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The Latest Pull

Retro Review: Star Trek II The Wrath of Khan

With the passing of Leonard Nimoy, us here at The Latest Pull felt that it in his honor we should look at what many argue to be the best movie from the franchise that made him a star.


Despite what you might think, you do not need to watch the first Star Trek movie to understand the premise of “Wrath of Khan.” However, Khan was in an episode of Star Trek in 1967 called “Space Seed.” In the episode, the crew of the Enterprise encounters Khan, a genetically altered human from the 20th century who has surpassed the mental and physical limitations of man. Long story short, Khan and Captain Kirk do not see eye to eye as Khan attempts to take control of the ship, and threatens the lives of all the crew. Kirk banishes Khan to a barren planet, but the episode ends with Spock hinting at the inevitable return of Khan.



Fifteen years later, “Star Trek II: Wrath of Khan” hit theaters to the joy of Trekkies everywhere. However, there was a rumor going around that the movie was going to feature the untimely death of the series’s most beloved character, Mr. Spock. Knowing full well of the circulated rumor, the writers began the episode by killing off several members of the Enterprise including Sulu and Spock. After the scene turns out to be nothing more than an overdramatized training simulation, viewers immediately dismissed the thought of losing Spock.



As the film progresses, Kirk appears and reunites with his crew after spending much time apart. In the first years of the original series, calling Shatner’s acting “hokey” would be an understatement. Many people like to do their impressions of Kirk by putting long, spontaneous pauses in their dialogue. In “Wrath of Khan,” Shatner gives one of his best performances of his career. When you watch the film, you don’t see Shatner in the prime of his career as much as you see an aging space captain trying to determine what is right for his crew rather than himself.



As the story progresses, Chekov and other crew members of the Enterprise mistakenly land on the planet where Khan was marooned. Trying to explain how this happened is one of those things that avid Trekkies can explain, but the best explanation is, “It’s Star Trek so it doesn’t have to make complete sense.”


Khan then takes larva from insects that have special burrows into Chekov’s and the crews’ ears causing them to follow Khan’s orders (again, this leads back to the “It’s Star Trek so it doesn’t have to make sense” argument). Khan, Chekov, and both of their crews take Chekov’s ship and pursue Kirk and the Enterprise, thus starting the main action of the movie.



Saying the effects hold up over 30 years later would be a lie. The first “Star Wars” movie came out five years earlier, and those effects hold up way better. However, “Star Trek” was never meant to be a visual masterpiece. For the devoted Trekkie, the nostalgic visuals will never have to be remastered to look more realistic, but newcomers to the “Star Trek” franchise may prefer the remakes that have more realistic visual effects. The franchise has always relied more on unique characters, stories, and the imagination of the fans. However, the film’s biggest flaw is that Kirk and Khan never see each other face to face. They communicate with each other through their ships, but they are never in the same room for even a second. This wouldn’t have been as big of a deal if Khan wasn’t a genetically engineered man with super strength, but he is! This would be like if they made an Iron Man movie where he doesn’t hardly fight in his suit, and it focuses more on his girlfriend *cough *cough “Iron Man 3” *cough *cough.



The most talked about scene in the film, and the most memorable occurs in the final 10 minutes. As Khan attempts to kill Kirk and the crew of the Enterprise by self-destructing his own ship, Spock goes to fix the hyper speed, but has to enter a radioactive chamber in order to do so. After escaping, Kirk rushes to try and save Spock, but the radiation has already taken its toll. Not able to leave the radioactive room, Spock is forced to stay inside the glass-walled room outside from Kirk. The scene the two share is hauntingly beautiful even by today’s standards. Both Nimoy and Shatner give great performances, that only years of their real-life friendship could forge. What follows is a funeral scene which many regard as one of the saddest scenes in film history. Kirk gives a eulogy for his fallen comrade that sets a silence across the room that is only broken by “Amazing Grace” played by Scotty on the bagpipes.



Looking back, “Wrath of Khan” still has all the same charm that people want in a classic “Star Trek” film. By this time, the actors and the characters they portray are one in the same. The story has all the classic “Star Trek” tropes including being over-the-top, having original sci-fi technology and concepts, and all the beloved characters.


With the death of Leonard Nimoy, it is hard to say what direction the new films will take. Zachary Quinto and Nimoy grew a friendship after Quinto was cast as the new Spock, and the two worked off each other in the two most recent films. Although it would have been great to see both Nimoy and Shatner on the screen one last time, hopefully the rumors of Shatner being in the third installment of the J.J. Abrams “Star Trek” series are true.


Nimoy began a legacy with the “Star Trek” series, as well as set a standard for sci-fi actors to come. Despite being known for playing an alien, of all the souls I have encountered in my movie going experience, his was most…human.