Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
(United States, 1982)
Star Trek II is unquestionably the best entry into the long-running Star Trek series of movies. It came to the screen at a time when the Star Trek phenomenon was still relatively fresh. While most "serious" film critics would scoff at the idea of a Star Trek movie appearing on a Top 100 list (and, in fact, it was the first to fall "off" the list and into runner-up status), this movie has always worked for me on a number of levels. (For the record, I consider myself to be a Star Trek fan, although not a rabid one.) It highlights all the best of Star Trek (ideas, dialogue, relationships), crafts one of the most malignant and charismatic science fiction screen villains, and throws in a pair of rousing battle scenes. And, even 20 years after its release, the ending still brings a lump to the throat. As science fiction films go, there's not much that this one doesn't have, and, so many years later, it still holds up. Yes, it's a popcorn movie, but there's room for pure entertainment on a list like this, and Star Trek II is one of my most frequently sought-out DVDs when I'm in the mood for two hours of escapist fun.
Plot Summary (Spoilers Possible):
The film is a sequel to a first season episode of the original Star Trek TV series ("Space Seed"). Here, the evil genius Khan (Ricardo Montalban) and his followers have escaped from the barren planet where then-Captain Kirk (William Shatner) stranded them some fifteen years ago. Khan, once a brilliant, charismatic leader, has become an embittered maniac, dedicated only to revenge. He blames Kirk for the death of his wife and the waste of his own life, and intends to extract payment -- in blood. After hijacking a Federation starship, Khan steals Genesis, a potential doomsday weapon created by Kirk's son, David (Merritt Butrick), and ex-lover, Carol (Bibi Besch), and lures the Enterprise into a carefully-orchestrated trap. In order to survive, Kirk must draw upon all his years of experience and his best friend, the Vulcan Captain Spock (Leonard Nimoy), must make the ultimate sacrifice.
In the wake of the somnambulant Star Trek: The Motion Picture, the fledgling Star Trek movie series was in need of some zest, which is exactly what The Wrath of Khan provided. While retaining the thematic elements of the late-'60s TV series and utilizing the much-loved original USS Enterprise crew, Star Trek II added hefty doses of action, adventure, and suspense, injecting life into a concept that had been left moribund by its first big-screen feature. Director Nicholas Meyer and writers Harve Bennett and Jack B. Sowards have taken pains to resurrect the humanity of Star Trek, while developing a top-notch, fast-paced adventure that can be enjoyed equally by fans of the series and those who have never seen an episode.
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