Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this single-sided, single-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Though the picture generally seemed good, it showed a few flaws that detracted from the overall experience.
For the most part, sharpness appeared positive, as much of the movie looked nicely detailed and well defined. However, the image could slip at times, and some of the film seemed moderately flat and hazy. Modest softness crept into some wider shots, and since Khan included more than a few of those, the issue caused some concerns. Some jagged edges and shimmering showed up, and I noticed some moderate edge enhancement at times. In regard to print flaws, I saw moderate but not severe levels of grit and speckles, and mild grain cropped up at times as well. The latter appeared mostly during effects shots. The image demonstrated a mildly “digital” look, as some of the grain seemed to be caused by compression artifacts.
Colors seemed good as a whole, but they demonstrated some moderate problems. Trek movies often offer dense imagery, and this one's no different; it tended toward reds and other dark hues that don't always resolve correctly. For the most part, the colors stayed within the bounds of acceptability, and they often looked pretty good, but Khan ran into a little trouble with red lighting; when the bridge of the Enterprise was bathed in these tones, it could appear somewhat murky.
Black levels appeared adequate but unspectacular, as did shadow detail. Trek productions have never been big on those aspects of filmmaking, as they tend to stick to either fairly brightly-lit areas or bathe everything in various colors, so they don't seem as prominent as you might expect. In the end, Khan looked fairly average on DVD.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Khan offered a pretty active soundfield, albeit one that distinctly favored the forward channels. The front speakers got a nice little workout, with quite a lot of discrete audio in all three channels; the sound traveled well between the areas and added to the experience. The surrounds also received more use than you might expect from a movie of this vintage, but don't expect anything tremendous; their general usage tended toward ambient effects and music, and though a few split surround instances occurred, there's not much of that. Still, the surrounds contributed a nice sense of atmosphere to the film, and a few scenes - like those in the nebula - worked extremely well.
The quality of the audio seemed less consistent. Most problematic was the dialogue, which went from solid to muddy in the blink of an eye. I thought speech always remained intelligible, but a lot of it sounded flat or dull or harsh or distorted. Most of the dialogue seemed natural, but it's a serious crapshoot, and the inconsistent speech occasionally became a distraction. Effects also offered occasional bouts of distortion, but these were more expected, as they happened during explosions, so I'm felt less bothered them. Despite some crackling at those times, most of the effects appeared pretty clear and concise, and they even offered some decent bass at times; the warp jumps and ship fly-bys sounded deep and tight.
Music lacked very precise highs or lows, but the score seemed generally smooth and listenable, with no problems related to distortion or excessive muddiness. The music could have displayed greater range, but the score never became harsh or shrill. Although the quality displayed some issues, the soundtrack of Khan remained a bit above average for a movie of its era.
This DVD edition of Khan almost totally skimps on extras. All we find is the film’s theatrical trailer. Presented in a 1.85:1 ratio, the clip offers Dolby Surround 2.0 audio and anamorphic enhancement.
Although it's not a stellar DVD, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan remains possibly the best of the nine Trek movies to date, and that has to count for something. After two decades it's still warm, witty, fun and touching; no, it's not perfect, but it's close to that level as Trek gets. The DVD provides fairly mediocre picture and relatively positive sound, but it almost completely lacks supplements.
I updated this review to coincide with the release of the new director’s edition DVD of Khan. This package outdoes the old one in almost every way. Audio quality seems the same, but the new disc provides significantly improved picture along with a solid roster of extras. The only reason to get the original DVD would be for those who don’t want to see the longer cut of the film. Otherwise, the “director’s edition” is clearly the way to go.
To rate this film visit the review of the Director's Edition