Monday, December 03, 2012

Penny Thoughts ‘12—Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982) ****

PG, 113 min.
Director: Nicholas Meyer
Writers: Jack B. Sowards, Harve Bennett, Gene Roddenberry (tv series)
Starring: William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, James Doohan, Walter Koenig, Nichelle Nichols, George Takei, Kirstie Ally, Ricardo Montalban, Bibi Besch, Merritt Butrick, Paul Winfield, Ike Eisenmann, John Vargas

Every time I watch this movie, I’m amazed by how much it still grips me. That sounds like such a fanboy thing to say. Perhaps I am a fanboy. I don’t know. I certainly don’t invest as much time in worshiping the “Star Trek” universe as what I would categorize a fanboy doing, but then I have seen “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan” enough times to say “every time I watch this movie.”

Still, this movie works on several levels. It’s an adventure movie in the way it explores different worlds and has a cast of known characters chasing down a particular goal. It’s a classic revenge story. Khan returns from a one-episode role from the television series. He has every reason to believe he has been wronged. Perhaps his anger should be placed more at fate in general than James T. Kirk specifically, but he has a point when he says Kirk should have checked up on the colony of exiles at some point in the 15-year period that has passed since he sent the crew of the Botany Bay on their way.

It’s also a classic science fiction movie with the plot element of the Genesis Project. The ability to create life has been a moral debate throughout the entire course of human history. Khan is a great character to bring into conflict with this controversial debate. Khan himself is product of dubious morality involving humans playing God. Genetically engineered to be a perfect human specimen, it was the scientific tinkering that sent him into insanity. Now, he represents the wrong hand in which to place such a potentially dangerous technology as the Genesis bomb.

But what makes all the movies in this franchise work are the characters. “Star Trek II” contains some of the best character work of the entire Star Trek canon. As I’ve stated before, Kirk’s eulogy of Spock in the final moments gets me every time. These actors know these characters so well there is barely any acting left for them. This is an element that will serve the series well through the rest of the original cast feature film run.

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