Retro-spective: Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan

This is the first original series Star Trek film I’ve seen. I am a fan of the rebooted Chris Pine Star Trek films and really enjoyed Star Trek: First Contact when I saw it on Netflix a few months ago. I was trawling through my DVDs and found The Wrath of Khan and decided to watch it. It is widely regarded as one of the best Star Trek films and, having watched it, I can agree wholeheartedly.

I really like the characters in Star Trek. They may be simplistic, but they are so without cynicism. Their interactions are predictable in a very joyful way, especially when the writing is strong. There is also the rule about Star Trek films. Even-numbered films are generally good, and odd numbered films are poor. Luckily, The Wrath of Khan is number two.

The story of The Wrath of Khan continues from an episode of the original series called “Space Seed” (S1 Ep.22) where the crew encountered a genetically engineered villain called Khan Noonien Singh (Ricardo Montalban) and his crew. Kirk ends up marooning them on a distant planet, which justifiably makes Khan very angry. Now, when Captain Terrell and Chekov discover the villain and his crew, Khan embarks on a cat and mouse game of revenge.

Khan is a fantastic villain; charismatic, dastardly and more camp than Tim Curry in a tent. From his hissing voice to his plastic six pack, he’s iconic to Star Trek. His plan puts Kirk and co. on the back foot, and makes the film a tense and exciting experience which unfolds at great pace.

Director Nicholas Meyer paces the film brilliantly; it races along whilst also having plenty of time for character moments. He also directed the wonderful Time After Time (1979) and returned to Star Trek to direct Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (another critically acclaimed even-numbered effort). He understands what makes Star Trek great: a sense of wonder, fun and thoughtfulness. His grasp of tone is impeccable, which shows a skill that lots of directors don’t seem to have now (The Mummy, Star Trek Into Darkness, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2).

The cast are also a lot of fun. William Shatner is given more emotions to play with than in other films, and has the legendary “KHAN!” moment, which is pure cinematic bliss. The late Leonard Nimoy is probably my favourite Star Trek character as Spock. He’s simultaneously arch and innocent, and has most of the comic moments. He and Shatner also share the big emotional moment in the film, and it works very touchingly, far better than in Star Trek Into Darkness.

This film is very camp, and I think anyone going into this expecting refined thespian performances will leave disappointed. The Wrath of Khan is a classic popcorn film, with spirit, heart and humour. It’s very enjoyable and very hard to fault. You’ll come out with a big grin on your face, and to be honest, that’s all I need in these uncertain and uneasy times.

Image source: Trekmovie.com

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Patrick Crellin

Co-editor of Film and TV 2016-17. Please check out more reviews and opinion pieces on my blog- theblogfromanotherworld.wordpress.com

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