Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan Review
Khhhhhhaaaaaaaaaaan! Star Trek reached new heights with its second film. After the monstrosity that was 'The Motion Picture' we should count ourselves lucky that the film was enough of a success to justify producing more. Otherwise we wouldn't have ever got to see this gem - of course some of you may think that it's a shame that anything came of the franchise now that it seems to be expanding at an ever increasing rate.
Following on from the overblown first picture, The Wrath of Khan dispensed with a lot of the fluff and instead the producers decided to put together a much more enjoyable action-based film. The main ingredient in the success of this second film was the reintroduction of one of the original series most memorable villians - Khan (Montalban). The story is one of revenge - something that would be mirrored later in the film series with Kirk.
In the original series episode 'Space Seed', Kirk happened upon an old earth ship containing a number of cryogenically frozen humans. These were no normal humans and were in fact genetically enhanced with the aim of creating perfection. Following the Eugenics wars in the 1990s (although they were moved to the 21st Century in later TV series), the genetically enhanced humans were exiled from Earth on this ship. After a struggle, Kirk finally manages to dump Khan and crew on a habitable planet.
In the following years, a disaster in this planets star system results in it moving into an orbit which makes the sustaining of life almost impossible. Of course, Khan isn't too happy with his new home and when he sees the chance to escape the planet aboard the USS Reliant - a ship carrying out planetary surveys on a top-secret mission, he takes it. The Reliant's mission is to find a planet suitable for the testing of the Genesis device - an item of great power which can turn a lifeless rock into a living, breathing planet. Upon discovering the device's existence Khan sets off in search of what could be used as a devastating weapon.
Kirk must face his old foe in a new battleground as Khan takes on the Enterprise with tragic consequences. The Wrath of Khan is a tense cat-and-mouse chase through the galaxy and offers a lot to fans of the franchise. Events in The Wrath of Khan resonate through the following few films with some very memorable moments.
Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kahn is undoubtedly among the best films in the franchise and is well worth a watch even if you're not a Trek fan. Worth a quick mention is Kirstey Alley's big-screen debut in the role of the Vulcan, Saavik - a role she decided not to return to in later films so as not to be typecast.
As is almost always the case with early Paramount discs. There isn't a lot to shout about as far as the DVD presentation is concerned. I'll have a look at the extras first this time - a trailer, which incidentally does give you a good idea just what the films about. Watch out for spoilers though.
The Wrath of Khan improves slightly upon the previous Star Trek release. We have a pretty sharp 2.35:1 anamorphic transfer which offers more in the way of contrast and colour than the last few discs. There are a number of dark scenes in the film and these are all fairly well defined. There is some grain and also some print damage, but the DVD transfer hasn't introduced any major anomalies. It's not demo quality by any means, but then again it's light years ahead of the Star Trek V and VI transfers.
The English Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack is surprisingly active given that it's a remix. The centre channel is clear but the front soundstage is a little limiting and doesn't manage to fill the available space effectively. There is quite a lot of surround action - particularly in the space battles where we also get some limited LFE output. Once again, not really demo quality but serviceable all the same.
Given that we're almost certain to see all of these films rereleased at some point in the future, it comes as little surprise to see the lack of effort on Paramount's part. Is it worth waiting for the Region 2 disc? Going on past experience, there probably wont be that much difference between this and that other than the obvious PAL/NTSC picture issues. If you want the film, either release will probably do - although the Region 1 disc is available to buy now.