Monday, April 27, 2009

FotM: KHAAANNN!!!


Star Trek as we know it simply would not exist today if it weren’t for STAR TREK II: THE WRATH OF KHAN. The entire film franchise, including the $150 million dollar reboot hitting theatres two weeks from now and every show from Star Trek: The Next Generation on owe their very existence to one of the single greatest, most influential sequels in the history of film.

Contrary to popular belief not all sequels suck. In fact it’s that very idea that led us to this current “Feature of the Month” thread. For every MEN IN BLACK II, CADDYSHACK II, JAWS 3-D and BLUES BROTHERS 2000 there’s the likes of THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK, MISSION IMPOSSIBLE III, BAD BOYS II, THE DARK KNIGHT and ALIENS, films that don’t just do their predecessors justice but in many cases give them a run for their money as superior films. Out of each and every single part II that’s ever been conceived however, none has ever so roundly trounced it’s originator as THE Star Trek movie to end all Star Trek movies.

For those in need of a history lesson the original Star Trek television series never really lit the world on fire. In fact the show and it’s small but ravenous fan base fought tooth and nail to stay on the air until it was canceled after its third season. Had it not been for the cult following the show gained throughout years of syndication there’s no doubt the show would be looked at as nothing more than a kitschy piece of baby boomer nostalgia, mentioned in the same breath as Space 1999 and Buck Rodgers. Instead the passionate fervor for the franchise spurred Paramount to produce a $43 million big screen film that well… to be blunt, SUCKED!

I don’t care how die-hard a Star Trek fan they are you will be hard pressed to find anyone that really likes STAR TREK: THE “MOTIONLESS” PICTURE. It’s boring, uninspired and did absolutely nothing to attract new fans or really retain the ones that had stuck by the franchise all along. Sure it made some money but for the most part it did very little to further engender the legacy of Gene Roddenberry’s creation to anyone but the most die-hard of Trekkies. Filled with seemingly never-ending, money shots of the Enterprise and a story compiled from the remnants of a new Star Trek show that was never to be, the original motion picture succeeded in sucking out what little life the franchise had left in it. Which is what makes THE WRATH OF KHAN such a strange, happy little miracle.

Made for half the budget of the original film and based on a long forgotten episode of the original series THE WRATH OF KHAN did the unthinkable. It addressed the aging of its core players and killed off one of the cornerstones of the entire franchise. In doing so though, it brought something to the Star Trek universe that had never existed; gravitas! In a little over 2 hours director Nicholas Meyer and screenwriter Jack B. Sowards gave Star Trek the since of relevance, intelligence and just plain geek inspiring awesomeness that fans associate with it to this day.

Most of what every Trekker loves about this venerable sci-fi franchise got its start in this movie. This one film took Rodenberry’s ideas and vision and gave them a scope and depth that had never existed up until that point. In doing so they created not just the single greatest Star Trek story ever told but in my humble opinion one of the single greatest sci-fi stories ever told.

Watching this film for the umpteenth time last night I was once again struck by just how brilliant and flat out perfect the film is. Sure some of the costumes, hair styles and effects are dated but at its core KHAN is a poignant tale about growing old, the consequences of one’s action and the ultimate sacrifice that is friendship. It is as epic and sweeping as STAR WARS and as intimate and effecting as the works of David Mamet or Tom Stoppard. STAR TREK II: THE WRATH OF KHAN didn’t just raise the bar it completely reset it in a way that redefined one of the most beloved franchises in the history of pop culture.

3 comments:

Senor Granto said...

Agreed concerning everything you just said.

What an amazing year for sci-fi/fantasy films that was. It also gave us Blade Runner, E.T., and Conan the Barbarian as well as a host of others I'm sure I'm missing.

Chris W said...

Yeah, that year was one of if not THE single greatest year for genre movies ever. One of the websites I visit frequently did a whole year long retrospective on it last year because it was the 25th anniversary of all these movies. I know THE THING came out that year as well. Seriously there's so many I can't even begin to remember them all.

Senor Granto said...

You are correct, Sir! The Secret of NIMH as well, hard for me to forget since it was the year I was born and probably why I chose film as my major in college.