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Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (Director’s Edition, 1982) – DVD Review

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan DVD cover art


Written by: Jack B. Sowards
Directed by: Nicholas Meyer
Starring: William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, and Ricardo Montalban


  • Running commentary by director Meyer
  • Text commentary by Michael Okuda (author of The Star Trek Encyclopedia)
  • The Captain’s Log, with new interviews of cast and crew
  • Designing Khan featurette
  • Visual effects featurette
  • Theatrical trailer
  • Original interviews with cast
  • Interviews with two Star Trek franchise novel authors
  • Storyboard archives

Released by: Paramount
Region: 1
Rating: PG
Anamorphic: Yep.

My Advice: Own it.

[ad#longpost]Genetic superman Khan Noonien Singh (Montalban), confined to a blasted backwater world after his defeat at the hands of a young Captain James T. Kirk (Shatner), has developed a cunning plan to escape his imprisonment and exact his revenge on now-Admiral Kirk. Seizing control of the U.S.S. Reliant, Khan steals the Genesis Device, a terraforming device with the useful side-effect of being a horrific doomsday weapon. As Kirk and his new crew (barely trained) hurtle towards the science outpost Regula One, Khan puts his strategy in motion to force a final showdown with Kirk, using those closest to the Enterprise commander as bait.

What more needs to be said about this film? Odds are, mere sight of the title on this review conjured up the sound of Shatner bellowing “KHAAAAAN!” in the dim recesses of your geek-brain. The Wrath of Khan is a fan favorite among the Star Trek films, and with good reason. The return of Ricardo Montalban as one of the franchise’s most memorable villains gives this film a more immediate connection to the original series than any of the other films can offer. That connection is what defines a quality leap to the silver screen for any television franchise, and what the Trek movies have long needed more of in order to really shine.

The Director’s Edition provides an extended version of the film, along with the director’s commentary and a text commentary by one of fandom’s most knowledgeable, Michael Okuda. The video transfer is outstanding, and the remastered Dolby 5.1/DTS audio preserves every nuance of the movie’s original score and sound edit. The performances are perhaps the finest committed to film by the original cast, too. The core trio of Nimoy, Kelley, and Shatner have a spectacular chemistry on the poorest scripts, and here they have a gem. Director Meyer’s attachment to Napoleonic naval epics lends a more militaristic feel to this film, but the franchise as a whole profits from it, not only here, but ever since.

The bonus material is quite deep on the second disc, with featurettes covering nearly every aspect of the production, as well as a discussion with a pair of “expanded universe” authors about their related franchise novels. The Captain’s Log documentary presents a wealth of information about the project, from initial conception, through Nimoy’s reluctance to don the ears again, and into the hectic post-production changes that left Star Trek creators the option of bringing Spock back into the franchise, should Nimoy decide that he was interested.

Designing Khan and the visual effects featurettes provide in-depth analysis on the production design at every level, from sets to costumes to special effects. Some serious old hands in the business talk about the unique challenges of filming Roddenberry‘s vision of the future, and the ingenuity employed in creating sets and effects that would be interchangeable and reusable. This allowed future Star Trek films to save the money from set design to invest in other aspects of the film, and also allowed the production of this film a great deal of flexibility in reusing portions of one set when shooting another. (Little known fact – nearly 65% of the film is shot on a single set, which doubles as both the bridge of the Enterprise and the bridge of the Reliant, thanks to the magic of redress.)

If you’ve ever worn a Klingon “turtle” or pointy ears, then you’ll be stripped of your replica tricorder if you don’t pick this one up ASAP. For the rest of sci-fi fandom, this one is still an must-have, even if it’s the only Star Trek you ever own. If you’re only going to own one installment in the extensive franchise, this is without a doubt the one to have. You won’t be disappointed.

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