Directed By: Nicholas Meyer
Written By: Harve Bennett and Jack B Sowards, Gene Roddenberry (Star Trek)
It’s always been said that the even numbered Star Trek films are the good ones while the odd numbered films are not. I don’t think this is true but these first two films certainly hold up the theory. The first film wasn’t very well received and it was impossibly boring. Then this even numbered sequel came along and blew everybody away. This one had excitement, revenge, and tragedy all rolled into one. It’s the foundation of the entire series because another slow moving Star Trek movie would have effectively killed the franchise.
Gene Roddenberry immediately started work on the sequel following the release of the first film. It turned out that the studio had a different idea in mind as they blamed Roddenberry for the failure of the first film. Not only was the first film poorly received but it went way over budget too. Roddenberry’s idea was scrapped along with Roddenberry himself who was relegated to the role of “Executive Consultant” for the film. With Roddenberry out of the way the film was put in the hands of a producer who had never seen the show before, Harve Bennett. He proceeded to watch all Star Trek episodes and centered on the episode featuring Khan as a the direction for the next film.
I have never seen the original episode that featured Khan but I think it was one of the best ideas that any of the films have had for a story. Most of the films are independent stories with no connection to the television series they are based on beyond the characters. I think the best films in the entire series are the ones that tie to the show. Those movies of course being this one and the eighth installment featuring the Borg. I didn’t really care for the reboot sequel going back to this story line instead of coming up with something new but I’ll get to that in time.
I’m always a sucker for a good bad guy and Khan really fits the bill. He’s intelligent, powerful, and really pissed off. He has languished away in a wasteland for decades with nothing but misfortune to spurn him on. He is so full of anger and out for revenge. In all his bare chested prowess Ricardo Montalban gave an incredible performance. I love how he is always quoting Moby Dick as it is one of the most famous revenge stories in literature, and in this case it makes sense. I am unfamiliar with any of Montalban’s other work but this performance alone has always left an impression on me. I love how intimidating he is as an opponent to Captain Kirk. There is no single villain throughout this entire series that can even come close to Khan, and he’s one of the biggest reasons this movie is such a fan favorite.
This movie is also a fan favorite because it features some of the best space battles of any of the films. When Khan initially ambushes the Enterprise he delivers such a crippling blow. It puts Kirk in the very situation he was overseeing with Saavik in the beginning of the film. When she was in the Kobayashi Maru training protocol facing a no win scenario. One of my favorite lines comes after this first attack when Khan makes demands to Kirk. Captain Kirk asks how he knows Khan will keep his word to which he replies, “Oh, I’ve given you no word to keep, Admiral. In my judgment, you simply have no alternative.” Such a great bad guy. The second battle between Kirk and Khan was even better but came at the greatest of costs.
Much like the first film it was difficult to get Leonard Nimoy on board for a second film. He agreed to the part after being promised he would be killed off in a blaze of glory. What a glorious death it was too. Spock’s selfless sacrifice saved everyone else and made for a very emotionally compelling scene. Spock and Kirk’s final conversation as Spock dies is some of the finest dialogue written in the entire series. It was a bold move to kill off the most popular character. They didn’t just kill him off either but they did so in such dramatic fashion. Nimoy was so impressed with the final product that he didn’t just agree to return but wanted to get behind camera himself and direct it.
Nobody really has to die when science fiction is involved, you just have to be clever about it. Spock didn’t stay dead for long with the studio announcing before this movie was even released that he would be back. This film marks the beginning of a three film story line and the next film picks up directly where this one left off. Even beginning with footage of the ending of this film.
There aren’t many Star Trek films you can point to and say “that’s what it’s all about.” Not many glowing examples that can explain the more than fifty year fascination with Star Trek. This movie is one of the few you can have someone watch and maybe they’ll understand. It’s the undisputed best movie featuring the original cast. I think this movie is worth the time of not only Trekkies but the wider audience out there. This isn’t just a cool Star Trek movie, this is a cool movie plain and simple.
NEXT MOVIE: Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (1984)