Sunday, February 23, 2014

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kahn

Until a couple days ago, I have never seen Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kahn (trailer). I do recall over the years from friends and general buzz online that a lot of people consider this 1982 release the best of the Star Trek films. I was surprised to see it start off with a super young, pre-Cheers Kristie Alley manning the captain's chair in a training scenario as a new recruit before she fails miserably and Kirk (William Shatner) arrives to spread his wisdom.

Shortly after this, not all is roses and sunflowers on the Enterprise as Kirk encounters an old nemesis he banished into exile 15 years earlier from the original TV series, Kahn (Ricardo Montalban). Kahn manages to commandeer the federation ship, Reliant, and is hell bent on seeking redemption against Kirk at great cost. You are probably wondering about Kahn as the main villain from last year's film, Into Darkness, and yes, it borrows quite a bit from this film, but throws quite a few twists into it three decades later to make it its own.

This film goes deeper into Kirk's background as a theme of this film is him realizing he is getting too old for this stuff. We are introduced to Kirk's son David in the movie, though minus one well done scene towards the film's finale, not a whole lot is done with him here and he is mostly a background throwaway character. It is probably my only gripe with the film actually, though I understand he is featured in the films following this one.

The first movie lacked a lot of action, there was not even really a major final battle when you think about it. That changes here as we get some phaser duels, and later in the film's final act, a well produced back and forth dogfight between the Enterprise and Reliant. At least I thought it looked impressive for 1982 standards, and there is a noticeable leap in the visual effects again from the three years in between the first two movies.

The Wrath of Kahn's final act, and film as a whole now that I think about it is exponentially better than The Motion Picture. I did not find myself bored at various points in the film flipping through the factoids pop ups extra feature during it like I did last time as I was glued in from start to finish. With the intense dogfight, Spock sacrificing himself to save the Enterprise and the ensuing fallout afterwards provide some very gripping material that the first film did not come close to capturing. This film ended up being a first act, because Paramount wound up making a trilogy of this story arc, with Star Trek III and IV all tying directly together. I cannot wait to see how this pans out over the coming months.

This film holds up incredibly well 32(!) years later. Like with The Motion Picture, Paramount did a fantastic job restoring the film for HD as there is no film scratching and everything has a nice polished feel throughout. This especially stands out during the original extra feature SD interviews when they cut to the 1982 original printing footage of the film and the difference is night and day! Speaking of extra features, there are a boatload. I did not listen to neither of the two commentaries, though director Nick Meyer & Manny Cota got together to record a new one for the BluRay. The aforementioned library computer returns, as do storyboards for fans of those.

There are five previously released SD featurettes totaling two hours that are on the BluRay. I watched all five, but the two I recommend checking out are Captain's Log and Designing Kahn, both of which are just under a half hour apiece. Captain's Log details what it took to get the sequel made, how Leonard Nimoy almost did not sign on for the film, and what it was like to bring on director Nick Meyer, who at that time had very little knowledge of the franchise. Designing Kahn is all about covering the little intricacies of the film like what went into designing the new uniforms, and Nick Meyer taking credit for this film really embracing the Naval nomenclature and jargon and the rest of the TV series and films following suit.

There are four new HD featurettes for the BluRay adding up to a half hour. The standouts here are a short but sweet eulogy from director Nick Meyer on the career of Ricardo Montalban, and Collecting Star Trek Relics, or rather the last two minutes of this 11 minute feature which until then I feel only hardcore Trek fans will appreciate it being all about the hunt for the various films props over the years. The last two minutes you must see as they detail tracking down the original TV series captain's chair and what it was being used for; I will not spoil that tidbit here but I will say if I had happened to stumble upon it then I would probably use it exactly as they detailed in the interview.

If you were like me until now and have not seen Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kahn, then Netflix it, buy it, whatever, just see it because you will not be disappointed! I was familiar about all its acclaim going into it and was able to put together some of its plot threads beforehand going by the same parallels seen in Into Darkness, but I was still on board and loving it from start to finish. If I were to grade the first film, I would give The Motion Picture a 6/10, and now that I had a couple days to put it into perspective, it just goes to show Paramount got their act together with the follow up as I am going all out and giving The Wrath of Kahn a perfect 10/10!

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