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    Review of Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan: The Director`s Edition

    9 / 10


    Paramount are truly kings of the double dip. They have an infuriating habit of releasing a film, then re-releasing it on a regular basis with incremental improvements in quality. In some form or another, I have owned Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan in five different incarnations. Let`s face it; even I can tire of so much of my hard earned lining Paramount`s coffers. This last time, I made sure to wait for a suitable sale, and with the generous application of some money off vouchers, I`ve made sure that even Paramount will have to look hard for any profit from this particular transaction. So now I have Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan Director`s Edition to replace the original, criminally barebones release. Am I pleased? Not particularly, as I find that I can`t get rid of the original disc after all.

    It`s the 23rd Century, and Kirk has been made a deskbound Admiral, again! He`s in the midst of a midlife crisis, as his friends try in vain to cheer him up. But still, there is the opportunity to go back aboard the Enterprise, now a training ship half-filled with cadets to go on a quick jaunt around the galaxy. However, trouble looms as the starship Reliant, which has been searching for a suitable planet to conduct a terraforming experiment, has happened upon the survivors of a group of genetically engineered supermen. Khan, a warrior from the 20th Century had originally been defeated by Kirk, and exiled to a barren planet. The intervening years haven`t been kind, and now the psychopathic superman has taken the Reliant and the ultimate weapon, developed by Kirk`s estranged son, and is now looking to lay a little vengeance on Kirk.

    This Director`s Edition adds another four minutes of footage, in the form of extended scenes or alternate takes which expand on some of the characters.


    When it comes to picture quality, Region 1 had the most to gain from a re-release. The original disc was a single layer disc, and the picture quality on the dual layer proved to be a welcome improvement. Since the original region 2 disc was a dual layer disc there isn`t that much of an improvement in image quality for UK viewers, but there is enough to make this the desired purchase, at least speaking technically. The 2.35:1 anamorphic picture is certainly cleaner, with fewer instances of dirt and damage visible. The contrast is a little higher and detail levels are certainly better, but most importantly, reds aren`t as saturated as before, especially evident in the battle sequences, and that is certainly noticeable when the two transfers are compared. To be fair, it is only an incremental change in picture quality but it is an improvement nonetheless.


    The sound on the other hand is indistinguishable from the original release, once again available in DD 5.1 English and DD 2.0 Surround German. It`s still the best way that you will experience this movie, a powerful vibrant soundtrack that conveys the action well as well as the subtlety of the quieter moments. James Horner`s score is a commanding and resonant piece that gives the Star Trek universe a sense of history firmly rooted in the nautical. It is also perfectly suited to the action and is a major part in providing the thrills and excitement. There are plenty of subtitles for those inclined.


    Ah, extras. This is the point of re-releasing the Star Trek films yet again. It`s a constant source of irritation that Paramount couldn`t have released these in the first place. Trekkies the world over shelled out for the bare bones discs, which were originally released in reverse order. There was a long gap between Khan and The Motion Picture, during which the special edition of The Wrath Of Khan was announced, and due to the delayed release schedule in the UK, that announcement came a few weeks after I had bought the single disc Khan. I have a saucepan full of bile simmering gently for Paramount.

    This time the two discs are presented with some nicely animated menus, all swooping starships and alien worlds, packaged neatly inside an Amaray case stored inside a cardboard slipcase.

    Disc 1

    As well as containing the film proper, this disc has two commentaries. First director Nicholas Meyer provides an audio commentary presented in DD 2.0 Surround sound. The director certainly provides some interesting titbits, including his method of eliciting performances from William Shatner. However it is a bit of an effort to listen to, it`s gappy and Meyer`s voice is hardly attention grabbing. There are subtitles should you need them.

    The second commentary is a text commentary from Mike Okuda. It`s the place to go if bucket loads of trivia ring your bell, but it isn`t necessarily always accurate, contradicting some of the other extras at least once.

    Disc 2

    The rest of the extras are on this disc, kicking off with the Captain`s Log, which is a retrospective on Wrath Of Khan with contributions from William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, producer Harve Bennett, director Nicholas Meyer, and Khan himself Ricardo Montalban. It`s a fairly back slapping effort, but it`s refreshing to see Shatner refuse to take it all seriously. This is 28 minutes of talking heads.

    Designing Khan is a 24-minute documentary that looks at the change in design philosophy for Wrath of Khan. Gene Roddenberry`s vision of Trek was Utopian, but Meyer wished to bring a little conflict in. He also made Starfleet a militaristic organisation that certainly resonated through the subsequent films and television series. This necessitated a change in uniforms, technology and costumes that is explored here.

    Visual Effects (19 minutes) looks at how the effects were realised. Using stock footage from The Motion Picture saved enough money to allow for the spectacular battles in this film. ILM are interviewed regarding the ship models built for the film, the realisation of the nebula as well as Ceti Eels and giant ears. The Genesis simulation used in the film is perhaps the first use of CGI in cinema, and that is discussed as well.

    There are 11 minutes of interviews conducted originally back in 1982. As well as Shatner, Nimoy and Montalban, this provides a chance to see DeForrest Kelley interviewed.

    The Star Trek Universe is 30 minutes of what can only kindly be called filler. Greg Cox and Julia Ecklar are two authors who have written Star Trek novels for Pocket Books. One of Cox`s projects has been fleshing out the history of Khan, while Ecklar wrote a novel about The Kobayashi Maru test shown in the beginning of the film, putting various regular characters through that hell. There is also a look at the world of Star Trek novels on general. This kind of material will only really appeal to the most dedicated of fanboys, and even they will only play it once. Also the editing is unflattering in the extreme to the two authors.

    13 storyboards are provided for various scenes from the film. And of course the ubiquitous theatrical trailer.

    All except the original interviews are presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. The sound is DD 2.0 Surround and subtitles are provided should you fancy.


    The cast of the world`s biggest television franchise reunite here for their second big screen outing. This is what the fans had really been waiting for. The first movie had sacrificed characterisation for eye-candy, and the eye-candy in question had been less than appetising. Here, William Shatner, DeForrest Kelley and Leonard Nimoy reprised their roles as we remembered them. Ably supporting them, of course were Nichelle Nichols, George Takei, James Doohan and Walter Koenig. Best of all, the cast were still young enough to carry off the necessary swashbuckling. In the later films they definitely showed their age, but here it was as if they were as young and vital as ever. A newcomer to the crew was the Vulcan, Cadet Saavik played by a young Kirstie Alley in her breakthrough role. However the true star of the film is also the villain of the piece, the psychopathic Khan as played by the charismatic Ricardo Montalban. His portrayal of the fallen prince driven insane by revenge is chilling yet mesmerising.

    Star Trek II is an excellent film on so many levels. The actors are at their best and the script is excellent. The film touches on so many fundamental human emotions. The fear of loss and of growing old, regrets and missed opportunities, the raw power of vengeance and the ultimate sacrifice. In fact the sequels only cheapen Spock`s death. This film if taken alone, is poignant and touching and the final scene a fitting epitaph. Khan is a compelling character and his thirst for revenge is born out of the raw pain of loss and betrayal, not out of some alien motive or higher ideal. He blames Kirk for marooning him on a barren planet and for the loss of his wife. This simple feeling is something the audience can relate to and it draws them into the film. In later movies, the villains are invariably alien bugbears, Klingons, Borg etc, which serve as convenient bogeymen but fail to engage the viewers as well.

    Star Trek II has always been my favourite Star Trek movie, and I can always watch it when the rest of the franchise may have me hanging my head in frustration, but while the original film was one I believed perfectly edited and paced, this Director`s edition has meant the addition of some extended scenes, one or two minor additions and a few alternate takes. It`s ironic that in the extras and on the commentary, Nicholas Meyer states his dislike of the Director`s Cut as usually adding the extraneous only to massage the ego of a director. Yet this is something he indulges in too freely here. The only change that actually clarifies the story is the explicit acknowledgment that midshipman Peter Preston, who later loses his life is Scotty`s nephew. But you can see why this was cut, as the brief exchange between Preston and Kirk looks out of place and poorly written. Most of the other changes are cosmetic and unnecessary. Some are even inferior in terms of actor performance. (Nick Meyer has also delved back into the Star Trek VI Director`s Edition to change things to his satisfaction, beyond the heinous Scooby Doo ending and has fans up in arms again.)

    More notable is what is still missing. It`s pretty definite that Sulu`s promotion to Captain hit the cutting room floor, as did Terrell and Chekov discovering a child in the crashed ship on Ceti Alpha V. There is the revelation that Saavik is a Vulcan-Romulan hybrid, which explains the more emotional performance by Kirstie Alley, the loss of which seems odd, given what we know of Vulcans. In the next two films the actress was changed and Saavik made wholly Vulcan. The early script and novel adaptation also hint at lost scenes, more of a romantic storyline for David and Saavik, footage of which is rumoured to exist and the novel definitely has a scene where Khan tortured the Genesis scientists, though at what stage that left the script, I have no idea. Also notable is the fact that there are no deleted scenes on the extras disc.

    I find myself of the opinion that the restored scenes add little if anything to the film, and I believe the original theatrical version is superior to the version presented here. It`s a shame then, that it isn`t on the disc as an alternative to the Director`s Edition, which is the reason why I can`t get rid of the original bare bones disc.

    Star Trek II as presented here is still an enjoyable, fast paced and exciting film, easily the best in the franchise even after 22 years. The picture quality is a surprising improvement over the original release, and finally the film gets some decent extras. Considering what I paid for it, I`m very happy.

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