Jump to content
devincf

Episode 95: STAR TREK II: THE WRATH OF KHAN

  

214 members have voted

  1. 1. Is WRATH OF KHAN canon?

    • Yes
      139
    • Khaaaan!
      75


Recommended Posts

That's a big yes from me, although that's obvious given I'm a huge Star Trek fan. That being said, I think this one deserves to be in the Canon just on the grounds of being a good movie. The struggle between the Enterprise and the Reliant is very exciting and it reminds me of a classic nautical adventure story. I think that gives it a real universal appeal that any audience can enjoy. Also, even though it was reversed in the next film, I really think Spock's death gives the film more emotional weight than any other film in the series. Combine the excitement with the emotion and The Wrath of Khan is a rewarding experience for trekkies and non-trekkies alike.

Share this post


Link to post

Alright, this is difficult for me, but...I don't think Wrath of Khan is Canon-worthy. Look, I love Star Trek--I would probably argue for TOS as the greatest television show of all time, and it's certainly my favorite. I even like this movie, it's a good movie, a fine treat for Trek fans. But frankly, it has an incredibly clumsy script. A lot of the thematics and through-lines and ideas--Kirk getting old, Kirk's son and relationship with Carol Marcus, Spock's death, the Enterprise being manned by inexperienced cadets, the no-win scenario, Khan's grievance with Kirk being fairly legitimate--feel contrived and disconnected, or just unresolved. I mean, Spock's death is foreshadowed only in that one scene where Spock just recites what he's going to say at the end, somewhat stiltedly. And the fact that he isn't "really" dead is so heavily telegraphed that the drama and impact of the scene is severely diminished, I think.

As for Kirk getting old, that entire arc is premised on the audience buying that Kirk would accept promotion in the first place--and given that he doesn't seem to get any real satisfaction, and the viewer isn't given an indication that he is particularly needed as an Admiral, well, I don't buy it. And while the scene of Kirk saying he feels young is great in a vacuum, like every other great scene in this movie, there's no substantive connective tissue to make it truly impactful.

As for the no-win scenario, again, the big deal the movie makes about Kirk never facing such a situation also falls flat for me, as I've seen several old episodes of Star Trek that had the Enterprise seemingly on the brink of doom, and Kirk acting only out of a desire to try and accomplish his mission as best he could before said doom. And no, I don't think it's unfair to cite the show--this movie assumes a certain familiarity with TOS, elsewise it would treat Khan less like a character everyone will immediately recognize, and wouldn't lean so heavily on Star Trek iconography for emotional responses (though the Enterprise takeoff sequence really is wonderful). And I don't think the film not fully separating from the show is a problem, but if this film is essentially a companion-piece and addendum to TOS, all of its thematic concerns should feel consistent with it, and I'm sorry, but I don't feel that they do.

I know I'm just listing and dealing with each separate issue, but I think that's appropriate for this movie, it feels sort of disconnected and episodic...honestly, it feels like a TV pilot, like it's introducing new elements and conflicts and ideas, removing some old ones, and bridging to a nonexistent fourth Trek season. Hell, Kirk even goes through a similar arc as Captain Pike in "The Cage".

I don't want to be a bummer...I enjoy the movie, the effects are great, tons of quotable lines, but it doesn't have the thematic or dramatic heft to put it over the top (also, it must be said, Kirk's son sucks and doesn't really have a place in the movie). I just don't think the movie does anything especially interesting or ambitious with Khan, or Genesis, or a lot of its scattered, unfocused concerns, and the primary thematic stuff reiterated over and over again, as I've said, I don't think works.

So...yeah, I have to go "no". I'm not sure that the Canon absolutely "needs" a Trek movie, being that Trek's cultural import has little to do with any of the films--and yes, I recognized that this film helped revitalize the franchise, but I don't think you need to watch it to understand that--and I just don't think it's great enough to get in on its own merits. Kills me, but that's how I feel.

  • Like 3

Share this post


Link to post

Also, like everyone else said, none of the movies even come close to the best episodes of the series. We should have another thread dedicated to a theoretical debate about which episodes of the TV show should be inducted into the Canon.

Share this post


Link to post

I was a huge Star Wars fan growing up in the 80s and yet the first VHS film I ever owned was Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. I never watched TOS and thought the reruns looked cheesey (and yet I loved Lost in Space) but the movie was given to me by my Aunt for reasons I'll never quite know and it really clicked with me. Even though this was my first experience with these character I could feel the history and the friendships between them. I had never seen Space Seed but I completely understood what Khan was about and it sort of blew my mind; he was definitely sympathetic in a way that Darth Vadar was not. And the music . . . oh boy, all of James Horners scores sound the same and yet they are all so very unique. As I grew older I watched all the films and jumped on board with TNG. Wrath of Khan hooked me and made me want to explore more of this world. More so than Star Wars it feels like Trek has never gone away. And it's really the counter balance to sci fi like Blade Runner, Alien and Star Wars. When I think about the influence I consider my Mom who has never seen an episode but can name all the characters. Or my sister who couldn't care less about sci fi but can still do the Vulcan salute. That feels like a significant cultural influence. I have to vote yes.

 

P.S. Dave Schilling was a fantastic guest but I'd be really interested in hearing a follow up with Meredith offering her 2cents as someone completely disconnected from the franchise who was not only entertained but moved by the film.<p class="post-body-inner" style="box-sizing: border-box; color: rgb(42, 46, 46); font-family: "Helvetica Neue", arial, sans-serif; font-size: 15px;">

 

 

 

 

Share this post


Link to post

Also, I haven't seen the Director's Cut. Improvement? I feel sorta bad about voting no, without seeing a possibly superior version, especially given that my argument is that the movie feels awkward and incomplete, something DCs often remedy.

Share this post


Link to post

Alright, I'm seeing that it's only 3 minutes longer. Probably doesn't make too much of a difference, then

 

Right. I watched both versions this week and it's practically the same movie. I think the director's cut was just a DVD selling scheme. About the only significant difference is that you learn Peter Preston is Scotty's nephew. Does it make much difference? Nope. Peter's death scene is goofy in both versions.

Share this post


Link to post

Star Trek II is the greatest example of a kind of movie that is underappreciated and undervalued in the discussion of what a great film can be.

 

Wrath of Khan is a film marinated in its themes: themes of aging, death, experience vs genius, youthful vigor vs elderly hesitation. Heavy concepts, ones that we will all face in our lives. It is focused on its objective. Every plot, scene, beat, and line advances these themes while simultaneously propelling the story forward in an energetic way. It is a film about our past as much as it is about our future. The film has a wistful tone; we're eager and happy to see these characters again, even as we quickly realize that things have moved on. We're beyond the Kirk that we last saw in The Motion Picture, there is no youth left in this man anymore, and he has to rediscover what his role is in a future that is going to keep on moving with or without him.

 

It is anchored in our past as well, through the repeated references to great literary works.

 

And it does all this effortlessly. On the surface we see a fun space adventure film, an unapologetic product of pop culture, made on a budget by a major motion picture studio. This was never required to be anything other than that, and yet it is so much more. A deconstruction of some of the greatest pop culture icons of its day. An exploration of truly universal themes. An earnest emotional tale of friendship and family. It is entertainment and art, in a tradition as old as the Iliad. And that's what a truly great film can be, friends. Don't underestimate the value of it when its staring you in the face, honest and bold.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post

I posted all that other stuff before I listened to the podcast. After listening to it, I have some other things to add. First of all, Dave Schilling describing what he likes about Star Trek could have been my own sentiments word for word. I love that it has always been so forward-thinking and positive. It appeals to my adult side by offering some really thought-provoking science fiction, but it always appeals to my sense of child-like wonder because the idea of getting in a spaceship and going on adventures to other worlds is just the coolest idea ever. That being said, I couldn't disagree with them more about the fight scenes. The horrible fight choreography is one of the things that I love the most about Star Trek. I'm a big fan of '60s camp and those fight scenes always put a smile on my face. It's why Arena has always been my most watched episode.

 

Secondly, I can't speak for anyone else but Capt. Terrell's sacrifice really bothered me as a kid. Maybe even more so than Spock's death. Of course the worm scene scared me, but I think that watching Terrell kill himself made that scene even scarier. Again, I can't speak for anyone else, but it really affected me.

 

Finally, this is going to get a little personal but I have to bring it up. Dave talking about watching the movie with his brother after his father died has really stuck with me. My dad died earlier this year and that first night after learning about the horrible news, all I wanted to do was watch Wrath of Khan. Part of it had to do with the fact that my dad was a big Star Trek fan and he was the one who got me into Star Trek in the first place. But as I was watching it, I realized that there is something very cathartic about watching that film after the death of a loved one. You're right in that the theme of dealing with the inevitable really hits home in that movie when you're going through that grief as well.

 

And that's my two cents on this podcast.

Share this post


Link to post

This was my first time watching anything Star Trek (besides the Abrams films) and I gotta say that I was underwhelmed. There's plenty of good elements and Spock's death still works despite it being spoiled by cultural osmosis. But, overall I have to agree with Amy that this was a pretty boring movie. So, I went into this episode with the question of whether Star Trek deserved to be represented in the cinematic canon for it's cultural impact if most of that impact came from the TV series, but an accumulation of well-reasoned arguments from the "yes" camp have swayed me to vote yes. I feel weird voting for this movie without having seen the other films, but it works as a standalone film and it seems to be the general consensus that this is the Star Trek film so in it goes.

Share this post


Link to post

This was my first time watching anything Star Trek (besides the Abrams films) and I gotta say that I was underwhelmed. There's plenty of good elements and Spock's death still works despite it being spoiled by cultural osmosis. But, overall I have to agree with Amy that this was a pretty boring movie. So, I went into this episode with the question of whether Star Trek deserved to be represented in the cinematic canon for it's cultural impact if most of that impact came from the TV series, but an accumulation of well-reasoned arguments from the "yes" camp have swayed me to vote yes. I feel weird voting for this movie without having seen the other films, but it works as a standalone film and it seems to be the general consensus that this is the Star Trek film so in it goes.

I've read a lot of comments in this vein, so this reply is really meant as a rebuttal to all of them and not any one in particular.

 

Trying to cut Wrath of Khan from its roots in previous Star Trek and the larger cultural context of it being a movie featuring the massively recognized characters of Spock and Kirk is a belittling approach. It's a valuable thought exercise to take this movie out of context and make it stand on its own merit, but it should not be the final word on if this is or isn't a great film.

 

There are few cultural forces that have so completely permeated our collective cultural consciousness as Star Trek. It truly has done this on a scale that is almost without comparison, the results of which can be seen in the way it created the modern concept of what a "fan" is, the way it inspired so many people to go on to be doctors and scientists, and has spawned sequels and prequels for over forty years. If we fail to take this into account when we make our judgement of the movie, we not only do it a disservice, we also miss the forest for the trees in a huge way.

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post

I've read a lot of comments in this vein, so this reply is really meant as a rebuttal to all of them and not any one in particular.

 

Trying to cut Wrath of Khan from its roots in previous Star Trek and the larger cultural context of it being a movie featuring the massively recognized characters of Spock and Kirk is a belittling approach. It's a valuable thought exercise to take this movie out of context and make it stand on its own merit, but it should not be the final word on if this is or isn't a great film.

 

There are few cultural forces that have so completely permeated our collective cultural consciousness as Star Trek. It truly has done this on a scale that is almost without comparison, the results of which can be seen in the way it created the modern concept of what a "fan" is, the way it inspired so many people to go on to be doctors and scientists, and has spawned sequels and prequels for over forty years. If we fail to take this into account when we make our judgement of the movie, we not only do it a disservice, we also miss the forest for the trees in a huge way.

 

 

See, I can't agree with this. I think putting Wrath of Khan into The Canon as a representative of Trek does a disservice to The Canon and to films and even to Star Trek. After all, this isn't the cultural Canon or the sci-fi Canon or even the nerd Canon, it's the film Canon. I don't think someone needs to or even should watch The Wrath of Khan to understand Trek. I disagree with Devin and Dave that this is Trek made accessible, I think it's Trek made a bit more dry and ponderous and slow, and if someone sees this first I think they'll have the wrong idea about what makes TOS so great, it certainly did for me. I was taken aback by how electric and fun and colorful and sexy the original series is. In fact, I'm going to go out on a limb and say that this film might be in-part responsible for why Star Trek has a reputation as a bit stodgy and unengaging. Again, I like it well enough, but I can't see a reason to put it in The Canon.

  • Like 4

Share this post


Link to post

The argument to look at the movie without the legacy of Trek is a fallacy. That's not the world this movie exists in. I think the movie looks cheap and doesn't appeal to everyone, but not every canon movie got in unanimously. Trek is a cultural touchstone. There is absolutely no denying it. And Dave's points of it being the distillation of all things Trek and that is a great example of the diversity within sci-fi. Not as well-crafted as many entires in the canon, and I'm so glad Amy argues for this on most episodes. But cultural impact is what got my yes vote.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post

I still need to listen to the podcast, but I watched the movie last night and thought it was just okay, even by the standards of that era. I'll give landmark status to the original TV series and to the Next Generation TV series for that matter--they speak to the era when they were on TV. But I think that's separate from the movies.

 

I don't think the movies are important. There are just a lot of them. Sure, Wrath of Khan saved the movie series after the first movie disappointed so many fans. But is that a big accomplishment? Other people made big event sci fi movies popular in the mid to late 70s and that's what made the Star Trek movies possible in the first place. I kept thinking about how much better the original Star Wars was right out the gate, without the cast bringing any natural goodwill with them.

 

(I still feel tons of affection for all of the original Star Trek cast. I watched the TV series on late night TV at a few different points in my life.)

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post

 

 

See, I can't agree with this. I think putting Wrath of Khan into The Canon as a representative of Trek does a disservice to The Canon and to films and even to Star Trek. After all, this isn't the cultural Canon or the sci-fi Canon or even the nerd Canon, it's The Canon.

 

Again, divorcing a film from its larger cultural context is a valuable tool for analysis, but it shouldn't be the greatest part of the standard by which any film is judged, especially one that is part of a series that has steeped so thoroughly into our cultural landscape.

 

Furthermore I couldn't disagree more with saying "This isn't the cultural Canon." It absolutely 100% undeniably is the Cultural Canon. What could be more indispensable to a student of our culture than a list of the greatest works it produced and commentary to put it in its proper (again, cultural) context? If we were to quantify culture, what else could it be collection of the finest works it produced? This is how we judge the civilizations of the past, and it's how we will be judged in the future. If that's not the function of The Canon, I don't know what is.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post

I understand that the canon isn't about rewarding quality movies. Believe me, I also understand that no one would listen to the podcast if I picked all the nominees. But I'm starting to wonder if this is becoming the canon of movies that appealed to boys/young men of a certain age. I don't love Working Girl but if that's the movie that comes out of the canon, it would feel like the coup de grace (that's not the right phrase but I'm having a mental block).

  • Like 6

Share this post


Link to post

 

Again, divorcing a film from its larger cultural context is a valuable tool for analysis, but it shouldn't be the greatest part of the standard by which any film is judged, especially one that is part of a series that has steeped so thoroughly into our cultural landscape.

 

Furthermore I couldn't disagree more with saying "This isn't the cultural Canon." It absolutely 100% undeniably is the Cultural Canon. What could be more indispensable to a student of our culture than a list of the greatest works it produced and commentary to put it in its proper (again, cultural) context? If we were to quantify culture, what else could it be collection of the finest works it produced? This is how we judge the civilizations of the past, and it's how we will be judged in the future. If that's not the function of The Canon, I don't know what is.

 

 

I'm not ignoring the context, I just don't think it matters here. If this was the Cultural Canon, then I'd be arguing for Star Trek as a show to be in, I'd be arguing for "Call of Cthulhu", not Re-Animator, etc etc. This is about film, which films have influenced what's to come, which films represent pinnacles of trends (which Wrath does not), which films stand on their own as great works of art. I don't think Wrath accomplishes any of this, the Star Trek phenomenon as a whole does. Like, for me, this is like arguing the Buffy the Vampire Slayer movie that came out before the show belongs in entirely because the show became such as phenomenon. If anything, there's a stronger argument for that, being that it's a predecessor rather than an offshoot. I realize a lot of people think Wrath of Khan is a great film in its own right, and I can respect that, and I think the context of Trek as a cultural force should be considered, but not as the be-all-end-all. Cultural influence is important but it's only one factor, and I think should mostly center around the influence of the film specifically. I don't think pretty-good offshoots of titan cultural brands from other mediums have a place in the Canon of great films.

  • Like 5

Share this post


Link to post

Are we going to vote movies in because we liked the books they were based on?

  • Like 4

Share this post


Link to post

 

 

I'm not ignoring the context, I just don't think it matters here. If this was the Cultural Canon, then I'd be arguing for Star Trek as a show to be in, I'd be arguing for "Call of Cthulhu", not Re-Animator, etc etc. This is about film, which films have influenced what's to come, which films represent pinnacles of trends (which Wrath does not), which films stand on their own as great works of art. I don't think Wrath accomplishes any of this, the Star Trek phenomenon as a whole does. Like, for me, this is like arguing the Buffy the Vampire Slayer movie that came out before the show belongs in entirely because the show became such as phenomenon. If anything, there's a stronger argument for that, being that it's a predecessor rather than an offshoot. I realize a lot of people think Wrath of Khan is a great film in its own right, and I can respect that, and I think the context of Trek as a cultural force should be considered, but not as the be-all-end-all. Cultural influence is important but it's only one factor, and I think should mostly center around the influence of the film specifically. I don't think pretty-good offshoots of titan cultural brands from other mediums have a place in the Canon of great films.

Well if you just don't think the movie is all that great then the cultural discussion doesn't even matter, but like I said before people are undervaluing how great this movie is. We have so few examples of a genre movie like this, that are so well plotted and themed and executed, that they can and do easily break out and touch people who otherwise have no interest in the genre, that we can really hold them up as an example of what cinema can be at its best.

Share this post


Link to post

I understand that the canon isn't about rewarding quality movies. Believe me, I also understand that no one would listen to the podcast if I picked all the nominees. But I'm starting to wonder if this is becoming the canon of movies that appealed to boys/young men of a certain age. I don't love Working Girl but if that's the movie that comes out of the canon, it would feel like the coup de grace (that's not the right phrase but I'm having a mental block).

 

It's really starting to feel like that, isn't it?

Share this post


Link to post

We have so few examples of a genre movie like this, that are so well plotted and themed and executed, that they can and do easily break out and touch people who otherwise have no interest in the genre, that we can really hold them up as an example of what cinema can be at its best.

 

 

I'm a huge Trekkie and I honestly don't consider Wrath of Khan to be "so well plotted and themed and executed" that it can "break out and touch people who otherwise have no interest in the genre."

 

I think it's an okay, but fun movie that mostly appeals to people that have already watched 60+ hours of a television show. Which really just makes it good supplemental content to a television series than a great film. That's why judging it on its own merit is important. I really don't think this movie has the universal appeal to non-genre lovers that some people think. I also think it's clunkier than people like to admit.

 

I think if you're looking for a Star Trek movie that stands on its own and appeals to a wide audience the only one is Star Trek (2009), but I don't think it's definitive Star Trek at all, and I don't think it's canon-worthy. Trek is legendary TV, and 12 enjoyable but spotty films.

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post

Huge Trek fan, but it is a no for me. A solid, fun film, but some iffy acting, odd pacing at times and over all "extended TV movie" feeling tips me into the "no" camp.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post

Huge Trekkie here, still voted "no." Wrath of Khan's a ton of fun and an alright film overall but I don't think it reaches a level of "great" that a film canon calls for, nor should it be some stand in for Trek overall. A fine movie in a franchise filled with garbage ones (though a lot of those garbage ones were trying to imitate this one), but the things that make Star Trek what it is and showcases what it excels at are in the TV shows, not the films. The 40 something minutes of "Far Beyond the Stars" is way better at conveying Star Trek's vision of the future and progressive themes than all of the films combined.

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post

I'd vote yes to induct Star Trek the TV series into the Canon. But if we have to get a Star Trek film into the canon; is this particular film the best representation of what Star Trek is?

Wrath of Khan mostly ignores all the wonderful humanist themes that the show often deals with, mostly to serve a decent sci-fi thriller.

So, soft no

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
Well if you just don't think the movie is all that great then the cultural discussion doesn't even matter, but like I said before people are undervaluing how great this movie is. We have so few examples of a genre movie like this, that are so well plotted and themed and executed, that they can and do easily break out and touch people who otherwise have no interest in the genre, that we can really hold them up as an example of what cinema can be at its best.

 

 

I think the most convincing theoretical argument for Khan I've heard is what Dave said about it being an early example of a dressing-down/deconstruction of a franchise from within a franchise, though I don't think Wrath really executes that well enough for it to change my mind. There's some interesting stuff in the film paying lip service to the role/ethics of Starfleet and Kirk's capability*, but it doesn't really go anywhere with any of it, and certainly nowhere in a compelling way. It's just sorta like, "well, stuff happened, we gotta take care of this, here's a throwaway scene with Kirk's shitty kid to wrap this up".

 

*Incidentally, this movie is super unfair to Kirk. The idea that Kirk would let an unknown-status vessel approach, shields down, is ridiculous, and it's equally ridiculous that he'd ignore the advice of a Vulcan to put them up, and doubly ridiculous that Spock of all people would shush said Vulcan. I mean, the smart way for that scene to play out would be if SOMEBODY from Khan's ship had hailed and let Kirk's guard down, then he would look competent enough but justifiably unsure of said competence. I also don't think Kirk would be so quick to trust Chekov and Terrell, after being told of the mind control bugs. Kirk was always getting in people's faces about his distrust and wariness, back in the day. It's instinctual, for him. I dunno if this is a pet peeve I have and should be willing to ignore for narrative purposes, but Kirk's characterization in this always rubs me the wrong way.

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

×