Sunday, March 1, 2015

Movie Review: Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982)

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982) - USA - SciFi - Rated PG
Directed by Nicholas Meyer
Starring William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, James Doohan, Walter Koenig, George Takei, Nichelle Nichols, Ricardo Montalban, Kirstie Alley, Bibi Besch, Judson Scott, Merritt Butrick, Paul Winfield, Ike Eisenmann

Taking a seed from the original series, this second of Star Trek movies portrays a classic showdown between two enemies exploiting each others weaknesses in a cinematic tour de force.

15 years ago, the Captain of the Starship Enterprise stranded a would-be 20th century Napoleon on a desolate planet; punishment for his attempted takeover of the Enterprise but offering him a world to conquer and tame. The question was posited that it would be interesting to come back in a hundred years to see what this seed had spawned. During a routine scouting mission a survey team including a former member of that Enterprise crew finds themselves on that very planet by error, and their mistake opens the door for a vengeful Khan to seek vengeance on Captain Kirk, now Admiral Kirk, and anybody and everything that means anything to him.

Following the disappointing returns on Star Trek: The Motion Picture, with sets from the movie the studio overspent on still available, they decided to make a second movie, but with a eye on the budget, reusing anything they could. Firing Gene Roddenberry, the creator of Star Trek, and bringing in a producer who had never seen an episode of Star Trek (is that even possible?), they went back to the series and decided to expand on that query Spock had made about coming back and seeing what had sprung from the seed they left behind.

Going back to the series and focusing on the characters in the movie rather than the effects makes for a naturally developing story. The effects are secondary, if even that, to the conflict on the screen. Khan is as obsessed with Kirk as Ahab was with his great white whale even to the point of putting everything on the line to defeat Kirk. Kirk is facing getting older as the past comes back to haunt him. And of course Spock keeps his head logically even when having to weigh the odds of a personal sacrifice that will save the crew.

Much like the classic episode of the series, Balance of Terror, this is a showdown between two men and their ships and crew. Star Trek was at its best when challenges were to be overcome. There may not be any bizarre aliens or beings with godlike powers to face off, but that is also this movie's strength in depending on characters driving the story, rather than the story driving them.

The success of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan took Star Trek to even new levels. Originally planned to be the last of the Star Trek movies, a renewed interest due to this film resurrected the potential for other movies and even a revamped TV series which would also use the same soundtrack and even a variation of Spock's final words in the close of the movie as he utters a modified "Where No Man Has Gone Before" wrap up.

My Rating: 5 Fingers! A classic in every sense of the word.

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