[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.

[Happy 35th Birthday!] Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982)

Director: Amy Heckerling

Cast: Sean Penn, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Judge Reinhold, Phoebe Cates, Brian Backer, Robert Romanus, Ray Walston

Screenplay: Cameron Crowe

90 mins. Rated R.

 

Fast Times at Ridgemont High had an interesting genesis. Screenwriter Cameron Crowe (TV’s Roadies, Almost Famous) actually went undercover at a high school for some time and fictionalized a book out of it. He later adapted that book to be the film we are discussing today. It goes further than that, too. There’s even a Fast Times television series that I’m trying to get my hands on for my own twisted curiosity. The show is apparently terrible but I have my reasons…

Fast Times at Ridgemont High is one of the earliest slice-of-life films in the high school setting, or at least one of the most well-known and reputable ones. There are several characters intersecting at its core, most memorably Jeff Spicoli (Sean Penn, Mystic River, The Angry Birds Movie), a stoner who finds himself at odds with teacher Mr. Hand (Ray Walston, TV’s My Favorite Martian, The Sting), who expects the highest respect from his students. Then there’s the Hamiltons, brother Brad (Judge Reinhold, Beverly Hills Cop, Dr. Dolittle: Million Dollar Mutts) and sister Stacy (Jennifer Jason Leigh, The Hateful Eight, Morgan). Brad is about to finish his high school career as a blip and he just can’t seem to get a win. Stacy is exploring her sexuality with anyone she comes across but can’t seem to understand the different between sex and love. She is pined for by Mark “Rat” Ratner (Brian Backer, The Burning, Loser) who gets all his romantic advice from the slimy Mark Damone (Robert Romanus, The Runaways, American Pie presents The Book of Love) who may just be getting a kick out of watching Rat fail.

Fast Times is an engaging and funny take on high school relationships of all kinds, and director Amy Heckerling (Look Who’s Talking, Vamps) spends equal time developing strong characters and seemingly important moments in the fleeting high school experience.

The strongest and most enjoyable performance is Sean Penn’s Spicoli. Penn is virtually unrecognizable in his portrayal of the over-the-top stoner but there is an energy to his performance that made me remember all the people I knew in my adolescence that were Spicolis in their own way. He isn’t out of place, but he is the epitome of all the youths who didn’t think out their plans after high school, the ones that stayed in the moment, in the now, for better or worse.

Jennifer Jason Leigh’s Stacy Hamilton is another relatable character in that, in high school, everyone was looking to get laid as a personal status symbol. It’s weird to think of it that way but so many do, and this conceit seems to feed into itself as more high school comedies surfaced over the years. In her comparisons with friend Linda (Phoebe Cates, Gremlins 2: The New Batch, Drop Dead Fred), Stacy is seen in a sad light, rarely rising to the level of self-acceptance she so wants.

If there’s a faulty character in the bunch, it’s Brad, who shares a number of great moments in the film (and yes, I’m including the scene with Phoebe Cates Moving in Stereo), but overall, his character just doesn’t really go anywhere. I feel like I get what the attempt was, but it wasn’t entirely successful.

Thankfully, the strong writing of Cameron Crowe really impacts this film and peppers quotable and memorable moments throughout that have allowed Fast Times to endure the test of time. I feel like this is a film about high school that stays with you long after high school, and it also feels accessible even for youths that didn’t grow up in the era of its release. It’s a film that feels good to watch, and it’s one that says that yes, we’ve all been there. It has fun with its loose premise and is completely re-watchable. If you haven’t seen Fast Times at Ridgemont High, now is the time to give it a go.

 

4.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

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