Film A Week 20: Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982)

Before I start this review, let’s get it out of the way.

There. Now to the review.

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Film: The final storytelling device. These are the posts of the series Film A Week. Its one-year mission: to explore strange new films, to seek out lost features and revisit old classics, to boldly go where no film blog series has gone before.

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Star Trek has been one of the most influential science fiction franchises of all time. Starting in 1966, Gene Roddenberry went on to make a series dedicated to tales of the future in a galaxy where peace is declared across the galaxy, where race is no longer an issue and space exploration is the ideal form to make galactic ties. Without Star Trek, we would not have science fiction as we know it today. Heck even George Lucas has gone on record saying that without Star Trek‘s influence, we would not have Star Wars. Hope that puts that final nail in the coffin between the whole Trek vs. Wars debate.

The success of Star Wars made Paramount Pictures and CBS Television come together to expand the cult show into a film franchise of its own. The whole original crew was brought back for the 1979’s Star Trek: The Motion Picture which released to quite a number of harsh reviews from the critics with most dubbing it as ‘Star Trek: The Slow-Moving Picture’. You think this would be a devastating blow, but luckily for the Trekkies out there, another film was made due to its financial success. Little did they know that it would go on to only be considered a great Star Trek film, but a great film in general.

1982’s Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan remains a classic in the minds of both the mainstream audiences and the hardcore fanbase that it has created. It is hailed for being a dark tale of revenge, resurrection and the inevitable that is death. It broadened the appeal and focus to the masses and created something many would not forget.

First, some back story on the Khan character…

FOR THOSE NOT IN THE KNOW!

Khan Noonien Singh, played by Ricardo Montalban, first appeared in the first season episode entitled ‘Space Seed’ back in 1966, before the USS Enterprise looked like the darkly lit backroom of a porno theater in Wrath of Khan. Khan was found aboard a vessel known as the S.S. Botany Bay. Along with Bones, played by DeForest ‘He’s Dead’ Kelley, Mr. Spock, played by Leonard ‘Outweigh the Many’ Nimoy, and the ship’s historian Marla McGivers, Kirk, played by William ‘The Shat’ Shatner, uncovers the body which is waking up after two centuries in deep sleep after the Eugenics War in the 1990’s making this more dated than it should be. Khan is reawaken and shows off his intelligence, strength and his perfect Adonis of a body. Mr. Spock, Bones and Kirk find out “Dammit! This guy was like the Stalin of the 90’s!” (aka 1960’s version of Saddam Hussien). He corrupts McGivers after coming upon her obsession with tyrants of war, none of which are Hitler because even crazy women have standards. Khan convinces and forces the crew to return his crew to him and try to take over the ship, but Mr. Spock and Kirk say “Fuck that noise!” Spock nerve pinches him after Kirk does West Side Story-esque battle with him which even the Gorn would be like “I seriously lost to this guy? What the hell?’. Khan gets sentenced to Ceti Alpha V along with his people in exile for the crimes he committed against the Federation. McGivers follows suit and then 15 years later, shit gets real.

Khan is a villain, a real mixer. And he costs you a fortune in Breach of Promise cases. In short, Khan is quite the asshole. After 15 years, he is discovered by Chekov on Ceti Alpha V, thought to be the long dead Ceti Alpha VI, and rises to gain control of the sister ship of the Enterprise, USS Reliant, by taking control of Chekov, played by Walter Keonig. Khan takes his revenge by harnessing the Genesis device that can restore any planet and by finding Admiral Kirk to deliver his vengeance. Khan does quite the number to the crew and causes the crew to enter a do or die situation. Being up against Khan is no longer as easy of a task as the Enterprise is filled with young cadets under the command of the newly appointed Captain Spock. Kirk steps in to take Khan head on and take back the Genesis Device to not upset his already pissed off former love Carol Marcus, played by Bibi Besch, the inventor of the device.

From then on, peril comes abound as Khan rips the ship to shreds as the crew of the Enterprise delivers blows back in impressive as hell space battles. The wits between Kirk and Khan come to a head as Khan promises that he will stop at nothing to destroy him and the Federation. Khan attacks Space Station Regula I holding the Genesis Device crew, including Marcus and Kirk’s son, David. Kirk, McCoy and cadet Saavik, played by Kirstie Alley, save them from the destroyed Regula I as Kirk tells Spock to lead Reliant into the nearby Mutara Nebula to make them both on an even level to attack Khan. Spock sacrifices himself to save the ship, says ‘needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few’, Kirk screams Khan, kicks his ass and Spock is alive on the Genesis planet.

That’s the CliffNotes version since this film is well known to everyone. Wrath of Khan remains a near perfect science fiction feature. The performance by the crew are all around great with Montalban steal the show by making Khan the superior alpha male type with the intelligent to rival the tyrannical nature of Marx or Stalin and making it seem like everything is at an end for the entire Enterprise team. The themes the story tackles is beyond belief showing that age and time can either work with someone or against. Resurrection can be both good and bad with Kirk rises back to his former position and Khan rising to power once more by taking control of the device that can reborn anything. With death, Spock’s passing is just heartbreaking. The audience did not know if he was going to return, but that conclusion is now foregone (Thanks, Paramount, for calling the third one The Search of Spock). Wrath is a wrath worth experiencing for new fans stepping into the world of Star Trek.

Before I end this, let’s talk about this year’s release Star Trek Into Darkness which lead me to cover this feature for this week.

*SPOILER WARNING*

In the most recent Star Trek feature, Benedict Cumberbatch was rumored to play the character of Khan, but the rumors were nixed with John Harrison being the name of the villain  Yet, halfway during the feature, Kirk and Spock find out there is no record of a John Harrison and discover what the internet already knew: John Harrison IS Khan. How does this affect the film? Not to a bad degree. Cumberbatch does a hell of a job with the material given and makes the character his own by not borrowing heavily from Montalban’s acting style and putting more of a megalomaniac terrorist spin to it rather than a tyrant twist. The only probably I did have with the film was while it was a fantastic feature that is perfect for the summer swelter looming in, it borrows way too much from Wrath by using the entire death of Spock scene only in a role reversal with Kirk sacrificing himself and Spock being on the other end of the glass. It takes lines verbatim from the film and even adds a needless screaming of “KHANNNN!” from Spock. I could live without that scene, but that is a nitpick because the scene is handled well by two very talented young men. Other than that, no complaints about Star Trek Into Darkness. If one has yet to see it, it is worth the price of admission. Also, if you get a chance to see it in IMAX 3D, even better.

Next week, we end Take Back the Summer Cinema Month at the start of June with a trip down nostalgic summer lane. Guest Writer Danny Vasquez and I will prepare to catch ’em all to find out the mystery that lies in the bond between the legendary birds of fire, electricity and ice and the reawakening of Lugia. It’s the power of one covered by the power of two. We join Ash, Misty and, for some reason, Tracey in Pokemon: The Movie 2000.

Film A Week 21: Pokemon: The Movie 2000 (2000 [if you could not guess])
Saturday, June 1st
Ending Take Back the Summer Cinema Month

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