Monday, 28 February 2011

80s Movies: Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982)

It's the end of the road for this month's 80s movies series... and we're rounding things off with a sequel, which is a little out of character. It's a good one though, as we're ending with Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.

There are inevitable comparisons between Star Trek and Star Wars. I've always been more of a Trekker - I really don't like Star Wars at all. Sorry about that. But it's worth noting the importance of Wrath of Khan in the history of Star Trek.

Where the first Star Wars trilogy stands as a single entity now - albeit with the benefit of hindsight - the Star Trek movies were never so cohesive. The show and its big-screen spin-offs have always been primarily a series of separate stories, rather than being split into chapters or volumes.

In Star Trek II, however, we have the first in a three-film story arc that remains probably the biggest tale the Star Trek world has ever told without distraction or interruption.

The Plot

The Wrath of Khan was an attempt to reinvigorate the Star Trek films franchise following a poor reception for The Motion Picture in 1979. Its plot calls back Khan Noonien Singh, who first appeared in the original series episode Space Seed.

Khan is on the hunt for Genesis, a device capable of regenerating dead worlds to make them habitable - but also of destroying existing planets. The movie is the usual Star Trek chess game of good versus bad, culminating in apparent victory, but at the loss of the Enterprise's Vulcan shipmate, Spock.

It is not just Wrath of Khan that matters when watching this movie now, however; movies III and IV, The Search for Spock and The Voyage Home, continue the same story arc to create a trilogy that, as I said above, is probably Star Trek's single most ambitious and successful story so far.

The Legacy

Wrath of Khan was a landmark moment in the 80s - and it came so close to the beginning of the decade, too. I wasn't even born when this movie was released, so I may be swayed slightly in my 'recollections' of it by the reputation that it has now built up.

One thing I do know, however, is that Wrath of Khan stands alone as a title totally separate from the 'Star Trek' label. It's another comparison with Star Wars, where the sequels The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi similarly broke free of their parent franchise, at least in terms of how people refer to them.

Wrath of Khan, though, seems to single-handedly represent a turning point for more sci-fi fanatics than any other movie. The 1998 film Free Enterprise pays homage to this, not only through its hero worship of Bill Shatner, but with a scene devoted specifically to the comic-book-reading protagonists heading to a late-night cinema screening of the film.

It's just one example of how a film released almost three decades ago continues to resonate with an audience around the world - and may be largely responsible for the continued popularity of Star Trek today.

80s Movies

In February, POPSICULTURE are dedicating the month to a look back at the iconic films of the 1980s - a decade whose films continue to draw massive audiences when they are shown on TV. To follow posts in this series, check the 80s Movies label or sign up to the dedicated RSS feed.

No comments:

Post a Comment