The best of the best – “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan” on 4K


4K ULTRA HD REVIEW / HDR FRAME SHOTS

Ricardo Montalban is excellent as villain Khan Noonien Singh. He and his crew have commandeered the Enterprise’s sister ship, The USS Reliant.


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“STAR TREK II: THE WRATH OF KHAN”

4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, and Digital copy; 1982; PG for violence and profanity; streaming via Amazon Prime Video (4K), Apple TV (4K), Vudu (4K)

Best extra: Commentary with director Nicholas Meyer








NEARLY EVERY critic and fan agrees “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan” from director Nicholas Meyer is the BEST of the 13 film franchise.

“Star Trek: The Motion Picture” launched in 1979, but it failed critically, suffering from an out-of-control budget from director Robert Wise (“West Side Story,” “The Sound of Music,” “The Day the Earth Stood Still”). But three years later, the character-driven “The Wrath of Khan” was highly praised by fans and critics alike, finishing at No. 8 in the 1982 U.S. box office totals and setting the course for a legitimate film franchise.



“Now this is more like it: after the colossal, big-budget bore that was “Star Trek: The Motion Picture,” here comes a sequel that’s worth its salt… The movie is swift, droll, and adventurous, not to mention appealingly gadget-happy.” — Janet Maslin New York Times, film critic June 4, 1982


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To celebrate the 55th anniversary of the September 8, 1966 airing of the first TV episode, CBS Home Entertainment and Paramount has given the first four films a new 4K remaster, releasing each one on high resolution 4K Ultra HD format, with the “Star Trek: The Original 4-Movie Collection.”

The eight-disc set includes four 4K discs and four Blu-rays with hours of bonus features: “Star Trek: The Motion Picture,” “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan” (2 edits), “Star Trek III: The Search for Spock” and “Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home.”


(1) “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan” production had a $11.2 million budget and hit U.S. theaters on June 4, 1982. (2) After a failed training session Vulcan Starfleet officer Saavik (Kristie Alley) is quized by Admiral James T. Kirk (William Shatner). (3) USS Enterprise crew members Uhura (Nichelle Nichols), Dr. ‘Bones’ McCoy (DeForest Kelley) and George Takei (Sulu). (4) Capt. Spock (Leonard Nimoy) gives Kirk a copy of the classic novel “A Tale of Two Cities” for his birthday. (5) Dr. ‘Bones’ McCoy and Kirk enjoy a drink from a bottle of finely-aged Romulan ale, which Bones gave him for his birthday.









VIDEO/AUDIO

The original 35mm film elements captured on Panavision cameras were scanned in 4K (2.39:1 aspect ratio). The results are impressive with organic, natural film grain; excellent clarity from wide shots to close-ups, plus HDR10 and Dolby Vision grading with expanded colors and contrast levels – that are true and accurate. The color palette is not oversaturated but balanced with deep blacks, detailed mid-tones, and controlled highlights for a cinematic experience.

Over the last year, Paramount has become a leader in post-production 4K remastering with recent catalog titles on 4K – “Indiana Jones 4-Movie Collection,” “My Fair Lady,” “The Ten Commandments” – and the Paramount Presents Series on Blu-ray. Hats off!

An eight-channel Dolby TrueHD soundtrack without Atmos coding has been added to each film, a remix from the original Dolby stereo soundtrack. Overall fidelity is very good from dialogue to James Horner's (“Titanic,” “Apollo 13,” “Braveheart”) score, but the bass response will match today's more bass-driven soundtracks. A nice bonus feature on my Denon AV receiver, it will upmix the TrueHD soundtrack with Dolby's Surround Mode and send effects and music cues to height speakers. The mode provides a more vertical and 3D soundstage environment. Or, if you’re so inclined, you can keep it in native Dolby TrueHD.


(1-3) Space Lab Regula 1 orbits a planetoid. Dr. Carol Marcus (Bibi Besch) and her Genesis crew are onboard. She has a video conference with Captain Terrell (Paul Winfield) and Commander Pavel Chekov (Walter Koenig) before they investigate Ceti Alpha VI as a possible site for the Genesis experiment. (4&5) Inside a crashed derelict vessel, Terrell and Chekov are confronted by Khan Noonien Singh and his crew, who have been exiled on Ceti Alpha VI for the past 15 years. (6) Khan places juvenile Ceti eels inside Terrell’s and Chekov’s helmets. The creatures enter their ears, rendering them subservient to Khan’s every command.








EXTRAS

Each 4K disc includes a commentary track or two as “The Wrath of Khan” director Nicholas Meyer (“Time After Time,” “Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country”) provides two commentaries for the theatrical version and his highly desired three-minute longer ‘Director’s Cut,’ which is insightful and thorough as he examines his career and composition.

After Paramount’s trademark mountaintop, Horner’s score starts playing over the rolling titles and Meyer introduces himself. “I’m the director…I’ve been writing since I was five years old.” His career took off after his novel “The Seven-Per-Cent Solution” (1974), which he wrote during the Writers Guild strike of the early 1970s. The book explored the notion that Sigmund Freud helped Sherlock Holmes recover from cocaine addiction, and was on the New York Times bestseller list for 40 weeks. He said, “I was, as they say, lifted out of obscurity.”

After his directing début with the sci-fi fantasy “Time After Time,” he crossed paths with friend producer Karen Moore (“Breaking Bad”), who was working at Paramount at the time. She suggested he connect with producer Harve Bennett who had worked on the successful TV series “Six Million Dollar Man,” “Bionic Woman,” and “The Mod Squad,” and had been assigned the next Star Trek movie. “I think you’d get along with him,” she said.

Five different scripts were being considered as Meyer and Bennett started with a list, highlighting the best elements from the five different stories. “I didn’t care if it’s a character, a plot, a subplot, a scene, a line of dialogue,” said Meyer. From their lists, the following elements surfaced: Kirk meets his son, the Genesis Planet, the death of Spock, and characters Khan and Saavik. Their mission was to weave the best elements together.


(1) Admiral Kirk inspects Mr. Scott’s Engineering crew, where he meets Midshipman, First Class, Peter Preston (Ike Eisenmann). (2&3) Lt. Saavik pilots the Enterprise out of the space dock. (4) USS Enterprise advances to warp speed. (5) Khan and his crew have overtaken USS Reliant. (6) Khan and his son, second in command Joachim (Judson Scott), disagree during their confrontation with Admiral Kirk and the Enterprise. (7) Mr. Scott appears on the bridge holding the badly burned body of Peter Preston, mortally wounded during the battle with Khan.








As the script began to materialize, word leaked that Spock was going to die. Devote followers weren’t happy and Meyer received threatening letters. “If Spock dies, you die,” he said. Star William Shatner was also shocked and stormed into Bennett’s office, “God, this is terrible. This is a disaster,” as Meyer recalls. Shatner threatened to not do the film, but after an overnight script revision from Meyer, the director received an “ecstatic message” on his answering machine the next day. “You’re a genius. I don’t know how you did this,” the iconic Captain said. To this day Meyer has kept the taped message. And, during the production, anytime Shatner gave him “stick” he would play the tape and say, “Bill? Genius.”

In the plot, sixteen years after Gene Roddenberry’s TV series first aired on NBC, the voyages of the starship USS Enterprise continue as the cast reunites with Shatner (now promoted to Admiral James T. Kirk), Leonard Nimoy (Mr. Spock), DeForest Kelley (Dr. ‘Bones’ McCoy), James Doohan (Scotty), George Takei (Sulu), Nichelle Nichols (Uhura), and the rest of the crew. Spock is now the commander of the Enterprise, with a younger crew in training including fellow Vulcan Saavik (Kristie Alley). Kirk has retired to an administrative post at Federation headquarters on Earth, but eventually, he's thrust back into action. A showdown-space opera mushrooms between him and the great villain Khan Noonien Singh, exceptionally performed by Ricardo Montalban. Driven by hate, Khan wants revenge for being sent to exile on Ceti Alpha V. He and his crew have commandeered the Enterprise’s sister ship, The USS Reliant, and are ready to annihilate Kirk, the Enterprise and its crew, and take down the United Federation of Planets.



“I’ve never been very interested in what the public wants, so I made the Star Trek movie that I wanted to see, on the assumption that if I liked it, other people would like it.” — Nicholas Meyer, director



(1) Onboard Regula 1, Adm. Kirk, Dr. McCoy, and Lt. Saavik discover murdered personnel, and the semi-conscious and weakened Terrell and Chekov. (2&3) Khan takes control of Capt. Terrell again, ordering him to kill Kirk. (4&5) Carol Marcus shows Kirk the Genesis cave, created in just one day with a device she created.









The enclosed “Wrath of Khan” Blu-ray disc and digital copy includes the remaining extras including the excellent 28-minute “The Genesis Effect: Engineering the Wrath of Khan” providing a complete insider’s view of the production. It features interviews with producer Robert S. Sallin, who originally wanted young director Ron Howard to helm, post-production executive Ralph Winter, and Mark A. Altman, former editor of Cinefantastique Magazine, who says “Wrath of Khan” was a movie that “almost never got made.”

Paramount executive Michael Eisner – who eventually took over Disney – gave the green light for a second Star Trek, but with a much smaller budget. The project would be developed through the TV division and Bennett running the production. “That meant the keys had been taken from Roddenberry who had spent all of the ‘70s trying to get his show back on the air,” says Larry Nemecek, former editor of Star Trek Communicator Magazine. Bennett watched all of the TV episodes and showed the episode “Space Seed” to Meyer, featuring the character Khan. Meyer said they had less than two weeks to come up with a script, if not George Lucas’ ILM special effects house couldn’t guarantee delivery of the FX shots in time. To his surprise, Paramount executives had already booked “Wrath of Khan” into theaters for June 1982, without having a movie script. Meyer told Bennett and Sallin, he could deliver a workable script in 12 days. “He did a page one rewrite and literally saved the film,” says Sallin.

“I was making a movie about friendship, old age, and death,” says Meyer. And, thank goodness he got it right.

— Bill Kelley III, High-Def Watch producer


(1) The crippled Reliant drifts inside a nebula, while the badly injured Khan quotes from the novel “Moby Dick": “No… no, you can’t get away. From hell’s heart, I stab at thee. For hate’s sake, I spit my last breath at thee.” (2) Spock saves the Enterprise, receiving fatal radiation exposure. McCoy and Scotty hold Kirk back as he passes. (3) Kirk bids farewell to his friend. "Of all the souls I have encountered in my travels, his was the most … human.” (4) “He’s really not dead … as long as we remember him.”


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