Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan

Year: 1982

Synopsis: Tricked into imprisonment on an ultimately doomed planet by Captain Kirk almost twenty years before, superhuman Khan will have his vengeance.

Pros:
• The whole cast gives amazing performances in a wild journey into vengeance. Shatner’s nuanced performance as a tired Adm. Kirk and Ricardo Montalban’s vengeful Khan drove the dark heart of the film.
• A fan service that succeeded in also being a great film, literally making up for the technically underwhelming ending of “Space Seed” in the original series.
• The uniforms were so perfect within and without the mythology that we occasionally got to see versions of them in the later Next Generation era.
• At times felt more like watching Das Boot (1981) than a regular sci-fi film. Some of the best episodes of the original series had that isolated U-Boat feel.
• The Genesis Device was as remarkable as horrifying, obliquely referencing the science of the Cold War in the lens of a utopian future.
• A remarkable adaptation of the themes of obsession and vengeance found in Moby Dick.
• The consequences of forgotten choices and trickery were well highlighted.
• The fact that no one, including Kirk, had any idea that the Ceti Alpha system recently lost a planet, leading to the near destruction Khan World’s biosphere, added a distinct air of mystery.
• Spock’s sacrifice still provides a strong emotional punch.
Kobayashi Maru indeed.

Cons:
• The somewhat darker themes might not be for those looking for the more colorful franchise of the 1960s.

Discussion:
“[Khan] wants to kill me for passing sentence on him fifteen years ago. And…he doesn’t care who stands between him and his vengeance.”


It can be difficult to resurrect a canceled series. The pressure of expectations can overwhelm both the fans and filmmakers. The cast showed no sign of the pressure in Motion Picture, but it did not truly reenergize the franchise. So, what did everyone really want? It turned out that everyone wanted something knew from something old. That was arguably a major element of Wrath. A middle aged Adm. Kirk was growing depressed in his technically prestigious role of Chief of Starfleet Operations, which might as well have been a desk job. He was spoiled by exploring strange new worlds for many years, and he knew it. Luckily for him, a forgotten stratagem came back from Hell’s Heart to kill him, Khan. That ultimate mission of survival reawakened that adventurous spirit in the aging leader, in spite if it all costing the lives of Spock and others. While not the darkest in the long run, this was very much a violent action film that literally helped pave the way for the PG13 rating in the United States. It went all the way, because that was the story that needed to be told. This was the moment that proved Star Trek could risk and sacrifice all, while staying true to the ideals of discovery, unity, equality, logic, and intelligence that always fueled it.

Related:
Star Trek Franchise


Official Website

Rotten Tomatoes — 88%

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