On June 4th, 1982 Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan was released, and Star Trek changed forever. In the intervening 29 years nine more Star Trek feature films have been released, yet this relatively low budget entry is still considered the best of the franchise. Today TrekMovie celebrates Khan.
Happy Anniversary to Wrath of Khan
The late 1970s saw a resurgence of movie science fiction, with films like Close Encounters of the Third Kind and especially Star Wars, leading to Paramount reviving its Star Trek franchise on the big screen. The result was Star Trek: The Motion Picture in 1979, a big-budget feature helmed by Academy Award-winning director Robert Wise. Although the film made a profit and was an impressive epic, it didn’t meet Paramount’s expectations and for the follow-up they turned to TV producer Harve Bennett to deliver a sequel for a fraction of the price.
Bennett turned to young Nicholas Meyer to direct the film, making it his second feature (following Time After Time). The full Star Trek cast were set to return, although Leonard Nimoy took some convincing. As filming was rapidly approaching Nicholas Meyer took it upon himself to write the screenplay, taking elements from the various drafts. The result was a change in tone from The Motion Picture, with more humor and a return to the Horatio Hornblower style adventure. Oh, and a return to a classic Star Trek bad guy, Khan Noonien Singh.
Star Trek II Trailer
By the weekend of June 4th 1982 fans and critics were excited about a new (and different) Star Trek adventure. Roger Ebert was especially impressed with Ricardo Montalban’s performance, noting how it illustrates the axiom "Each film is only as good as its villain." Star Trek II set a new standard, one that subsequent Star Trek films have been trying to match ever since.
Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan opened with a $14.3 million weekend which may not sound like a lot these days, but was actually the biggest weekend of 1982. In the end Khan was the #6 domestic grossing film of the year, beating out movies like the Eddie Murphy hit comedy 48 Hrs, and the horror classic Poltergeist. The success of Wrath of Khan lead to a series of popular Star Trek films with the original cast and produced by Bennett. And this successful run certainly helped set the stage for the franchise’s return to its TV roots with Star Trek: The Next Generation in 1987.
It is not hyperbole to say that much of the success of the Star Trek franchise, still going strong today, can be attributed to Wrath of Khan. So today, TrekMovie.com says thanks to Messrs. Bennett and Meyer and the rest of the TWOK team for bringing us a beloved film and reinvigorating Star Trek (again).
And who can forget…
Death and funeral of Spock
Reminder: Star Trek II screening w/ Nick Meyer on Friday in LA
And to remind you again, The LA Times 2011 Hero Complex Film Festival (June 9-12) will go all Star Trek on Friday June 10th. They will be showing a double-feature with a screening of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan followed by a chat with director Nicholas Meyer, and then a screening of Star Trek (2009) plus discussion with Star Trek writer/producers Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci & Damon Lindelof. Tickets cost $45 each. CLICK HERE for full schedule and to buy online.
What is your Wrath of Khan memory?
On a personal note, I can still remember seeing Khan in theaters (again and again) as a kid in Los Angeles. Although I like The Motion Picture, it still felt like it was missing something of the Star Trek franchise that I grew to love through the 1970s reruns in syndication. Wrath of Khan brought that back and more and is the film that also reinvigorated my inner Trekkie. I haven’t looked back since.
So what about you? When did you first see Khan? Is Khan still your favorite Star Trek film? Sound off in the comments section below.