Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
Available now on Blu-ray
Written by Jack B. Sowards (Uncredited: Nicholas Meyer)
Directed by Nicholas Meyer
Starring William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, James Doohan, Walter Koenig, George Takei, Nichelle Nichols, Bibi Besch, Paul Winfield, Kirstie Alley, Ricardo Montalbán
Original release date: June 4, 1982
Fathom Events screenings: September 10 & 13, 2017
In honor of the 35th anniversary of the theatrical release of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Paramount Pictures and Fathom Events are bringing the Director’s Cut version of the film to theaters for two days only this month (9/10 & 9/13). I got the chance to see the film at my local theater at the Sunday afternoon screening, and even though I’ve seen this movie — which is one of my favorites of all time — countless times, getting to see it on the big screen again was elating.
The screenings all include a new interview with the film’s star William Shatner, who played the iconic role of James T. Kirk. In the interview, which begins about 15 minutes prior to the screening times (2pm and 7pm local time), the actor talked about making the sequel and how it reinvigorated the Star Trek franchise.
Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan is one of those unique sequels that far surpassed its predecessor, which was not a common feat back in 1982. In the 1980s, sequels were actually looked down on, so films like Khan and beloved Star Wars follow-up The Empire Strikes Back were anomalies. In 1979, Paramount took the 1960s television franchise and gave it new life on the big screen with Star Trek: The Motion Picture, directed by Robert Wise. But even with the returning original TV cast — William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, James Doohan, Walter Koenig, George Takei, Nichelle Nichols — and a $139 million worldwide box office that exceeded its massive $46 million budget, the film failed to meet the studio’s expectations. Paramount was aiming for a Star Wars-level reception, but Star Trek: The Motion Picture didn’t captivate audiences the way George Lucas’s scifi blockbuster did (basically, it was boring). So once again, Star Trek was dead.
But, in 1982, Paramount resurrected the franchise once more, this time with a much smaller budget — $11.2 million — and a stronger focus on characters and story, thanks in part to new producer Harve Bennett and director Nicholas Meyer, both of whom contributed to the story. Bennett, who’d never seen the television series, binge-watched (another anomaly for that time) Star Trek: The Original Series in an effort find a villain for the film. And oh man did he find one in Ricardo Montalbán‘s Khan Noonien Singh, a genetically engineered human who tries to take over Kirk’s ship, the U.S.S. Enterprise, in the episode “Space Seed.”
Star Trek II would not only see the return of Khan as he seeks revenge on Kirk for marooning him on a planet that soon after became uninhabitable, it also brought back the Enterprise crew for a tale of friendship, loss, regret, and coming to terms with growing old.
The events of the film unfold on James T. Kirk’s birthday. Now an Admiral, his days of flying around the cosmos boldly going where no man has gone before are now behind him. Instead, the former Enterprise captain is tasked with doing dreaded inspections and overseeing simulations for Starfleet trainees, all of which contribute to his general feeling of being “old.” While out on a routine training mission aboard the Enterprise with the senior crew and trainees, Kirk gets an incoherent distress call from his former love Dr. Carol Marcus, who tells him that someone is trying to take “Genesis,” a device that can create new life that she and her team of scientists have been working on, from her. The transmission is jammed at the source, which can only mean trouble. After conferring with Starfleet, the Enterprise gets new orders — since, of course, they’re the only ship in the quadrant, they must head to Dr. Marcus’s space station Regula I to find out what’s going on.
And what’s going on is that after 15 years, Khan has finally escaped exile and wants to get his hands on the Genesis device, as well as exact revenge on Kirk in a most theatrical way.
Montalban’s Khan was certainly a standout in the television series, but in the film, he is truly extraordinary. His thirst for vengeance is so intense that when he paraphrases Moby-Dick, proclaiming that he’ll chase Kirk “round Perdition’s flames” before he gives him up, you know he means it, whatever the cost. And while Kirk and Khan never actually have any scenes where they are physically together (they only talk via audio and video communications), the intensity between the characters never waivers. This is a fight to the death.
Though Khan has superhuman intelligence thanks to his genetic engineering, Kirk is no slouch when it comes to brains. We’re used to seeing Kirk always come out on top, whether it be besting a no-win scenario or battling the Gorn in hand-to-hand combat. In Wrath Of Khan, we see a Kirk who’s let his discontentment knock his guard down. So when he’s caught, as he says, with his britches down when Khan attacks, he must use his brains and experience to combat his old foe, and it makes for one helluva bout.
Kirk and Khan’s respective issues – Kirk’s discontent and Khan’s quest for vengeance — and their eventually dual take the spotlight in Star Trek II, but Leonard Nimoy’s Spock has his own arch, that concludes heroically in one of the most memorable moments not only in the franchise’s run, but in the annals of movie history period. It’s fitting that during the final conflict, Spock quietly sneaks off to face a no-win scenario of his own. Kirk and Spock’s friendship was always a great one, but with Wrath Of Khan, we see they are really like brothers.
The film took everything we loved about the original Enterprise crew and focused on that, doing away with most of the camp from the TV show, along with the over-seriousness from the first movie. Everything about Star Trek II: Wrath Of Khan was perfectly crafted, starting with the storyline and subplots that provide a revenge tale in space with nods to classic literature; to the return of the charismatic villainous Khan; to Kirk’s inner conflicts and Spock’s heroic feat; the memorable and oft-quoted dialogue, accompanied by the beautiful musical score by James Horner; and of course, it’s amazing ending.
As I mentioned, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan is one of my favorite movies of all time; I own several digital, DVD, and Blu-ray editions (and video cassette!), so I don’t ever have to leave my house to see this film. But getting to see it in the theater again was a great experience, so I can wholeheartedly, honestly, sincerely, and truthfully recommend seeing it on the big screen while you can this Wednesday, September 13, 2017. For anyone who’s never seen the movie, this would be a nice first viewing! Like I mentioned, the interview footage with Shatner begins about 15 minutes prior to the screening time, but be warned, there are spoilers in it.
You can get your tickets to Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan online at www.FathomEvents.com, and search the over 600 participating U.S. theaters listings for screenings in your area.
Fathom Events and Paramount Pictures will present “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan” on Sunday, September 10, and Wednesday, September 13, at 2:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. local time each day.
Director Nicholas Meyer’s “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan,” was a box-office hit upon its release – the sixth highest-grossing film of 1982 – and continues to be revered and quoted by fans. The film, a continuation of the original Star Trek series episode “The Space Seed,” finds longtime Starfleet nemesis Khan Noonien Singh (Ricardo Montalban) alive and well, marooned on a seemingly lifeless planet. When he’s discovered by Chekov (Walter Koenig), Khan will stop at nothing to exact revenge against the man who exiled him on the barren world: Admiral James T. Kirk.
Kirk must lead his loyal crew – including Spock (Leonard Nimoy), Bones (DeForest Kelley), Uhura (Nichelle Nichols), Sulu (George Takei), Scotty (James Doohan) – and an unprepared group of trainees led by half-human, half-Klingon Lt. Saavik (Kirstie Alley) in a race against time to stop Khan from deploying a device that threatens the entire universe. Bibi Besch, Paul Winfield and Merritt Butrick also star in the film, which features an unforgettable musical score by the late James Horner. The Director’s Cut of “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan” is currently available on Blu-ray™, with more than two hours of in-depth bonus features.
[Image credit: Paramount Pictures. Provided by Fathom Events. Used with permission.]
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