Jacob Latimore, Forest Whitaker and Angela Bassett star in director Kasi Lemmons' seasonal drama.
On Film4: 17 Dec 11:00AM
Second excursion for the TV series Enterprise crew. An action-packed episode replete with melodramatic vengeance, cod-literary dialogue, histrionic tragedies and Ricardo Montalban's muscular chest
After the stately - many would say turgid - Star Trek: The Motion Picture, the second movie spin-off of the original Star Trek TV series opts for a more action-packed formula.
In effect, The Wrath Of Khan is a sequel to a specific episode of the TV series - 'Space Seed', which featured then captain but now admiral Kirk (William Shatner) confronting Federation renegade Khan Noonien Singh (Ricardo Montalbán) and leaving him imprisoned on a desolate planet. Khan - a genetically superior Ubermensch - is understandably peeved at Kirk and has spent years hatching a plan for revenge.
Tricking the Enterprise crew, Khan and his Chippendale crewmate fellow prisoners escape. The ensuing battle between Khan and Kirk is over the Genesis device, a top-secret Starfleet invention that has the ability to bring about life on entire planets, but is so powerful it is also a potentially devastating weapon (that has, incidentally, been developed by one of Kirk's former loves, the mother of his now adult son).
Costing only $11 million (less than a third of the budget of 1979's Star Trek: The Motion Picture), the comparatively low-budget production had to recycle sets from the previous film or have new sets double up, with different dressing. The film even boasted some fabulous melodramatics, largely thanks to Montalban's over-the-top performance, which featured Khan speechifying in lines of Shakespeare and Melville (the Moby Dick allusions are particularly laboured). Despite these dubious qualities, the film was a hit, notably with fans craving the high drama and action of the TV series.
Regardless of the pretensions of screenwriters Harve Bennett and Jack B Sowards it's not Shakespeare, but it's certainly fun.
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