Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982)

How disappointing.

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan is far from stunning.

Ricardo Montalban's Khan reminds me of shock rocker Alice Cooper. His henchmen looked like they just walked off a California beach. Would they look that good after spending 15 years on a barren planet? His goons don't look terribly threatening.

Why didn't Khan and his old nemesis Admiral James Kirk (William Shatner) square off man-to-man rather than exchanging jabs over video screens? If Khan is so smart, why does he keep getting outwitted by Kirk? Questions like this bug me as a viewer.

There's lots of references to death, duty and new life in this second film based on the iconic television series from the 1960s. Khan appeared in one episode, Space Seed, broadcast in 1967.

Admiral James Kirk (William Shatner) is choosing not to celebrate his birthday. He feels old, and without a spaceship to command, somewhat useless. He has to wear glasses. Glasses make him feel old. Oh, brother.

Opportunity knocks during an inspection of his old ship, Enterprise. His trusted colleagues are on board - Spock (Leonard Nimoy), Bones (DeForest Kelley), Scotty (James Doohan) and Uhura (Nichelle Nichols) with Chekov (Walter Koenig) not far away.

Enterprise is called into service to check up on a space station doing research on Genesis. Want to create a planet pronto where no life exists? Genesis is your answer. Research is being headed up by Kirk's old flame Carol (Bibi Besch) and their son, David (Merritt Butrick). David is convinced Starfleet Command wants control of Genesis for military purposes. Khan's interested too.

Khan gets himself out of exile and zeroes in on Genesis. Kirk and his posse have to stop Khan.

Death is continually present in this film. Many of Enterprise's most veteran hands appear to die early on. A training simulation involves a distress call and failing life support systems. A cadet is praised for not abandoning his post and dying in service of Starfleet. Oh, and Khan wants Kirk dead - even when he has Genesis for himself. Khan, you old coot. Take Genesis and run.

Some of the film's cracks are quite funny, but the late Butrick is mostly weak. There's some rapport, but not much contact between Carol and Kirk.

What was that talk about the even numbers in this series being the better films? I'm not so sure.

RATING: 6/10

FUN FACTS: Ike Eisenmann, who appears as Cadet Preston, appeared as a party guest in John Hughes' Some Kind of Wonderful.

Star Trek II marks Kirstie Alley's film debut.

Paul Winfield was the voice of Lucius Sweet in two episodes of The Simpsons.


James The Movie Reviewer said...

Although I enjoy this movie quite a bit, I am not crazy and believe it to be overrated. I agree with you that many of the characters made dumb decisions. At least it is better than the dreadful "Star Trek: The Motion Picture." First Contact is my favorite Trek movie actually, followed by the 2009 reboot.


Roman J. Martel said...


But you know, I think your review is pretty interesting. I never had the experience of seeing "Star Trek II" coming in cold. I saw it after I saw the original series in reruns and having a solid knowledge of the crew and their adventures.

In the light "Wrath of Khan" provides more of a punch. The themes of aging and dealing with death have additional power, because we've seen this crew at their prime. Kirk is afraid of losing, because he has never lost before - his boldness has always prevailed.

But going against Khan, an old enemy that makes him feel even older, is like looking in the mirror and not seeing that young face staring back at you.

As for Khan's motives, there is a lot of rage in the man, and it was part of his undoing in "Space Seed". Really, we are seeing a character here who has lost so much he has snapped. That is why he can't let Kirk go.

Yeah the overt 80s style is a bit much these days. The lack of a one on one battle between Kirk and Khan is regrettable. But "Space Seed" covered that arena (and gave us an implausible ending with it). This confrontation, one of wits, is really the only hope Kirk has when facing Khan. Physically, Khan would break him in half.

I think the whole even/odd curse thing is silly. The films have their ups and downs. I really like some of the odd numbered ones, and some of the even numbered ones have lost their luster.

In the end I think "Star Trek II" has some emotional gravitas, solid themes, very good dialogue and excellent musical score. It's a very entertaining movie, and holds up well. Compared to "Star Trek Into Darkness" I think it earns it's ending and handles it much better. But "Into Darkness" has a lot of great stuff going for it too.

I'm curious to read your thoughts on other Star Trek films. I get the feeling you may like VI a lot more.