The Wrath of Kahn


It only took me 35 years to see Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kahn—which is forgivable, I guess, since I’m only 32, so the film is little before my time.

Even as a kid, Star Trek wasn’t really on my radar. I was too busy singing Janet Jackson tunes, dreaming of being a figure skater, and reading as many books as I could get my hands on (I was particularly fond of fairytales and R.L. Stine books).

I didn’t grow into my innate geekery until college, and when I finally dipped my toe in, my attention was drawn to Star Wars, The Dark Tower, and Batman.

In January, I’ll marry a bona fide Star Trek fan, so there’s been a bit of an intergalactic education happening to get me caught up. And I have to say, I’m really enjoying it!

Last week, Bryan sent me a text letting me know our local movie theater was showing Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kahn to celebrate its 35th anniversary. Like any good fiancée and self-proclaimed geek, I told him that of course we were going and I’d be happy to get us tickets.

Confession: before last night, I hadn’t watched any of the original Star Trek movies. I’ve seen the new movies, and Bryan and I have been working our way through TV episodes of Next Generation, but that’s about the extent of it.

Because I hadn’t seen any of the OG Star Trek films, I didn’t know what to expect of The Wrath of Kahn other than 80s-movie aesthetic and sensibility—a little cheese, awesomely bad hair, and practical effects since 1982 was well before CGI became all the rage.

Last night, armed with popcorn, Dots, and a handsome man by my side, I was ready to visit the 80s—and perhaps a nebula.

To my delight, a few moviegoers arrived in subtle cosplay. I spotted at least one red shirt and a number of communicator badges that caught the light in the theater.

When the showing began with a sit-down interview with William Shatner, Bryan told me when to cover my ears to avoid spoiling the film. He hand-fed me popcorn all the while, because I have a supportive partner who understands my obsession with movie theater popcorn and how sad it was to stop eating it in order to cover my ears.

As the opening credits rolled, I was struck with that marvelous twang of nostalgia that hits me every single time I sit down to watch an “old” movie. James Horner’s score swept me away into the far reaches of the galaxy and…I watched, I laughed, and I applauded.

Simply put, The Wrath of Kahn was wonderful. Undoubtedly a triumph of filmmaking for its time, it was clever and enjoyable for me, 35 years after its premiere, which is impressive.

What stood out?

The dialogue. The way in which the characters talk to each other is incredibly intelligent and entertaining (albeit a little cheesy from time to time, but I love that sort of thing). There are some fantastic lines and exchanges in this film – “Physician, heal thyself!”—“Ah, Kirk, my old friend, do you know the Klingon proverb that tells us revenge is a dish best served cold? It is very cold in space!”—“’Suppose they went nowhere’ ‘Then this will be your big chance to get away from it all.’” And, of course, the classic Shatner shout of “KAAAAHHHHHNNNN” (a la “STELLLLLA” in A Streetcar Named Desire). The literature major in me really appreciated the Tale of Two Cities and Moby Dick references, too.

The absence of ambient noise. Sure, The Wrath of Kahn is full of truly iconic music and plenty of sound engineering to accompany battle scenes and special effects. But when it’s quiet, it’s really quiet—like when Kirk and McCoy are “celebrating” Kirk’s birthday with Romulan ale and a friendly heart-to-heart. The lack of background noise is a distinct difference between dated and contemporary films. Modern movies use a lot of ambient song or noise to create moods and evoke emotion in audience members (the most obvious example being horror film soundtracks; you can’t sneak down a midnight-black hallway without a taut strings accompaniment, can you?). When that ambient noise is missing, it’s up to the actors to bring the emotion, to let moviegoers know what that should be feeling at any particular moment. It’s pretty cool to see (and hear) this stripped approach, and it makes me admire the actors’ performances that much more.

The use of practical effects. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but there’s something special about practical effects that make them damn near timeless; okay, okay, maybe that’s a bit much. They do age, but not as quickly as over-the-top CGI effects that often just look…well, fake. There’s something cool, too, about the fact that the Wrath of Kahn filmmakers couldn’t just go, “Yeah, we’ll just create all of this on a computer, so there’s no need to film anything.” They had to think through how to shoot starships traveling in space, building model after model until they got it right. They constructed that eel-earworm-thing of my nightmares out of latex (puppetry is so rad!). Their stunt doubles were busy, flying through the air every time the Enterprise or the Reliant was hit. I can appreciate what filmmakers in the 80s were up against and the vision it took to create alternate realities (like Star Trek) onscreen.

khanAnd I can’t talk about this movie without fangirling over the actor who played Kahn, Ricardo Montalban. He is the epitome of the perfect 80s villain with his rock star hair (I immediately thought of Bowie in Labyrinth), dramatic delivery, expressive eyes, and whoa nelly, those pecs! (I can’t believe he was in his 60s while filming this movie and still so incredibly fit.) As a moviegoer, I loathed him the second he came onscreen. You just know he’s a bad dude, so it feels good to root for all our heroes aboard the Enterprise.

Yep, after seeing The Wrath of Kahn, I’d be down to watch another OG Star Trek movie. Bryan tells me two, four, and six are the best. To that, I say, bring on the popcorn.


Mesa, You Surprised Me


This blog post was supposed to be solely about DinoCon, an inaugural event held this past Saturday at the Arizona Natural History Museum for dinosaur enthusiasts. And part of it will be. After all, the convention is how my boyfriend and I wound up in Mesa – of all places – this weekend.

Let me set the stage for you. We love Phoenix, particularly Central Phoenix, which has been steadily growing and developing its culture the past five years. Personally, I love the entrepreneur spirit of Roosevelt Row, the live music scene that sometimes sprouts up on street corners, the energy of a city on the brink, public meeting spaces, food trucks, all of it.

So, you know, Mesa is definitely outside of that bubble. It’s not normally a place we would visit, because why leave Central Phoenix when it has so much to offer? (Oh God, I’ve become one of them – a Central Phoenix hipster!)

Glitter dinos

But then we saw the flyer for DinoCon after spending a day at Phoenix ComiCon. Our intention to go to the event started off as a joke. Dude, there’s a dinosaur convention! We agreed it was an amusing concept, it was a free event (with reservation), and we’re always down for new adventures, so why not go? Add on the fact that my boyfriend has a soft spot for archaeology and it was a done deal. We reserved our tickets and prepared to travel out of the bubble for something that was either going to be really awesome or a total bust.

DinoCon was extremely fun. When we arrived at the Arizona Natural History Museum, there was a Jeep parked in front tricked out to look like it was from the Jurassic Park movie – right next to a bronze velociraptor – naturally. Inside, we took pictures at a photo booth and then donned dinosaur temporary tattoos. In the auditorium, the first presenter was midway through his speech about why Dinobots (sidekicks to the Autobots Transformers of the 80s and 90s) were the shit. There were old commercial clips from YouTube and photos of rare Dinobots. The next presenter shared how she turned a Martha Stewart craft into a dino craft. I now have the knowledge to create dino snow globes, glitter centerpieces, and corncob holders. Watch out, world!

Comic store

After those two presentations, we decided to stroll down Main Street for a cold drink and to see what other trouble we could get into. We spotted a comic book store with amazing alley art that also offered coffee drinks – score!– and decided this was a much-needed detour. We entered Gotham City Comics through the back entrance and stumbled upon a yo-yo class – like the kind that prepares you for competitions, complete with instructions on how to walk the dog and shoot the moon. After ordering a Thor’s Hammer (espresso and caramel), I seriously considered buying a couple of Sandman graphic novels (my obsession with Neil Gaiman is reaching troublesome levels now).

A few doors down, we visited Milano Music, which was kind of an amazing place for a seasoned musician and a burgeoning one. I’ve never seen such a smorgasbord of saxophones – interesting ones with finishes that made them look like they belonged at a steampunk convention. I’ve been playing my guitar, Lucille, exclusively since I started lessons and it was cool to pick up some other instruments and strum them. I also played my first 12-string guitar. Not gonna lie, I love the sound. And Matt Nathanson plays 12-string, so it’s inherently cool.

I can’t remember the name of the other music store we wandered into, but this one was smaller and looked like virtually everything in stock had already been loved by another musician. Which also means there were some cool vintage pieces, some things I’d never seen before. The owner seemed a little cranky and a lot coarse. He was talking about Rockstar Supernova when we came in, trying to remember the name of that guy “who was fucking all the strippers.” And then he proceeded to recount how Bono’s son was a crybaby. Ah, musicians.


Our last stop of the day was my favorite and I’m pretty sure my boyfriend saw me geek out on an entirely new level. The Book Gallery was one of the most beautiful places I’ve even been. When you walked in, you smelled the leather and the worn pages of old books. The hardwood floors squeaked beneath my feet and there were ladders everywhere, so I could check out the books on the very top of the huge bookshelves. And they had everything. Biographies of first ladies, check. Franklin Press books, check. Black studies, check. Collectors’ children’s books, check. I was in heaven. And even better, I felt at home.

I tried to explain why I loved this bookstore so much to my boyfriend and I think it came out a little something like this. Writing a book is hard. I’ve tried to do it. There’s so much work involved – and also so much creativity that has to come into play. It’s very personal. Every book in that shop represented someone who’d had an idea, a story, an inspiration, and they saw it through to publication. I was surrounded by people who’d succeeded. And it was inspiring. It made me think maybe I could do it someday.

I have no idea how long we stayed in the Book Gallery. I could have stayed there all day. But then I would’ve probably made a ridiculous offer to the owner to buy the whole thing – every book, the store, the ladders, all of it. And that’s just not a good idea.

While walking to the car to drive back to our bubble, my boyfriend and I both agreed that it had been a great day full of new adventures, cool finds, and geeking out.

Mesa, you surprised me. We’ll be back.