Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982)


KHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAN!!

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982)With my nerdiness still boiling to a critical point, I’ve finished the entire original series of Star Trek and moved into Next Generation.  Watching the original series made me aware of the fact that a review was necessary because there were lots of easy jokes that just demanded to be made.  And my favorite jokes are the easy one.  But that review is for later.  For now, I feel the need to continue onward with the movies.  The first Star Trek movie was entirely underwhelming, being comprised mostly of glory shots of the Enterprise.  But that’s pretty much what I had heard about the movie.  But I’ve also heard that that every even numbered Star Trek movie is awesome, and I think the movie that I’ve heard most about when it comes to Star Trek is up for review today.  That movie is Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, based on characters created by Gene Roddenberry, written by Jack B. Sowards, directed by Nicholas Meyer, and starring William Shatner, Ricardo Montalbán, Leonard Nimoy, Walter Koenig, Paul Winfield, DeForest Kelley, James Doohan, George Takei, Nichelle Nichols, Kirstie Alley, Bibi Besch, and Merritt Butrick.

The USS Reliant is on a mission to find a dead planet to try out the experimental Genesis Device, a device that reorganizes matter to create habitable worlds.  Commander Pavel Chekov (Walter Koenig) and Captain Clark Terrell (Paul Winfield) beam down to the surface to investigate the planet Ceti Alpha V, but they find that it’s very much inhabited already.  Unfortunately, this desolate planet is inhabited by Khan Noonien Singh (Ricardo Montalbán), a genetically engineered tyrant stranded on the planet with his fellow supermen by Chekov’s former captain, James T. Kirk (William Shatner).  And, since being stranded there led to the death of most of Khan’s men and his wife, Khan wants revenge on Kirk in a big bad way.  He uses mind-controlling eels on Chekov and Terrell and gains control of the Reliant, which he then uses to assault Space Station Regula I, where the Genesis Device is being stored.  Their distress signal brings Kirk and crew back into Khan’s sights.

This movie was indeed superior to the original movie, but I don’t know if I’d quite say it lived up to the hype.  I guess most of the hype I’ve heard about it was that it was the best Star Trek movie (before the J.J. Abrams movies), and I guess I’d agree with that.  It is indeed the better of the two that I’ve seen.  The story was fine, but it didn’t exactly blow my mind.  It felt to me like a pretty standard revenge tale.  It is cool that they dug back into the recesses of the Star Trek episodes for the basis of their story, to an episode that wasn’t even drastically important in the series where Khan first appeared.  Having made my way through the series already, it was interesting for me to see the series and to realize that I’ve technically met the woman that married Khan and died, creating the motivation for Khan in this movie.  I guess the thing that makes the movie important is the ending, which is a spoiler but you have already seen this movie if there’s any chance of you seeing it now.  Spock dies.  It is a very emotional scene, especially since I had already spent 80 episodes getting attached to Spock as a character by the time I saw this.  They handled the whole thing with a lot of gravitas and really sold it.  Then again, I already know he comes back in the next movie, so I couldn’t be nearly as affected by it as I would have the day it was released.  I also would have been surprised by the reveal of the outcome of the Kobayashi Maru test had I not seen the new Star Trek movie.  If I had seen it back then, I probably would’ve thought the solution had something to do with eating hot dogs.  There were a couple of things that gave me pause in the movie as well, such as seeing a rat on board Regula I.  How does a fuckin’ space rat make it on board a space station?!  Also, doesn’t it seem slightly less than dignified for the Enterprise to shoot Khan’s ship in the back like it did?  I understand it finally got the tactical advantage it needed, and that logically it should take it, but we’re also making a movie here.  We should endeavor to make our heroes seem heroic.

The look of the movie still holds up, and they still like to show it off by having lots of glory shots of the Enterprise doing nothing particularly interesting, but thankfully they do limit themselves from masturbating over their craftsmanship too much.  I hear you can go blind from that.  They also drastically improved the effects of the phaser blasts from the TV show.  And though I found the ending scene very effective when they had the little space funeral for Spock, I did wonder if that room had a secondary purpose.  It seemed to be specifically designed to fire dead bodies out into space.

I liked all the performances in the movie.  William Shatner may still arguably be over the top at times, but I still like it.  No one yells Khan like he does.  Speaking of Khan, Ricardo Montalbán was also very good in this movie.  He was pretty charming, intimidating, and imposing.  I liked the entire cast of the Enterprise.  Leonard Nimoy is still great.  As is Walter Koenig.  I did take issue with a scene involving Chekov though.  It was the scene where they asked Chekov under what authority he was taking Khan into the Genesis facility.  How the hell did they not think anything was up when it took him a full minute to answer their question about Kirk giving them the orders, let along how robotic he was acting?  Also, how did the ear bug just decide to crawl out of Chekov’s ear?  Didn’t Khan say they would kill when they were done manipulating their host?  Perhaps it just wouldn’t be as threatening if he told him that it would control his mind for a little while until it got bored and climbed out his ear, allowing him to go about his business.  James Doohan was also great, especially at the emotional scenes when his trainees died.  Kirstie Alley was also in this movie, and I was a little surprised to find that she was kinda hot back in the day.  I also always like DeForest Kelley as Bones.  He’s good at being funny and at delivering some emotional lines, even though the line, “He’s not really dead as long as we remember him,” is more of a spoiler than an epitaph.

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan was a really good movie, but I’m sure it was even better when it originally came out.  Since then, I have seen movies that have spoiled some big reveals in this movie, thus making some of them slightly less impactful when watching it for the first time now.  I still appreciate the movie.  The story was pretty simplistic, but enjoyable, and the ending of the movie was still fairly emotional and was handled very well, even though I not only knew it was going to happen, but I know it’s not going to stick.  The look is still pretty solid and the performances were alright in my book.  I’d still say this movie was worth checking out if you hadn’t seen it already.  And if you had, it’s still a good watch.  Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan gets “Let me show you something that will make you feel young as when the world was new” out of “It had the virtue of never having been tried.”

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