With Gene Roddenberry pushed to the background by Paramount, Executive Producer Harve Bennett became the guiding force behind the new STAR TREK movie series. He hired director Nicholas Meyer, a man who, like Bennett, had to take a crash course on all things Star Trek to actually familiarize himself with the characters and the style. Strangely, these two men came up with a finished product that felt a thousand times more like Star Trek than the Gene Roddenberry-lead first film.
STAR TREK II: THE WRATH OF KHAN is not just the best STAR TREK film ever *, it is one of the grandest of all science fiction adventures, ranking right up there with THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK, SERENITY or any other great space-faring film you can think of. Within the first fifteen minutes, there are more character moments and memorable bits of dialogue than you will find in the entire running time of STAR TREK: THE MOTION PICTURE. In that film, you waited in vain for the real Captain Kirk, Mr. Spock and Dr. McCoy to arrive. In this film, the three characters are so well developed and individualized, it feels as if they had never gone away.
The film asks some interesting questions such as "When are you too old to do what it is you were born to do?" but, unlike the previous film, THE WRATH OF KHAN remembered to tell an exciting, involving story while asking these questions. That particular question was a brilliant one for this film, because the filmmakers and actors were out to prove that, no, they weren't too old yet. The original cast was, of course, getting older, but in this case, those were not nooks, crannies and wrinkles, they were character lines. All the players proved that even thirteen years after the end of the series, they could still pull off an action-adventure story with ease, but framing the story in terms of age underscored their triumph and gave the film more depth than STAR TREK: THE MOTION PICTURE. That film was misleadingly sold as "the human adventure", but such a tagline truly fits THE WRATH OF KHAN like a glove.
It helped that Ricardo Montalban not only reprised his character of Khan from the episode "Space Seed", he went far beyond his fine work in that episode and created one of the great movie villains. One viewing of THE WRATH OF KHAN and you can never take Fantasy Island seriously again. if such a thing was possible in the first place. Kirstie Alley immediately became a fan favorite as the Vulcan Saavik, and rode her sudden fame to a long stint on the popular show Cheers. It was a shame that Alley did not reprise the character in the next film. Her sharp features and odd beauty were perfect for Vulcanization, and she played the part with an agitated energy that Robin Curtis simply could not match in the next two films.
I really shouldn't spoil things for those who haven't seen this film but here goes: this is the one where Spock dies. But don't worry - he gets better. In fact, the noble death of Mr. Spock would inspire a fine sequel in THE SEARCH FOR SPOCK, which would lead to an even better film in THE VOYAGE HOME. The three films together make a trilogy that I think are more enjoyable and worthy of praise than the original STAR WARS films. So there. ½ - JB
* THE WRATH OF KHAN is most often hailed as the best of all STAR TREK films starring the original cast, with THE VOYAGE HOME arguably its only rival. However, if I were to include the films which spawned from the Next Generation television series, I might have to give the nod to FIRST CONTACT as the best STAR TREK film of all. Isn't it amazing that three of the greatest sci-fi movie adventures of all time were the descendants of a television show that was canceled after three seasons for low ratings?
IN SPACE, NO ONE CAN HEAR GOOD MOVIE QUOTES
"Scotty, we need warp speed in three minutes or we're all dead!"
THE SUBTLE ACTING STYLE THAT DEFINES MR. WILLIAM SHATNER
"KHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAANNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNN!!!!!!!!!!!"Star Trek The Secret Vortex