Ossus Library Index Science Fiction Movie Index

THE WRATH OF KHAN

Directed by Nicholas Meyer (1982, Paramount Pictures)
Starring William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, James Doohan, and Ricardo Montalban

An old nemesis attacks Admiral Kirk and the Enterprise, intent on revenge at all costs.

 

 

5 stars

June 29th, 2013 on DVD for the 7th time  
   

This has to be Star Trek at some of its best. Comparing this movie to the more recent ones, including all of the Next Generation movies, there is no almost action, which some people undoubtedly will insist makes it boring. I disagree completely. Here, the characters discuss moral implications, trust, and other important issues, all in relation to technology and rank advancement, among other things. Pretty much all of the action takes place off-camera, and the fire-fights are more like submarine warfare compared with what we see today. Slow -and much much more suspenseful than anything in the last two movies.

The sets and characters, though, had to make me laugh, as they are a product of their times. Kirk's hair, especially, does not pass the test of time well. Still, they managed to maximize the use of those sets, and showed how they were willing to damage them, too. They didn't really need anything more.

Purely enjoyable.

 

 

5 stars

August 3rd, 2002 on DVD for the 6th time  
   

Spectacular, especially in terms of story. The characters grew, were shown to be very human, and there was even a tense battle at the end, and an emotional payoff. Definitely the best of the Trek films -of any kind.

This is widely held to be the best Star Trek film, and there is a very good reason for that. While the next best one could be either The Undiscovered Country or First Contact, neither one has the type of character growth or charisma the people here have. The former also has too much comedy, while the latter is more of a long battle.

The themes in this movie recur throughout. The best part is seeing Spock, McCoy and Sulu die right at the beginning and not knowing what is happening. Of course, having seen this movie before, I knew every aspect that was to come. To see Kirk come into the simulator room with a smirk on his face was the perfect way to open the movie. He always loved getting the upper hand on a Vulcan. I bet Captain Archer of Enterprise would love it even more. 

Spock intrigues us even more when telling us that Kirk took the test three times before finding a "unique" solution to it. But it takes half the movie to find out that he cheated, by reprogramming the simulation. Add to that the scene that immediately follows, where he calls the supposedly inoperative Enterprise to beam them aboard, and it shows exactly how Kirk has never had to face death before.

The no-win scenario is one that rears its head time and again. And each time, Kirk finds a way around it, without having to make a sacrifice. And he never had to make a sacrifice in the TV show, either. It almost happened a couple of times, but the necessity of the recurring cast prevented it. Here, the sacrifice was greatly appreciated. It made the story complete, and much better than it would have been had Spock lived.

All of the main characters were terrific. Kirk, after what happened in The Motion Picture, was understandably apprehensive to take command. Spock was truly logical, and even his "I exaggerated" was given just enough time before they moved on. Compare this to the almost sit-com timing used in The Undiscovered Country, where it looked like they were waiting for laughs.

But best used, I think, was Dr. McCoy. He has always been the conscience of the Enterprise, and here was no exception. We first see him when he gives Kirk glasses and Romulan Ale for his birthday. He berates Kirk for feeling sorry for himself. He hits the mark when he says that Kirk is the type of person who needs to be off on adventures, not sitting at a desk (and his near-lapse of restraint when Saavik takes Enterprise out of space-dock wonderfully underscores this, without any needless dialog). McCoy's best rant comes when he is talking about Genesis. He neatly summarizes the situation and its moral implications in very few lines. And even though I dislike it, the fact is that it is in character for him to call Spock a pointy-eared, green-blooded...!  It's heartbreaking to see him have to hold Kirk back as Spock dies.

And, of course, there is the villain. Khan was a charismatic character in the show Space Seed. Although the women swooned at him the way they normally swooned at Kirk, which detracted from the show, Khan himself was a masterful villain. And here, he was developed fully. He has had fifteen years to build up his resentment towards Kirk. What is interesting, and I noticed it even before being reminded during the commentaries, is that Khan and Kirk never see each other face to face. This makes the success of Khan's character even more surprising, since they have to react to each other across a viewscreen. Even when he was dying, Khan was a mesmerizing character. He was always talking to Kirk and himself, even when he was alone. He managed to convey a brilliant thinker.

And yet Kirk managed to outsmart him three times. Each time, Kirk was lucky, but it goes to show how much experience can gain, over simple knowledge. When the Reliant approaches them, Kirk reacted just the way he should have, with even more justification than he would have given on the TV show. But after being damaged severely, with just trainees as a crew, he manages to shut down the shields of his opponent's ship. Then, after beaming down inside a planet's core, he and Spock use the hours-is-days code, which again defeats Khan. The look on Khan's face when Kirk talks to him each time was priceless. And his rage was used to excellent effect, so that Kirk could lure him into the nebula without a doubt. Finally, there is the typical mistake that most current Star Trek incarnations make: 2D thinking. Space is large enough to be treated like a huge three-dimensional gameboard. Kahn was a prince on Earth, where unless he used a submarine, he was pretty much confined to a two-dimensional universe. Spock is right: in a 3D match, Kirk has the advantage.

The special effects in this film were terrific. I am sorry the days of model-making have disappeared. The computer-generated models just don't have the same look. Yes, they are amazing to see. But they are missing the real texture of these starships. And the nebula was a work of love for the people who made it -a water tank! Ha! We were not overwhelmed with effects, which is a good thing on such a character-based show.

The music was a character in its own right. Whether we were talking about Kirk's age (why could Kirk read the first line of the book without squinting, but after receiving the glasses, couldn't read without them?), or feeling the tension with Khan, or entering the Genesis cave, the music fit the scene. It was a terrific score, for the man who would later score Titanic! The music really made the movie come alive where it needed to.

The extras on the DVD started out really amazing, and then petered out pretty quickly. The Captain's Log feature was exceptional. I really loved the interviews with these people, and learned some interesting facts, though Shatner seemed very resentful, and I couldn't tell if he was joking or not. "Designing Khan" was still really good, and felt like a continuation of the previous feature. The special effects feature was interesting, but didn't really tell us or show us too much that was new. It should have been longer, with more behind the scenes footage, not just rolling the model out.

The interviews from 1982 made me shriek -and I had to put my sunglasses on from the Minami-Vice style clothing! Yipes! Where did Leonard Nimoy get that pink shirt and striped suit? It was nice to see DeForrest Kelley again, but the interviews were only interesting for their historical context. The next feature, on the two authors, was very bizarre. The production was made like a comedy, and I felt like I was watching Leo from Lethal Weapon series with one of them. Maybe he should have been in Trekkies; he certainly took the show seriously. I could have done without that one.

As usual, I am not very interested in storyboards, but there were enough that anybody should be impressed by at least some part of it. The trailer was just as bad as the ones for The Motion Picture. Who used to write these things?!? 

I browsed through some of the commentary, just to get an idea of what it was about. The director's commentary didn't seem too interesting, with lots of repeat material from the other features, and since he is not a big Trek fan, the commentary dealt with things that didn't interest me for a time. The text commentary contained some cool tidbits and micro-facts, and seemed much more interesting. I long to finish that one.

This DVD is well worth owning, for any Trek fan. The best part about it is the strength of the characters, especially the main three. And with a good villain in the mix, and a great story can emerge. There was also a great sacrifice to end the film -Spock's death was surprisingly emotional, given the number of times I've seen this movie. And knowing that the setup for the next couple of films was unintentional just makes it better. 

 
   

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