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Episode 95: STAR TREK II: THE WRATH OF KHAN

  

214 members have voted

  1. 1. Is WRATH OF KHAN canon?

    • Yes
      139
    • Khaaaan!
      75


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I voted no (my long ass post is a few pages back) but this is the best argument for a yes that I've seen and your thematic description actually makes me want to re-evaluate it.

 

And yeah, Star Trek (especially the movies and TNG era) is really heavy-handed with the rather obvious and basic literary references. Sherlock Holmes, Moby Dick, Shakespeare, etc.. not that those aren't great works (they are!) but they're just the most cliched idea of "grrrrreat LIT-reh-CHAHHHH".

 

Self-indulgent TNG sidenote since we're talking about Trek anyway- why on earth didn't they just make Picard a Brit? Patrick Stewart is just SOOO British that the conceit that he was playing a Frenchman just always felt like a thing the writers should've dispensed with once he was cast.

 

One of the reasons I really like those Trek movies is that they all deal pretty openly with aging. In Khan, it's about leaving your last semblance of youth and entering middle age and dealing with mortality. In Voyage Home, it's about gaining that second wind and realizing just cause you're older doesn't mean you don't have a shit ton left to contribute. And Undiscovered Country, you have a group of bigoted old people having to change the way they think about people they thought as being lesser in order for progress to occur.

 

It's just hard to think of many sci-fi movies that actively incorporate the aging of its cast in its storytelling as effectively as Trek managed to. Most franchises stop working as actors grow old because movie studios don't really want to deal with aging out their IP. They want it to go on forever so they can keep making that money.

 

 

As for the Picard thing, that's on Roddenberry. He wanted a French character and fought against Stewart's casting. I'm sure keeping the character's name and background was a compromise. But hey, at least we got Stewart and not that swarthy Midwesterner Roddenberry wanted.

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You like VI more than II? How do you reconcile General Chang's flagrantly, inappropriate, unprofessionally gratutious Shakespeare-quoting? It almost kills the movie for me. Though it's still my fourth-favorite of the series, if only because the film has other characters.

 

So General Chang gets a pass for me on the Shakespeare quoting front specifically because Christopher Plummer is arguably the greatest living Shakespearean actor who wasn't born in Britain. And my understanding is that Plummer had a lot of input into that character's development, look and dialogue. My guess is that if you hung out with Plummer, he would be quoting a ton of Shakespeare and Shaw at you because he's performed in a ton of Shakespeare and Shaw plays in Canada for decades.

 

As for what I love about the movie, it's partially because of my age. I'm 32. It's the one I got to see in the theatre as a kid. The others, I first saw as a kid and then got the great opportunity to see on the big screen as an adult who was lucky enough to live in cities where such a thing was plausible (I first saw Khan back to back with Search for Spock at a double feature). But I also really love that the movie takes on something you don't see a lot of in movies: old people being bigots and having to change. Plus, it's clear everyone in the cast is fully engaged, likes the script and is really going for it. They have good material to work with, it's their last shot and I think they nail it.

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So General Chang gets a pass for me on the Shakespeare quoting front specifically because Christopher Plummer is arguably the greatest living Shakespearean actor who wasn't born in Britain. And my understanding is that Plummer had a lot of input into that character's development, look and dialogue. My guess is that if you hung out with Plummer, he would be quoting a ton of Shakespeare and Shaw at you because he's performed in a ton of Shakespeare and Shaw plays in Canada for decades.

 

As for what I love about the movie, it's partially because of my age. I'm 32. It's the one I got to see in the theatre as a kid. The others, I first saw as a kid and then got the great opportunity to see on the big screen as an adult who was lucky enough to live in cities where such a thing was plausible (I first saw Khan back to back with Search for Spock at a double feature). But I also really love that the movie takes on something you don't see a lot of in movies: old people being bigots and having to change. Plus, it's clear everyone in the cast is fully engaged, likes the script and is really going for it. They have good material to work with, it's their last shot and I think they nail it.

 

32, and you saw it in 1991? You were a baby. What sense could you have made of this reflective, Cold-War inspired piece? I saw it in theatres too. My first Trek film. I was 11. I don't/didn't remember anything. I was lost, I had no context for anything barring that Star Trek is a thing, and it existed. I saw it again many, many years later, and was mostly impressed by it. In that it was so clearly better than either Generations (a film I liked at the time, but have gradually come to understand as terrible) or First Contact (a film I DESPISED at the time, and have refused to re-watch since). VI is a mostly-solid movie, but it disappears up its own ass when it tries to be "deep". All the Shakespeare stuff is absolutely worthless, since it adds nothing to the movie. The idea of two rival factions conspiring to keep their long-simmering war going, because neither of them is comfortable with a peace they've never known, is absolutely brilliant, a PERFECT story for a Trek movie of the time. So...it mostly works. If you don't focus on the incredibly clunkiness with which the story is put together.

 

The sentiment, the basic message, and the historical context, are all there, and they work for me. Basically, the story is brilliant, but the screenplay is clunky and obvious. Overall, an enjoyable movie, but you have to extend some dramatic allowances. It's not great, but at least it aspired to greatness, and, once, had a basic idea of how to get there. As a TNG episode - even a two-parter - I feel it coulda worked, but as a feature film, where all the stakes have to be heightened to a ridiculous degree, where the future of the UNIVERSE is ALWAYS on the line, whether or not the story calls for it, it just fell apart. Good stuff aplenty, good parts, good scenes, good work from the leading three. But not a great Trek film, by any means. Just a good one. Mostly.

 

I'll still take it over any Trek film that followed it, though. Its ambition, its desired moral, is super-clear and very meaningful. And, to me, the most important part of Trek is the message, at least that it have one, that it cares. Too bad it surrendered as much as it did to action-movie tropey formula.

 

EDIT: As for movies about "old people being bigots", that's a fantastic (and probably timeless) idea. Just think of the modern American political landscape. There's a very, very, VERY good Trek parable to be told here. When Hollywood constantly focuses on the under-30 demographic, they are cheating their viewership of so much meaty dramatic potential. And I'm not just saying that because I'm well past 30. Even as a kid, I liked movies about adults. Nowadays, all movies are about kids. Maybe kids in adult bodies, but that's not the same. Action movies, sci-fi stories, romantic comedies, historical dramas, they're always about the young. And what do young characters know, that fully-mature characters wouldn't know so much more deeply?

 

Trek is a perfect series for the middle-aged or above. It's about philosophy, values, experience, moral dilemmas, stuff you need some years under your belt to properly understand. All the recent films are still about running, yelling, sex, and 'splosions. 100% disposable crap, that's all I'm saying. WoK was built on ideas. You could NEVER, NEEEEVVVVVEEEEERRRR build a WoK on any recent iteration of Trek. There's just no depth, no meaningful ideas, on which to base it. And as soon as the actors grow old enough to plausibly play middle-aged characters, you'd have already rebooted the series, just because.

 

I eagerly (sadistically/masochistically) await a TNG reboot. With Jean-Luc Picard rebooted as a shaved-headed, muscly bad-ass with tattoos and an anti-authoritarian chip on his shoulder. I'll ignore it SOOOOO hard.

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32, and you saw it in 1991? You were a baby. What sense could you have made of this reflective, Cold-War inspired piece? I saw it in theatres too. My first Trek film. I was 11. I don't/didn't remember anything. I was lost, I had no context for anything barring that Star Trek is a thing, and it existed. I saw it again many, many years later, and was mostly impressed by it. In that it was so clearly better than either Generations (a film I liked at the time, but have gradually come to understand as terrible) or First Contact (a film I DESPISED at the time, and have refused to re-watch since). VI is a mostly-solid movie, but it disappears up its own ass when it tries to be "deep". All the Shakespeare stuff is absolutely worthless, since it adds nothing to the movie. The idea of two rival factions conspiring to keep their long-simmering war going, because neither of them is comfortable with a peace they've never known, is absolutely brilliant, a PERFECT story for a Trek movie of the time. So...it mostly works. If you don't focus on the incredibly clunkiness with which the story is put together.

 

The sentiment, the basic message, and the historical context, are all there, and they work for me. Basically, the story is brilliant, but the screenplay is clunky and obvious. Overall, an enjoyable movie, but you have to extend some dramatic allowances. It's not great, but at least it aspired to greatness, and, once, had a basic idea of how to get there. As a TNG episode - even a two-parter - I feel it coulda worked, but as a feature film, where all the stakes have to be heightened to a ridiculous degree, where the future of the UNIVERSE is ALWAYS on the line, whether or not the story calls for it, it just fell apart. Good stuff aplenty, good parts, good scenes, good work from the leading three. But not a great Trek film, by any means. Just a good one. Mostly.

 

I'll still take it over any Trek film that followed it, though. Its ambition, its desired moral, is super-clear and very meaningful. And, to me, the most important part of Trek is the message, at least that it have one, that it cares. Too bad it surrendered as much as it did to action-movie tropey formula.

 

I get that. And I'm not saying I would include it into the Canon because I consider it great or important. I would include it because I like it a lot and make people I like a lot watch it to understand my taste. And my taste is IV > VI > II. And that's not set in stone because I don't have to choose to save only one. I like all three and if any of them went up for a vote, I would vote it in.

 

The lamest part of any argument Devin or Amy try to make for a movie's inclusion in the Canon (and I think Devin tends to make this argument WAY more than Amy) is when they try to attach objective historical merit to a movie. That shit's lame. I like subjectivity. I like people who can articulate their weird taste.

 

As for the Shakespearean dialogue Plummer quotes, that's more about his character and not the story. He's making references and quotes that make sense to Chang in the moment. It's a character tic/quirk not a thematic arch. It's the same with Khan in Trek. I think sometimes people get so bogged down in what the villain is up to that they miss the obvious deal of what's going on with the characters we're generally intended to be relating to. But yeah, I get The Undiscovered Country has cheesy dialogue, but outside of The Voyage Home, it's hard to think of a Trek movie that has dialogue that snaps anyway. I've never really watched Trek movies or tv shows for the exact words characters say.

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I eagerly (sadistically/masochistically) await a TNG reboot. With Jean-Luc Picard rebooted as a shaved-headed, muscly bad-ass with tattoos and an anti-authoritarian chip on his shoulder. I'll ignore it SOOOOO hard.

 

They could cast Stephen Lang as Picard and some annoying kid I'll want him to beat up as Wesley.

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The lamest part of any argument Devin or Amy try to make for a movie's inclusion in the Canon (and I think Devin tends to make this argument WAY more than Amy) is when they try to attach objective historical merit to a movie. That shit's lame. I like subjectivity. I like people who can articulate their weird taste.

Art isn't created or consumed devoid of context, and anyone who claims otherwise is full of doodoo. Context is absolutely critical to understanding and appreciation. It's not the only contribution to this nebulous "merit" but it's a big chunk you can't take out.

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Ok let's talk Khan. Khan was far more interesting as a character in Space Seed. No comparison. You actually saw the "superior intellect" at work there. You saw how he seduced a woman to give up everything she was for him. You saw how he played Kirk like a fiddle and got the upper hand. You could even see the value in his existence in the end and why it was better for Kirk to drop him off on a new uninhabited world to conquer rather than just hand him to a Federation prison or kill him. In this movie, he's just a bumbling revenge monster. I'm ok with the revenge theme, but a little complexity and reflection would've been interesting to see in him. Montalban gave a great performance with the material he had, so no complaints about him.

 

Just a side-note about the "mansplaining". I'm not generally a fan of that term, as I think it's often used to just tell guys who don't agree with you to shut up. But in this case, it really felt like I was listening to a movie critic (Amy) trying to discuss the merits of a film on its own terms and the guys were all Ain't-It-Cooling in their corner, assuring her that she just doesn't get it because she's not a Trekkie. And I think the fact that she's not a Trekkie gave her response to the film a certain purity that I would've taken more seriously if I were them. They're just too in love with the genre and their own childhoods to see the flaws in the movie.

 

Thank you. These two paragraphs were perfect.

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As for the Shakespearean dialogue Plummer quotes, that's more about his character and not the story. He's making references and quotes that make sense to Chang in the moment. It's a character tic/quirk not a thematic arch. It's the same with Khan in Trek. I think sometimes people get so bogged down in what the villain is up to that they miss the obvious deal of what's going on with the characters we're generally intended to be relating to. But yeah, I get The Undiscovered Country has cheesy dialogue, but outside of The Voyage Home, it's hard to think of a Trek movie that has dialogue that snaps anyway. I've never really watched Trek movies or tv shows for the exact words characters say.

 

Well, if you're open to it, I would recommend TNG's "The Defector" and "The Wounded" and DS9's "In the Pale Moonlight" and "Necessary Evil" as masterpieces of Trek writing. So many great lines, so many great monologues, all to the service of excellent stories with timeless messages/dilemmas. Netflix has them all.

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Apologies if someone has already mentioned it, but Devin said that the reason Khan and Kirk never meet was an intentional move on the creator's part.

 

While I also think it's a cool nifty move, on IMDB it said Ricardo Montalbano's schedule with Fantasy Island prevented him from doing anything else.

 

Who do I believe more Devin's Clear Trekiness or the beloved IMDB?

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Apologies if someone has already mentioned it, but Devin said that the reason Khan and Kirk never meet was an intentional move on the creator's part.

 

While I also think it's a cool nifty move, on IMDB it said Ricardo Montalbano's schedule with Fantasy Island prevented him from doing anything else.

 

Who do I believe more Devin's Clear Trekiness or the beloved IMDB?

Trusting IMDB over a film expert is like trying to correct your history professor because of something you read on wikipedia.

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The argument I heard on the podcast in favor of the film could be summed up as "we agree with many of the flaws Amy points out, it's a pretty flawed movie, but there are a lot of Trek movies and this one is the best of the batch. I know there's more to it but that's what I heard and it's lame.

 

That's a bingo.

 

I knew of STAR TREK mostly through my dad, who grew up with TOS during its initial run. Even despite that, I only had a passing knowledge of TOS though I have memories of seeing it in daycare and thinking Spock was cool because he had pointy ears (I look back and amazed my daycare handlers played STAR TREK for us).

 

But TREK was never religion for me like STAR WARS, INDIANA JONES and BACK TO THE FUTURE to name a few, like most geek-inclined wee lads born in the 80's.

 

Over the years, I watched the movies and while the good outweighs the bad (Never liked or understood the "Only the Even Numbered Movies Work" fan theory considering the inclusion of SEARCH FOR SPOCK, a good movie), I honestly can not say any of them were great. In this case, fit the criteria for the Canon. In fact I would not even call WRATH OF KHAN the best TREK film (THE UNDISCOVERED COUNTRY).

 

Listening to this was a repeat of the RE-ANIMATOR episode, and with that my vote goes with Amy's. A no (though I am not kidding myself - only an act of God would stop WOK from getting in).

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Trek is unique in that it is equally iconic in two different mediums. I think without Khan's success, the franchise could have died forever, especially after the What the Fuck that was the Motion Picture (still appreciate it as a good fever dream movie). This is the most famous movie in the series, and helped secure the franchise through the '80s. Has to be a yes!

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Damn, The Motion Picture has a bad rap around here. It is a slow burn sure but its pure sci fi on a scale we rarely ever see, and its undeniably Star Trek. Not to mention some of the most incredible visuals in the genre and a fantastic soundtrack. I appreciate the way it's a polar opposite to Khan while also being the soil that Kirk's story takes root in for WoK.

 

EDIT: Not to mention some great character work, like Bones' reintroduction and everything with Spock. It's a great movie that has suffered a lot from people only watching it on their dinky home movie setup.

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Damn, The Motion Picture has a bad rap around here. It is a slow burn sure but its pure sci fi on a scale we rarely ever see, and its undeniably Star Trek. Not to mention some of the most incredible visuals in the genre and a fantastic soundtrack. I appreciate the way it's a polar opposite to Khan while also being the soil that Kirk's story takes root in for WoK.

 

EDIT: Not to mention some great character work, like Bones' reintroduction and everything with Spock. It's a great movie that has suffered a lot from people only watching it on their dinky home movie setup.

 

It's suffered a lot from being kinda boring.

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I feel that as long as Devin is directing BirthMoviesDeath readers to vote on these polls, there's little chance of any film NOT making it into the canon (at least, of the ones which he supports). This isn't a dig on him at all. It's just from the overall tone of the discussion here, I'd expect a more even result, if not an outright "no".

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I feel that as long as Devin is directing BirthMoviesDeath readers to vote on these polls, there's little chance of any film NOT making it into the canon (at least, of the ones which he supports). This isn't a dig on him at all. It's just from the overall tone of the discussion here, I'd expect a more even result, if not an outright "no".

That's the striking thing: Most of the people here who have identified as Trekkies seem to have voted the film down. It's not horrible if the film doesn't get into the canon, but that's really weird that the most presumably ardent supporters have been going the other direction.

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Art isn't created or consumed devoid of context, and anyone who claims otherwise is full of doodoo. Context is absolutely critical to understanding and appreciation. It's not the only contribution to this nebulous "merit" but it's a big chunk you can't take out.

 

I disagree. Most of the shit we consider great now is considered great OUTSIDE of the context from which it was initially critiqued. Vertigo and Citizen Kane weren't really considered seminal works of cinematic genius by the vast majority of critics when they first came out. It was the reappraisal of both films on their own terms that subsequently created a push to re-evaluate. And then people started to study them in depth and really begin to appreciate them on their historical merit.

 

But that both of those movies have been deemed important and influential is kind of revisionist to begin with since neither movie had much cultural or commercial impact upon its release. It was academics and fans of cinema who imbued those films with their value after the fact.

 

I guess what I'm trying to say is that the historical argument doesn't work because a smart critic or academic can pretty much bend any movie to be more important in its context even if it was largely unremarkable in the actual context it was birthed from initially. And so I don't find most historical arguments to be particularly compelling. If I'm interested in a movie's history, I will likely seek it out from multiple sources. If I'm not, it's probably because I didn't find the movie compelling enough to put in the Canon to begin with.

 

You see what I'm trying to get at here?

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I disagree. Most of the shit we consider great now is considered great OUTSIDE of the context from which it was initially critiqued. Vertigo and Citizen Kane weren't really considered seminal works of cinematic genius by the vast majority of critics when they first came out. It was the reappraisal of both films on their own terms that subsequently created a push to re-evaluate. And then people started to study them in depth and really begin to appreciate them on their historical merit.

 

But that both of those movies have been deemed important and influential is kind of revisionist to begin with since neither movie had much cultural or commercial impact upon its release. It was academics and fans of cinema who imbued those films with their value after the fact.

 

I guess what I'm trying to say is that the historical argument doesn't work because a smart critic or academic can pretty much bend any movie to be more important in its context even if it was largely unremarkable in the actual context it was birthed from initially. And so I don't find most historical arguments to be particularly compelling. If I'm interested in a movie's history, I will likely seek it out from multiple sources. If I'm not, it's probably because I didn't find the movie compelling enough to put in the Canon to begin with.

 

You see what I'm trying to get at here?

 

 

Context still plays a role even in those examples. You absolutely can't say Citizen Kane wasn't a product of its time whether it was appreciated then or not. In fact that just becomes a part of the context through which we appreciate it now. Either way it's absolutely been an influence since then.

 

The Birth of a Nation and Triumph of the Will both make arguments for evil ideologies, but they also both possessed incredibly groundbreaking film techniques. The racism and propaganda is sickening to watch, but they're incredibly important films anyway.

 

That doesn't mean you MUST vote for anything that's had a significant influence, but it's still a perfectly good reason to.

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I feel that as long as Devin is directing BirthMoviesDeath readers to vote on these polls, there's little chance of any film NOT making it into the canon (at least, of the ones which he supports). This isn't a dig on him at all. It's just from the overall tone of the discussion here, I'd expect a more even result, if not an outright "no".

 

Hard to say if this is a BMD influence or just people who voted "no" feeling more compelled to post. Devin didn't do the same active campaigning for this one he did with Re-Animator.

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So I think there are five or so good Star Trek movies, most of which are more enjoyable if you know some of the history of the universe (aka knowing Picard's background with the Borg before watching First Contact).

 

But even so, Wrath of Khan introduced me to the Star Trek world. And I wouldn't have been as interested in Next Gen, or even older sci-fi, had I not had such a good experience with this film when I was young.

 

Part of me tried to view this objectively during this viewing, negating nostalgia and the fact that this movie informed the richness of the universe and characters for the next 30 years. And that part of me can acknowledge that there are some slow portions, (i.e. Bones talking to Kirk about his birthday) but even that moment is filled with a poignancy into this man's character, that I could forgive the scene with ease... it's overly dramatic at times, and David WAS bad casting... but this movie is rife with tension, mystery, and richness, not even taking into account its cultural impact and lasting recognizability, that it has to be in the canon.

 

A note to Amy: as a Star Trek, Dr. Who, Marvel, (insert franchise here) fan, there is a certain amount of forgiveness I'll admit to for any of these, and most fans will. But to me, the best of them are indicative of the richness the rest strive for. I keep using that word, but there are lackluster or overblown episodes or instances of Dr Who and Star Trek that can be forgiven because of the greatness that is the whole of the series and what the characters and themes strive for. So when you hit an amazing arc in Dr Who or an episode of Star Trek that embodies the best of human wonder and optimism, or really gets at the core of the troubled characters involved in those stories, it carries with it that bold prospect of achieving the near-ideal. I'm just pontificating at this point, and I'm sure you know all this already and experienced it before, but since we don't get to hear about it as often from your side, what are Amy's series that carry weight in spite of their fallibilities? What do you know too much about?

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Yeah, it's mostly this I'm referring to. The comment about Amy as well. But in general a lot of these threads have one or two people, sometimes a lot more, saying less-than-civil things.

 

I was just trying to poke fun. I wouldn't listen to the podcast if I really thought Devin was a fat blowhard; I just wanted to say "Zing".

 

So if Devin read that and got sad, I'm sorry dude. You're my favorite horror film reviewer and yadda yadda yadda fan worship.

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I have to vote “Yes” for a number of reasons.

 

First, there’s the cultural impact – not that of Trek, per se, but how much this film has become infused in the DNA of nerd movies. Amy made the cutting crack previous episode about how Into Darkness tried to ape this to a ‘T,’ but Into Darkness isn’t even the first Star Trek that tried to catch this lighting in a bottle again. As much as we credit Empire for the Downer Ending Second Film pattern, most every nerd film vying for character-based depth and stakes tries to copy Wrath of Khan’s beats in one form or another. That sounds like faint praise, but there is something to be said about the original remaining fresh and vital long after it’s been shamelessly copied.

 

It’s also the single best adaptation of Moby Dick ever put onscreen. No. Seriously. Re-read the final battle of Moby Dick. The ships’ turns even match Melville’s description!

 

I found it odd that Amy dinged it for ‘cheap, tv-like’ production values. For a film that was made on a shoestring, written in two weeks, and rushed through production it hides its flaws well and makes each element count. Yes, some of the costumes are dated, but the important stuff all clicks – and because the aesthetic is cohesive it does much of the legwork for the world building and informs the characters.

 

James Horner’s score is a masterpiece, and hearing it in the theatre is spirited, soaring, and absolutely joyful. There’s a reason why the opening credits is set to the overture. With nothing more than titles and a star field Horner gives us all of the tonal cues for how to approach the movie. It will be jaunty, somber, and thrilling in turns so that with the reveal of “In the 23rd Century” we know everything we need… and then, just when we expect Jim Kirk to burst onscreen… it’s this young woman in an officer’s uniform. As much as Devin leans on authorial intent (and Amy dismisses it) there is much to be made from how it embraces and challenges expectations throughout. It’s always engaging you with its characters.

 

I also have to hand it to each of the cast (and Meyer’s script). Wrath of Khan is not frenetically paced, but it is economical and propulsive with its beats. Shatner gets the bulk of the character time for Kirk, but each of the crew gets individual moments that allow them to assert who they are. Watch the framing when Kirk enters the bridge for the first time. Takei’s smile pops into focus to greet him. With only his face he tells us that, yes, the family is back together, doing the thing they’re best at. It’s little touches like that where Meyer uses each element of filmmaking to show us rather than tell us. He doesn’t use a lot of flashy camera work, but the choices he and his team made all served to draw us in without calling attention to themselves. It’s spare, simple, effective filmmaking.

 

While Amy thinks that Spock is barely in the movie, I have to disagree. Every one of his scenes are about his relationship to Kirk and the crew. His death is set up from the beginning (no, not the fake-out) when he and Kirk are in his cabin. Spock out-and-out states that his ideals of logic and service are greater than himself. Every time he makes a choice, he either honors those ideals clearly or is challenged about them (see Saavik’s “You lied.”). This is why Spock’s death resonates. Note that when Kirk says “warp speed or we’re all dead” the camera stays fixed on Nimoy, and Meyer holds the shot – not lazily, but long enough to allow us to see Spock weigh the options, consider the cost, and make the choice. It’s a gutsy shot because the entire film’s catharsis weighs on… an actor portraying an emotionless character thinking onscreen. Nimoy sells it, and it works because most of the film’s acting has centered on Shatner and Montalban’s bombastic performances. That simple, quiet moment signals to us that this problem will not be solved with phaser fire but instead by a character making a personal choice to fulfill their ideals.

 

Amy said that she found the jaunty music incongruous with the emotional cost of Spock’s death, thereby undercutting the impact. To the contrary, that sequence more or less serves as the core of the Star Trek ethos. A lesser movie (like, say… Into Darkness) would view Spock’s death as a tragedy when, indeed, it’s his personal triumph. Star Trek has always been a vision of humanist ideals. Both Kirk’s best friend and greatest enemy are men of principle, and that scene literally features a ticking clock where Khan clings to his selfishness and vengeance while Spock maintains his dedication to logic and his companions. Khan’s music is the dark, menacing scary music of impending death. Spock’s music is that of man going to work and embodying his highest ideals. That’s why the music swells in victory. Spock may have traded his life for his friends’, but his death was not a life cut short. It was his chance to perform to the best of his abilities in the service of his friends.

 

That is Star Trek in a nutshell. Even though there’s a grand space battle, the problem is not solved by killing Khan. It is solved by good people acting intelligently and performing to the best of their abilities. The thesis of Star Trek is that we will overcome our challenges by being our best selves. The moment of sadness comes not when Spock dies. It is when Kirk realizes that he cannot embrace his friend as he passes – that he cannot have a fully human moment.

 

That’s why this is a hard yes for me. With a single sequence Nick Meyer was able to distill not just a franchise but an entire philosophy. On top of that, he gave us a richly enjoyable piece of popular art. It is, as FimCritHulk would say, an inherently functional movie of that earns our empathy, indulges our sense of adventure, and challenges us to see the world a bit better.

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An aside about the Even/Odd Quality split:

 

Three has a lot of tonal shifts that undercut the impact of the end, and if Amy complained about simplistic, unmotivated camera work, then she'd best stay away from Nimoy's first Trek film. TMP works as a meditative SF film under the loving hand of Robert Wise - a bit stately, some of the characters haven't quite settled in, but if it were, say, a Russian deconstruction of a hippie dippie wagon train to the stars, yeah, it would work. Decker kinda doesn't work, both a result of the character and Collin's acting.

 

Three needed a slightly bigger budget, better pacing and tone, and a more dynamic visual eye.

 

I'm disappointed that the Jabramsverse folks didn't try the long bomb and reboot Final Frontier. Think about it: Chris Pine is lousy at portraying deep-seat regret at how he's hurt people and ruined lives. Khan has no history with him, and he's still just a punk in a gold smock. What he is, however, is a back-talking, petulant brat who would mouth off to the "supreme being" and demand to see ID.

 

Chris Pine would totally demand to know why the supreme being needs his starship.

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At least twenty-thousand people listen to every one of these, I wonder why relatively-few ever end up voting.

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Damn, The Motion Picture has a bad rap around here. It is a slow burn sure but its pure sci fi on a scale we rarely ever see, and its undeniably Star Trek. Not to mention some of the most incredible visuals in the genre and a fantastic soundtrack. I appreciate the way it's a polar opposite to Khan while also being the soil that Kirk's story takes root in for WoK.

 

Agreed. It's an interesting and ambitious film, and deserves much better than the constant dissing. I suspect if it wasn't a Star Trek film people would be referring to it as a hidden gem.

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