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Saturday, August 16, 2014

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan

The successes of The Wrath of Khan are so impressive, they trump the minor story problems

The USS Reliant seeks a barren planet to set up Genesis, a bomb-like chain-reaction that rearranges atoms to favor life.  Unfortunately, they pick a planet that has had recent upheaval, desertified, with Khan and his clan still hanging on to life.  Chekhov and his Captain are subjected to a fascinatingly gruesome torture with a larvae that burrows into the victims' ears.  The helmets once used to protect them are now used to keep them from protecting themselves against larvae crawling into their ears.  Memorable scene.

Meanwhile, Khan tricks Kirk and the Enterprise into investigating what's happening with scientists, two of which happen to be Kirk's former lover/wife and their son.  She has never told their son that Kirk is his father, afraid he'd try to galivant about the universe.

Khan takes over the Reliant and tortures the scientist to reveal what and where Genesis is.  They fail and abandon the scientific outpost to intercept and trick Kirk.

Kobayashi Maru is the famous no-win test for captain wannabees that only Admiral Kirk has won.  Principally because he cheated--no, he changed the parameters of the test, he says.  He's chided for "cheating death," but Kirk does so admirably three times.  Even his son, after learning he's Kirk's son, is proud to be his son.

Competing with that is Spock's memorable quote:  "The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few."  Kirk's final death-cheat actually comes through Spock's sacrifice and addage.  Spock acknowledges this as Kirk's death cheat, but also Spock's sacrifice has superseded the cheat.  Spock's death creates another memorable scene that set movie viewers dying for the sequel:  Is Spock dead? 

Finally, Montalbán as Khan is given a mouthful of incredibly difficult if memorable lines, pilfered from Melville and Dickens and Montalbán delivers admirably.  He makes the words seem natural and appropriate.  Of course, the writer deserves credit, too, as the words align well with the scenarios.

The parasites, Montalbán's Ahab-mad Khan, Kirk's cheating death and Spock's sacrifice make this film impressive.  However, a few flaws mar the film:

Why bring a dying young engineer to bridge instead of sickbay?  Shouldn't Scotty share some guilt for killing this young man, parading the dying boy for dramatic effect?

Why does the doctor leave an entire sickbay packed with patients to go exploring?  Why walk backwards after seeing a rat?  Again, pointless drama, staring a closed door when we all know that the important is behind McCoy.  But why stare dumbfoundedly at a door because you just saw a rat?

Ah, well.  It's still a good movie.  The needs of the good points outweigh the needs of few stupidities.  The film is so powerful that the latest Star Trek film, Into Darkness, used and alluded to it often.

Note:  This Khan differs substantially from the 60s version where Khan is a powerful womanizer.  While he's intelligent in the TV appearance, his audaciousness takes center stage.  Meanwhile, here Khan is more learned [possibly he's had time to read], ruthless and shows a loving side toward his people and former wife.  It seems time has mellowed Khan even if his desire for vengeance has grown [Incidentally, why blame Kirk for the failure of the planet?].  The latest Khan is different still.

Some of these scenes will stick with you a lifetime.

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