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Paramount Studios presents
"Do you know the Klingon proverb that tells us revenge is a dish that is best served cold? It is very cold...in space."
DVD ReviewStar Trek II: The Wrath of Khan is a sequel, of sorts, to a 1967 episode of the original TV series. The episode, entitled Space Seed, found the intrepid crew of the starship Enterprise granting a temporary home to a group of marooned space travellers. Their leader, Khan Noonien Singh (Ricardo Montalban) turned out to be one of many genetically engineered, mentally unstable soldiers who started World War III on Earth several centuries previous. After an attempt to take over the Enterprise, Khan was stopped and all of his followers were abandoned on the Earth-like planet Ceti-Alpha 5 where they could lead normal lives, but not threaten ordinary people again. The movie, set 15 years after "Space Seed" finds Starfleet investigating planets hoping to find a dead world suitable for a special research project. While examining a moon they mistake it for Ceti-Alpha 6, and accidentally discover Khan. He then proceeds to escape his planetoid prison and wreak revenge on James T. Kirk (William Shatner) by threatening this new Starfleet project entitled "Genesis."
What seems to truly drive this adventure is the charismatic presence of Ricardo Montalban, as Khan. He was a compelling villain in 1967 and updates his role with classic effort here. William Shatner may have been the hero in the TV series, but he is definitely upstaged here. The only significant addition to the regular Star Trek cast is Kirstie Alley as Lt. Saavik, a Vulcan who plays on the audience's familiarity with the stubborn Vulcan logic. The rest of the familiar cast fills their roles with the usual amount of character, though they get little screentime compared to other Trek films.
Though essentially a revenge story, the script here mixes in the interesting subplot of the Genesis Project. The clever addition of this planet-creation system adds an interesting level to what might have simply been an extended outer space action sequence. It was also a brilliant way to supply ideas for future Trek films, and it wound up being an extremely important aspect of the next film.
What endears Wrath of Khan to me is the fact the storyline is blissfully free of massive moral messages. Star Trek, in general, seems to like preaching things to the audience. The Enterprise crew has always brought some form of moral superiority into a variety of issues, and after awhile it becomes tiresome. This movie, on the other hand, delights in simply being a great sci-fi action film. There's the bad guys, there's the good guys, and they're going to clash. The film is not devoid of emotion or depth, but this depth holds it up rather than squashing it down. While I like the first Star Trek film, in many ways this one would have made a better screen introduction for the series because here we see the crew act like they KNOW they'll be kicking ass.
Rating for Style: B-
Rating for Substance: A-
Image Transfer Review: Visually, Wrath of Khan is on the disappointing side. While the colors are very rich and balanced, the film is extremely grainy. Many scenes in the film exhibit large amounts of compression artifacts and negative problems. There's a lot of scratches, hairs, and other problems with the source print, including one section (when the Enterprise leaves space dock) that appears stained. This movie looks desperately in need of a remaster using a much better quality print. Perhaps the best portion of the movie that exhibits this is the end portion, where the Enterprise enters the "Motaba Nebula." It's hazy and vague, and lacks the kind of sharpness and clarity you expect from a DVD.
Image Transfer Grade: C+
Audio Transfer Review: The new Dolby 5.1 audio track is much better than I expected (especially after the weak picture quality). Lots of directionality and imaging have been added to the original soundtrack, as well as a good amount of surround action. The LFE channel also gets a decent work out from all the explosions and spaceships flying around. The battle sequences and almost every significant sound effect have been enhanced in many ways, completely enveloping you in constant audio action. My only minor complaint is the mixed dialogue quality, which ranges from good to muddy. James Horner's masterful score also gets the 5.1 treatment with new lustre.
The Dolby Pro-Logic 2.0 track is nowhere near as broad and sweeping as the 5.1. It's good, but the surround effects are seriously diminished as is the low-end bass. It lacks the punch that the 5.1 effortlessly delivers.
Audio Transfer Grade: A-
Disc ExtrasStatic menu
Scene Access with 17 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
Extras Review: Does an 'F' seem extremely harsh for the relatively average extra of a trailer only? Well, look at it this way: the Star Trek films are part of a sci-fi lore that has a huge, insanely loyal following. These followers ("Trekkies") compose a gigantic force of fans who are so devoted they do things like learn the Klingon language or have their name legally changed to "James Kirk." Why then do these people who have spent BILLIONS on Paramount owned Trek material get only a trailer in return for their devotion? On top of the numerous storyboard and behind-the-scenes material already published in books, there is also the matter of the deleted scenes which DO exist and are sometimes shown in cable television cuts of the film. How about interviews with the cast and crew? The Sci-Fi channel put together segments like this when they aired the widescreened Trek films, why can't Paramount? Production notes? Crew bios? Anything?
We're talking a piece of motion picture history here. I think I'm not alone in the sentiment that a better DVD needs to be made, with far better, dual-layer image quality and the extras this series deserves.
Extras Grade: F
Final CommentsAllow me to state that I am not a "Trekkie." Though I watched a lot of the original Star Trek series as a kid and I followed Next Generation closely, I've never found the show particularly brilliant in either incarnation (especially the third- gen series DS9 and Voyager). I've also followed the Trek movies, but not with any major excitement. To be honest, I've been very disappointed with a lot of things Star Trek seem to turn into over the years and I could never really see what got some people so dramatically attached to it. Most likely, this gives me a different perspective from the hardcore Trek fan, who probably has different standards for judging the peaks of the Trek universe. Having said all that, though, I still think Star Trek II is the best of the big-screen series. It packs a solid space adventure with plenty of serious, intellectual sci-fi to please "thinking" fans as well. Despite the weak quality of the DVD, it makes a good rental and is a fantastic entry in the world of Star Trek.
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