Director Nicholas Meyer's concept for Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
was to make it "Captain Horatio Hornblower in space". Equipped with a budget a fraction the size of that accorded the first movie
, and bolstered by James Horner's swashbuckling score
, Meyer accordingly delivered the most exciting of all the Trek
big-screen outings, referencing both CS Forester's Hornblower and classic submarine dramas, as well as adding some literary flourishes and ground-breaking CGI work for good measure (the Genesis device sequence is a computer-animation landmark).
Resurrected from the "Space Seed" episode of the TV series, Ricardo Montalban's Khan is the hammiest, most passionately alive Trek villain, infused with Captain Ahab's self-destructive single-mindedness and quoting Moby Dick and Shakespeare in his furious pursuit of Kirk. Given permission to be melodramatic, William Shatner has never been stronger, or made Kirk seem more vulnerable. And even after seeing all the later movies, no self-respecting Trekker can sit through Spock's ultimate illogical sacrifice with a dry eye.
Unlike the major revisions made to The Motion Picture, this new Director's Edition of Wrath of Khan is only a very slightly extended version of the original, with some fairly minor additions--most notably scenes that establish Midshipman Peter Preston as Scotty's nephew, thereby explaining Scotty's grief at the young man's death. Some other scenes--such as Kirk and Spock discussing the Genesis Device--have also been expanded.
On the DVD: Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan is now presented in a lovely 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen print with Dolby 5.1 sound. The first disc has an audio commentary from Nicholas Meyer, plus another fascinating all-you-ever-needed-to-know text commentary from Trek expert Michael Okuda (he did the same for The Motion Picture's DVD release). The second disc has a series of informative documentaries, the most substantial being a lengthy retrospective "Captain's Log", featuring contributions from Producer Harve Bennett, Meyer, Shatner, Nimoy and Montalban. Other featurettes focus on the production design ("Designing Khan"), "Visual Effects", and the writers of Star Trek novel spin-offs about Khan and the Kobayashi Maru ("The Star Trek Universe"). It's a shame that James Horner's major contribution goes unnoticed though. To round things off there are some promotional interviews from 1982, storyboards and the original trailer. --Mark Walker