Even those not into Gene Roddenberry’s brand of cosmic religiosity will find themselves wrapped up in the nonsense of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, which remains the best of the ST movies for two solid reasons: William Shatner as Kirk and Ricardo Montalban as Khan giving benchmark performances as the series’ top adversaries. In old man’s specs, consumed by mortality, Shatner embodies Kirk with a cushiony frailty surprisingly endearing; the role has finally become a love-energy source. Montalban’s all diametrics—roaring Milton and Melville with glorious venom—and his pecs validate the striptease vanity; a face with wrinkles as hills, this force of nature is more powerful here than he has ever been in anything else in his long career. The movie also has a great theme: regeneration, something maybe our great great grand kids will likely see attempted if not on ourslves then a distance plant. While Wrath of Khan is really nothing more than television, director Nicholas Meyer has provided nifty understatement in its interiors and gadgetry, and Kirk’s quarters a well-designed cozy hideaway I wouldn’t mind having myself. (And gay friends said they wouldn’t object if I called the costumes here NASA fag.) In a more generous time, Hollywood might have honored this neglected class of entertainment with nominations for Shatner and Montalban’s “take us, we’re yours” performances. People have won Oscars for much less. Meyer also directed ST VI: The Undiscovered Country, with Christopher Plummer as General Chang in what many hoped would be the actor’s yummiest role in years. He certainly looks the part—reptilian flamboyance like no tomorrow. He’s far and away Kirk’s craftiest adversary after Khan and as educated: he rages Shakespeare. There’s even a slyly under-directed bit of continuity between the villains and Kirk: sitting at a dining table with Chang and hearing him recite from the master, there’s déjà vu conveyed through the captain’s eyes. Lots of problems with the script and fights over budget, not hurting audience and critic reception, but the adventure needs Plummer’s role to be much larger, since, one, it was specifically written for him by Meyer and, two, he commands a ship capable of fire torpedoes while using the infamous Klingon cloaking device, a technological feat Trekkies have been waiting to see unleashed for close to 25 years.



Text COPYRIGHT © 1997 RALPH BENNER  All Rights Reserved.