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Nicholas Meyer
William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, James Doohan, Walter Koenig, George Takei, Nichelle Nichols
Harve Bennett, Jack B. Sowards

At the end of the universe lies the beginning of vengeance
Rated PG.

Widescreen 2.35:1/16x9
English Dolby Digital 5.1
English Dolby Surround
French Dolby Surround

Runtime: 112 min.
Price: $29.99
Release Date: 7/11/2000

• Theatrical Trailer

Score soundtrack

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Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson

In 1998, when Paramount indicated that they'd finally start to produce DVDs, the countdown began: when would we get Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan? Of course, the "when will we get (X)?" discussions launched for a lot of other titles as well, but the wait for Khan was a little more frustrating than some of those, just because Paramount really seemed to dilly-dally with it.

What do I mean by that? We got seven other Trek movies on DVD before we finally received Khan. Yes, some method to the apparent madness existed: with the exception of 1998's Insurrection, Paramount proceeded through all of the other movies in reverse order of theatrical release. If anything, the predictable and plodding nature of this schedule made the wait for Khan even more maddening, just because we knew there was no chance it'd appear on the release lists until after ST III hit the shelves.

It did so in April 2000, and soon thereafter we got the good news: Khan the DVD would make it out on July 11 2000. A great cry of relief rang throughout the land.

I agree with fan sentiment that Khan is a terrific film and shows the crew of the Enterprise in top form, but I'm not quite sure if I agree that it's the best of the bunch. I'm also awfully partial to Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. Actually, I like all of the Trek films except for the first one - and Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home tends to get on my nerves - but Khan and Country seem like the finest offerings.

Not coincidentally, Nicholas Meyer directed both of those pictures. For whatever reason, Meyer appears to have the touch when it comes to drawing out the best balance of Trek strengths. He manages just enough action, emotion, intelligence and humor to make his pictures classics, at least when he sits at the director’s chair; as I noted, the Meyer-penned Voyage isn’t one of my favorites.

Khan suffers from some weak moments, but they seem few and far between in one of the most mature and resonant Trek stories yet seen. It appears that all involved felt relieved to have the big expectations that came with their 1979 reunion behind them. Now they could settle down to the business of making a solid film - which Star Trek: The Motion Picture most definitely was not - and seeing what a bunch of aging space cadets could do with the legacy.

To its credit, Khan does not try to tell the tale of a group of 50-somethings without acknowledgment of their advancing years, and mortality becomes a key ingredient in the mix. That's probably the best aspect of the film; it adds emotion and reflection without seeming gratuitous or sentimental, and it ends with what is unquestionably the most moving conclusion to a Trek piece, even with the series' history of bittersweet finales. Meyer handles it with impeccable taste and restraint, and even after many viewings, the ending remains quite effective.

This doesn't come at the expense of action and intrigue, which also play a strong part in the film. The adventure aspects of the movie don't quite match up with those found in Country, which offered a tremendously rousing climax, but they do the job quite well.

Although The Motion Picture made a lot of money in 1979, it also disappointed many people, and had the sequel been more of the same, there's a good chance the series may have returned to the grave. The terrific success - artistically and financially - of Star Trek II prevented that, for better or for worse. I go with the "for better" side of that equation, as I do like most of the Trek offerings, but Khan remains special after all these years.

The DVD Grades: Picture C+ / Audio B / Bonus D-

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this single-sided, single-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Though the picture generally seemed good, it showed a few flaws that detracted from the overall experience.

For the most part, sharpness appeared positive, as much of the movie looked nicely detailed and well defined. However, the image could slip at times, and some of the film seemed moderately flat and hazy. Modest softness crept into some wider shots, and since Khan included more than a few of those, the issue caused some concerns. Some jagged edges and shimmering showed up, and I noticed some moderate edge enhancement at times. In regard to print flaws, I saw moderate but not severe levels of grit and speckles, and mild grain cropped up at times as well. The latter appeared mostly during effects shots. The image demonstrated a mildly “digital” look, as some of the grain seemed to be caused by compression artifacts.

Colors seemed good as a whole, but they demonstrated some moderate problems. Trek movies often offer dense imagery, and this one's no different; it tended toward reds and other dark hues that don't always resolve correctly. For the most part, the colors stayed within the bounds of acceptability, and they often looked pretty good, but Khan ran into a little trouble with red lighting; when the bridge of the Enterprise was bathed in these tones, it could appear somewhat murky.

Black levels appeared adequate but unspectacular, as did shadow detail. Trek productions have never been big on those aspects of filmmaking, as they tend to stick to either fairly brightly-lit areas or bathe everything in various colors, so they don't seem as prominent as you might expect. In the end, Khan looked fairly average on DVD.

The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Khan offered a pretty active soundfield, albeit one that distinctly favored the forward channels. The front speakers got a nice little workout, with quite a lot of discrete audio in all three channels; the sound traveled well between the areas and added to the experience. The surrounds also received more use than you might expect from a movie of this vintage, but don't expect anything tremendous; their general usage tended toward ambient effects and music, and though a few split surround instances occurred, there's not much of that. Still, the surrounds contributed a nice sense of atmosphere to the film, and a few scenes - like those in the nebula - worked extremely well.

The quality of the audio seemed less consistent. Most problematic was the dialogue, which went from solid to muddy in the blink of an eye. I thought speech always remained intelligible, but a lot of it sounded flat or dull or harsh or distorted. Most of the dialogue seemed natural, but it's a serious crapshoot, and the inconsistent speech occasionally became a distraction. Effects also offered occasional bouts of distortion, but these were more expected, as they happened during explosions, so I'm felt less bothered them. Despite some crackling at those times, most of the effects appeared pretty clear and concise, and they even offered some decent bass at times; the warp jumps and ship fly-bys sounded deep and tight.

Music lacked very precise highs or lows, but the score seemed generally smooth and listenable, with no problems related to distortion or excessive muddiness. The music could have displayed greater range, but the score never became harsh or shrill. Although the quality displayed some issues, the soundtrack of Khan remained a bit above average for a movie of its era.

This DVD edition of Khan almost totally skimps on extras. All we find is the film’s theatrical trailer. Presented in a 1.85:1 ratio, the clip offers Dolby Surround 2.0 audio and anamorphic enhancement.

Although it's not a stellar DVD, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan remains possibly the best of the nine Trek movies to date, and that has to count for something. After two decades it's still warm, witty, fun and touching; no, it's not perfect, but it's close to that level as Trek gets. The DVD provides fairly mediocre picture and relatively positive sound, but it almost completely lacks supplements.

I updated this review to coincide with the release of the new director’s edition DVD of Khan. This package outdoes the old one in almost every way. Audio quality seems the same, but the new disc provides significantly improved picture along with a solid roster of extras. The only reason to get the original DVD would be for those who don’t want to see the longer cut of the film. Otherwise, the “director’s edition” is clearly the way to go.

To rate this film visit the review of the Director's Edition