• A Novel Approach
• Starfleet Academy: The Mystery Behind Ceti Alpha VI
• Farewell
• A Tribute to Ricardo Montalban
• Storyboards
• Theatrical Trailer

The big addition is the new documentary The Genesis Effect: Engineering The Wrath of Khan. Here, Meyer, producer Robert Sallin, producer Ralph Winter, journalists Mark Altman and Larry Nemecek, film critics, NASA engineers, fans, and more discuss the film. Meyer in particular offers frank commentary on how he came to be on the project, the mess it was in, and how they managed to pull it all together, including how he took 5 drafts of the script and rewrote it in 12 days to save the film. Interesting tidbits include how close the film came to never being made, the use of a “TV division” to try and make the film “better, faster, and back to its roots” versus the ill received Motion Picture, and how Ron Howard nearly directed the picture. Gene Roddenberry’s involvement, or lack thereof, is also mentioned and how the choices of Meyer, to inject more of a militaristic feel to the ship and crew, informed the direction the films and The Next Generation would take. Time is also taken to address the final act and the fate of Spock, how the crew were impacted during filming, how Roddenberry leaked the plot details to try and incite a backlash, and how $100,000 was spent on reshoots to add the shot of Spock’s coffin after the original cut was deemed too much of a downer by testing groups.

THE BOTTOM LINEDespite the one technical glitch in editing, this is the definitive release of The Wrath of Khan (so far). I’ve been watching the film for over 20 years and this is the best presentation I’ve seen. One of the best science fiction features given a fine treatment for the show’s 50th year.

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan was released June 7th, 2016 from Paramount Home Entertainment

Get it at Amazon:
Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan Director’s Cut[Blu-ray] | [DVD] | [Instant]

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the author

Originally harkening from the British Isles, Jon was exiled to Texas back in 2007 to help conceal his identity as a love child of the Queen. Jon has both embraced and been embraced by the wonderful city of Austin, a place which has only further enhanced his interest in film. A regular at SXSW and Fantastic Fest, Jon is also a member of the Austin Film Critics Association and Online Film Critics Society. By day he is a researcher at UT Austin but he also has an involvement with (and deep appreciation for) the local brewing industry. In short, his passions are cinema, science, craft beer and writing about himself in the third person. Twitter: @Texas_Jon