Blu-ray Review: Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan - Director's Cut
There is not much new about this 50th anniversary special edition, but its well worth the price.
Negative criticism of J.J. Abrams' Star Trek movies often goes hand-in-hand with the argument that he was never a fan of the show, which made him the wrong choice to direct a Trek film. It might surprise those making that observation, then, to learn that neither was Nicholas Meyer, who helmed the most popular and acclaimed Star Trek movie ever made: The Wrath of Khan.
Speaking in a new documentary, titled 'The Genesis Effect: Engineering The Wrath of Khan', on Paramount's recently released Blu-ray of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan - Director's Cut, Meyer admits that he'd never really watched Star Trek before taking the reigns on the franchise's second feature. He goes on to say that he had generally skipped over the Original Series if he came across it while channel surfing. Moreover, Meyer indicates that he never intended to make a film for Star Trek fans and didn't understand why some of his film crew were in tears as they filmed the movie's emotional ending.
Given the criticism of Abrams' Star Trek credentials, it is therefore ironic that Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan is the standard against which all other Trek movies are now measured. Then again, the fact that it turned out as well as it did could be more the result of luck than judgment. As the documentary explains, the script went through numerous hands, including those of William Shatner, producer Harve Bennett and uber fan Bjo Trimble, before it reached the screen. 'The Genesis Effect' also presents plenty of other fascinating tidbits about the making of the movie, including a reference to Ron Howard's name being brought up as a potental director in the early stages and an account of Nick Meyer's original disapproval of the film's hopeful ending.
This documentary is the only item on the Director's Cut Blu-ray that hasn't been available before. Yet, by virtue of its eye-opening content, its presence, alone, makes this one-disc release worth buying if you are a keen Trekker. There is plenty more to enjoy, though, especially if you don't have an HD copy of this film already. The remastered video looks fantastic with its bright colors, stunning level of detail and almost complete absence of grain. There is also an impressive set of special features that have appeared with previous DVD releases. These include two enjoyable audio commentaries, both involving Meyer; a fascinating text commentary by Michael and Denise Okuda; storyboards and a bunch of other background featurettes. One omission that would have been a nice bonus is a Digital Copy but this is a minor niggle.
Paramout's original decision to sanction Meyer's cut of Star Trek II predates the now-common strategy of releasing pointlessly 'extended' editions of movies on home video as a marketing ploy. Even so, in keeping with the modern trend, several scenes that Meyer reinsterted don't add much to the story other than fill in minor details that are tangential to the plot. Still, Meyer's Director's Cut is now widely recognised as the definitive version of Star Trek II:The Wrath of Khan. Completists have no cause for complaint, however, because the original theatrical release is included with this set, too.
Regardless of how much of a Trekker Meyer is at heart, it's clear from watching Star Trek II again that CBS have likely given their new Star Trek series a shot in the arm by signing him. Key aspects of Meyer's vision of the Trek universe didn't meet with the approval of Gene Roddenberry but he understood that what made the series click was a combination of multidimensional characters and a layered script. The Wrath of Khan work so well because it has a solid story that doesn't cut sharp corners for the sake of convenience. Moreover, the spectacle always serves the script rather the other way around.
These qualities separate classic sci-fi action films from most recent blockbusters and will ensure that Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan is reverred long after Abrams' expensive reboots have been relegated to the archives like, it's fair to say, most other original Star Trek movies. Thankfully, Paramount has delivered a Blu-ray release that pays tribte to Star Trek II's well-deserved reputation and puts it's place in the history of Star Trek movies in the proper context.
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