A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

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!”

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January 17, 2011 - Posted by | daily reviews | , ,

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