The film starts out with Kirstie Alley as captain during the Kobayashi Maru training session. The discussion of the Kobayashi throughout the film was fun to watch. Having seen 2009’s Star Trek, I knew how Kirk beat the test, but the challenge was a great way to externalize the inner fears and dangers that come with being the captain of a starfleet ship.
Right away I could tell the style of filmmaking differed from TMP. It substituted the static, interesting framing for more of an action focused directing style with lots of movements to emphasize beat changes and shallow focus. I think I prefer the directorial style of TMP because of its depth within simplicity, which to me is what Star Trek does best.
As far as plot goes, Khan did feel much more like a full length feature. It was satisfying and wrapped up nicely. The addition of a formidable foe gave the characters meaning and created conflict. I did enjoy the Moby Dick-ness of Khan as he dismissed all logic to go after his white whale, Kirk.
But yet, I was never impressed much with Khan. Mostly because I got to know so very little of him. He vaguely explains that he’s from 1996, got cryogenically frozen, and then somehow did something to make Kirk banish him to a remote planet that eventually got blown away due to a nearby planet exploding?? It’s a lot of information and backstory to a rivalry that I really had no investment in. I just learned today that Khan was a product of an episode of the original series, which makes sense. This, again, is an example of playing this to the established fanbase rather than the general public. But Khan keeps talking about being genetically altered to be a superior being, but we never really get to see any of that. We see him pick up Chekov but that’s about it, physically. I honestly never thought he was ultra-smart since time after time Kirk is able to defeat his wits. Does that mean Kirk is a superhuman?
The rivalry between Khan and Kirk is great and I was anxiously awaiting for them to come face to face. It would have heightened the story so much to actually see the rivalry face to face rather than in distant ships over viewer monitors. Since Khan never gets to see any of the crew face to face, and continuing to be outwitted by Kirk, he makes for a rather disappointing villain. His Mad Max/hairband crew also seemed a bit dimwitted.
Once again Kirk somehow gets control of the Enterprise. Of the three Star Trek movies I’ve seen, the theme of Kirk needing to feed his ego by taking over the ship, has been in each one. I’m not sure what the purpose of coming up with all these different scenarios of Kirk becoming captain is for. It makes me wish to see a movie when Kirk and the crew were in their prime. But I guess that’s what the TV series was for.
What I did like about Khan were the several themes. The theme of aging, shown by Kirk’s sadness during his birthday, and the young inexperienced crew created a dynamic that allowed Kirk to prove to himself and to others that he still had what it took. Kirk’s aging was countered by the Genesis project and the idea of creation of new planets. The death of Spock symbolized the death of Kirk’s counterpoint. Spock’s dead body being sent to this rebirth of a planet allowed Kirk to encounter death in a way he never did, and in a sense released his fear of getting older and dying.
I did enjoy the tactical warfare used in the film. It wasn’t a “whoever has the biggest gun wins” type of battle. There was strategy and cleverness to each scene. The humor in this film was subtle, and quite enjoyable, especially from Bones. Also, Shatner’s acting is improved from TMP, thankfully.
I guess I never picked up that Kirk had a son until the very end. Somehow that flew over my head. Was there really a need for Kirk to suddenly have a child? Or even a past lover? I never really understood their relationship so I had no vested interest.
Khan was an entertaining film that had great scenes and showcased more action and some witty dialogue and schemes. The connection between themes and especially having Spock die is what made this a very good movie.