With the new reimagining of Star Trek clearly visible on the horizon, I'm nostalgic enough to review a film from back in the days when William Shatner still commanded the USS Enterprise as James Tiberius Kirk. My reason for choosing this particular title, as opposed to starting with the Motion Picture or any of the other films to bear the Star Trek name, is twofold. Firstly,I suspect that the new film will have a similarly dark tone, and secondly because in my opinion it is with this film with which the new Star Trek movie will have to compete if it wants to re-energise this classic Sci Fi series.
The storyline revolves around the return of old adversary Khan, who appeared in the original TV series (not that viewing of the original episode is necessary to enjoy the film - I still haven't seen it!). Khan has been marooned for fifteen years. Stumbled upon by another starship he quickly takes advantage of the situation and seeks revenge on Kirk. The good Admiral is on a shakedown cruise with an inexperienced crew commanded by our old friends from the show and general going through something of a midlife crisis. Having been promoted to Admiral and taken away from command of the Enterprise, Kirk is tired and missing the zest he had in his younger years. When he receives a distress call from an old flame who is working on a potentially weaponizable project codenamed Genesis, he must rally his young crew, defeat the genetically enhanced intellect of Khan and prevent the destruction of the galaxy. If that isn't a plot, I don't know what is.
As with all the best Star Trek plots, the story is practically bottomless in terms of its undercurrents, morals and allegories. Kirk is shown as a Captain longing for his glory days, for a grand rebirth, even as the Genesis Project displays both the creative and the destructive sides of such a rebirth, and it is hard to ignore the new lease of life that this film in turn gave the Star Trek franchise.It is tightly written, ably performed and well deserving of the two Saturn Awards (along with multiple further nominations) that it received at the time. This film is Star Trek's Hamlet.
Some of the special effects are showing their age after 25 years but it has to be said that the majority are still spectacular. In fact, having only recently been subjected to Wolverine's excuse for CGI I find myself wondering if a few of the X-Men graphics team couldn't have learned a thing or two from Wrath of Khan. The acting is a little melodramatic in places, but suits the revenge saturated plot and detracts nothing from the film. It is further aided by a rousing, divinely beautiful soundtrack that remains one of the most memorable to be produced for Star Trek.
This was Star Trek at a new height,going deeper into the dark of the human state than it would do again until the final outting with the original crew in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. Everytime I watch this film I enjoy it all over again and while I am probably in the Trekkie camp I am not so enamoured by every addition to this series as to be blind to all its faults over the years. I believe this film is enjoyable regardless of prior familiarity with the series. I hope that the new film has half the class, style, cohesion and depth of this movie, because if it does it will be well worth the entrance fee.