I can remember being slightly disappointed when the first Star Trek movie came out in the theatre, thinking it lacked the television series’ “the Enterprise takes a hit and everyone goes flying around the bridge, everything’s blowing up and Mr. Scott has ten seconds to fix it or else…”
Well, I wasn’t disappointed with Star Trek II. It recalls the best of the original TV series: lots of action, an interesting story, the classic character interaction between Kirk, Spock and McCoy. The claustrophobic feel of the movie works well within the story framework as the crew of the Enterprise are being hunted by their long ago nemesis, Khan Noonian Singh. Star Trek II does right by its villian, Khan. He’s the bad guy, a genetically engineered superman from the 20th Century, but he’s a well rounded character unlike the cardboard cutouts of evil that we are treated to in so many lesser movies. And he’s an able villian, his starship can shoot straight (except in the nebula when neither ship has particularly good aim), and good people need to make the ultimate sacrifice to ensure he is defeated in the end.
I think the reason this movie, out of all the Star Trek movies, works because it not only celebrates the TV past of the Star Trek show, but adds to the canon. Things happen in this movie, characters change, characters besides “Ensign Smith” die. Good TV results in the same characters and the same situations week after week. Good movies result in characters developing over the course of the movie. This is a good movie.
Now, to what’s not so good. For the most part, the special effects are quite good, especially when you take into consideration this movie came out in 1982. However, the underground Genesis world just looks bad. It looked bad in 1982 and it still looks bad. Considering how much the first Star Trek movie was redone for the DVD release, you’d think Nick Meyer might have got some extra money to clean those shots up, maybe with a nice realistic looking cavern. Oh well. The Director’s Cut isn’t all that much different from the theatrical version: just an addition here and there to add maybe two minutes total of dialogue.
The extras aren’t all that impressive. Almost all of it is interviews and snippets made for the DVD release. I think William Shatner is trying to be funny with the whole “Spock dying conspiracy to get more money”, but I would have rather heard real information about the movie. And didn’t anyone bother to shoot any documentary footage when the movie was being made? No offense, but I am more interested in extras that provide insight to the movie, either physically (show the effects being made, the scenes being directed, etc.) or critically (talk about the drafts and revisions of the story, etc.).
I recommend the DVD as it is nice and clean, the sound is tremendous. Watch the extras once and forget them, but come back to watch the movie again and again.