Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. The transfer usually held up well, though it came with a few inconsistencies.
For the most part, sharpness seemed good, as much of the movie appeared 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.
Jagged edges and moiré effects created no problems, and edge enhancement remained absent. Digital noise reduction occasionally gave the movie a slightly bland, smeared look, but this didn’t seem to be a major issue. Source flaws also failed to materialize much of the time. I saw a few small specks but that was it.
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 well. 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 dark and tight, while low-light shots demonstrated reasonable definition. This wasn’t an outstanding presentation, but it usually did well for itself.
As for the Dolby Digital TrueHD 7.1 soundtrack, it offered a pretty active soundfield. 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 suffered from a few minor issues. I thought speech always remained intelligible, but some edginess occurred Effects also offered occasional bouts of distortion, but these were more expected, as they happened during explosions, so I 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.
The score generally seemed smooth and listenable, with no problems related to distortion or excessive muddiness. The music showed range, and the score never became harsh or shrill. I could’ve lived without some of the distortion, but this track remained well above average for its era.
How did the picture and sound quality of this Blu-ray Disc compare with those of the prior SE DVD release? Improvements came in both domains. The audio wasn’t a radical step up, but it sounded more dynamic and involving. Visuals also boasted superior tightness and clarity, and fewer source flaws came along for the ride. Despite some inconsistencies, this was a good upgrade.
In terms of extras, the Blu-ray mixes elements from the prior SE DVD with new components. If a feature comes with an asterisk, that means it’s new and didn’t appear on the SE. If an extra is written in blue, that indicates it’s both a new piece and it’s also exclusive to the Blu-ray Disc.
We start with two separate audio commentaries. The first comes from director Nicholas Meyer. Though the piece suffers from too many empty spots, overall Meyer offers a nice look at the production. He covers a variety of subjects; from sets to story to Trek continuity to working with the actors, Meyer gives us a fine glimpse at the creation of the film. I especially liked his discussion of how he got the best performances out of Shatner.
Meyer even tries to defend Merritt Butrick’s much-maligned sweater! (In my opinion, he fails, for he misses the point of the criticism. The sweater itself isn’t the problem; it’s the preppie way in which David wears the sweater that dates the movie.) Despite the occasional gaps, this becomes an involving and informative piece.
For the second track, we hear from *Meyer and Enterprise writer/producer Manny Coto. Both sit together for this running, screen-specific chat. Redundancy, thy name is this commentary! Meyer usually simply covers the same information found in the original piece; not much new material pops up here, and the director occasionally rambles about literary allusions or how stupid everyone is today. Coto essentially acts as fanboy; he talks about his love for the film but fails to add much more to the mix. Outside of Meyer’s rants about the idiocy of modern society, this is never an unpleasant piece, but it drags and rarely engages us with new information.
Another running feature arrives with the Library Computer. This “interactive playback mode” allows you to learn about various elements that crop up throughout the movie. It gives us notes about characters, technical pieces, and other connected tidbits. Some of these are tightly ingrained – such as facts about main characters – while others are more tangential. Because of the changing circumstances of the film’s world, some of the same subjects arise multiple times; for instance, new information about Kirk comes up as story elements affect him.
All of these come via links; the title of a subject appears, and you select “enter” to read about it. You can examine these in two different ways. If desired, you can have the links crop up at the appropriate times during the movie. You still have to hit “enter” – there’s no option to let them play without viewer input – but this shows the notes in tandem with the onscreen material.
The “Library” also presents an “index”. This posts the links in alphabetical order. This is a more efficient option if you want to watch the movie without interruption, but it’s less connected to the story.
Either way, the “Library” includes some nice details. It’s pretty dry, but it throws out a lot of background facts and gives us a satisfying glimpse of Trek information.
Under the Production banner, we get five featurettes. Captain’s Log offers a 27-minute and 21-second compilation of recent interviews with Meyer, executive producer Harve Bennett, and actors William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, and Ricardo Montalban. Though the piece doesn’t really try to be a total overview of the film’s creation, it covers the most significant topics. We learn how the story was developed and the main participants brought into the fold and also hear a strong discussion of the film’s primary controversy. Some solid production anecdotes are tossed into the mix as well during this engaging and informative program.
In Designing Khan, matters take a more technical bent. The 23-minute and 53-second program uses the same format as the “Captain’s Log”. We get interviews with production designer Joe Jennings, costume designer Robert Fletcher, art director Lee Cole, director Meyer, producer Bennett, and actor Montalban. These folks cover a nice variety of topics. We learn of the Navy influences that showed up in Khan, the challenges of the dogfight sequence, ship design, the new costumes, the invention of the rank insignia, set design, development of the Genesis device, and a bunch of other areas. The show moves at a brisk pace and includes a great deal of compelling material.
The only non-original featurette on this DVD, Original Interviews offers 10 minutes and 56 seconds of clips from 1982. (Actually, only the first eight minutes and 15 seconds or so contain interviews; the remainder of the piece presents some interesting production photos.) We get information from actors Shatner, Nimoy, Montalban and DeForest Kelley. Some decent information appears, but for the most part, the data seems fairly bland, and some of it seems to be wrong. For one, Nimoy states that Meyer had a great love for Trek before he came on board, but during the commentaries, the director clearly indicates his prior ignorance of the show. And who dressed these guys, anyway? Nimoy and Kelley wore especially silly outfits.
More technical data appears in Where No Man Has Gone Before: The Visual Effects of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. Again, interviews constitute the bulk of the program, as we hear from special visual effects supervisor Ken Ralston, computer graphics technicians Ed Catmul and Loren Carpenter, modelmaker William George, supervising modelmaker Steve Gawley, model electronics technician Marty Brenneis, and director Meyer during this 18-minute and 13-second piece. In addition to those segments, we see a nice variety of photos and test footage from the production; those elements help illustrate the work put into the film. As with the other featurettes, this one proceeds in a lively and informative manner that makes it quite enjoyable.
“Production” concludes with *James Horner: Composing Genesis. In this nine-minute and 33-second piece, we hear from composer Horner as he tells us how he came onto Khan and his work for the film. He provides nice insights as he digs into his score and themes.
With that, we head to the three components under The Star Trek Universe. *Collecting Star Trek’s Movie Relics lasts 11 minutes, five seconds and features notes from PropWorx CEO Alec Peters. He takes us through a mix of props he owns, and we also see some elements possessed by collectors Jay Wyatt, Joseph Cawley and Brett Leggett. Profiles in History owner Joseph Maddalena, Science Fiction Museum senior curator Jacob McMurray and Science Fiction Museum curator John Brooks Peck also appear. All sure seem enthusiastic about their collections, and we get a fun look at the memorabilia.
For a glimpse at some serious fans, look no further than A Novel Approach. This 28-minute and 55-second program features interviews with authors Julia Ecklar and Greg Cox. Both write books placed in the Trek universe, and they appear here because they have tomes directly related to Khan; Ecklar did work about the Kobayashi Maru scenario, while Cox fleshed out Khan’s past with his novels.
While not a great piece, “Approach” offers a decent look at dedicated Trekkies. On the negative side, at times it feels like it exists as a promotional deal. We hear a lot about the books and see far too many TV and movie clips. However, for less obsessive fans like me, it’s interesting to learn more about various facets of the series and its followers. For the record, Ecklar seems reasonably well-adjusted, but Cox clearly gets a little too wrapped up in Trek, as demonstrated when he nearly blows a gasket due to some continuity errors connected to Khan’s Sikh heritage.
*Starfleet Academy SciSec Brief 002: Mystery Behind Ceti Alpha VI rounds out “Universe”. It runs three minutes, eight seconds as it offers details about the fate of Ceta Alpha VI. It mostly just repeats information we learn in the movie, so it doesn’t provide especially valuable. The “Starfleet Science Officer” who narrates is pretty cute, at least.
Within Storyboards, we get 13 different sets of drawings. These include between six and 64 images for a total of 227 pictures. Although storyboards don’t do a lot for me, I thought this was a pretty solid little collection.
“Farewell” takes us to *A Tribute to Ricardo Montalban. In this four-minute and 44-second piece, we hear from Meyer as he provides fond memories of the late actor. It’s too bad the show doesn’t include thoughts from others, especially since Meyer offers most of the same remarks in his commentary. Still, it’s nice the disc pays tribute to the performer.
In addition to the film’s theatrical trailer, two Previews open the disc. We get ads for the 2009 Star Trek feature film and for Star Trek: The Original Series Season One Blu-ray.
Does the Blu-ray lose anything from the SE DVD? Sort of. It drops a text commentary, but the “Library Computer” provides the same kinds of information found there. Nonetheless, I wish the Blu-ray still included the text track, as the “Library” didn’t duplicate all the same material; the prior commentary comes with a more conversational, less dry tone and digs into Trek connections better. It also moves along without the need to constantly press a button, so I think it proves more satisfying.
Arguably the best film in the series, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan continues to work 27 years after its theatrical release. The movie combines action, intelligence and drama into one compelling package that make it a winner. As for the Blu-ray, it provides erratic but generally good picture and audio as well as a very nice set of extras. This Blu-ray is a little too up and down to be a slam-dunk release, but it provides the film’s strongest home video release to date.
To rate this film visit the Director's Edition review of the STAR TREK II: THE WRATH OF KHAN