The Wrath of Kahn

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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.

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Star Trekking: Galactic Musings from a Starship Newbie: Episode 1

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I’ve been in a relationship with a Trekkie for three nerdy years and seven geeky months, and until last night, I’d never seen a full episode of Star Trek—at least not one I’d intentionally paid attention to. I remember the show being on when I was growing up. In particular, I remember seeing Patrick Stewart and Whoopi Goldberg onscreen. But space was never really my thing. I was into very serious literature during my formative years. I craved stories of tortured love and metaphorically invisible men, not space exploration.

However, with age comes a more open mind and varied tastes. Recently, I decided I was ready to begin my formal education of red shirts and tribbles and “Beam me up, Scotty.” (Hopefully these are correct pop culture references for what I’ll be watching? I’m such a virgin here, guys.)

I’m committed to working my way through all of the seasons of Star Trek and its various iterations (even the ones my boyfriend has admitted weren’t the best). I also decided this would be fun to document here on the blog. I won’t recap every single episode, because holy Data, that would be a lot of entries, but I will post the funniest, most philosophical, most interesting musings as I work my way through the galaxy.

I asked my boyfriend where to begin. He was ready.

Armed with calzones, salad, and beer, we boarded the starship Enterprise last night and watched Episode 1 of Season 1 of Star Trek: The Next Generation: Encounter at Farpoint: Parts 1 and 2.

And here’s what I thought…

The theme song is truly catchy. I miss orchestrated, grandiose theme songs that were an integral part of a show. It seems we speed through introductions and credits these days.

That opening shot of Patrick Stewart. So dramatic! So well lit! So 80s! Also, he doesn’t age.

I know the special effects of this time might make modern audiences cringe (I mean, we have come a long way), but seriously, how cool would it have been to work on this show or even just watch the show when new visual techniques were being introduced? For 1987, pretty cutting edge.

This exchange:

Lt. Commander Data: Inquiry: the word…’snoop’?

Captain Jean-Luc Picard: Data, how can you be programmed as a virtual encyclopedia of human information without knowing a simple work like ‘snoop’?

Lt. Commander Data: Possibility: a king of human behavior I was not designed to emulate.

That force field is rather hypnotic.

Q’s first appearance is very cheesy. Speaking in Olde English? I couldn’t really take him seriously until he started changing into other figures and representations. Then, he was pretty damn creepy.

“Knowing humans as thou dost, Captain, wouldst thou be captured helpless by them?” An interesting question to be posed in 1987—and I think it’s still applicable today. I can’t say that I blame Q for being pessimistic. I wonder, if we were able to take space exploration to this level, would our first instinct be to protect ourselves and fear the unknown, or would we truly be able to be investigatory first and reactionary second?

The Q courtroom is terrifying…but I kind of want that judge chair to float around in…

Wil Wheaton was a freaking adorable kid!

When Picard said, “I don’t feel comfortable with children,” I turned to my boyfriend and said, “Oh my God, it’s you.”

“You treat her like a lady, and she’ll always bring you home.” Love that line. Wise advice.

Counselor Deanna Troi is fierce.

After the newly reunited alien beings held hands at the end of the episode, I predicted they found some privacy and made sweet, sweet alien love.

And you know what, I’m excited for the next few episodes!