Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan - Director's Cut

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Tuesday June 7, 2016

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan - Director's Cut

The 2009 restoration and Blu-ray release of the most popular movie in the "Star Trek" franchise offered vibrant colors and crisp detail, but that edition (like the motion picture box sets released the same year) was restricted to the original theatrical version.

This has been something of a puzzlement, given the various director's cuts previously available on DVD. When director Nicholas Meyers has a cut of "Trek II" and "Trek VI" that adds and tweaks, why not release it, if only as an alternative selection on a single-disc Blu-ray? (The Robert Wise cut of "Star Trek: The Motion Picture" is a different matter, because that film was extensively re-edited and new CGI effects added; but the new effects were completed at a resolution compatible with DVD and would not hold up to a Blu-ray transfer or a viewing on a HD television. It's dubious the director's cut of the first film will appear on Blu-ray because re-doing the new effects would be a costly proposition.)

Given that this year marks "Star Trek"'s fiftieth anniversary, it's only fitting that along with other "Trek" events (a new movie, and -- early next year -- a new television series on CBS's All Access streaming service) Paramount would finally see fit to release Meyer's version of the franchise's second movie outing. "Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan - The Director's Cut" proves worth the wait. The restoration is enhanced with a whole new 4K remaster that corrects the too-blue color of the 2009 restoration (long a fan complaint) and makes the film sparkle.

Along with beautiful hues and sharp detail, the bits Meyers added in bring extra dimension to the film and its characters. (This cut is similar to Meyers' re-edit of the film for television broadcast in the mid-'80s, and the biggest addition is the restoration of a subplot involving Scotty's nephew -- but there are other, smaller differences as well.)

Paramount has, thankfully, exercised some restraint in not washing out the new transfer with too much light, as they did with the DVD and Blu-ray editions of "Star Trek," the original series (a decision that effectively ruined much of the work of series cinematographer Jerry Finnerman). As a result, Gayne Rescher's cinematography looks a little dark -- but when you take note of the contrasting light and color values in the film's composition, it's easy to see that this was not a mistake. Rather, it was an artistic choice (just as valid as, although 180 degrees away from, J.J. Abrams' over-lit sets and constant lens flares in the new, re-booted films).

The plot? You know the plot. Khan Noonien Singh (Ricardo Montalban), exiled to a distant planet after his scrap with Kirk (William Shatner) in the Original Series episode "Space Seed," intercepts a landing party from the Starship Reliant, brainwashes them with the help of nasty space critters, steals Reliant and lays a trap for Kirk (William Shatner) and the Starship Enterprise, and eventually detonates a device that has the power to re-organize matter and create, from scratch, the "strange new worlds" and "new life forms" that the original show was dedicated to exploring. Spock (Leonard Nimoy) dies while saving the ship. If "Star Trek: The Motion Picture" was all about fulfilling the original TV show's intellectual ambitions, "The Wrath of Khan" is devoted to the show's other major element: Space opera action-adventure, at the heart of which is the trilogy of Kirk, Spock, and McCoy (DeForest Kelly), an iconic personification of human heart, mind, and will.

Most of the special features on this new release are the same as appeared on the 2009 edition: Two audio commentaries (both feature Meyers; he's joined in one by "Enterprise" writer Manny Coto); featurettes about "Star Trek"'s history, props, actors, original series of novels, etc.; more featurettes focused on "The Wrath of Khan"'s production, music, visual effects work, and so on; text commentary by "Trek" experts Michael and Denise Okuda, and more. (One particular personal favorite is an interview with composer James Horner, who sadly died last year in a small aircraft crash.)

These are all a lot of fun to re-visit, but there's also a brand-new half-hour featurette called "The Genesis Effect: Engineering the Wrath of Khan," in which Meyers and others recall different aspects of the film's origins and production, including the project's troubled script, which Meyers totally re-wrote in less than two weeks (without getting credit for it). If there's a downside, it's the package art -- but this is one film we know and love well past any need to judge it by its cover.

Watching the retired film on DVD in 2009 was akin to seeing the film for the first time; that sense of rediscovery is back with this restored edition of the director's cut on Blu-ray.

"Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan - Director's Cut"



Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.