Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan – Director’s Cut (Blu-ray Review)

Star-Trek-Wrath-Of-KhanCaptain Kirk and the crew of the Enterprise will boldly go where they have never gone before when STAR TREK II: THE WRATH OF KHAN Director’s Cut arrives for the first time ever on Blu-ray June 7, 2016 from Paramount Home Media Distribution.  As part of the 50th anniversary celebration of the Star Trek franchise, this classic film has been digitally remastered in high definition with brilliant picture quality and will be presented in both Nicholas Meyer’s Director’s Edition and the original theatrical version.  The Blu-ray also includes a brand-new, nearly 30-minute documentary entitled “The Genesis Effect: Engineering The Wrath of Khan,” which details the development and production of this fan-favorite film through archival footage, photos and new interviews.  In addition to the new documentary, the STAR TREK II: THE WRATH OF KHAN Director’s Cut Blu-ray is bursting with more than two hours of previously released special features including multiple commentaries, original interviews with William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, Ricardo Montalban and DeForest Kelley, explorations of the visual effects and musical score, a tribute to Ricardo Montalban, storyboards and much more.

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Captain Kirk’s Starfleet career enters a new chapter as a result of his most vengeful nemesis: Khan Noonien Singh, the genetically enhanced conqueror from late 20th century Earth.  Escaping his forgotten prison, Khan sets his sights on both capturing Project Genesis, a device of god-like power, and the utter destruction of Kirk.

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan was actually the first of the Star Trek movie’s I saw.  When I went to rent the first one (Way back when, on VHS), it was out.  I don’t like to watch movie series’ out of order, but I had familiarized myself with the franchise through reruns and was eager to dive into the films.  So, I bit the bullet and went for the second one.  This was before there was internet and I really knew the reception on The Motion Picture.  It was the perfect move, as Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan was the absolute perfect follow up to the television series.  Its something I may have picked up a little bit on then and have realized even more now that the years have gone on by.

Kirk and crew’s second big screen adventure was one of those films that once you see it, you’ll never forget it.  For a movie without notable big action scenes, its incredibly big on character and performance.  It features one of the greatest cinematic antagonists in Ricardo Montalban’s Khan.  People may know nothing about Star Trek, but they know of Khan and the whales.  Another scene in the film to stick out is when Chekov and Terrell have the the Ceti eels put into their ears.  Its so gross, and as a kid (And to a degree now) I could barely watch it and my body is definitely squemish as it happens.  Oh, and yeah, the film packs a WHALLOP of an ending in killing the series’ most popular and iconic character in such a perfect, heartfelt and deeply emotional way.

The arc and journey of James T. Kirk in the film is possibly the best character work done with him as well as some of the best ever in film.  William Shatner also sees his finest hour here in enhancing it all and making it come to full fruition with his performance.  The film sheds light on the fact that this crew has grown old and Kirk’s journey is one that sees many aspects of his past coming to back to either haunt him or finally make him face the things he’d been running from or not acknowledging over the years.  Kirk actually has to deal with the things that in the past, the episode would end and they’d just move on to next week’s adventure.  This script takes all that into account and in a stroke of genius creates a story that fully focuses on those hangups, the drive to rediscover youth, finding acceptance and being able to turn to the next chapter of your life.  Its a man that has to fully realize who he was, what he’s become and how he’s going to go forward.  Everything from Khan, to David, the reading glasses, to the Genesis Device and Spock’s demise perfectly form feature film-like poetry to give us the ultimate story and follow up to one of television’s greatest characters of the 1960s.

Paramount is bringing this tale to video for the umpteenth time and on Blu-ray for…I dunno how many times.  At least this time we are given the director’s cut.  Its not that much longer and no completely drastic changes are made to it, just a little bit more flushing out on a few scenes and character interactions.  However, like another popular director’s cut in Aliens, I much prefer the theatrical cut.  That, to me, is actually a perfect film top to bottom.  While only about a 3 minute difference, I think the pacing is tighter and better with the theatrical cut.  I both do and don’t like the whole opening up about the crew member being Scotty’s nephew bit.  It helps to see his sadness and loss when Khan’s attack happens, but the way its delivered and set up in the script and performance is so damn cheesy and you know its coming.  Yeah, theatrical is my way to go, and awesomely, its still available here on the new release.

The Wrath Of Khan is one of my favorite films of all-time.  Not just great science fiction or a great sequel, but just one of the greatest films altogether.  Everything here fires on all cylinders.  The effects, the script, the arc, the performances.  Seriously, one of the best camp performances of all time is delivered here from Ricardo Montalban.  He knows how to balance the line between going to far and being much to serious.  As many times as I’ve seen this movie, its hard not to still get a bit misty eyed during Kirk and Spock’s final moments together as well as the beautiful eulogy Shatner delivers during the sendoff.  It includes one of my favorite movie quotes ever, which I’ll leave this review on; “Of all the souls I have encountered in my travels, his was the most…human.”

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Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1

Clarity/Detail:  Wow, this new 4K restoration and transfer looks gorgeous.  Its a bit more of an elegant and darker look to the film, but definitely in the wheelhouse of the late 70s/early 80s era its a part of.  The visual effects even look really good under this.  Its a damn shame they didn’t give this treatment to the rest of the films in the series.  ITS FRIGGIN’ STAR TREK!  C’mon.  I’m glad we got this one, and they did the right movie, but seeing how lovely the detail, crispness and sharpness of this new transfer is now has me pining for even Star Trek: The Motion Picture to get this treatment (While not a favorite, the film has some damn fine cinematography that would look marvelous with a transfer like this).  This is a complete upgrade over the previous edition and this video transfer is reason enough.  Yes, I’m aware of the slight wrong take of Sulu being used at the beginning of the film, but I mean, its just a second or two and nothing that detracts from the film other than the fact we’ve seen it a zillion times and can notice a nit pick like that.

Depth:  Depth is quite amazing here and the film looks more 3 dimensional than it ever has.  Spacing and distance between characters, background and objects will have one quite impressed while watching this new transfer.  Movements are smooth and cinematic.  There’s a real free floating nature to everything here that really makes everything so well rounded.

Black Levels:  Blacks are deep and very handsomely displayed.  Some detail can be lost, but the good this does outweighs any minimal loss.  This is where the transfer feels the most progressed from its predecessor.  It looks like a whole other movie with how right they got the lacks here.  Within the last year I saw this film in 35mm and I have to say this represents as comparable a matchup as I can recall.

Color Reproduction:  The colors are also much more bold and saturated even better than before.  Some of the purples and blues among the stars are just gorgeous.  The enterprise crew’s uniforms look perfect.  Colors are vivid and poppy, but they are rich and bump on the screen like you’re looking at some real fabric.

Flesh Tones:  Skin tones maintain a consistent and natural appearance for the film’s duration.  Facial details are discernible at any distances.  Sweat, 5 o’clock shadows, wrinkles, make-up, lip texts…geezum, you name it, you can see it.  

Noise/Artifacts:  You’ll notice here how clean this transfer looks, its the most perfect a Star Trek film has ever looked on home video.

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Audio Format(s): English 7.1 Dolby TrueHD, French 2.0 Dolby Digital, Spanish Mono Dolby Digital, Portuguese Mono Dolby Digital

Subtitles: English, English SDH, French, Spanish, Portuguese

Dynamics:  I did not see in the press release and am not quite sure whether this is a new 7.1 mix or if its the same (base on the same) master audio from the previous release.  Either way, its very good and makes for an engaging mission with the crew.  For as old as it is, this sounds plenty fresh and perfectly balanced.

Low Frequency Extension:  Big moving parts, ships moving in space, blasters and explosions all get a natural and adequate bump from your subwoofer.

Surround Sound Presentation:  The 7 channels all get some good use here in this mix as well as a terrific sense of restraint.  It doesn’t get overzealous just because the channels are open, each speaker comes with purpose, place and a good sense of movement and position.

Dialogue Reproduction:  Dialogue is clean and crisp.  Don’t worry, “KHAAAAN!!!” sounds great on your system.

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Audio Commentary

  • By Director Nicholas Meyer (Director’s Cut)
  • By Director Nicholas Meyer and Manny Coto (Theatrical Version)
  • Text Commentary by Michael and Denise Okuda (Director’s Cut)

Library Computer (Theatrical Version) – An interactive experience that allows you to access information about people, technology, locations and more at the moment each appears in the film.

Production – Ported over bonus feature reflecting on and going into detail on the film’s genesis and aspects of production.  Also contains publicity interviews from the time of release.

The Genesis Effect: Engineering The Wrath Of Khan (HD, 28:21) – A brand new documentary featuring Nicholas Meyer and others from the production about the pre-production, planning and coming up with where to go for the sequel to the film.  Lots of anecdotes about studio conflicts, opinions about what was on the line and Gene Roddenberry’s thoughts on the script for the film.

  • Captain’s Log (HD, 27:21) 
  • Designing Khan (HD, 23:55) 
  • Original Interviews With William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley and Ricardo Montalban (HD, 10:57) 
  • Where No Man Has Gone Before: The Visual Effects of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (HD, 18:15)
  • James Horner: Composing Genesis (HD, 9:33) 

The Star Trek Universe – Ported over from the previous releases of the film, these cover props from the films and writing expanded universe novels as well as an information piece on the world where Khan is found at the beginning of the film.

  • Collecting Star Trek’s Movie Relics (HD, 11:05) 
  • A Novel Approach (HD, 28:56) 
  • Starfleet Academy Scisec Brief 002: Mystery Behind Ceti Alpha VI (HD, ) 

Farewell (HD, 4:43) – A tribute to Ricardo Montalban from director Nicholas Meyer.

Storyboards – Main Title Concept, Kobayashi Maru, Ceti Alpha V, Regula I, Chekov and Terrell Find Khan, Admiral’s Inspection, Khan’s Revenge, Kirk Strikes Back, Finding The Genesis Cave, The Mutara Nebula, Sneak Attack, Genesis, Honored Dead

Theatrical Trailer (HD, 2:21)

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If you don’t already own Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan…first…what’s the matter, second pick this one the heck up.  Already own it?  Grab this upgrade.  The video transfer alone is more than enough reason to own one of science fiction’s greatest films.  This film continues to thrill me and engage me more the older and it both get.  This was the perfect story to transcend the Star Trek legacy into its cinematic series and represent what the crew had become and actually acknowledge how old they really were.  It made The Motion Picture just a bit of hiccup and began a trilogy within the series of films that was super popular.  This new edition carries over all your bonus material while adding a couple more along the way.  The only shame of this release is that the other films in the original crew’s series didn’t received a 4K restoration as well.  This was the time to cash in…the 50th freakin’ anniversary!  But, Paramount continues to try and ignore one of its biggest, most profitable and longest running properties in some kind of shame.  Luckily, we at least go this.  Pick it up!



Brandon is the host, producer, writer and editor of The Brandon Peters Show (thebrandonpetersshow.com) on the Creative Zombie Studios Network. At Why So Blu he is a Writer/Reviewer. Brandon is a lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash. You can also find older essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

1 Response to “Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan – Director’s Cut (Blu-ray Review)”

  1. Mike

    Great review Brandon!

    I’ve always been in agreement with your reviews and if I see you give a poor review to a movie, I typically won’t watch it. Now I know why. This is my second favorite movie of all time/favorite sci-fi of all time. When this was first released on a pay-for channel here in Canada, I watched it every single time that it was on. I lost count at over 40 times, and have watched it dozens of times since. I still get choked up at Kirk/Spock’s final scene, and during the eulogy.