Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Star Trek II The Wrath of Khan: Still holds up damn fine.

So, with all the buzz with the first Star Trek reviews pouring out, I figured I'd go and rewatch Star Trek 2 The Wrath of Khan. Ya know, just to revisit a classic. It's one of my favorite films of all time, so this rewatching business... something I do pretty often.

You have to know, Star Trek 2 was one of the first films I remember watching as a young lad. Back in the good ol days, channel 44, which would later go on to become UPN and then the CW, would rerun old movies all the time, and one of those would be Star Trek 2. This was my very first Star Trek film, and left an absolutely indelible impression on me. This film was what made me a Trekkie. It was pretty cool too, cause this was right around the time that TNG was starting up and I was able to watch that great show as it originally ran.

Then my family bought a VCR player and I recorded Star Trek 2. And rewatched it and rewatched it and rewatched it. Fuck all other films, I couldn't get sick of viewing this somewhat poor quality recording. It got to the point where I could pretty much recite the dialogue line for line as they said it onscreen. Ya know how it is, being a young kid and going all crazy trying to ape Ricardo Montalban with fun lines like "To the last... I will grapple with thee. From Hell's heart... I stab at thee! For HATE's SAKE... I spit... my last breath... at thee!" Just wonderful emotional lines that you could really rasp out. Of course, some of the dialogue made absolutely no sense back then. It took me years to figure out exactly what "Sauce for the goose" meant, for example. Still, great childhood memories.

So, that's just a bit of context to let you know how much I cherish this film. The best Star Trek film ever, and my favorite film until The Dark Knight last summer. What Nicholas Meyer pulled off was nothing short of a miracle, when you look back and see that it was following up on Star Trek The Motionless Picture. Who could have had the imagination, and force of persuasion to alter basically the entire Star Trek universe like that? Suddenly... awful pajama uniforms gave way to awesomely elegant red jacket uniforms. With that iconic clasp over the right shoulder? That feature's been copied for fucking decades now, in all kinds of scifi movies and video games. You've gotta give props, that was an amazing costume change. And the single best starship battle, STILL. You can show me all sorts of ship battles from DS9 or Nemesis, but I still hold that Mutara Nebula battle as the greatest ship to ship battle in Trek history. You cannot top that film finale. Which is strange, because it's two Federation starships battling one another.

Then you realize that's what made it great. What was great was how they made it two Federation starships fighting each other. It seems like that would be a weird dynamic, but they make it work. The Reliant is from Starfleet, but it looks totally different from the Enterprise. And I'm not just talking about the red lighting they used, which was blatant as all hell. It's got two low nacelles right under it, far apart, so it kinda looks like a mean pitbull. A pitbull in somewhat of a lean, crouched down posture. Small, but packing a punch. While the Enterprise is longer and much more graceful with two nacelle struts in a V, like an eagle. This really hits home when the Enterprise is cruising towards the Mutara Nebula with the Reliant hot on its heels.

The final battle is tense, just like the u-boat films which Nicholas Meyer referenced on his commentary of the DVD. But what's so important is how slow the ships move. This is what is great about Trek, they are these giant ships and they act like it. When the Reliant comes charging out of the static towards the Enterprise, we can see Kirk pivoting his chair, while ordering "Evasive starboard!" Yet the ship herself turns much more slowly then his chair pivot. We feel the engines straining for such a maneuver. Is it realistic? Oh hell no, of course not. Ships are weightless in space, yada yada yada. But it doesn't matter, because Trek ships need that sense of size and weight. After all, this is space... they have nothing but the Enterprise and an occasional alien planet. This ship is the workplace, and home, and overall landscape for 500 people. She's as much a character as any of the main characters. So to maintain the heft and importance, it is crucial that the ship not be pulling off all sorts of crazy loop-de-loops or whatnot.

So yea, Wrath of Khan still holds up. That's why it's a classic. I will always have a big goofy grin on my face while watching this film. Just can't help it. And yes, occasionally reciting a line like "Sauce for the goose, Mr. Saavik. The odds will be even."

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