What is an appropriate 35th anniversary present? (Googled, it’s coral). It’s the Coral Anniversary of 1982’s Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. It’s long been recognized as the best film in the franchise, with particularly incisive views of the psychology of Admiral Kirk (William Shatner) and his crew. In the film, director Nicholas Meyer’s inspiration was to delve into the ways of the old Royal Navy to color his characters.
The movie disputes the question of whether a suicide mission is ever necessary, as per Kirk’s opinion of how you win the unwinnable Kobayashi Maru scenario. Kirk’s first officer, Spock (Leonard Nimoy), is a figure with a far more stoic sensibility: he knows there are times where there’s no such thing as a neat escape.
Uncertain of himself and his place in Starfleet, Kirk is suddenly returned to action: answering a distress call, he learns of a planetary explosion that no one ever bothered to investigate. Waiting for him in the void, slavering for revenge, is the fascist superman Khan Noonien Singh. Khan is played by Ricardo Montalbán, recreating the part he played in a 1967 episode of the TV show. Rolling his “Rs,” and baring his handsome 60-year-old breast, Khan peppers Kirk with Melville and Choderlos de Laclos quotes, as he pursues his nemesis in a stolen starship. Montalban used everything he had: the theatrical magnetism, the polite Latin irony. Here is the colossal pleasure of an actor with a juicy role in his teeth. “Ah, Kirk, my old friend, do you know the Klingon proverb that tells us that revenge is a dish best served cold? It is very cold in space.”
Strong is the man who can talk about this movie without a wobble in his voice. Stronger even, is he who is dry-eyed, recalling the bagpipes playing over the noble corpse of an officer. “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.” Take that, Ayn Rand. There are wrenching things in this moviepoor Chekov (Walter Koenig), the Enterprise‘s most harmless man, being singled out for torture. Maybe the saddest detail is this little artifact Kirk has on the wall of his cramped San Francisco quarters: a small mirror with lit up diodes that resemble stars, reflecting into an infinity of lightsit must be something to remind him of his years in space.
Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
PG, 130 Mins.
Sept 10 & 13 at Eastridge 15, Oakridge 20, Great Mall 20