Sunday, August 15, 2010

Trek Movies - The Wrath of Khan

The second Star Trek film, The Wrath of Khan, like the first, was based on one of the original episodes (Space Seed), but instead of being a re-write, this was an actual sequel to the show about Khan's mad quest to take revenge on Kirk for stranding him and his followers on Ceti Alpha V. This provided a sense of continuity to the story right from the start, and Ricardo Montalban himself returned to play the lead villain. In short, the film was brilliant. I was completely drawn into the story both mentally and emotionally. First, Montalban's performance as Khan was wonderfully executed and was a perfect match against Shatner's character.
Secondly, you had an extremely well written script. This time they decided to notch up the adrenaline and make it into a Western style shoot out in space. There was a recurring theme involving a test called the Kobiyashi Maru, providing a literary device that carried real meaning both in the story and later in Trek lore. Kirk discovers he has a son who is now a young man, and whose mother invented a terraforming device that is now at risk of becoming a doomsday device. All these elements are woven skillfully into the main conflict between Kirk and Khan without distracting from it. Thirdly, the special effects had improved enough so that more detail of the space battles could be shown than ever before. It's with good reason that Wrath of Khan is often listed as one of the best science fiction films by fans, or at least the best of the Trek film series.

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Finally, I had heard going in that Leonard Nimoy wanted to leave the Star Trek franchise and would be killed off in this film. I had not yet heard that the studio had woo'ed him back by offering him the director's chair on the next film in the series. I watched Spock die with tears in my eyes. Not only did they give him one of the most heroic and touching death scenes anyone could have asked for, but believing Nimoy was leaving the franchise provided double the poignancy. The movie would have stood on its own without Spock having to die, but I think that was one of the factors that helped raise the film to classic status. Well, as soon as I left the theater, I somehow found out that same day that Spock was coming back in the next film. It couldn't have been more perfect timing - my grief only lasted just long enough to enhance the film experience. It never saw the light of day. That's just one of those crazy things someone like me would remember.

      1967 to 1982

Once again, I fell in love with the soundtrack, this time written by James Horner. I've just learned that at 28 years of age, it was his first major film score. It's one of my favorite classical soundtracks, and ever since then, when I'm in the theater, I can often recognize Horner's style before I see the ending credits. The style is more subtle than the sweeping melodies of John Williams, and lends a more serious tone to the subject matter. He would come back to incorporate the same themes into the third film.

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