Friday, May 17, 2013

Review: "The Wrath of Kahn" is Still Great Star Trek

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 34 (of 2013) by Leroy Douresseaux

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kahn (1982)
Running time: 113 minutes (1 hour, 53 minutes)
DIRECTOR: Nicholas Meyer
WRITERS: Jack B. Sowards; from a story by Harve Bennett and Jack B. Sowards (based upon the TV series “Star Trek” created by Gene Roddenberry)
PRODUCER: Robert Sallin
EDITOR: William P. Dornisch
COMPOSER: James Horner


Starring: William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, James Doohan, Walter Koenig, Nichelle Nichols, George Takei, Ricardo Montalban, Bibi Besch, Merritt Butrick, Paul Winfield, Kirstie Alley, and Ike Eisenmann with Judson Earney Scott

The subject of this movie review is Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kahn, a 1982 science fiction movie. It is the second movie in the Star Trek film franchise, which is based on “Star Trek,” a science fiction television series originally broadcast on NBC from September 1966 to June 1969. The Wrath of Kahn finds the crew of the Enterprise fighting an old and practically forgotten nemesis and trying to stop him from using a life-generating device as the ultimate weapon.

In fact, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kahn’s plot is based on an episode of the TV series entitled, “Space Seed,” which was originally broadcast in February 1967, the show’s first season. Writers Samuel A. Peeples and Roman Sanchez apparently contributed to film’s story, while The Wrath of Kahn’s director, Nicholas Meyer, wrote the final script for the film, but did not receive a screen credit.

As The Wrath of Kahn opens, the USS Enterprise is commanded by Captain Spock (Leonard Nimoy) and has a mostly novice crew. Captain Kirk is now Admiral James T. Kirk (William Shatner), and now, he mostly oversees training of Starfleet personnel and inspection of starships. The Enterprise is about to embark on a three-week training voyage with Spock in command and Kirk along for observation.

Meanwhile, former Enterprise crewman, Pavel Chekov (Walter Koenig), is on the USS Reliant with Captain Clark Terrell (Paul Winfield). The two men accidentally discover that the genetically-engineered tyrant, Khan Noonien Singh (Ricardo Montalban), who once tried to seize control of the Enterprise, is still alive and has an old score to settle with Admiral Kirk. Khan learns of the “Genesis Drive,” created by Dr. Carol Marcus (Bibi Besch) and her son, David (Merritt Butrick). This device can create life on barren worlds, but it can also destroy a planet. Now, Khan wants it, but can Kirk, Spock, and the rest of the Enterprise regulars stop him?

Following the first Star Trek film, Star Trek: The Motion Picture, which was considered a disappointment to some, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kahn became the first great Star Trek film. I can’t remember whom, but a writer I like once described the original Star Trek series as basically a blending of World War II submarine movies and the television series, “Wagon Train.” The original Star Trek was escapist entertainment with a swashbuckling adventure aspect, but it was often socially relevant, as it alluded to, in one form or another, what was occurring in the 1960s.

The Wrath of Kahn was a bit of all of that, but on a grander scale. Director Nicholas Meyer took advantage of the medium of cinema and made the drama more melodramatic, the conflicts edgier, the villains more menacing, and the specter of death more tangible than it had been on the small screen. Even the score by James Horner evokes a sense of adventure that the earlier Star Trek film did not have. Watching this movie, I almost felt as if I were a seafaring adventurer, ready for swashbuckling fun across the expanse of outer space.

The Wrath of Kahn deals with the themes of growing old, death, and resurrection. However, I think the overarching theme of this film is renewal, especially following the first film. For the characters, there is a renewal of purpose, status, friendships, etc. Khan represents the renewal of old conflicts (which carries over into the third film). The younger crew of the Enterprise hints at a renewal of the mission. To me, this Star Trek is less about winding down and ending and more about restarting.

The performances are good, and thanks to the screenplay, William Shatner has some weighty material to use and delivers what is probably his best performance in a Star Trek film. Ricardo Montalban is fantastic – plain and simple. In Khan, Montalban delivers just the kind of grand, vengeful, madman The Wrath of Kahn has to have. He is Oscar-worth and is the main reason Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kahn is so distinctive among Star Trek films.

8 of 10

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

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