A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Movie 323 – Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan – January 17th, 2011

Our Star Trek project continues tonight with what it widely regarded as the best Star Trek movie, featuring the well-known and oft-referenced KHAAAAAAAAAAN! Okay, it’s Khan Noonien Singh, from an episode of the original series, but it’s kind of impossible not to quote Kirk at least once. It’s a memorable movie, with plenty of great moments and action and lines and it was a lot of fun to watch tonight. So much fun that we immediately went and found the reboot and put it in. Not to review, but just because. Ahh, Trek, I love it so.

Where the first movie had the distinct feel of a somewhat bloated episode, this movie flows so much quicker. It’s an episode too, and a rather obvious one, being a follow-up to The Space Seed, where Kirk left Khan and his fellow genetically engineered supermen stranded on a deserted planet. Khan returns here, quickly grabbing hold of the opportunity to take revenge on Kirk and obtain a powerful piece of leverage/weaponry in the process. Of course, it’s a wildly overpowered Macguffin, but that doesn’t matter. It has to be overpowered in order to be an object of desire and it ends up destroyed anyhow. Regardless, it’s a good plot, with some real tension and drama.

We start out with yet another “getting the band back together” type situation, with Kirk no longer the captain of the Enterprise and all. Chekhov has his own command, Spock is running a shakedown flight on the Enterprise with a whole bunch of untried ensigns, and Kirk is running the Kobayashi Maru test. The thing is, while this movie has to get everyone back on the Enterprise, it doesn’t take an hour to do it. It just does it. They need to be on there, and so they are. And I like that. I like how tight the movie is. We get the introduction of the bad guys, we get a quick overview of why Khan’s so pissed and what his background is with Kirk. We meet some secondary characters who have the Genesis project, the Macguffin I mentioned, and then off we go on our rollicking adventure.

One thing I think really distinguishes this movie from the first one is that the enemy is so personal. He’s one man, and he’s a man with an agenda. Yes, V’Ger from the first movie is vast and menacing and overwhelming, but there’s no passion there. It’s almost too alien, despite its eventually revealed origins. Khan, on the other hand, is and always has been a foil for Kirk. He’s brilliant, strong, passionate and sociopathic. And soon enough, he has not only a ship but control over a key crew member. He’s an enemy on Kirk’s level, and that feels more immediately dangerous. Of course, that does mean that it feels less cinematic and more episodic, as I mentioned, but I think it moves better than the first movie did. I’m willing to sacrifice the huge grand scale of the first movie for the more intimate feel of the second if it means such an improvement in pace. And too, they fixed the uniforms, giving everyone a nice rich burgundy. Lovely.

Overall, I think this movie deserves its reputation, fake Ricardo Montalban chest and all. It introduces some good material, follows up on a rich character from the series, has some nice moments for the key cast and also one of the best and most emotional endings I can think of. Spock’s sacrifice and Kirk, McCoy and Scotty’s reactions to it are amazingly well written and well acted and definitely shift the movie from episode to film status. Not to mention that it neatly sets up a pointer to the future. I like how this movie plays with relationships and I like how it takes the best stuff from the series and spins it out. I only wish I’d seen it on the big screen. Still, even on the small screen it’s got a good impact, which is really all I could ask.

January 17, 2011 Posted by | daily reviews | , , , , | 2 Comments

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan

January 17, 2010

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan

The first motion picture proved that Star Trek was a viable commercial vehicle for the big-screen, but it was this movie that proved that a Star Trek movie could be dramatic, action filled and exciting. This movie has great character arcs, emotional moments, some fun action and one of the best bad guys in Trek history.

This is widely regarded as the best Star Trek movie and with good reason – it is simply superb. The first foe that Kirk must face as this movie begins is, amusingly, his birthday. I like that the film makers chose to acknowledge the aging of their cast (Shatner would have been 49 when this movie was made) and it seems appropriate for the characters. Kirk is depressed at the start of this movie because he is an admiral now and not charged with flying a starship. He knows that gallivanting around the universe is a job for the young, but doesn’t know how to live his life on land. (How many science fiction films, much less big franchise tent poles like this, start out with a midlife crisis?)

Soon enough Kirk and his friends find themselves pulled as usual into a conflict that has the potential to imperil the entire galaxy. One of the coolest things about this movies is that it turns out to be a direct sequel to one of the classic television episodes. The bad guy bent on destroying Kirk and all he holds dear is from the original Star Trek Space Seed, where Kirk defeats an attempt to hijack his ship by the 20th century evil mastermind Khan Noonien Sing, whom Kirk himself had rescued from exile in the depths of space. In that episode Kirk left Khan marooned with his followers on an uninhabited planet. In this movie we rediscover Khan on Ceti Alpha V, where a natural disaster has rendered the planet virtually lifeless. Khan takes over the starship Reliant and sets a trap for Kirk with the intention of exacting his revenge. Mixed up in all this is a top secret project called “Genesis” which can create life on a lifeless planet, run by an old ex-girlfriend of Kirk’s – and by his illegitimate son. (I kind of assume that Kirk has many such illegitimate children throughout the galaxy so I found it cool that the film makers found a way to introduce us to one.)

The one possible complaint I could level at this movie is that it is less of an ensemble piece than most Star Trek films. It is a rivalry between two titans – Kirk and Khan, and all the rest of the Star Trek cast take supporting roles. Even the infamous and emotionally devastating character death near the end of the film feels like more a part of Kirk’s story arc than anything else. I don’t suppose it’s a spoiler for anybody any more that Spock selflessly sacrifices his life to save the Enterprise. It’s a brilliant and powerful move that raises a good film to greatness. It also results in a performance from Shatner which is, of all those he has ever delivered, his most… human.

Perhaps it is this very focused attitude that makes the film so great. The space action is placid by today’s standards (and even by the standards of 1982 – which is when Empire Strikes Back came out I believe.) The special effects are miles ahead of those in the first movie, but still aren’t up to the level of later episodes or even to some of the television episodes of the later shows. But the emotional heft of the movie brings it to a higher level.

Tomorrow we embark on the inevitable sequel to this one. For tonight though I’d like to close on a high note. Say it with me now, everyone – “Khaaaaan!”

January 17, 2011 Posted by | daily reviews | , , | Leave a comment