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“KHAAAAANNNN!!!!” Josh relishes the new Blu-Ray release of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan!!

July 22nd, 2009
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I’m a big Star Trek fan.

OK, that’s probably an enormous understatement.

There has been a LOT of Trek released over the years, and while there have been some missteps (I’m looking at you, Star Trek: Nemesis), there is so much of it that I love so dearly.  The antics and new, big ideas of the original series.  The space-opera writ large of the six original Trek movies.  The serious and cerebral Star Trek: The Next Generation (which is the series I grew up on).  The dense, dark, and sophisticated Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (especially seasons 4-7).  I can even find some things to enjoy in Star Trek: Enterprise (particularly in the final two seasons).

But for me, when I think of Star Trek, I think of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.  This is the pinnacle of what Star Trek can and should be.  This is the masterpiece that I keep hoping will someday be re-captured by a new Trek adventure.  (J.J. Abrams’ new film came the closest any new Trek has come in almost 20 years, but his film is still but a shadow of Khan.)

Is there anyone reading this who doesn’t know the plot?  In the Original Series episode “Space Seed,” Captain James T. Kirk accidentally revived the charismatic megalomaniac, Khan Noonien Singh (Ricardo Montalban), and 70 of his followers, all genetically enhanced supermen who had conquered a quarter of planet Earth centuries ago during the 1990s and then put themselves into cryogenic freeze when their empire fell.Khan tried to seize the Enterprise in an attempt to restore his empire, and when he failed, Kirk marooned him and his crew on the deserted planet Ceti Alpha VI.  Now, 15 years later, Khan and what’s left of his people manage to capture another ship (the ill-fated U.S.S. Reliant) and attempt to take lethal revenge on the now Admiral Kirk.

Why it’s great:Allow me to quote liberally from the sadly-now-defunct web-site dvdjournal.com’s review of Star Trek II on DVD: “Thank the heavens for The Wrath of Khan, which saved Star Trek from itself.  Star Trek: The Motion Picture was an artistic and dramatic failure.  Nonetheless, the box office tallies were strong, so Paramount gambled on the notion that another film could amortize the first’s enormous cost overruns and prove that the studio really did have a cash cow on its hands.  After all, in show business a movie doesn’t have to be good as long as it’s profitable.But lo and behold, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan was good. Really, really good.  Twenty years, seven movies, and four franchise TV series later, reasoned consensus still regards it as the best Trek movie of them all.  We aren’t talking good just in that “Not bad for [haughty sneer] Star Trek” way.  Simply as a movie this multi-layered action picture works so well you don’t need to be a “Trekkie” to enjoy it.  Supported by James Horner’s exuberant orchestral score and outstanding effects work by Industrial Lights and Magic, it is a visually rich, briskly entertaining movie constructed from a script that’s clever and witty without being “intellectual” (God forbid), that’s a pitch-perfect balance of space opera pirate saga, unforced humor, and (most welcome of all) realistic character drama.  Woven into the gangbusters goings-on are meditations that humanize the larger-than-life James Kirk.  Here’s our long-time galactic hero at last facing the fact that he’s not the young space cowboy he used to be (his needing spectacles is a nice touch).  His unscheduled reunion with an ex-lover (Bibi Besch in her best-ever screen time) also delivers a grown-up hotheaded son he barely knows.  Shortly after Khan’s first attack on the Enterprise, which leaves the ship crippled and a score of young crew members dead, Kirk must swallow the bitter pill that his own failure almost brought about their destruction.  Our aging admiral and crew may descend to self-parodying plastic action figures in some later entries, but in this movie they’re allowed to be vulnerably, dimensionally human as themes of pursuit, age, death, and regeneration appear through the phaser fire.”  (Read the full review, by Mark Bourne, here.)

Amen!

Is the above not enough for you?  How about some words from Quentin Tarantino, who included Star Trek II in his “QT FEST” movie marathon in 2001.The below excerpts are from aintitcoolnews.com’s report:

Now folks, I wish to God I could transport each and every last one of you to hear Quentin’s introduction of WRATH OF KHAN. He started geeking out like you just wouldn’t believe. He became possessed with the spirit of Khan, he loves this film in an amazingly equal way to the way I love this film.

Says Tarantino: “I like the original Star Trek series, I think everyone that grew up at the time period we did can’t not have a great deal of affection for these guys. But I truly feel this is Classic Trek’s Finest Hour!”Then he started chatting about Pauline Kael’s review of STAR TREK II… “Kael’s review of STAR TREK II is my favorite review of hers, and Kael is my favorite critic ever. She was actually more influential on me than any filmmaker was. Her reviews just spoke to me. Her review started off as a 3 page retrospective on the career of Ricardo Montalban. How he was a great actor stuck in the ‘Mexican’ role, the ‘Latin’ role and the ‘Chick’ role. Then Kael says that he never had a part that tested his depth or talent ‘til he played Khan in SPACE SEED and on this episodic science fiction television series he finally got the role that he was meant for. Afterwards he went into obscurity, then FANTASY ISLAND and those Corinthian Leather Car Commercials. And it looked like Ricardo’s career was dying when lo and behold Paramount decides to do a relatively big budget feature film sequel to a guest star appearance on an old Trek episode… and Ricardo Montalban knew what he had! This was the best role of his 50 some odd year career! And he performed it in some sort of weird Shakespearean/Gladiator style epic thing. This is THE REVENGE MOVIE and in this you absolutely believe he has every right to win…”

Now at this point, Quentin is so excited that he’s nearly foaming at the mouth… then in a strange beautiful geek spilling forth… “Ooooh AD-mirAL… Admiral Kirk never bothered to check up on us…. I Wish to go ON hurTING you, I’ll leave you as you left me marooned for all eternity in the center of a DEAD PLANET…. These people have sworn to live & die at my command 200 years before you were born….. Ah KIRK, My old Friend, Do you know the Klingon proverb that tells us revenge is a dish that is best served cold? IT IS VERY COLD IN SPACE!… From HELL’s heart I Stab at thee! For Hate’s sake I spit my last breath at thee…. I’ll chase him round the moons of Nibia and round the Antares Maelstrom and round perdition’s flames before I give him up….”

The audience was sent into Geek Nirvana here… I mean this is Quentin basically performing all of Khan’s lines loudly and greatly exaggerated while laughing giggling and smiling like a hyena on a freshly fallen fawn.Well… Quentin said it all… I mean this movie is a thing of perfection. I love this movie deeply deeply deeply. This is the EMPIRE STRIKES BACK of Star Trek, and I would hold it equally as dearly. It doesn’t have the audacity of effects, but dammit, Montalban is just so damn good, and the crew is so dead on perfect… and the film is written to absolute perfection… Well even people that hate Trek generally will kiss the ass of Khan. It is Glorious.

I wholeheartedly agree!

I’ll be back on Friday with my thoughts on the new Blu-Ray release of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.  For today, let me leave you with one more great line from Trek II that Tarantino missed:“Khan, you bloodsucker.You’ve managed to KILL just about everybody else but like a poor marksman you keep MISSING the target!”

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