Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982) / Sci Fi-Adventure

MPAA Rated: PG for violence
Running Time: 113 min.

Cast: William Shatner, Ricardo Montalban, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, James Doohan, Walter Koenig, George Takei, Nichelle Nichols, Bibi Besch, Merritt Buttrick, Paul Winfield, Kirstie Alley, Ike Eisenman, John Vargas
Nicholas Meyer
Screenplay: Jack B. Sowards
Review published November 22, 1999

After the somewhat pretentious space odyssey experiment that was Star Trek: The Motion Picture, with Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, the series took a swing in the exact opposite direction, putting things on a raw emotional level. This is a sequel, not of the first film, but of an original "Star Trek" episode, "The Space Seed", also starring Ricardo Montalban (The Naked Gun, Spy Kids 2) in the Khan role.

Now, it is 15 years later, and Khan and his men are marooned on a desert planet which is slated as an experiment in the Federation's Genesis project. This project is actually a bomb of sorts that can take any uninhabited planet and make it habitable for life as we know it, transforming it into a tropical paradise. Khan hijacks a small cruiser piloted by Chekhov (Koenig, Moontrap) and the duel between Khan and Kirk (Shatner, Loaded Weapon 1), the man with whom he is filled with hatred, for control of the bomb and for sheer revenge.

Although Star Trek II seems a simple story of dueling passions and vengeance, it is deceptively one of the most original and intelligent Star Trek chapters ever made, whether small or large screen. Kirk finally has a match worthy of enmity, with both men pitting against each other in a chess match of aggression, neither particularly mindful of the rules when winning is concerned. Montalban's Khan is terrific and surprisingly three-dimensional, ranking among his finest work.  True, he can be hammy at times, but so is the Shatner we know and love, and that makes it all the more fun, doesn't it?

Fresh writing, swift direction, good acting, and brilliant plotting makes this arguably the best of the series. Outside of this, it is also the film which features the most memorable of endings with Spock's (Nimoy, Invasion of the Body Snatchers) sacrifice for the "good of the many", and you will believe that a man without emotions can evoke a tear in many a viewer's eye. 

Star Trek II is absolutely essential viewing for even the most casual fan of Star Trek, and maybe even for those who are not.

-- Followed by Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, Star Trek Generations, Star Trek: First Contact, Star Trek: Insurrection, and Star Trek: Nemesis.

Qwipster's rating

©1999 Vince Leo