I think they make a cream for that now...

There is an old adage that we all have heard so much that, by now, it has passed from lexicon to background noise: "If at first you don't succeed, try, try again." While the idea works well for some things, in others, such as skydiving, it falls flat. Leave it to Hollywood to heed that advice time and time again, rebooting and re-imagining every idea anyone has ever had, over and over and over again until every movie looks exactly the same no matter what the genre, setting, or plot is.

Hollywood: essentially.

Today we take the constant reboots of movie franchises in stride, not registering that there was but a five year difference between "Spider-Man 3" and "The Amazing Spider-Man", which by all logic should not be enough time to even begin to need to reboot, hell, it is barely enough time to warrant a sequel. But sometimes a movie is so bad, so terrible, so unapproachable that drastic measures must be taken.

"The Wrath of Khan" is that measure.

After the cinematic car wreck that was "Star Trek: The Motion Picture"...no wait, let me retry that.

After the cinematic Car Park that was "Star Trek: The Motion Picture," Paramount was in an awkward position. They had intended for the film to segue into a new Star Trek TV show (called Star Trek Phase 2), which was going to headline their new television network. What they had, in reality, was a bunch of upset fans, a crew that wanted nothing else to do with the Star Trek universe, and a bunch of science fiction props lying around.

Oh, and the rights to a franchise that had a massive background and a deep and recognizable rouges gallery.

How to make this work?

The choice was made to completely disown the events of the first movie, and move on with a sequel, because no one knew about reboots yet, apparently. Nicholas Meyer was brought in to direct the film, a man who had never watched Star Trek in his life, and the process of gathering the cast began again. Somehow everyone came back, although it did take much begging on the part of Shatner, who apparently needed the work more than anyone else (those TekWar royalties hadn't started yet). The budget was slashed from the first film's $35 million to a measly $11 million, and it was made very clear that if this film didn't work, the franchise would not be getting another chance.

How did it work? Well there have been roughly 400 Star Trek spin off shows, so obviously well.
When Meyer came aboard, he sat down with a few VHS tapes of the original series, and realized that Star Trek was not a space travel show, but rather a throwback to the naval dramas of yesteryear, and adjusted the scope of the movie accordingly. Gone were the coked out tunics and pointless exploration of the first film. In its place we have uniforms that would not look out of place on the crew of a battleship, and dramatic ship to ship combat.

Dammit Takei, can you look stoic for just one minute? Also can someone throw an extra light on Nichelle Nicholes? This is bush league gentlemen.

Story wise, we have Ricardo Montalbon playing Khan, a genetically engineered solder from the 21st century...yes that sounded a lot cooler and a lot more future-y when they used him in the 60's, who was sent to exile by Kirk and his crew back in the run of the original show. Well, unfortunately, the planet Khan was sent to went all explodey, and not he is stuck on a barren, terrible moon. When you take that, and add in the fact that he doesn't get to see the latest seasons of Space Mad Men, he is pretty pissed, and vows he will have revenge.

What makes this movie work is exactly what was ignored by the first, in fact, I am hard pressed to think of any sequel that works this well as a foil that didn't go the other way, and broke everything that worked before. Where before there was exploration, now we have battles and drama. Where before we had long docking scenes, not we have poignant reflections of mortality and discussions of the unending march of time. And where before we had 42 minutes of Sulu looking scared, now we have...well we have less Sulu, which might not be an improvement...

The whole move tells the story of Kirk, once a brash young captain, dripping with bravado and a crazy green alien on each arm, coming to grips with his old age. He is not a young man, he is not the hot shot he used to be, he is not a captain anymore; which to him means he is nothing. We see a change from the head strong Kirk of the past, to a more meditative, deliberate captain by the end of the movie. Actual character development, which isn't just rare for Star Trek movies, but rare in movies in general.

The ending is still considered to be one of the finest ending in science fiction history, and even, some would say, one of the best in film, with the heroic sacrifice of Spock, who, in death, actually draws some serious acting out of William Shatner, and has been known to drive grown men to tears. The scene is so beautifully done that even Family Guy parodied it, and couldn't bring themselves to make fun of it. It cannot be over stressed how ballsy this ending is, with one of the most recognizable faces of the Star Trek universe being killed off, it opened the door to anyone being killed off. It was huge. And there was absolutely no way someone would kill that emotional connection for the third movie. No way at all.

"I have been and always shall be your friend.", even in death, Spock uses proper grammar.

Of all 12 of the Star Trek movies, this was one of only three that I had actually seen before beginning this hair brained gauntlet, and the only one that I had seen within the past two years. I have always enjoyed this film, as it seamlessly blends everything I like science fiction to be (giant explosions and quiet character reflections) into one bundle. The acting is suburb from everyone, including Shatner, who honestly isn't near as hammy as he is in other films, or TV shows, or songs, or books...or real life. In fact, in that final scene I mentioned above, there is a moment of genuine emotion between Kirk and Spock, and a silently uttered "No" that breaks the heart. Hell, even Ricard Montalbon puts in a tremendous, albeit campy, performance as Khan, chewing up the scenery just enough to have fun, but bringing the thunder when needed. And, despite the urban legends that claim he wore a prosthetic, the then 62 year old actor bared his real chest in the film, which makes me feel both weak, pale, and fat. All of which are true, but fuck him for bringing it up.
Also, we get this scene...
Which is worth all the movies ever made, put together.
Rating: An Endlessly looping GIF of George Takei saying "Oh My"
 





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