[Star Trek Day] Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982)

Director: Nicholas Meyer

Cast: William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, James Doohan, Walter Koenig, George Takei, Nichelle Nichols, Bibi Besch, Paul Winfield, Kirstie Alley, Ricardo Montalban, Merritt Butrick

Screenplay: Jack B. Sowards

113 mins. Rated PG for violence and language.

 

I won’t begin to act like I’m a genius when it comes to Star Trek. I got into the movies in high school and the show a bit more during my college experience, but I’m no expert, but I recently heard that September 8th is considered Star Trek Day (the first episode aired on 9/8/1966), so I figured we would talk about what is considered by many to be the best of the Star Trek films, The Wrath of Khan.

It’s been fifteen years since the crew of the starship Enterprise marooned the treacherous Khan Noonien Singh (Ricardo Montalban, Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over, The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad!) on Ceti Alpha V after Khan attempted and failed at taking the ship, and now, the crew of the starship Reliant have been taken captive as Khan seeks vengeance upon the Enterprise and especially its former captain, Admiral James T. Kirk (William Shatner, Aliens Ate My Homework, Batman vs. Two-Face). Khan blames Kirk for the death of his wife. As Khan sets his trap into place, the Admiral takes control of the Enterprise once again and sets off to answer a distress call, unaware that he is about to enter a situation he has never faced with a foe he never expected to see again.

The Wrath of Khan is, to my knowledge, the first time a film in any series was made as a direct sequel to a television episode, and the first time I watched it, I had never seen Space Seed, the episode in which we are first introduced to Khan, and I would guess a great many casual fans would not know that Khan has been there before, which is a testament to director Nicholas Meyer (Vendetta, Company Business) and screenwriter Jack B. Sowards (Desperate Women, Cry Panic) in crafting a standalone story that is also enhanced by the show which came before it and the film which preceded it. It’s a captivating screenplay and story that tackles the task of saving a franchise and shepherding it into the future without forgetting the past.

This sequel also excels at the most important element in the difference between television series and movies. When you have a weekly series, especially one as episodic as Star Trek, you have your team and they go on an adventure, but by the end of the episode, most everything has turned out okay. Now, this is not always the case, but most of the time, in these procedural shows, it is. In the case of Star Trek, though, and transitioning from television to film, there’s a bigger budget, there needs to be a bigger scope, or audiences are going to question why they are dropping serious money to see something on the big screen that they should be able to see at home. So spectacle is key, something that Wrath of Khan handles quite well. The other notable change for the series is now that you have an event series with only one story every year or two, you need that story to be very important. It needs to be something that forever alters the story, and by the end of Wrath of Khan, this story has had an effect on the Enterprise and its crew.

I need to give specifically high marks to Leonard Nimoy (Transformers: Dark of the Moon, Adventures in Zambezia) as Spock, James Doohan (Skinwalker: Curse of the Shaman, The Duke) as Scotty, and Kirstie Alley (Drop Dead Gorgeous, Look Who’s Talking) as Saavik, a new recurring character in the franchise. Everyone is quite solid in the film, especially these three. Add their work to Montalban’s scene-chewing performance and you have a good recipe for excitement. I even have to say that Shatner’s work as Kirk is great here too. He doesn’t do anything really different here but he has just honed his character over his time in Star Trek to the point where he just captivates the screen.

Overall, The Wrath of Khan is a great entry point for anyone looking to get into Star Trek but finds the daunting task of three live-action seasons, two animated seasons, and a not-so-great first film. It’s filled with dazzling characters, real tension, and stunning visuals. This is a Trek film for people that don’t normally call themselves Trekkies. Seek this one out. Happy Star Trek Day!

 

4.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For my review of Robert Wise’s Star Trek: The Motion Picture, click here.

[31 Days of Horror Part V: A New Beginning] Day 19 – Village of the Damned (1995)

Director: John Carpenter

Cast: Christopher Reeve, Kirstie Alley, Linda Kozlowski, Michael Pare

Screenplay: David Himmelstein

99 mins. Rated R for some sci-fi terror and violence.

 

John Carpenter (Escape from New York, The Ward) is pretty well-known for one pretty impressive remake: 1982’s The Thing. But he actually had another crack at remakes with his take on Village of the Damned, both a remake of the 1960 film of the same name as well as the novel The Midwich Cuckoos. Carpenter, never one to shy away from honesty, called his work on the film a “contractual assignment” and says not much more. Carpenter is one of my all-time favorite filmmakers, and I finally got the chance to see this the other night. It’s a chilling albeit somewhat tame experience.

The town of Midwich has just experienced a strange event. Everyone within town limits passed out at the exact same time. When finally awakened, a frightening discovery is made: ten females from town are pregnant, though seemingly not by their husbands. One of the women is a virgin while another has not been seually active for months. When the children are born, they possess traits unlike any of the other children in town. Local physician Dr. Alan Chaffee (Christopher Reeve, Superman: The Movie, Rear Window) is the father of one of the mysterious children. He is aided by a government scientist, Dr Susan Verner (Kirstie Alley, Drop Dead Gorgeous, Accidental Love), who knows more than she’s letting on, but they do not have much time. People are dying in Midwich under very strange circumstances.

I think it’s easy to see that Carpenter didn’t have his all in this film. Yes, he did some uncredited rewriting on the screenplay and his direction is still strong, but there’s just something missing from the finished product. It doesn’t feel like a John Carpenter horror film. There are elements that showcase his skills. The heavy infusion of science fiction, occult, and horror is classic tone for Carpenter, but it feels like Carpenter-light.

Christopher Reeve is fine as the town physician, and Kirstie Alley is quite capable as a scientist. I’ve always felt that Alley, as a performer, always conveyed intelligence in her roles, and she usually gives off a mystery to her that is apparent here. I wish Mark Hamill, who plays the town’s key religious voice, had more to do here. There are leaps in his character arc that seem to come out of nowhere.

That’s another issue as well with Village of the Damned. There’s a sense of something missing in the narrative. There are seemingly large passages of time that are not well-defined. It becomes a little confusing as the disjointed narrative finds its footing repeatedly.

The tone and visual sense of the film are both fine, and they give some truly unnerving and creepy feelings. The general idea of children who know more than they should is something that is an easy fright to mine. The children actors in the film are pretty creepy to say the least. I recognized a younger Thomas Dekker as David, the more emotional of the emotionless children.

Village of the Damned wasn’t as strong an outing for Carpenter as I would have liked. I still enjoyed many elements of the film but as a whole they didn’t equate to the level of an experience I would expect from John Carpenter. It felt like the famous director looked at his remake in much a similar way as he looks at the remakes of his own films, with indifference. This would be fun for serious fans of Carpenter and perhaps fans of the original film and novel, but it won’t turn more heads than that.

 

2.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For my review of John Carpenter’s Halloween, click here.

For my review of John Carpenter’s The Thing, click here.

For my review of John Carpenter’s Body Bags, click here.

For my review of John Carpenter’s In the Mouth of Madness, click here.

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