The second film of the Star Trek saga (and the first of an actual trilogy) was released in 1982. Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan was written by Jack B. Sowards and directed by Nicholas Meyer (who also worked on the script, uncredited), and it’s the film to which we owe the rebirth of the Star Trek brand after the warm reception of the first film. This one was a critical and commercial success, and it deserved it, let me tell you.
While the first film copied the plot of one of the episodes of The Original Series, this second entry of the saga relied on one of the best episodes of that same series, Space Seed, to build a new story. The great Khan Noonien Singh (Ricardo Montalbán) seeks revenge against Captain Kirk (William Shatner) after the planet on which he was relocated became a real hell due to some unpredictable and catastrophic events in the Ceti Alpha system.
Khan and his clan manage to leave that hell by pure chance, taking advantage of the research done for the so-called Genesis project: a way to create life on planets that are completely devoid of it. Aboard the USS Reliant, Khan decides to take over the project and attacks the Regula I star base, where the team led by Dr. Carol Marcus (Bibi Besch) and her son David (Merritt Butrick) work on Genesis. David is also Kirk’s son, as the captain and the doctor had an affair in the past. Then, Khan soon confronts Kirk for revenge and it’s a duel to the death in which ingenuity is the key.
What about Star Trek II? First of all, anybody can enjoy the film even without having seen the episode which essentially constitutes a prequel for it. And then… I admit it, I have nothing to criticize. Ricardo Montalbán is splendid in the role of Khan and enjoys every minute of it by theatrically delivering his lines (many reprise Melville’s Moby Dick). The rest of the cast also does a great job and it’s worth mentioning Kirstie Alley who’s as perfect as the Vulcan Saavik.
The space battles between the Reliant and the Enterprise, halfway between a fight between submarines and one between galleons, are memorable, also thanks to the Mutara nebula which is the picturesque setting for the grand finale. James Horner’s soundtrack wonderfully underlines the sense of adventure of the film, but it also perfectly accompanies the more meditative and dramatic moments, which are numerous.
And what about one of the most unforgettable scenes of the entire saga, the death of Spock (Leonard Nimoy)? To be honest, Nimoy didn’t even want to be in the film and only agreed to participate on the condition that his character died. Of course, the test screening audience reacted very badly to this and the ending was rewritten to allow for a return of the Vulcan officer. But despite the intuition that Spock’s death isn’t a real goodbye, the moment is still touching (or at least, I cry every time when he says “I am, and I always shall be, your friend“).
And then there are so many memorable lines! “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one“, for example. And think of Khan telling Kirk: “Do you know the Klingon proverb which tells us revenge is a dish that is best served cold? It is very cold… in space!“, or, paraphrasing Melville: “I’ll chase him ‘round the Moons of Nibia , and ‘round the Antares Maelstrom, and’ round perdition’s flames before I give him up!“.
Finally, how not to mention Kirk’s screaming “Khaaaaaan!“, a scene so famous that it was parodied even in The Big Bang Theory!? In short: this movie is based on a solid plot full of memorable moments and dialogues, it’s shot and acted very well, the soundtrack is amazing… Star Trek II has all the ingredients to be considered a classic! Although many consider it the best of the saga, I love it but for me it’s only on the third step of the podium. And I’ll talk about the two movies preceding it in this hypothetical ranking in the future… ciao!