Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan 4K Blu-ray Review
Despite a raft of production issues associated with bringing the series to the big screen, 1979's Star Trek: The Motion Picture proved that there was still life and a loyal fanbase in the franchise, which gave Paramount the confidence to progress with a sequel.
But to be successful, they knew they had to do two things - first, cut series creator Gene Roddenberry out of the scenario, and secondly, produce it for a budget almost three-quarters less than that of its predecessor. Could a sequel navigate these land mines and produce a film that resonated with fans and casuals alike?
When a Federation vessel is hijacked by the genetically enhanced super-villain Khan Noonien Singh (Ricardo Montalban) and set on a course to take on the U.S.S. Enterprise, Captain Kirk (William Shatner) must reunite his crew to thwart his plans. But Kirk finds himself compromised and facing a threat that might lead to his undoing.
Universally acknowledged as the strongest entry in the Star Trek film franchise, series newcomer Nicholas Meyer grabs the franchise by the horns, offering an efficient and economical story with a brilliant villain, more action, and heightened emotional pull that makes the story relatable and believable. If Wrath of Khan wasn't the rollicking critical and financial success that it became, I doubt that Star Trek franchise would exist in any meaningful way today.
Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan is presented in its original aspect ratio of 2.35:1, encoded with H.265 compression and graded for HDR-10 and Dolby Vision.
Having undergone a full 4K restoration in 2016, which has previously been released as a downscaled 1080p Blu-ray and as a digital 4K product, Paramount has now issued The Wrath of Khan to 4K disc for the very first time, with a new Dolby Vision pass to boot.
While not as visually grand as its predecessor, The Wrath of Khan enjoys an excellent 4K restoration that presents the film in all its gritty glory. The image is clear and as detailed as the grainy film stock allows, free of the film artifacts that have littered almost every frame in previous laserdisc or DVD versions.
This isn't a film you're going to use to demonstrate your shiny new OLED, but fans who are more intimately familiar with how the film has looked over the last four decades have every reason to be pleased.
The main audio track here is a Dolby TrueHD 7.1 mix, at 24 bits.
Originally released theatrically in Dolby stereo The Wrath of Khan was remixed in 5.1 for the 2001 DVD release in 2001, which was finessed into a 7.1 mix for the 2009 Blu-ray. This 4K presentation repurposes the latter, which, while it shows its age, is still perfectly acceptable today.
Similar to The Motion Picture demonstrated consistently strained sonic fidelity throughout its run time, which is partially due to being nearly 40 years old, but also quite likely due to the low budget origins. That caveat aside, The Wrath of Khan is a decent and engaging track that won't tax your system but does everything that it should and needs to do.
While remaining quite front-heavy, there are reasonable attempts to engage the rear surrounds, and the LFE track frequently offers some decent feedback, even if it remains rather general in nature. Paramount has likely done the best they can with the elements here, but it might be wise to set expectations too low.
Unfortunately, unlike the U.S. release, Paramount has not included a copy of the standard Blu-ray in the Australian release, which means all the video-based features are completely missing in action. This is a super disappointing trend that shows no sign of abating.
However, the 4K disc does include two previously released audio commentaries, the first featuring Director Nicholas Meyer solo and a second featuring Director Nicholas Meyer alongside Star Trek: Enterprise Producer Manny Coto.
The Bottom Line
An iconic film in its own right, and a standout in the Star Trek franchise, The Wrath of Khan is certainly felt in a stunning 4K debut.