Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan [Blu-Ray]
Director : Nicholas Meyer
Screenplay : Jack B. Sowards (story by Harve Bennett and Jack B. Soward)
MPAA Rating : PG
Year of Release : 1982
Stars : William Shatner (Admr. James T. Kirk), Leonard Nimoy (Capt. Spock), DeForest Kelley (Lt. Cmdr. Leonard H. “Bones” McCoy), James Doohan (Cmdr. Montgomery “Scotty” Scott), Walter Koenig (Cmdr. Pavel Andreivitch Chekov), George Takei (Cmdr. Sulu), Nichelle Nichols (Cmdr. Uhura), Bibi Besch (Dr. Carol Marcus), Merritt Butrick (Dr. David Marcus), Paul Winfield (Capt. Clark Terrell), Kirstie Alley (Lt. Saavik), Ricardo Montalban (Khan Noonien Singh)
Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan is the best of the Star Trek film series, a gloriously operatic revenge tale full of sound and fury, violence and vengeance, humor and empathy. It followed three years after Robert Wise’s elegant, but somewhat tedious Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979), and Wrath of Khan couldn’t have been any different. Taut, tense, and deliciously over the top (and made on a substantially smaller budget), this sequel also managed to better incorporate the vibe of the original series into a big-screen scenario, which thrilled longtime Trekkers to no end without alienating nonfans (it’s probably the only entry in the original movie series that you can know virtually nothing about Star Trek and still enjoy).
The screenplay by television scribe Jack B. Sowards (who had never written for Star Trek before, or in the science fiction genre, for that matter) was a continuation of one of the original TV episodes, “Space Seed.” In that 1967 episode, the Starship Enterprise, led by Captain James T. Kirk (William Shatner), happens upon a ship floating in deep space that is filled with cryogenically frozen men and women from the late 20th century. It turns out that they are genetically engineered super(wo)men led by the devious, Milton-quoting mastermind Khan (Ricardo Montalban), who was a dictator back on Earth (in his romanticized view, he was a prince). Khan attempts to take over the Enterprise, but Kirk defeats him (doesn’t he always?) and sends him and his followers into exile on a distant planet called Ceti Alpha V.
Wrath of Khan picks up some 15 years later. Kirk has now been promoted to Admiral in the Federation Starfleet, and he is dealing with the hard realities of aging. Not the young man he once was--a little gray around the temples, a bit paunchy in the middle--he still yearns to travel the galaxy, despite his having accepted a new role as bureaucratic overseer. It is while he is on a training mission on the Enterprise, which is now captained by the half-Vulcan Spock (Leonard Nimoy), that Kirk finds himself in Khan’s crosshairs. Having escaped the barren wasteland of Ceti Alpha V and taken control of another Federation ship, the Reliant, Khan can think of nothing but avenging himself on his old nemesis, about whom he has been brooding for so many years.
The primary reason Wrath of Khan works is because Ricardo Montalban makes us believe that Khan has been stewing in his anger for all those years; his desire for revenge is palpable. Montalban, who was then best known for playing the always-smiling lead on the TV series Fantasy Island, plays Khan with a seething passion and intensity of hatred that makes him the movie’s true star. More than anything else, it is his eyes and his scowl that you remember--they’re the movie’s best special effect. Dressed like a barbarian and glowering with a fierce intelligence that is undermined only by his single-minded relentlessness, Khan dominates the screen every moment he’s on it. (It helps that Montalban has such a commanding physical presence, so that we know his intellect is matched by a superior physicality.)
Director Nicholas Meyer, a novelist best known for The Seven-Percent Solution whose only other directorial feature was 1979’s time-traveling Jack the Ripper yarn Time After Time, brings just the right sensibility to the material. Not steeped in the lore of Star Trek, he has a fresh take on the characters and the scenario, pumping up the melodrama and adding elements of violence and horror that had always lurked just beneath the surface of the old episodes (when Khan, almost defeated at the end, drags his wounded body up from the ground, one half of his face a mess of blood and gore, he is truly monstrous). Meyer also allows more humor than Robert Wise did in the first movie, particularly the sparring interplay between the always logical Spock and the passionate humanist Dr. Leonard “Bones” McCoy (DeForest Kelley).
Meyer also seems to understand the essence of James T. Kirk, and instead of allowing Shatner to wallow in Kirk’s righteous self-confidence, he uses it against him in the power struggle with Khan. Granted, Kirk is still smug and cocksure, but his ego is tempered by his growing years and slight insecurity about his place in a Federation Starfleet run by younger men and women who he has to put down as “children” to reinforce his own standing. It’s not hard to see why Khan would hate Kirk so much, as he is even more assured of his own superiority than Kirk is. Thus, the vengeance in Wrath of Khan takes on a double edge: Khan wants to kill Kirk not only because he was responsible for Khan’s long exile and the subsequent death of his wife, but because Kirk’s self-confidence rivals his own. There’s room in the universe for only one ego that large.
Wrath of Khan brought to the Star Trek franchise a more action-oriented approach. It is filled with space battles between the Enterprise and the Reliant, which are more like games of chess than the World War II-style dogfights made popular in the Star Wars movies. Cruising slowly among the swirling gaseous clouds of a nebula, the two ships, both wounded and limping, much like their aging captains, play a game of hide-and-seek with deadly implications. Kirk emerges as the victor in the end, not necessarily because he proves to be smarter, but because he is better able to use Khan’s arrogance against him.
The movie also works nicely because it integrates many of the thematic tropes that were so important to the television series. Amid all the vengeful melodrama is an interesting subplot about a new invention called the Genesis Project that is capable of creating life on a dead planet. Of course, like splitting the atom, such an invention has apocalyptic menace in addition to the capacity to do good, particularly in the way it distills in a single device the scientific drive to play God. The movie also incorporates questions regarding the nature of sacrifice, which results in a crucial life-and-death choice made by a major character that sent shock waves through the Star Trek fan base back in 1982.
But, above all, Wrath of Khan is just a fun movie. It’s clever and well constructed, alternating action sequences with meaningful character development. It’s not afraid to take risks and push boundaries, but it maintains a sense of integrity that allows it to fit smoothly into the well-established Star Trek universe. Its sense of operatic overkill is tempered just enough to save it from complete campy excess. After all, any movie in which the villain, with his last dying breath, quotes Captain Ahab from Herman Melville’s Moby Dick--“from hell’s heart I stab at thee, for hate’s sake I spit my last breath at thee”--and it works, really genuinely works, is a true gem.
|Star Trek: Motion Picture Trilogy 3-Disc Blu-Ray Set|
|This three-disc set includes Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, and Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home.|
|Subtitles||English, French, Spanish, Portuguese|
|Supplements|| Included on the Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan disc: |
|Distributor||Paramount Home Entertainment|
|Release Date||May 12, 2009|
|VIDEO & AUDIO|
|All three of the Star Trek films included in this box are presented in high-definition 1080p transfers (apparently Wrath of Khan is the only film in the set that has been completely remastered, as the other two had previous high-def transfers that were simply downgraded for DVD release). The Collector’s Edition DVDs, which were themselves upgrades from the initial single-disc DVD offerings, were by no means terrible, but seeing these films in true high definition is quite amazing. The Wrath of Khan looks the best (perhaps because it has been improved so substantially from the DVD), and if there is any complaint about The Search for Spock and The Voyage Home it is that they look like they’ve been digitally smoothed a bit, which removes some of the image density and results in a less film-like appearance. Colors on all three movies are excellent throughout, with strong blacks and great detail. All three films also boast upgraded Dolby Digital 7.1 TrueHD surround soundtracks, which immerse you in both the orchestral scores and the various space battles. Surround effects are consistently impressive, especially during the shoot-outs in Wrath of Khan and The Search for Spock.|
|With one exception, all of the supplements that were included on the two-disc Collector’s Edition DVD set from 2002 are included here, along with a half a dozen new supplements. So, we’ll start with what’s new: |
Audio commentary by director Nicholas Meyer and Star Trek Enterprise producer Manny Coto
“James Horner: Composing Genesis” featurette (HD)
“A Tribute to Ricardo Montalban” featurette (HD)
“Collecting Star Trek’s Movie Relics” featurette (HD)
“Starfleet Academy SCISEC Brief 002: Mystery Behind Ceti Alpha VI” featurette (HD)
And, of course, all of the original DVD supplements are also here:
Audio commentary by director Nicholas Meyer
“The Captain’s Log” featurette
“Designing Khan” featurette
“Where No Man Has Gone Before: The Visual Effects of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan” featurette
“The Star Trek Universe: A Novel Approach” featurette
Original theatrical trailer
Copyright ©2009 James Kendrick
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