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Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan — Director's Edition (Blu-ray Review)

30 Jun, 2016 By: John Latchem

$22.98 Blu-ray
Rated ‘PG’ for violence and language
Stars William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, Ricard Montalbán, DeForest Kelley, Nichelle Nichols, James Doohan, George Takei, Walter Koenig, Kirstie Alley, Paul Winfield, Bibi Besch, Merritt Butrick.

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan is widely regarded as the greatest of the “Star Trek” films, so the idea of an extended cut with more footage from director Nicholas Meyer offered an exciting prospect for fans.

Originally released on DVD in 2002, the director’s cut offered a few interesting character moments, particularly establishing that Scotty’s nephew was serving on the ship. A lot of this footage had already been seen by fans through an airing of the film on ABC years earlier. The version on the Blu-ray is nearly identical to the DVD cut, with one line of dialogue excluded at the director’s request.

However, with the arrival of the films on Blu-ray in the past few years, the various directors’ cuts were absent, making this release one of the first to rectify that.

The new high-definition transfer looks particularly engrossing for a 1982 movie, with colors that pop off the screen. The filmmakers had chosen to go with a more vibrant color palette, particularly in the uniforms, after the drab designs of the first film.

The Blu-ray includes all the previously released extras, plus the new retrospective “The Genesis Effect: Engineering The Wrath of Khan.” This is a fascinating collection of interviews in how it reveals some of the internal politics at the studio at the time. After the disappointing financial returns of 1979’s Star Trek: The Motion Picture, Paramount’s TV group was brought in to produce the sequel on a lower budget. “Star Trek” creator Gene Roddenberry, whose ponderous script for the first film was blamed for its mediocrity, was essentially shut out of the process, and resented it.

According to those interviewed here, Roddenberry himself leaked the rumor that Spock was to be killed in the film, causing a fan backlash. The fact that Leonard Nimoy changed his mind about leaving the franchise, and Spock returned in the next film anyway, kind of puts a damper on the historical impact of the fury, but the tale remains an interesting one for fans interested in “Star Trek” behind-the-scenes lore.

The film itself is a sequel to the original TV episode “Space Seed,” though the separation of the “Star Trek” TV and film productions following the Viacom split likely made including the episode on the Blu-ray logistically difficult.

In that episode, Ricardo Montalbán first played Khan, a genetically engineered warlord from Earth who is frozen in space for 200 years and discovered by Kirk, who leaves him and his followers on a planet to start a new life for themselves.

After 15 years, an environmental disaster as decimated Khan’s clan, motivating him to seek revenge on Kirk for never checking up on them.

The result is a duel of starships between the two enemies, even though Kirk and Khan never share a scene together in the same physical space (their main communication is over a video screen).

Historically, this is the film that truly turned “Star Trek” into a franchise. It reignited fan interest in the films, and became the first in a loose trilogy with Star Trek III and Star Trek IV that interconnected to tell a larger storyline of Kirk’s role in Starfleet. By the release of Star Trek IV in 1986, “Star Trek” was popular enough again for Paramount to justify a new TV series, “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” also created by Roddenberry. It was the first of four “Star Trek” shows that would produce more episodes than the original series, building upon a mythology shaped in large part by the look and feel of Star Trek II.

So impactful was this film on the franchise that J.J. Abrams’ second film in his reboot series, 2013’s Star Trek Into Darkness, was essentially a remake of it, even lifting entire scenes so he could put his own spin on Khan’s return.

Meyer’s own involvement with “Star Trek” would continue with the writing of Star Trek IV, directing Star Trek VI, and executive producing the upcoming new series slated for CBS All Access in 2017.

Echoing the sentiments stated in the retrospective about Roddenberry’s idealism getting in the way of “Star Trek” as a marketable franchise, “Star Trek: The Next Generation” struggled in its first few seasons under Roddenberry, and it wasn’t until he relinquished some creative control shortly before his death in 1991 that the show is considered to have hit its creative stride, opening the door for its spinoffs in the 1990s.

The original pressing of the Star Trek II director’s cut Blu-ray was marred by an editing error in an early scene in which an incorrect wide shot of the viewscreen was inserted into the master print. Paramount has instituted a replacement program for fans to get corrected discs, shipped free of charge by contacting or calling 844-898-4365. The corrected retail copies are indicated by a yellow UPC code.

About the Author: John Latchem

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