|Scared the hell out of a 6 year old me...|
Basic Plot: Admiral Kirk is nearing the end of his career as he and Captain Spock are put in charge of teaching new cadets aboard the Enterprise. Kirk is depressed about his new lot in life, missing the days of adventure and youth. Then, the unthinkable happens. Khan, a genetic superman from the 20th century, who was exiled by Kirk, is accidentally found by the crew of the Reliant. Khan immediately takes over the Reliant, and he has a plan in mind. Khan blames Kirk for all the tragedy that has ruined his life, and he sets in motion a deadly game of cat and mouse, plotting to see the demise of Kirk. In the balance is the Genesis device- a miracle of science with the power to create life on dead worlds! Kirk must now race to stop Khan from acquiring the device- least Khan uses it to take over the universe. But all Khan wants to do is lure Kirk into his trap...
Themes/Concepts: This is where TWOK really gets its huge reputation and following. While the themes of TMP were grand sci-fi, this one is much more human, so much more relate-able. The movie is really about facing your mortality. Everyone dies, its that simple. But how do we each face it? Some scoff at the idea, others obsess over it. Many simply find it too disturbing to even think about. Of course, if you know you're going to die, you'd like to know that you found you're place in life and lived it to the best/fullest. That you did everything you'd like to do in life. It could be having a family, having a rewarding job, traveling the world, living up to a moral code, whatever- its different for each person. But- for just how many people does that all happen for?
|Despite the fame of this bit, it does symblozie how broken Kirk is|
|Project Genesis: some of the earliest CGI work in movies|
Spock ties into these themes also, a man who HAS found his place, who has accepted things, who has "found himself". He lives by his moral/logical code, and he sacrifices himself, without hesitation or hand-wringing- unlike either Kirk, who doesn't quite understand "the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few" until the end, or Khan- who is willing to die in order to murder his rival. Again, the themes all come together here. This is why the movie is brilliant. No other Trek movie is about such lofty, but all too human, themes.
Characters/Acting: Of course, Ricardo Montalban IS Khan. His performance is indeed worthy of the reputation he gets from this movie. Better still, if you have seen him in the TOS epsiode "Space Seed", his performance takes on even more depth. Khan is a genius, and Montalban shows that thoroughly- in his words, in his eyes. Constantly thinking... five steps ahead of everyone else (except Kirk). Then there's his strength- Montalban makes you believe that he IS a genetically engineered "superman"; there has always been fanboy debate about his famous pecs, are they real or not... frankly, it is irrelevant. Montalban carries his physical prowess as a threat- despite his age and his weariness and the suffering he's endured- he can put the hurt on anyone still. Finally, there's the broken rage. Khan went from being one of the biggest, strongest, and most powerful leaders of old Earth and, by strange fits and starts, he has been reduced to nothing. Just a relic on the "barren, sand heap" of a planet. Of course, he is infuriated by the loss of his wife. That is something that anyone could relate to- the loss of a loved one. But for Khan, this was the last straw. He has lost it all- his wife was the last in a long line of indignities. And who has been responsible? The man who "woke" him in "Space Seed"- Kirk. Kirk woke him, deduced his identity, and thwarted Khan in his plans to take the Enterprise and begin again (a major theme for the movie).It was Kirk who sent him to Ceti Alpha V... Khan, a superhuman genius, in every way Kirk's superior- just can't get out from what Kirk has done to him, these last injustices. And Montalban gets that and nails it. He is all anger and fury- his other traits warped and diminished by his hate and resentment. Montalban makes that so apparent- no wonder he gets cred for being one of sci-fi's best villains- his reputation is well deserved.
|"Other people have birthdays- why are we treating yours like a damn funeral?"|
|The best scenes of Shatner's career|
|Spock's moving death|
|Even the other characters reflect the themes of the movie|
|Saavk represents the natural cycle|
However, I'd argue that the special effects ARE very good- even if there aren't a ton of them. Indeed, filmmakers today, obsessed with putting CGI into nearly every scene, could learn from TWOK. The effects are put into the service of the plot, and NOT the other way around. The battle scenes do exactly what they have to do- the tensions of "submarine warfare" are served by these ship effects. The Genesis simulations give you the sense of what's at stake (and the first major use of CGI, by the way) if Khan gets the Genesis device. Finally, the battle of the Mutara Nebula is visually stunning and memorable. Additionally, it serves the plot in a symbolic way- both Kirk and Khan are "lost" in the movie- Khan is lost to his desire for revenge, and Kirk is lost in terms of his youth and "place in the universe". Thus, both are symbolically lost, and their ships are just as blind- there is no clear path, and it is difficult to see your way out. In that sense, the Nebula effect is perfect for both the battle and the symbolism- and it DOES look great.
Thus, while TWOK's effects aren't the greatest- they work in service of the movie, and therefore, are used sparingly. Which is just fine.
|Great imagery, special effects, and music in this scene|
|Kirk has found peace after all- and the music conveys that|
Lasting Impact: There's so much here, it's not funny. The cultural impact is immense. From Kirk's "Noooo!" to Spock's death, to Khan's rage- its all here. The events set in motion here will reverberate thoughout the rest of the Trek movie series one way or the other. The uniforms, also, will be with the franchise from here on out.
|TWOK- Trek's best moment, or a curse?|
In any case, TWOK is, without doubt, the best Trek movie ever, and one of the best Sci-fi movies of all time. I would certainly give it 4 out of 4 Marks of Chaos. Hmmmm.... I think I know what I'm going to pop into the Blu-Ray player now...
Until next time!