Reel Rumbles #31: “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan” vs. “Star Trek”

Nigel Druitt

An avid Flickcharter since 2009, Nigel is a self-described fanboy whose Top 20 is dominated by the likes of Indiana Jones, Frodo Baggins and Marty McFly. Nigel is the Canadian arm of the Flickchart Blog, but try not to hold that against him. You can find him on Flickchart as johnmason.

You may also like...

6 Responses

  1. Covy says:

    This shouldn’t take more than 2 seconds of thought to decide, lol. ST2!

  2. Travis McClain says:

    It’s no secret I’m a major Trekker, and I’ve thought about various “Reel Rumbles” possibilities with the assorted Trek movies, but didn’t want to go too “nerd.” Commenting on someone else’s article, though…! ;)

    What you call a “genius” set-up, peppered with “happy coincidences” in describing Roberto Orci & Alex Kurtzman’s Star Trek story, I call unnecessary and lazy. I’ll refrain from raking them over the coals here, but there are simply too many questions that I think even casual viewers will eventually ask if they paid enough attention, and they’re questions that viewers will have even if this is the only Star Trek they’ve ever seen.

    Even without picking nits, there’s the question of what Nero’s beef with Spock really is. It’s stated in the movie he blames Spock for allowing Romulus to be destroyed, but why hold Spock accountable at all? Nero seems to be savvy enough to calculate when and where Spock will arrive in the past, but in all that time he hasn’t pieced together that if the Federation has the only thing that can save Romulus in the future, that destroying the Federation is a bad thing? Seriously, the dude had 25 years to work this out.

    And, yes, what Nero was actually doing for those 25 years is a major question mark. If you consider the deleted scene an official part of the story, you have to ask why, if he could escape with such apparent ease anyway, he allowed himself to remain a prisoner. If you consider the deleted scene as an excised plot point altogether, then the question is, “Why didn’t Nero do something in all that time?” If his goal was to destroy the Federation, why not conquer Romulus and marshal the entire Empire in a war against the Federation? Why operate as a rogue agent, when he’s clearly got the most advanced ship in that time period?

    For that matter: why hasn’t Nero appeared to really age in 25 years? Dude looks the same throughout the entire movie! You’d think a quarter century in a Klingon prison camp would age a guy.

    Conversely, I think when one watches The Wrath of Khan the only real questions are, “Was Khan in the TV show?” and “They bring Spock back, right?” I’d score Story in favor of Khan 9-6, and Screenplay 9-7 (what Star Trek lacks in sensibility it makes up for with little moments).

    Which reminds me: have you seen the video mashup someone did showing how, plot point-by-plot point, Star Trek had plagiarized Star Wars?

    Performances I have to give to Khan but it’s a lot closer for me. I was surprised by how much I bought the new cast in the old roles. They really did a great job all the way around, managing to convey the characters without aping the actors who’d portrayed them. And yes, Karl Urban stole the show as Dr. McCoy. What tips it for me in favor of Khan isn’t Montalban, but Shatner. He rarely displayed such nuance as Kirk as he did in this performance. This is the cocksure cowboy facing the sunset, and he knows it. This may be the only time that we ever have to wonder if Kirk may not actually be plagued with regrets and doubts. And just when we think he’s about to really break down, he bites an apple and tells us he doesn’t believe in a no-win scenario. It rescues Kirk from admitting frailty, and it keeps the film from becoming maudlin.

    Now, here’s the funny thing. Even though I clearly favor Khan in these observations, I think that movie is vastly overrated by Trekkers. Star Trek, like the majority of science fiction, is at its best when it creates imaginary people and worlds to use as an allegory for discussing our own world and our present day issues. Khan has some great character study material, but it never really talks about the issues facing the audience of 1982 (except, the side topic of the military misusing science). My chief complaint about Khan isn’t even its fault: it’s that too many subsequent Star Trek movies have tried too hard to emulate it, most notably the failed Nemesis and, to a large extent, Star Trek.

    Conversely, I think too many Trekkers have been too hard on the recent film. It’s full of plot holes, yes, and its villain is a weak Khan wannabe, but on the whole it was something that Star Trek hadn’t been in a long time: fun. I just hope that the next feature is thoughtful and fun.

    Oh, and The Undiscovered Country is better than both of these. ;)

  3. Nigel Druitt says:

    Jeez, Travis. Write your own article! :D

    *Trekkie Alert!*

    I can answer a couple of your questions, but you’re absolutely right: The new Trek is full of holes. Which is precisely what made me somewhat disappointed with it when I saw it in the theater. (And yes, because it is hella fun, I loved it a lot more the second time I saw it on DVD.)

    Nero waits as long as he does because he knows Future Spock (Nimoy) is following him back in time. He’s waiting for that Spock so that he can be a witness to the destruction of Vulcan the way that Nero was a witness to the destruction of Romulus.

    He doesn’t appear to age much because Vulcans and Romulans live – and, therefore, age – a lot slower than humans do. (He does suffer some facial scarring. Half of one of his ears is ripped off. Notice none of that is explained in the movie.)

    There are a couple of great comic book series from IDW Publishing that fill in some gaps. There’s an “official” prequel entitled “Countdown” that takes place in the future, establishing how Nero and Spock go back in time, and why Nero has his hate on for the Vulcan so much. Then they did another series entitled “Nero” which fills in that 25-year gap. Both are quite excellent, and if you’re a fan I’d recommend them.

    Thing is, they’re co-written by Kurtzman and Orci, and really do fill in major plot holes in the film. I had read the prequel before I saw the movie, and in essence, I knew what was missing. I didn’t like the fact that a comic book seemed to be required reading to understand a movie.

    I call their whole idea “brilliant”, because it gave them a way to create a clean slate, so they didn’t piss off the Trekkies by trampling all over the holy “canon”. The problem is, their plot grew a little too complicated for its own good.

    And by the way…I love The Undiscovered Country. But I’m back and forth over whether I actually prefer the ’09 film to it, and my favorites are Khan and First Contact. (I go back and forth on those two, as well.)

    (Cripes! These comments are longer than the blog itself!)

  4. Travis McClain says:

    I know all about the Vulcan/Romulan aging process, but think about how holding office aged President Bush (and appears to be aging President Obama). Life expectancy is only part of the story, and if he spent a quarter of a century as a Klingon prisoner, don’t you think that would show?

    As for waiting for Spock’s arrival, that doesn’t make sense to me, either. Why wait for Spock to begin his invasion? Why not conquer Vulcan and hold them under his heel until Spock’s arrival? I’m not saying he had to do it a week after arriving in the past, but it seems like his plan hinged on an awful lot of variables that might have been more in his favor with advance action.

    Lastly, I absolutely despise the outsourcing of storytelling to novels and comic books. If I’m supposed to know or care about something, it had damn well better be in the story as presented to me. I might have cared about all the dead Jedi in Revenge of the Sith had I not needed to consult an action figure database to know who the hell those people were. I did read IDW’s Countdown and Spock: Reflections. I kinda liked the former, but the latter was the kind of generic, incestuous tripe that’s put me off Star Trek novels and comics for the last decade. (Seriously, we needed yet another Spock-reacts-to-Generations story?) The art was awful nice, though.

    As for me, what I appreciate most about The Undiscovered Country was the socio-political content, the commentary on the end of the Cold War, Chernobyl, etc. It didn’t hurt that Christopher Plummer was great as General Chang, a multi-dimensional character instead of a one-dimensional villain. Chang’s motivations are understandable, even if we disagree with his actions. We hear him quote Shakespeare and we wonder: were it not for a war he didn’t start, would he have been one of the good guys? You’d be hard pressed to find another character in the Star Trek features as interesting or developed as him.

    (And First Contact is my #2 Trek feature because it kicks eight kinds of butt.)

  5. Nigel Druitt says:

    You definitely have some points there. I totally agree about the books. And Chang is right up there in the pantheon of Trek villains. No question.

    We do at least seem to agree on which ones are the good movies, if not quite the exact ranking of them. :)

  1. February 14, 2011

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Flickchart, Scrivener's Shared. Scrivener's Shared said: Reel Rumbles #31: “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan” vs. “Star Trek” […]