STAR TREK II: THE WRATH OF KHAN (1982) quick review

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I had actually written my initial impressions on this before, but the movie’s initial run in the AMC was during work days that I couldn’t get off. Frustrated, I had deleted that, thinking I had missed my opportunity. Go freakin’ figure, stupidity getting the better of me.

Alright so here’s my history with Star Trek. It’s a short one. All my life, I’ve been a Star Wars fan and never once gave Trek a chance until STAR TREK (2009), to which I had immediately fallen in love with. Needless to say, I’ve loved the recent Trek films… eh, mostly. INTO DARKNESS (2013) would have been better without gratuitous underwear shots and pointless characters. But I really liked BEYOND (2016). As for the many TV shows, I’ve never watched the original series (1966 – 1969), just a few of the first episodes, never watched THE NEXT GENERATION (1987 – 1994), DEEP SPACE NINE (1993 – 1999), or ENTERPRISE (2001 – 2005). And the only movie involving these series’ I’ve seen was STAR TREK: FIRST CONTACT (1996), which I still think is one of the most impressive sci-fi films of all time.

But it looks like I now have the means to see the best of the best. As I understand it, the second Star Trek film is considered to be the best Star Trek film, encompassing the best aspects of Star Trek, it’s goofiness, drama, emotions, ideas, everything. Having said all that, I have to voice a concern I might have. I feel like in order to truly appreciate this movie, you’d have to have watched the show. Here’s what I mean, I am aware that the villain of this movie, Khan, wasn’t a unique character to the movie. He was in the original series for an episode, so I’m concerned that there’s going to be references to the show and this particular episode that I won’t understand. Plus, despite having not seen the show, and knowing what happens toward the end of the movie, I won’t be as emotionally invested. But we’ll see what happens. Maybe that’s one of the great things about this film: the accessibility. So here we go!

Here’s the cast. Starring, we have William Shatner (BATMAN VS. TWO-FACE [2017], ESCAPE FROM PLANET EARTH [2013], and THE WILD [2006]), Ricardo Montalban (THE ANT BULLY [2006], SPY KIDS 3: GAME OVER [2003], and THE NAKED GUN [1988]), Leonard Nimoy (STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS [2013], ATLANTIS: THE LOST EMPIRE [2001], and THE PAGEMASTER [1994]), Bibi Besch (TREMORS [1990] and STEEL MAGNOLIAS [1989]), and DeForest Kelley (THE BRAVE LITTLE TOASTER GOES TO MARS [1998], STAR TREK VI: THE UNDISCOVERED COUNTRY [1991], and STAR TREK V: THE FINAL FRONTIER [1989]). In support, we have James Doohan (STAR TREK: GENERATIONS, STAR TREK IV: THE VOYAGE HOME [1986], and STAR TREK III: THE SEARCH FOR SPOCK [1984]), Walter Koenig (STAR TREK: GENERATIONS [1994], STAR TREK: THE UNDISCOVERED COUNTRY, and TV show BABYLON 5 [1994 – 1998]), George Takei (KUBO AND THE TWO STRINGS [2016], LARRY CROWNE [2011], and TV show HEROES [2006 – 2010]), Kirstie Alley (TV shows SCREAM QUEENS [2015 – 2016], KIRSTIE [2013 – 2014], and CHEERS [1982 – 1993]), and Merritt Butrick (FRIGHT NIGHT PART 2 [1988] and STAR TREK: SEARCH FOR SPOCK).

Now for the crew. Directing, we have Nicholas Meyer, known for STAR TREK VI: THE UNDISCOVERED COUNTRY. Penning the screenplay, we have Jack B. Sowards, known for TV shows, 1 episode each, STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION (1987 – 1994) and T.J. HOOKER (1982 – 1986). Composing the score is James Horner, known for THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN (2016), THE PERFECT STORM (2000), and SOMETHING WICKED THIS WAY COMES (1983). Finally, the cinematographer is Gayne Rescher, known for a ton of stuff that I’ve never heard of.

Overall, I’m pretty excited for this. Not over the moon or anything, but totally ready.

This is my honest opinion of: STAR TREK II: THE WRATH OF KHAN (1982)

(SUMMARY)

An arch rival of Admiral James T. Kirk (William Shatner) has resurfaced, named Khan (Ricardo Montalban). He forces the crew of a Starfleet starship, one of the crew being Chekov (Walter Koenig), to take revenge on the Admiral by stealing a new device called Genesis, which is meant to terraform a world that is otherwise uninhabitable.

(QUICK REVIEW)

I see the appeal and where the popularity comes from. It’s by no means my new favorite, but I’m happy I got to see this and to put a movie to the memes and references. This review may be pretty quick, as a lot of time has gone by at the time I’m writing this review (I’m incredibly behind) and much of the film hasn’t retained. But, I’m going to give it the closest I can get to a college try, so here we go.

I remember the film having fun performances from both Montalban and Shatner. Their rivalry is pretty juicy and Khan is pretty despicable, using gross-ass mind-control bugs and shoving them in a dude’s ear. Screw that, man, put a bullet in my brain base. And there is definitely clear stakes, keeping Khan from using Genesis and wiping out an entire planet with people on it. And there’s something really douchie about having your pecks being shown off that really made me love to hate him.

Although, now that I have seen this movie, as well as INTO DARKNESS, I feel I have the tools to draw a comparison, specifically with the famous line, “KHAAAAN!!!” As much of what I have to say dives into spoilers for both films… well, spoilers ahead, yo.

***SPOILERS***

 

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I know a lot of die hard fans of the show prefer the WRATH OF KHAN scream over the 2013 film’s, but with minimal bias, I have to disagree. I prefer INTO DARKNESS. The context of the scream makes more sense. In WRATH OF KHAN, Kirk screams because… the bad guy got the upper hand. Khan took Genesis and marooned Kirk on the planet. And considering that Kirk had this back-up plan ready to beam him and his crew up to the Enterprise because he doesn’t believe in no-win situations, I fail to understand why his scream was necessary at all. Or at least fail to understand why it had to be so dramatic. Sure, you could argue that he was putting on a show for Khan to make him think he’s won, but then there’s a scene with him acting depressed. At least in INTO DARKNESS, Spock watched Kirk, his best friend, die and Khan is directly responsible for it, and Spock emotes dramatically, something most vulcans, half or otherwise, don’t often do. Granted, Kirk doesn’t stay dead, so the weight of the drama is taken away within ten or fifteen minutes, but still, experiencing the moment at that specific time, it made more sense and had more of an impact. The only reason why WRATH OF KHAN’s scream will be remembered more is because of how over the top it is.

 

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***END SPOILERS***

So, do I have any problems with the movie itself? Well… I guess it’s clear that, although it holds up as a standalone film, it does make a ton of references to the show that, unless you’re a fan, wouldn’t get. So I can’t say that I’m emotionally invested in the movie all that much. At least, not in the emotions of the characters. So I don’t get the hatred that Khan has for Kirk, or feel for Kirk’s son and his relationship to his father, which is barely explored, so none of the emotions really shine through. It’s clear this movie is for the fans.

Overall, I do give praise to the film for igniting my imagination. Genesis is an awesome concept, life from nothing in a matter of hours, both its wonder and its danger. The action is pretty good, particularly the space battles. Kirstie Alley as a vulcan… damn… didn’t see that coming. And doubling down on surprising me, man, that woman with enough personality to give to a planet that I’d seen on TV so much in the past, she was surprisingly good as a restrained and emotionless alien. I was so drawn to her performance. In the end, yeah, I enjoyed this film. Some great action, some hammy but enjoyable and memorable acting, it’s a fun ride, even for a guy who never watched the TV show.

My honest rating for STAR TREK II: THE WRATH OF KHAN (1982): 4/5

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