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Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan

A movie directed by Nicholas Meyer

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The Star Trek reboot we deserved

  • Aug 26, 2010

All of the failings of Star Trek: The Motion Picture were erased with The Wrath of Khan.

Even the uniforms are cooler.

While The Motion Picture took place (in Star Trek time) only a few years after the conclusion of Captain Kirk's first five-year mission, this sequel takes place much further along in the future. James Kirk and his crew have concluded a second five-year mission, and Kirk is back in an admiral's post.

The film begins with the Enterprise being destroyed in a conflict with the Klingons. The crew is familiar, but a newcomer, Lt. Saavik (a very young Kirstie Alley) is in the center seat. Turns out the whole thing is a training simulation, and Kirk (William Shatner) is the judge.

Kirk is, once again, unhappy with his desk job and wants to be back in space. He gets his chance when a training mission on the Enterprise becomes a true crisis, and Captain Spock (Leonard Nimoy), who is the training instructor, cedes command to the ranking officer.

Meanwhile, Capt. Terrell (Paul Winfield) and his First Officer Pavel Chekov (Walter Koenig) are leading the starship Reliant on a research mission for Dr. Carol Marcus (Bibi Besch), coincidentally Kirk's old lover, and her son, David (Merritt Butrick), coincidentally Kirk's unknowing offspring.

The Reliant stumbles upon the remains of the Botany Bay, a ship full of genetically engineered superhumans marooned by Kirk on his original mission. Leading them is Khan Noonien Singh (Ricardo Montalban), who also returns from his original role in the 1960s episode "Space Seed." The intervening years haven't been good ones, and Khan is impressively angry about the whole thing. Using a nasty little creature to drive Terrell and Chekov mad (and render them susceptible to suggestion), Khan and his followers commandeer Reliant and set out on a quest for vengeance.

For those who remember Montalban only from his days on Fantasy Island, wow. His scenery-chewing performance here is exquisite, a divine and raging madness with a single-minded intent that is wonderful to behold.

Meanwhile, Kirk and his usual team (including the usuals, DeForest Kelley as McCoy, James Doohan as Scotty, George Takei as Sulu and Nichelle Nichols as Uhura) are attempting to save the Genesis Project, a potentially devastating experiment led by Drs. Marcus and Marcus. They are unfortunately saddled with a largely untried crew, and their first encounter with Reliant is disastrous -- and it stands as one of the most suspenseful five minutes in the history of science fiction cinema.

That leads to one of the best ongoing space battles ever filmed, a one-on-one bout between Kirk and Khan. The mighty dogfight becomes a three-dimensional chess match as the ships move into a nebula and find vision obscured -- it's an edge-of-your-seat game of cat and mouse. The film is visually sensational and action-packed, but The Wrath of Khan isn't just another spectacle where spaceships shoot a lot and blow up real good. The tension and conflict between Kirk, Khan and their respective crews makes this a winner with real staying power.

There are many grand touches, such as Kirk's obvious nervousness when the inexperienced Saavik pilots the Enterprise out of spacedock for the first time, the easy camaraderie between Kirk and McCoy on the admiral's birthday, and the relaxed rapport between Kirk and Spock. James Horner's soundtrack is splendid.

Alas, one of the most glorious victories in SF history is followed by one of the saddest and most moving scenes ever filmed. It's a moment of heroic sacrifice which will have repercussions through the rest of the film series. If you haven't seen it before -- or even if you have -- have tissues on hand.

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August 26, 2010
While I still perfer VI, II saved the franchize in it's infancy and has helped it grow into what it's become. Awesome.
August 26, 2010
this is still my favorite Star Trek movie of them all! Very nice review. Thanks!
More Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kha... reviews
Quick Tip by . May 01, 2011
STAR TREK II: THE WRATH OF KHAN. I remember it well. Despite the predominantly youthful audience, you could still hear a pin drop during Spock's death scene. The film works so well on so many levels but the single greatest reason STII is revered by so many Trek enthusiasts worldwide is b/c it is, perhaps, the only Trek film to celebrate the passion of life and death so poignantly. If you haven't seen it, do so ... even if you're not of the Trek variety.
Quick Tip by . February 20, 2011
posted in SF Signal
Who says that rebooting tranchises is a new idea? In a real sense, this is a reboot of the first Star Trek film, and it starts a trilogy of perhaps the best of the Star Trek films.
review by . September 10, 2010
Take a classic television series with a dedicated fanbase, insert one of its most popular villains and toss a major motion picture budget at it and what do you get: "Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan." Perhaps the closest film in the "Star Trek" catalogue to the original televison series, "Khan" finds Kirk as the admiral in charge of assessing a green crew on routine training maneuvers. They happen to be aboard his old ship, the Enterprise, and the crew includes most of his key past crewmates. In …
Quick Tip by . August 13, 2010
Still stands as my favorite Star Trek film of all. Exciting, fun and mesmerizing! Full review coming soon...
Quick Tip by . August 12, 2010
It has been forever since I've watched this, but it has some vividly memorable scenes
Quick Tip by . May 16, 2010
Khan escapes being deserted and wants Kirks blood. Fantastic story and action of old age and sacrifice. No wonder it's seen as the best.
review by . June 19, 2009
Ricardo Montalban as Khan, genetic madman
Why?  Because these two men saved Star Trek from what even Leonard Nimoy called and I quote, "A Beached Whale."      Star Trek: The Motion Picture for all intents and purposes only made it's money cause it was feeding a starving audience.  10 years after the original show wrapped up and a few years after the animated show ended.  People wanted a Star Trek fix and they got it, paid money to see it and well...  if you've seen the movie you know what …
Quick Tip by . October 06, 2009
Kirk grapples with getting old and an old foe returns for vengance. Great action and a nice touch of the old Star Trek show.
review by . May 17, 2009
Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan Blu-ray
I think everybody agrees that along with Star Trek: First Contact, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan is the best of the now eleven Trek films.  However, it comes very short on the Blu-ray addition.  Unlike the rest of the films in this set, Khan is supposed to be fully restored in HD instead of remastered like the others, but what you get is a disc that looks like it belongs with your old DVD's.    In Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, we see Kirk going through what seems …
review by . July 19, 2008
posted in Movie Hype
Take a classic television series with a dedicated fanbase, insert one of its most popular villains and toss a major motion picture budget at it and what do you get: "Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan."     Perhaps the closest film in the "Star Trek" catalogue to the original televison series, "Khan" finds Kirk as the admiral in charge of assessing a green crew on routine training maneuvers. They happen to be aboard his old ship, the Enterprise, and the crew includes most of his …
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Tom Knapp ()
Ranked #283
I founded the online review site, Rambles.NET, in 1999 and continue to operate the site with more than 200 contributors and more than 14,000 reviews in our permanent online archives. A fraction of my … more
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AlthoughStar Trek: The Motion Picturehad been a box-office hit, it was by no means a unanimous success withStar Trekfans, who responded much more favorably to the "classicTrek" scenario ofStar Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. Inspired by the "Space Seed" episode of the original TV series, the film reunites newly promoted Admiral Kirk with his nemesis from the earlier episode--the genetically superior Khan (Ricardo Montalban)--who is now seeking revenge upon Kirk for having been imprisoned on a desolated planet. Their battle ensues over control of the Genesis device, a top-secret Starfleet project enabling entire planets to be transformed into life-supporting worlds, pioneered by the mother (Bibi Besch) of Kirk's estranged and now-adult son. While Mr. Spock mentors the young Vulcan Lt. Saavik (then-newcomer Kirstie Alley), Kirk must battle Khan to the bitter end, through a climactic starship chase and an unexpected crisis that will cost the life of Kirk's closest friend. This was the kind of character-basedTrekthat fans were waiting for, boosted by spectacular special effects, a great villain (thanks to Montalban's splendidly melodramatic performance), and a deft combination of humor, excitement, and wondrous imagination. Director Nicholas Meyer (who would play a substantial role in the success of futureTrekfeatures) handles the film as a combination ofMoby Dick, Shakespearean tragedy, World War II submarine thriller, and dazzling science fiction, ...
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Science Fiction Movies, Star Trek, Star Trek Ii The Wrath Of Khan


Director: Nicholas Meyer
Genre: Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi, Thriller
Release Date: 4 June 1982 (USA)
MPAA Rating: PG
Runtime: 113 min
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