Wednesday, January 1, 2014

#1,234. Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982)

Directed By: Nicholas Meyer

Starring: William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley

Tag line: "At the end of the universe lies the beginning of vengeance"

Trivia: Due to budget limitations, sets and props were re-used wherever possible. Space Station Regula 1 was the space station from Star Trek: The Motion Picture ... turned upside-down

Personally, I enjoyed 1979’s Star Trek: The Motion Picture, the first big-screen adventure for the crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise, but I realize I'm in the minority. Some didn’t like the new direction the movie took (introducing a few fresh characters), while others thought the story itself was bland and (even worse) boring. So, for the next entry in the Star Trek franchise, director Nicholas Meyer and his writers turned to the past, bringing back one of the show’s more popular villains and giving him a "weapon" of immense power that, if misused, could destroy an entire planet.

The villain is Khan (Ricardo Montalban), a genetically enhanced superhuman from the late 20th century who first challenged the crew of the Enterprise in the 1st season episode, Space Seed. Seeking revenge against his old nemesis, James Tiberius Kirk (William Shatner), Khan kidnaps two Starfleet officers: Captain Terrell (Pal Winfield) and former Enterprise crewman Chekov (Walter Koenig), and uses them to gain access to the Genesis Device, a tool designed by Kirk’s former flame, Carol Marcus (Bibi Besch), that, when implemented, will transform an uninhabitable planet into one suitable for human colonization. Of course, such a powerful machine can also be used as a weapon, making Khan an immediate threat to the Federation’s safety. Assuming command of the Enterprise, Admiral Kirk and his crew, including Vulcan First officer Mr. Spock (Leonard Nimoy); Ship’s Doctor Leonard “Bones” McCoy (DeForest Kelley), Chief Engineer Mr. Scott (James Doohan); Navigator Hikaru Sulu (George Takei), and Communications Officer Uhura (Nichelle Nichols), set off to intercept Khan before he detonates the Genesis Device. Yet what begins as a showdown between two longtime foes turns deadly when one of the crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise is forced to make the ultimate sacrifice.

Where Star Trek: The Motion Picture took a more cerebral approach to its story, favoring a sense of wonder over action, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan is just plain fun, a movie filled with suspense, adventure, and some pretty cool firefights between the Enterprise and the Reliant, the Federation ship commandeered by Khan and his followers. But Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan is more than a shoot-em-up in space; the film also explores how Kirk is dealing with growing older, and coming to terms with his own limitations. In an early scene, Dr. McCoy gives Kirk a birthday gift: a pair of 19th Century reading glasses. Intended as nothing more than a unique addition to his collection of antiques, Kirk instead views the gift as a reminder that he’s getting up there in years, and may finally be too old to be traveling through space. Add to the mix a son, David Marcus (Merrick Butrick), who Kirk barely knows, and you have a movie as rich in character development as it is in kick-ass action.

Featuring a handful of memorable scenes (Kirk shouting “KHAN!” has been spoofed many times) and the most dramatic ending of any Star Trek production, TV or otherwise, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan remains a favorite among the series’ devoted fans, and a reminder of just how entertaining the Star Trek Universe can be.


Anthony Lee Collins said...

I enjoyed the first one more when I went back to it later (my comment on your review of that one is posted as "Anonymous," for some reason), but now is definitely when the fun starts. Khan (and Montalban) sets the standard for ST movie villains, including all the Moby-Dick quotes. And the idea of an outer space battle between two ships that mostly can't see each other is great (Joss Whedon admits he swiped it for the ending space battle of "Serenity").

And, yes, the heart. Kirk's growing realization that he needs McCoy and Spock (and his glasses :-) ), and the realization that the way he's lived his life has meant he's missed out on a lot.

I always think of this as the beginning of a classic trilogy, where both #3 and #4 come directly out of the movie before, completing an arc of getting the captain and his crew back to where they belong.

fred said...


Nik Nak said...

It HAS to be said, Wrath of Khan is possibly my favourite of the Star Trek films: although there’s — arguably — others that are better or worse.

Still … ?

Wrath of Khan got it right … 

Huw Lloyd said...

My all time favourite Trek movie.