STAR TREK II: THE WRATH OF KHAN
Of all the STAR TREK films featuring the original cast, the two directed by Nicholas Meyer are definitely the series best. While I feel that STAR TREK VI: THE UNDISCOVERED COUNTRY gave the original cast members many of their most shining moments, it was the success of highly entertaining STAR TREK II: THE WRATH OF KHAN ($30) that assured the future of the TREK movie franchise. Unlike the plotless and special effects laden first film, STAR TREK II: THE WRATH OF KHAN features a well-written screenplay (unofficially polished by Nicholas Meyer) that places the characters and story in the forefront, while relegating special effects to the background.
STAR TREK II: THE WRATH OF KHAN is a direct sequel to the SPACE SEED episode from the original series, with some elements of MOBY DICK thrown in for good measure. Ricardo Montalban returns to the role of Khan Noonien Singh, the genetically engineered superman from Earthís late 20th century. In the original episode, Captain Kirk (William Shatner) and the crew of the Enterprise unwittingly release Khan and his band of genetically enhanced criminals from suspended animation after discovering their 200-year-old spacecraft adrift in interstellar space. After Khanís failed attempt to seize control of the Enterprise, Kirk placed him and his followers into permanent exile on the planet Ceti Alpha V. STAR TREK II: THE WRATH OF KHAN opens 15 years later, with another Starfleet vessel unwittingly stumbling onto Khan, while surveying what they believe to be Ceti Alpha VI. Unlike his previous encounter with Starfleet, Khan is able to seize the Starship Reliant and strand its crew on Ceti Alpha V. Once freed from his exile, Khan sets out to take his revenge against Admiral James T. Kirk.
Unfortunately for Kirk, the Enterprise is on a training cruise with a crew of Starfleet cadets and a few experienced officers, when it first encounters Khan in his hijacked Starfleet vessel. When the two adversaries meet, several thrilling space battles ensue, with Khan playing the role of the obsessed Captain Ahab to Kirkís elusive Moby Dick (insert whale joke hereÖ). Khan Noonien Singh is the absolute best villain found in any STAR TREK movie, thanks to Ricardo Montalbanís outstanding performance, as well as his characterís incredibly florid (and infinitely quotable) dialogue. STAR TREK II: THE WRATH OF KHAN also affords Shatner the opportunity to do some of his finest work in the series. Shatner is unforgettable going head-to-head with Khan, as well as during his moving final scene with Spock (Leonard Nimoy). The cast of STAR TREK II: THE WRATH OF KHAN also features series regulars DeForest Kelley, James Doohan, Walter Koenig, George Takei, Nichelle Nichols, as well as, Bibi Besch, Merritt Butrick, Paul Winfield, Kirstie Alley, Ike Eisenmann and John Winston.
STAR TREK III: THE SEARCH FOR SPOCK
Although STAR TREK II: THE WRATH OF KHAN was one of the finest entries in the STAR TREK movie series, its immediate follow-up turned out to be a less than stunning offering. I guess you can say that STAR TREK III: THE SEARCH FOR SPOCK fell victim to the curse that afflicted all of the odd numbered movies in the series. I donít want to give them impression that STAR TREK III: THE SEARCH FOR SPOCK is a bad movie, it isn't. Personally, I really like the movie and found much of it to be quite enjoyable, especially when Kirk and company defy Starfleet orders and hijack the Enterprise right out of a space dock. This sequence is an absolute hoot, and for me, it is the highlight of the film. Of course, this sequence doesn't negate the fact that STAR TREK III: THE SEARCH FOR SPOCK does have some problems.
The biggest problem with the third installment in the STAR TREK movie series was something that was beyond anyoneís control. Letís face it; STAR TREK II: THE WRATH OF KHAN, which offered the self-sacrificing death scene of one of the most beloved characters, was the pinnacle of STAR TREK storytelling. Unfortunately, there was no scenario that could have been devised at that point that would have been dramatic enough, or epic enough, to meet fans expectations- especially on a STAR TREK movie budget. Another problem is the fact that a STAR TREK is only as good as its villain. In respect to STAR TREK III: THE SEARCH FOR SPOCK the villain was miscast by bad timing. At the time of the filmís production, Christopher Lloyd's character from TAXI was too ingrained in everyone's mind for him taken seriously in such a villainous role. Only with the passing of decades, can Lloyd's performance in this film be appreciated. Finally. I'd like to mention the film's soundstage bound exteriors, which look too artificial and lend an air of "cheapness" to the production- something that is a bit too reminiscent of the plywood sets original TV series.
The events depicted in STAR TREK III: THE SEARCH FOR SPOCK come immediately on the heels of the preceding film. Captain Spock (Leonard Nimoy) is dead and as the battle scarred U.S.S. Enterprise makes its return to space dock around Earth. Although, Admiral Kirk (William Shatner) wants to take the Enterprise back to the Genesis planet, where Spock remains were interred, the planet itself has become a galactic controversy and the "twenty-year-old" Enterprise is to be decommissioned. Making matters worse is the strange mental affliction affecting Dr. McCoy (Deforest Kelly) since Spockís death, as well as the arrival of Ambassador Sarek (Mark Lenard), who comes to Kirk seeking sonís "Katra" or living spirit. Kirk quickly realizes that he and his crew must return to the Genesis Planet if he is to save Spock's soul and Dr. McCoy's mind. Of course, this is all easier said than done, since returning to the Genesis planet requires that they defy orders and steal the now mothballed Starship Enterprise. Added to the mix is a group of hostile Klingons bent upon learning the secrets of the device that created the Genesis planet itself. The cast of STAR TREK III: THE SEARCH FOR SPOCK also features James Doohan, George Takei, Walter Koenig, Nichelle Nichols, Merritt Butrick, Judith Anderson, Robin Curtis, Phil Morris, John Larroquette, James B. Sikking and Miguel Ferrer.
STAR TREK IV: THE VOYAGE HOME
Although THE WRATH OF KHAN and THE UNDISCOVERED COUNTRY are what I consider to be the very best STAR TREK films that feature the original cast, it is STAR TREK IV: THE VOYAGE HOME ($25) that has been universally embraced by the masses because of its humor and "feel good" story. Lets face it, if you ask the average person what is their favorite STAR TREK movie featuring the original cast, they are going to say "the one with the whales." I certainly am not going to argue with the publicís choice, because I too am quite fond of STAR TREK IV: THE VOYAGE HOME. However, as much as I like the forth installment, I am ultimately drawn to the darker material contained in the second and sixth entries in the movie franchise.
STAR TREK IV: THE VOYAGE HOME is best described as a fish out of water tale for several reasons, but primarily because it takes the crew of the Starship Enterprise back in time several hundred years- dumping them in the midst of the twentieth century, where they experience a rather humorous case of culture shock. The plot of STAR TREK IV: THE VOYAGE HOME takes place several months after the events depicted in the previous adventure, where we find the former Enterprise crew members living in a self imposed exiled on the planet Vulcan. As the film opens, Admiral Kirk (William Shatner) and company decide that it is time to return to Earth to face the music for hijacking the Starship Enterprise to rescue their fallen and resurrected comrade Captain Spock (Leonard Nimoy).
However as they begin their voyage home, a mysterious alien probe arrives at planet Earth, where it has begun emitting a signal that has had a devastating effect on the oceans and atmosphere. Spock determines that only humpback whales can respond to the probeís signal; however, the species is now extinct and the only way to save the Earth is to travel back in time and pick up two of the mighty cetaceans. Of course, this is all easier said than done, since the crew is now flying around in a rickety confiscated Klingon Bird Of Prey, which wasnít designed for the rigors of time travel or transporting a huge living aquatic cargo. Of course, it is only after their arrival in the twentieth century that the real adventure begins. The cast of STAR TREK IV: THE VOYAGE HOME also features DeForest Kelley, James Doohan, George Takei, Walter Koenig, Nichelle Nichols, Mark Lenard, Jane Wyatt, Majel Barrett, Robert Ellenstein, John Schuck, Brock Peters, Robin Curtis and Catherine Hicks.
Paramount Home Entertainment has made the films that comprise the STAR TREK: MOTION PICTURE TRILOGY ($66) available on Blu-ray Disc in 2.35:1 aspect ratio presentations that have been encoded onto the discs with the with the AVC codec. All of the 1080p presentations stand as a significant upgrade over standard definition, but there are some issues. While one would naturally expect the newest film in a series to be the best looking and the quality to go down, as the movies get older, in regards to the STAR TREK: MOTION PICTURE TRILOGY, the opposite is actually true. For whatever reason, STAR TREK II: THE WRATH OF KHAN is the best of the three, while STAR TREK IV: THE VOYAGE HOME has the weakest looking picture. Fortunately, STAR TREK III: THE SEARCH FOR SPOCK is much closer in appearance to STAR TREK II: THE WRATH OF KHAN than it is STAR TREK IV: THE VOYAGE HOME.
STAR TREK II: THE WRATH OF KHAN has the most film-like presentation; offering up the sharpest, best defined and textured appearance of the three. Dimensionality is good, but the production limitations prevent anything more. Color reproduction is markedly improved over previous DVD releases, with the hues on Blu-ray appearing truer and has more subtlety. Reds are certainly more crimson than orange, which is a much-welcomed improvement. Blacks are accurate and the whites appear clean. Contrast and shadow detail are stronger than they have been in the past, but there are some limitations that are a direct result of a small STAR TREK movie budget. The elements from which STAR TREK II: THE WRATH OF KHAN have been mastered are very, very clean. Grain is evident in the presentation, which enhances the film-like quality of the presentation.
STAR TREK III: THE SEARCH FOR SPOCK has a similar image quality to its predecessor in terms of sharpness, dimensionality and detail, but the picture is also less polished. The application of DNR is evident in the picture, which appears smoother than it should. Also, the DNR caused a bit of artifacting in scenes with moving smoke/fog that revealed grain that should have been present in the entire image, instead of being localized to portions of the smoke. Hi-def also accentuates some of the cheaper production values of the Genesis Planet. Colors are warmer and more vibrant than they have appeared previously, in addition to being rendered with better stability. Blacks and whites are pretty good, as is contrast. Shadow detail is adequate. Some blemishes are evident in the picture, and as I mentioned above grain has been artificially reduced, but does not take things to a waxworks level.
STAR TREK IV: THE VOYAGE HOME delivers the weakest image in terms of sharpness and image detail. It also has the most obvious use of DNR, which makes much of the movie look smoother, softer and less film-like than the two preceding installments. Even though STAR TREK IV: THE VOYAGE HOME breaks away from soundstage bound "exteriors" and used actual outdoor locations and real sunshine, some of the cinematography looks uninspired. Color reproduction is effective, with a nice level of saturation and respectable flesh tones. Canít say there are any problems with the accuracy of the blacks and whites, but contrast seems truncated, which tends to flatten out the picture and sometimes makes it seem as dimensional as television fair. Modest imperfections remain in the film elements. Grain has been significantly reduced by DNR, which has diminished the image as I mentioned above. Despite some shortcomings, this presentation is still head and shoulders above standard definition.
The films that comprise the STAR TREK: MOTION PICTURE TRILOGY are presented on Blu-ray Disc with 7.1 channel Dolby TrueHD soundtracks. All three films are enhanced by the lossless encodes, but there is no escaping the fact that these soundtracks originated in the Dolby Surround era and are more front loaded than newer movies. STAR TREK II: THE WRATH OF KHAN and STAR TREK III: THE SEARCH FOR SPOCK offer the best sound, especially KHAN, while STAR TREK IV: THE VOYAGE HOME is just weak sounding. There are good channel separations across the front and some nice fill and occasional effects falling to the rears for the first two installments of the trilogy, but the lack of space battles seems to hinder the third. Fidelity is improved over the DVD releases of the trilogy, but some of the effects sound canned and the music isnít as lush as one finds on brand new motion picture soundtracks. Bass reproduction is adequate, with age being the limiting factor. All three films feature crisp and totally understandable dialogue. All three films contain French and Spanish language tracks, in addition to English, French, Spanish and Portuguese subtitles.
Animation and sound serve to enhance the disc's interactive menus. Through the menus, one has access to standard scene selection and set up features, as well as the supplemental materials. Some of the materials in this collection are new to Blu-ray, while others have been ported from previous DVD releases of the films. STAR TREK II: THE WRATH OF KHAN features the following materials: There are two running Audio Commentaries, the first is with director Nicholas Meyer, while the second features director Nicholas Meyer again along with Manny Coto. A Text Commentary by Michael Okuda is also provided. HD Featurettes include: Collecting Star Trek Movie Relics, Starfleet Academy: Mystery Behind Ceti Alpha VI, James Horner: Composing Genesis and A Tribute To Ricardo Montalban. SD Featurettes and programs include: Where No Man Has Gone Before: The Visual Effects Of Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan, The Star Trek Universe: A Novel Approach, Captain's Log, Designing Khan and Original Interviews With Deforest Kelley, William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy And Ricardo Montalban. A Theatrical Trailer, Storyboards, Library Computer feature and the BD Live: Star Trek I.Q. (requires a Profile 2.0 player) are also provided.
STAR TREK III: THE SEARCH FOR SPOCK features the following materials: There are two running Audio Commentaries, the first is with director Leonard Nimoy, writer/producer Harve Bennett, director of photography Charles Correll and Robin Curtis, while the second features Ronald D. Moore and Michael Taylor. HD Featurettes include: Industrial Light & Magic: The Visual Effects Of Star Trek, Spock: The Early Years, Star Trek And The Science Fiction Museum Hall Of Fame and Starfleet Academy SCISEC Brief 003: Mystery Behind The Vulcan Katra Transfer. SD Featurettes and programs include: Captain's Log, Terraforming And The Prime Directive, Space Docks And Birds Of Prey, Speaking Klingon and Klingon And Vulcan Costumes. A Theatrical Trailer, Storyboards, Library Computer feature and Photo Galleries are also provided.
STAR TREK IV: THE VOYAGE HOME features the following materials: There are two running Audio Commentaries, the first is with director Leonard Nimoy and actor William Shatner, while the second features Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman. HD Featurettes include: Pavel Chekovís Screen Moments, The Three-Picture Saga, Star Trek For A Cause and Starfleet Academy: The Whale Probe. SD Featurettes and programs include: Futureís Past: A Look Back, On Location, Dailies Deconstruction, Below-The-Line: Sound Design, Time Travel: The Art Of The Possible, The Language Of Whales, A Vulcan Primer, Kirkís Women, From Outer Space To The Ocean, The Bird Of Prey, Roddenberry Scrapbook, Featured Artist: Mark Lenard and Original Interviews With Leonard Nimoy, William Shatner And Deforest Kelley. A Theatrical Trailer, Storyboards, Production Gallery, Library Computer feature and the BD Live: Star Trek I.Q. (requires a Profile 2.0 player) are also provided.
The STAR TREK: MOTION PICTURE TRILOGY offers the three-film story arc in a single collection for casual fans. The Blu-ray presentations are significantly better than standard definition, with STAR TREK II: THE WRATH OF KHAN being the shining jewel of the collection. Die-hard fans will want the complete complement of films, but casual fans will want to own the STAR TREK: MOTION PICTURE TRILOGY with the possible addition of STAR TREK VI: THE UNDISCOVERED COUNTRY. Highly recommended.
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