Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (4K UHD Review)

  • Reviewed by: Bill Hunt
  • Review Date: Aug 31, 2022
  • Format: Blu-ray Disc
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Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (4K UHD Review)

Director

Nicholas Meyer

Release Date(s)

1982 (September 6, 2022)

Studio(s)

Paramount Pictures (Paramount Pictures Home Entertainment)
  • Film/Program Grade: A
  • Video Grade: A
  • Audio Grade: B
  • Extras Grade: B

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (4K Ultra HD)

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Review

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan is a continuation of one of The Original Series’ best episodes, Space Seed, in which Enterprise finds a ship adrift in deep space full of humans in suspended animation. It turns out these are genetically-engineered supermen, who nearly destroyed Earth in the 1990s and later fled the planet to avoid persecution. Upon being revived, their leader Khan Noonien Singh (Ricardo Montalbán) attempts to hijack Enterprise in a bid to conquer the galaxy. But Captain Kirk and company foil this effort, and banish Khan and his people to a planet called Ceti Alpha V, where they might make a new life without harming others.

Six months after Enterprise departs, however, a neighboring planet explodes and renders Ceti Alpha V uninhabitable. Now it’s fifteen years later. Having barely managed to survive, Khan wants revenge against the man he holds responsible—Admiral James T. Kirk. And when the Starship Reliant arrives to survey the planet, Khan gains the means to exact his vengeance. But the stakes are higher still, for Reliant is helping to test an experimental device, code-named Genesis, with unthinkable power to create or destroy. Meanwhile, Kirk and Spock are on a training cruise, with a batch of Starfleet Academy cadets aboard Enterprise instead of an experienced crew. And with Genesis now in Khan’s hands, they’ll have to pay a high price indeed in order to stop him.

If there’s one key thing to understand about drama and conflict, it’s that great heroes require great villains. And there’s been no better villain, in any incarnation of Star Trek, than Khan. Engineered for superior intelligence and strength, he’s almost impossible to beat. As played by Montalbán, he’s also brooding, sly, witty and extremely dangerous. William Shatner gives perhaps his best performance in this film as Kirk, matching Khan round for round, and blow for blow. Nicholas Meyer’s direction is perfect, keeping the human action moving with style and infusing the film with a dark, edgy atmosphere. This isn’t Star Trek: The Next Generation, where Starship bridges look like living rooms—this Enterprise is steeped in the classic naval tradition, recalling the cat and mouse games of old WWII submarine films, and even the great The Original Series’ episode Balance of Terror. The screenplay is terrific (it’s credited to Jack B. Sowards, though Meyer made significant contributions too). And the score by the late James Horner (Titanic, Braveheart, Apollo 13) is absolutely thrilling. This is rousing stuff.

The original theatrical version of Star Trek II runs 112 minutes and was released on Blu-ray in 2009, while the 116-minute Director’s Cut came to the format (and Digitally in 4K) in 2016 for Star Trek’s 50th anniversary. Created by Meyer for the 2002 DVD release, the latter incorporates a number of small scene additions, many of which were first seen during the film’s original TV broadcast on ABC. For its presentation on Blu-ray, Meyer requested that one small change be made: Before the final battle in the Mutara Nebula, there’s a brief scene where Kirk, Spock, and Saavik are climbing the Jeffries tubes back up to the bridge. On the DVD, there was a bit of dialogue here in which Kirk tells Spock (of David): “That boy is my son.” To which Spock replied: “Fascinating.” The scene is still there, but Meyer requested that those two lines of dialogue be removed (so just know, it’s not an error). Other than that, this is the Director’s Cut you’re familiar with.

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan was shot on 35 mm photochemical film using Panavision cameras and anamorphic lenses. Visual effects work was also completed using VistaVision, and the film was finished photochemically at the 2.39:1 aspect ratio. For Star Trek’s 50th anniversary in 2016, the film was fully remastered from a fresh 4K scan of the original camera negative and master interpositive elements to produce a new 4K Digital Intermediate, complete with new color grading for High Dynamic Range (both HDR10 and Dolby Vision options are available). Note that this disc (and the remastered Blu-ray that accompanies it) includes both the Director’s Cut and the original theatrical version via seamless branching—the discs ask you which version you wish to view when you press play from the menus. The full 4K image is gorgeous, featuring a nice improvement in fine detail and texturing over even the 2016 Blu-ray, with mostly organic-looking film grain (there’s a bit of blurring/artifacting apparent in the grain occasionally that suggests digital grain management, but it’s significantly better looking than the 2009 Blu-ray). Colors are much richer and more nuanced now thanks to the wider gamut of HDR, a difference that’s obvious in control panels, displays, skin tones, the sweeping Mutara Nebula vistas, costume fabrics—even the metallic sheen of Starfleet rank and service emblems on uniforms. Blacks are deeper, while highlights are more naturally bold. (The flashes of static energy within the nebula are actually bright enough to be eye-reactive.) Dolby Vision has a slight edge over HDR10, but whichever you can take advantage of, you should be very pleased. All in all, this is a terrific image and the best this film has looked at home by a wide margin. It must be added that it’s better than the Digital 4K presentation as well, thanks to the greater video data rates afforded by the physical disc.

Primary audio is included on the 4K disc in English 7.1 surround in lossless Dolby TrueHD format. This is the exact same mix found on the original 2009 Blu-ray and also the 2016 Director’s Cut Blu-ray. But again, while some may have hoped for a new Dolby Atmos mix, the TrueHD was good when we first heard it and it remains so. The soundstage is fairly wide across the front, though with somewhat more modest use of the surrounds for music, ambient effects, and directional cues (including intercom calls, computer sounds, light wind and blowing sand on Ceti Alpha V, and machinery noises in the simulator scene). The surrounds do get a bit more active during the film’s space battles sequences. Panning is smooth and natural, dialogue is clean at all times, bass is firm, and the score is presented in pleasing fidelity. Optional audio mixes are available in German, Spanish, and French 2.0 stereo in Dolby Digital format, along with Japanese 5.1 surround in Dolby Digital. Subtitles are available in English, English for the Hearing Impaired, Danish, German, Spanish, French, Japanese, Dutch, Norwegian, Finnish, and Swedish.

Paramount’s new stand-alone 4K UHD release is a 2-disc set (UHD and Blu-ray) featuring the exact same discs found in the 2021 Star Trek: The Original 4-Movie Collection 4K set (reviewed here). Each disc offers a simple menu interface featuring the Bob Peak poster artwork for the film. The 4K disc includes both versions of the film via seamless branching, along with the following special features:

  • Commentary by Nicholas Meyer (Director’s Cut and Theatrical Version)
  • Commentary by Nicholas Meyer and Manny Coto (Theatrical Version)

The commentary tracks are the same as those found on the previous Blu-ray editions. The first features director Nicholas Meyer by himself (on the Director’s Cut) while the second has Meyer joined by Enterprise: Season 4 show runner Manny Coto (for the original theatrical version). This second track in particular is excellent, as Coto really knows his Trek history and his enthusiasm helps to keep the conversation lively throughout. Note that optional subtitles are available for the commentaries in English, German, Spanish, French, and Japanese.

Both the newly-remastered theatrical version and the previously-remastered Director’s Cut are also offered in 1080p HD and SDR on a Blu-ray Disc that’s included in the packaging (and is also available separately). It features the exact same audio and subtitle options as the 4K disc. It also adds the following additional special features:

  • Commentary by Nicholas Meyer (Director’s Cut and Theatrical Version)
  • Commentary by Nicholas Meyer and Manny Coto (Theatrical Version)
  • Text Commentary by Michael and Denise Okuda (Director’s Cut)
  • Library Computer Viewing Mode (Theatrical Version) (HD)
  • The Genesis Effect: Engineering The Wrath of Khan (HD – 28:18)
  • Production
    • Captain’s Log (SD – 27:21)
    • Designing Khan (SD – 23:55)
    • Original Interviews with William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, and Ricardo Montalbán (SD – 10:57)
    • Where No Man Has Gone Before: The Visual Effects of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (SD – 18:15)
    • James Horner: Composing Genesis (HD – 9:33)
  • The Star Trek Universe
    • Collecting Star Trek’s Movie Relics (HD – 11:05)
    • A Novel Approach (SD – 28:56)
    • Starfleet Academy SCISEC Brief 002: Mystery Behind Ceti Alpha VI (HD – 3:07)
  • Farewell
    • A Tribute to Ricardo Montalbán (HD – 4:43)
  • Storyboard Galleries (HD)
    • Main Title Concept
    • Kobayashi Maru
    • Ceti Alpha V
    • Regula I
    • Chekov and Terrell Find Khan
    • Admiral’s Inspection
    • Khan’s Revenge
    • Kirk Strikes Back
    • Finding the Genesis Cave
    • The Mutara Nebula
    • Sneak Attack
    • Genesis
    • Honored Dead
  • Theatrical Trailer (HD – 2:22)

Once more, these are by-and-large the exact same features that were included on the 2009 and 2016 Blu-ray releases. A few are in SD (carried over from the 2002 DVD release) while the rest are HD. It’s a solid and informative batch of content that includes contributions by many of the key personnel involved in the production. The Library Computer viewing mode features background information, technical details, and other trivia compiled by the Okudas, all indexed by subject and viewable in context during the film. Unlike the remastered Motion Picture Blu-ray, the original Okuda text commentary carries over here too (on the Director’s Cut). And this time, the excellent Roger Lay, Jr. documentary on the making of the film from the 50th Anniversary Collection’s bonus disc—The Genesis Effect: Engineering The Wrath of Khan—is available here (as it was on the 2016 Blu-ray). All in all, there doesn’t appear to be any missing content from previous Blu-ray or DVD editions. As usual, the package also includes a Digital copy code on a paper insert.

Pound for pound, The Wrath of Khan is easily the highlight of the Star Trek feature film franchise. This is great human drama, with a terrific supporting cast, and marvelous old-school visual effects. Best of all, there’s genuine character development, particularly for Shatner’s James T. Kirk. We learn more about him here than we do in the entire Original Series and by the time the film is done, he’s in a very different place than he was at the start. Paramount’s 4K remaster of the Director’s Cut was terrific when we first got to see it on Digital (and on Blu-ray) back in 2016, and it’s a thrill that not only do we finally have it on physical 4K Ultra HD, it comes with the theatrical version too. Highly recommended.

- Bill Hunt

(You can follow Bill on social media at these links: Twitter and Facebook)

 

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