Sunday, March 18, 2012

Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan (1982)

Star Trek II: The Redo

- The Star Trek filmmakers might not have admitted that Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979) was a bad film (well, some of them would) but Paramount studios obviously thought that the Star Trek film series needed to be revamped. By bringing in a new executive producer, director, writer, and new Star Fleet uniforms for Star Trek: The Wrath Of Khan in 1982, they did just that. Far superior to its Star Trek film predecessor, although not a perfect film, The Wrath Of Khan is a fun and exciting sci-fi adventure film.

Tying the film to the original television series, The Wrath Of  Khan stems from the 1967 Star Trek episode "Space Seed" where Kirk defeats the evil doer Khan Noonien Singh and exiles him to the planet Ceti Alpha V. In this film, 15 years later, Khan is discovered and the adventure begins: hell-bent on getting his revenge on Captain Kirk, Khan commandeers a Federation ship and steals Genesis (a life creating piece of technology turned super-weapon) from the Federation research station Regula I (were, coincidentally, Kirk's former girlfriend works). While the film's overall story is indeed entertaining, almost half the film runs just a tad bit too slow with things eventually picking up by the 45-minute mark. Still, once the film gets going, the going is good.

Unfortunately the writers learned little from Star Trek: The Motion Picture and, desperately searching for plot points to try and beef up the film's drama, added in extra story lines to the film that feel forced as all get out. Here in The Wrath Of Khan, just like in Star Trek: The Motion Picture, Kirk is again not fit for commanding the Enterprise due to his time spent at his high-profile Star Fleet desk job, opening the door for plenty of "I'm not good enough" moments for Kirk.

But that is not all; the audience discovers that Kirk is a father! Wow. Congratulations Kirk - apparently your boys can swim. This might have been a good storyline, but who really knows for sure - Kirk's family reunion in The Wrath Of Khan is barely touched upon with maybe three minutes of combined screen time dedicated to this part of the story. Other story lines feel more natural and actually add to the film. Kirk kind of struggles with his age, turning 50 years old while surrounded by a young crew, and also struggles with something at the end of The Wrath of Khan that has not been seen before (at least not in the same way) in Star Trek, TV or film - the death of his friend.

The acting is one thing that The Wrath Of Khan does particularly better than Star Trek: The Motion Picture. The Enterprise actors are all back to normal: DeForest Kelley is actually amusing and Leonard Nimoy is back to being cool in this film - even William Shatner does a good job! Unlike the first Star Trek film, Shatner is not playing a cartoon stereotype of himself in The Wrath Of Khan and while there are a few moments where you shake your head at him, he is a good lead with many strong moments. However, I have a hard time taking his famous "KHAN!" scream seriously - all I can think of is George Costanza screaming "KHAN!" in that Seinfeld episode.

The film also "introduces" Kristie Alley as a young wannabe captain Lt. Saavik. Despite being cited as a first-rate Trek babe, Alley does not really lend much to the picture, she is not even one of the better guest actors a part of the Trek films. She has virtually no presence and her attempt to try to show her character struggling with emotion at the film's end is hilarious. The casting director must have been desperate, because most of the film's supporting actors are terrible - you just laugh at anyone who is playing an expendable character (you know, your "Ensign Ricky" or "henchman without a name tag" type characters). It is hilariously lame anytime any of these background characters are dying, in pain, or yelling in surprise or frustration - hilariously. Also, why the Star Trek people did not kill off Pavel Chekov early on in the series is beyond my understanding. Walter Koenig is terrible in these Star Trek movies!

Ricardo Montalban, on the other hand, is awesomely evil and is the film's biggest plus as Khan. Khan is a nasty fellow: he is hopped up on 20th Century genetic-heightening material, has a thirst for power, and will do anything to satisfy his desire for revenge - what a deadly combination. Montalban gives an iconic performance - losing himself completely inside of this crazy character - and he makes the film worthwhile all by himself.

The Wrath Of Khan director Nicholas Meyer was a blessing to the Star Trek films. Meyer was not exactly a Star Trek fan before working on this film and, due to this fact, he brings a non-Trek obsessed component of the film that was desperately needed. Trying first to tell a story, rather than focusing on throwing a message at the viewer, and incorporating visual elements not necessarily associate with Star Trek, Meyers makes The Wrath Of Khan a further reaching and more effective Trek adventure than other Trek films or TV episodes. The film's atmosphere is Meyer's greatest achievement on The Wrath Of Khan. One thing that was missing from Star Trek: The Motion Picture was anything resembling feeling or urgency. The Wrath Of Khan has tension and emotion - and it makes for great entertainment.

The Wrath Of Khan seems to be considered the best Star Trek film in the long-running franchise. While I personally would not go this far, I am quick to say that The Wrath Of Khan is an entertaining film with good action, lead performances, atmosphere, and music.

CBC Rating: 8/10

No comments: