Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982)

Film: Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
Release: 1982, theatrical
Starring: William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, Ricardo Montalban
Directed by: Nicholas Meyer
Previous in the series: Star Trek: The Motion Picture
Next in the series: Star Trek III: The Search for Spock
IMDB page: Link opens in a new window
Description: While undergoing an inspection of the Star Ship Enterprise, the aging Admiral James T. Kirk is called to an emergency situation concerning a scientific project simply known as "Genesis". However an old and very capable foe is lurking in the shadows.

Hans' thoughts:

Critics log, Star date -308846.50745180104. Subject is the second installment in the Star Trek cinematic franchise. After a lukewarm reception of the original movie, the creators seemingly decided to appeal more to the already sizable fanbase of the original series as opposed to make a more main stream picture like the predecessor. Ironically, this movie would prove to the most critically acclaimed of them all and a great jumping on point for newcomers to the franchise. Set roughly in the distant future of the 2200's, Star Trek features the continued exploits of the crew of the S. S. Enterprise, in the main series on a mission to explore uncharted territories in outer space. In this movie however, James T. Kirk now promoted to the status of Admiral has long since left the captains chair and is celebrating his birthday in somber mood. To lighten up his spirits he decides to make an inspection round of his former ship when he is thrown into a dangerous venture concerning powerful revolutionary science and the revenge scheme of Khan, a genetically modified super soldier created in the 1990's. 

If that all sounded a bit complicated to you, have no fear. The film does a remarkable job of bringing everyone up to speed and while some of the terminology might be mostly understood by fans of the original series, the film features classical concepts of aging, revenge and obsession. In the role of Khan we have Ricardo Montalban. He plays a very quiet well-spoken man who only few times feels the need to raise his voice at all. You can just feel the seething hatred he harbors for the main character every time he encounters him. But somehow there's also a great deal of mutual respect between him and William Shatner as Kirk. There's a lot of parallels to classic literature in the film, particularly that of Moby Dick by Herman Melville. Khan shares the obsessive vengeful nature of Captain Ahab throughout the film, to the point of almost letting his emotions get the best of him at times. He's a man that has lost everything and is blind to compromise. The delivery of his lines are just so intense and the nature of them lies closely to almost Shakespearian.

On the other hand we have the cocky William Shatner as James Kirk. While he is more gloomy in this picture than normally he certainly hasn't lost his flair for wit and fast thinking in pressed situations. Kirk has seemingly taught himself to grow up and acknowledge that he won't stay young and spry forever, but his journey in this movie is more about coming to terms with it. While Khan seems to lose everything around him, Kirk is through the looking glass and reliving old thrills from his time as the captain. By his side as always he has Mr. Spock played by Leonard Nimoy and Doctor McCoy played by DeForest Kelley. Actually most of the classic cast of the series has reprised their roles and it's like they never left in the first place. They're all spouting off science fiction terminology like a second nature while keeping their characters well-known features intact. This is despite that the last season of Star Trek the original series was aired in 1969 and this movie came out in 1982. That's over 20 years of absence from a role.

Visually the film is gorgeous, it features new redesigned Star fleet uniforms which more closely resembles that of an army, with the rank of characters shown by stripes and stars rather than the color of their shirt. These costumes feel like they could be worn by an actual fleet rather than the more casual look of the uniforms from the original series. On top of that, we also have some really nice looking sets, simplistic at times but since most of the movie takes place on the bridge of a spaceship it makes sense in context. When the characters do depart to ground level operations, we have some fairly imaginative settings. The most visually appealing part of the movie however, is the exterior shots. For its time the effects are pretty goof, these are some of the best VistaVision model shots of space ships I have seen this side of the original Star Wars movies. Damage to the ships were all hand animated and even though it's outer space there's some great looking colorful shots in there. This, combined with the new original score by James Horner absolutely goosebump-inducing. While Star Wars is certainly the more approachable franchise movie-wise, a lot can be said for the sheer amount of skill in the execution of this film and it's highly recommended for anyone who loves the genre.
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