The Bishop Review was lucky enough to have Andy from Rorschach Reviews return and show us The Wrath of Khan. Once again, Andy took the time and wrote a fantastic review. With a new Star Trek out soon, it’s always nice to look back, and that’s exactly what a Wrath of Khan review does. I hope you enjoy, and be sure to check out Rorschach Reviews.
Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
There are very few feuds on this earth as contentious as one between Star Wars fans and Star Trek fans. One’s choice in the matter can be as significant to the company they keep as their positions on gay marriage, abortion or Justin Bieber. As a proud nerd, I can honestly claim to be one of the few of my kind who embraces both Kirk and Solo, Vader and Khan. There are just too many things the two sides have in common after all; both have suffered the insult of crappy movies (The Phantom Menace, Insurrection), both have survived terrible sidekick characters (Jar Jar Binks, Wesley Crusher), and most importantly, both have done wonderfully at distracting us fans from how bad we are at sports. In any case, with each franchise there exist disagreements over which film stands above the rest. Star Wars fans debate over the merits of A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back. Trekkies, on the other hand, can’t even seem to narrow it down to two films to debate. Some favor Star Trek IV: The Journey Home, while the Picard-skewing crowd opt in favor of First Contact. Still others maintain that J.J. Abram’s 2009 revamp of the franchise stole the title. In this review, I will explain why I believe that it is Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan that deserves the first prize, now and forevermore.
The Plot: 5/5
With the aide of the Enterprise crew, Admiral Kirk must stop an old nemesis, Khan Noonien Singh, from using his son’s life-generating device, the Genesis Device, as the ultimate weapon.
The biggest asset of the plot is that the pacing sets the standard for concise, effective storytelling. One of my favorite qualities in a film is the feeling that every scene belongs in the final cut. When this is true, it doesn’t matter if the movie is 90 minutes or three hours; everything is exactly where it should be.
The Writing: 4.5/5
Sure, there are some places where a bit of cheese oozes through the cracks here and there. That being said, those cracks are small, forgivable blemishes in an otherwise incredible script. Through a variety of character interactions, the writers prove themselves able to balance the sort of levity shared between Kirk and Bones with the emotional knock-out of Spock’s self-sacrifice (if this is a spoiler for you, it’s your own damn fault for not having seen this movie yet). There is still no better example of why I rate the writing so highly than the dialogue given to Khan. Half of the lines the man says are now staples of most peoples’ sci-fi lexicon. From “It’s very cold in space” to “From Hell’s heart I stab at thee”, the writing is half of the reason the character leaves such a lasting impression.
The Acting: 4/5
Again, there are a few fringe characters that tarnish this end of the movie to some extent. Among these are Kirk’s son David (Merritt Buttrick), The ex-commander of the Reliant, Terrell (Paul Winfield) and the ever-terrible Kirstie Alley as Savik. Other than that though, the crew of the enterprise has never been stronger. The sense of comradely between Kirk, Bones and Spock feels very natural, which helps us focus on the characters themselves rather than the actors behind them. I firmly believe that this constitutes the strongest performance of William Shatner’s life, regardless of how little that might be saying.
Of course, the other side of that coin is how incredibly awesome Ricardo Montalban is as Khan. As I said, the writing is only half of the reason people remember him; Montalban firmly occupies the other half. His sinister-sounding accent combined with the unwavering sense of hatred the man conveys makes him feel like more than a credible threat to the crew of the Enterprise. My only regret is not having seen the episode of the original series which constitutes as his backstory for the film.
The Sci-Fi: 4/5
Another issue people voice with the film is that the relatively low budget necessitated the use of costumes and special effects models that left much to be desired. I’m not going to defend the obvious flaws in the movie’s production, but I will say that I do not consider those flaws to have the same aging effect on the film some people have. If you’re watching the movie nowadays, you’re watching it for the characters and not for the special effects so you probably won’t mind the occasional unrealistic-looking explosion or comically over-exaggerated bridge-rock. As far as the actual world it creates for itself, the concept of Genesis and the dual creative and destructive powers it contains is a simple yet effective tool for integrating futuristic technology with relatable consequences.
The Verdict: 4.5/5 – Incredible
+ Fast paced story that keeps you from ever getting bored
+ Ricardo Montalban cements Khan among the greatest villains of all time
+ Kirk and Spock’s relationship brings the series to a new emotional level
– Mediocre acting from some of the cast and the relatively low budget might turn some off