HE WOULD HAVE SHOT HIS HEART UPON IT!
Thank you. I should start every review off that way. And maybe I will, Millhouse, maybe I will! In case you haven't put six and nine together yet, last night (Thursday February 8, 2007) Michelle and I trekked out to see one of Star Trek's greatest accomplishments: Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, for the first time in quite some time on the big screen. And let me tell you, the Big Screen is the way to watch this movie. I'm thinking about building some big Corellian theatre myself just to review the whole shelob shebang a few million times. Huzzah!
Most certainly, seeing Wrath of Khan on the big screen is a killer reminder of what a great movie the original crew's second outing truly was and is. To be sure, Star Trek: The Motion Picture, though a fine slice of Americana, was a bit of a let down in many ways, not the least of which was going way over budget and way over long. It was also a hell of a Box Office Smash, prompting Paramount Pictures to make two decisions: 1) To make another Star Trek movie and 2) To do something different this time around.
Different, it is. The Wrath of Khan is not truly a sequel to The Motion Picture, but is actually a sequel to the Star Trek: The Original Series episode "Space Seed" (February 16, 1967), which introduced the Genetically Engineered Superhuman named Khan Noonien Singh (Ricardo Gonzalo Pedro Montalban y Merino) and his army of Exotic Dancers from the far future/ recent past year of 1996.
Not only do we journey into mystery fifteen (canonical) years after the events of "Space Seed", but a number of years after the events of the first film. The Starfleet Uniforms are no longer Disco Jumpsuits but more closely reflect an air of rIch CorINTHian LEAther! Admiral James T. Kirk (William Shatner... duh) is supervising training at Starfleet Academy in the hopes of bringing a new crew up to speed for the USS Enterprise NCC-1701 (no bloody A, B, C... or D!). The good news is that her new Captain is named Spock (Leonard Nimoy) and her old Chief Engineer is still named Montgomery "Scotty" Scott (James Doohan). Even better, helping ol' Kirk along the way are Rockin' Returners Commander Uhura (Nichelle Nichols), Helmsman Hikaru Sulu (George Takei) and the Chairman of the Board Doctor Leonard H. "Bones" McCoy (DeForest Kelley, who is a Doctor, not a Tribble Zookeeper). Even better news, one of the newbies is a hottie Vulcan/Romulan hybrid named Lieutenant Saavik and she's played by Kirstie Alley (hardly a "fat actress" here)!
But where... oh where... is Mister Chekov (Walter Koenig)? He's at home, WASHING HIS TIGHTS. I'm just kidding. Chekov is assigned to the Reliant under Paul Winfield's Capt. Clark Terrell and along side former "Red Shirt" John Winston's Commander Kyle) collecting data on dead worlds for the "Project Genesis" experiment. Unfortunately, on one of those supposedly dead worlds, Khan and what's left of his Stomp Dance Troupe are waiting for him... And Khan never forgets a face. Which is interesting, because Chekov was not only not in the episode "Space Seed", but also wasn't even on Star Trek at the time.
Ah, that Khan. Huh. But I digress.
Does Khan make it off "Fantasy Planet"? Hey, look at the title of this movie. Man, it couldn't've been easier if Chekov had gotten down on his knees and yelled "Boss, Boss, the Reliant, the Reliant!" It isn't long before Khan and his intrepid crew (now including his right hand man, and presumably, his Glam Rock Guitarist Judson Earney Scott's Joachim) have everything they want: Freedom, a Starship in which to go where they will, and each and every one of them is decked out in rIch CorINTHian LEAther! The one thing Khan wants more than anything else, though, is revenge on Captain, no, wait, ADMIRAL James T. Kirk, who stranded Khan on Ceti Alpha V fifteen years (and many, many deaths) ago.
What follows is a surprising Cat and Mouse turned Moby Dick adventure (and battle) through space in which the heroes leave some of their dearest blood behind.
What a battle it is, too! One of the most spectacular, rousing and riveting space fights in all of Science Fiction. And while the dastardly and relentlessly quoting Khan proves to be a nightmare of a match for Kirk, ol' Jimmy T-K's got a few million problems of his own. To make matters worse, Khan has his eye on one more major prize, which could be the ultimate weapon in the Alpha Quadrant.
Both plights lead to one word: "Genesis".
Enter Kirk's old flame Dr. Carol Marcus (Bibi Besch) and her son Dr. David Marcus (Merritt Butrick, he has Kirk's perm... and jawline and... oh, hey!) who hold the secret to the Genesis Project and its ability to create... and to destroy.
Kirk... must protect it, Khan... must obtain it... I... must stop sounding so melodramatic.
The key to Wrath of Khan's success is far from just its action. This is one of the most character-driven episodes in any generation. Montalban and Shatner step up to the plate fantastically well at both their most frantic and their most dramatic. Khan is the quintessential Cerebral Bad Guy. He's super smart, yet packed with hubris. He's tougher than Rich Corinthian Leather, but he's obsessed and dangerous. If his chest had been a cannon he'd have shot his heart upon it! Actually, if his prosthetic chest had been "canon", he'd have shot his part asunder. But, no, seriously, that's his real chest, kids. Shatner, though certainly still in his Shatnerian Pause-Acting mode, surprisingly delivers some great moments in this film in times of quiet drama, loud action and even comedic excellence. That's not to mention the one truly tear jerking scene that Shatner pulls off with aplomb. I found it hard to believe too, but even the memorable "Scream Scene" is more powerful than comical. And folks, I couldn't stop screaming it... all... evening... long! Or since. Michelle has a headache!
Wrath of Khan is also one of the most visually stunning entries into the series, particularly on the big screen and particularly when the consideration is given that there is no CGI in this film. The Special Effects are Miniatures, Opticals and virtually every trick in the ILM book. The Nebula battle alone is breathtaking. Yes, a lot of this comes off as dated and in some places, retroactively cheesy. Some of the Special Make-Up Effects are clearly Special Make-Up Effects... read: Not Quite Seamless! However, it's surprising how well these things truly do work, especially when you consider that this was produced not by the motion picture division that released it, but Paramount's Television division.
Further, the film, though a very Moby Dick-inspired sequel to a television episode, comes off as very original. The direction of Nicholas Meyer is very fine. He balances the dramatic with the action packed, the sorrowful with the comedic and the cerebral with the fun. Another noteworthy observation surrounds the fact that this was a movie made during a time when films were meant, primarily, to be seen on the BIG SCREEN. Today, as stunning as films can be, it's clear that a VHS and DVD release is up and coming, usually in only a few months. Meyer's direction and framing keeps things spread out, hoping the viewer is smart enough to glance around and see as much as possible. He does few dummy close ups, he does relatively few tracking shots. There is so much to see in a single frame of film, that the entire picture comes off as wonderfully satisfying. So much of this can't truly be appreciated until it's watched again in a movie theatre (that is, until our Plasma Screens start to fill up the whole wall, which should be... about a week from Tuesday).
Though Gene Roddenberry has been moved into a position of "Creative Consultant", it's easy to see that the story by Harve Bennett, Samuel A. Peeples and Jack B. Sowards (who also wrote the screenplay with Nick Meyer himself) fits very well into Roddenberry's universe. This was, and is, a true evolution of Star Trek which carried the Saga to the next level, while remaining true to the roots of the series. It took courage and class to make this movie and to bet on its success, but the bet paid off. From hell's heart, Khan stabs at thee!
Check your local listings for Nostalgia showings, beg your local theatres to start some and then plug away for Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan to get the big screen treatment. It's really something to see. Either that or invest all your college money into a big, fat Plasma Screen that you can slap on your wall and bow down before like Zod! And don't forget the THX/ Dolby Surround Sound to soak up that Kick Ass James Horner score! Hey, then you could do your whole living room up like the bridge of the Enterprise, put a couple of friends in front of you, and a few in comfy chairs at the walls. Then you could settle your Captainy Rump into that raised, center chair, hold up your remote control and say "Onscreen... Engage!"
On second thought, no... no, don't do that. Four and One Half Stars out of Five for Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaan! It could have been "The Wreck of Korn", but I'll have my molecules spread all over tarnation if they didn't pull it off and set the stage for all the "Even Numbered" Star Treks to come... that is, until Nemesis! Man... Nemesis sucked Ferengi Lobes, dude! You want to talk about a rip off of Wrath of Khan that is it. Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go kick that Shinzon dude's white ass. Khan rules. See you in the next Reliant!
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