The joy of experienceing WRATH OF KHAN on the big screen
Tickets for the 30th anniversary screening of, "Star Trek: Wrath of Khan" with director Nicholas Meyer in attendance for a Q&A go on sale Monday. Tickets are $4 each. Here is one fan's experience with seeing the movie on the big screen for the first time recently.
I sat down in the Colony Theatre in Raleigh with a giddiness in my belly I hadn't felt in a long time. I was about to see "Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan" on the big screen.
Now, I freely admit, proudly, that I am a, "Star Trek" fan. I have been since I was a kid. I watched the old animated "Star Trek" episode reruns on Nickelodeon, then I watched the Original Series. It was one of the few shows my folks would let me watch as a kid, mainly because they used to watch it growing up.
And " Star Trek II" was, for an 8-year-old fan, the Holy Grail of Star Trek lore. As a story, "Star Trek II" had everything: Action and adventure, a classic good guy (Jim Kirk) and a classic villain (Khan Noonian Singh), loss and redemption.
Of course, all of this was lost on an 8-year-old. I was entranced by the cat-and-mouse game, as the Enterprise and the Reliant hunted each other in the galactic soupy mess of the Mutara Nebula.
But as I got older, and my cultural tastes matured, I would watch "Star Trek I" I from a more critical eye. And I finally realized why "Star Trek II" is my favorite film of all.
First, a bit of history: Paramount Pictures resurrected Star Trek in the late 1970s with "Star Trek: The Motion Picture," mainly as a response to the success of, "Star Wars."
The studio wanted an epic film set in space, with the original crew and an updated Enterprise (which is still my favorite iteration of the iconic space vessel), a story crafted by Isaac Asimov, a sci-fi godfather, and directed by another Hollywood godfather, Robert Wise.
Wise also directed a classic sci-fi film, "The Day the Earth Stood Still," where the robot Gort threatened to destroy all humanity with his nuclear eye.
Coupled with William Shatner in the captain's chair, Leonard Nimoy with the pointy ears and DeForest Kelley cracking wise in futuristic scrubs, it seemed like the band had gotten back together to create magic.
Except that didn't happen. Not by a long shot.
The Motion Picture was a plodding flop that felt more like bad space opera, but made money. And it was two hours long. The story wasn't bad (an ancient probe travels so far and learns so much that attains consciousness and returns to join with its creator), it was just poorly executed, and nearly sank the franchise.
As Leonard Nimoy said, "It wasn't Star Trek."
So the studio took the franchise away from its creator, Gene Roddenberry, the Great Bird of the Galaxy, but who also was an incredible hippie that would let his idealism get in the way of a good story.
They gave control to Harve Bennett, who brought on a young writer and director, Nicholas Meyer, to write a new "Star Trek" in hopes of salvaging the franchise.
Meyer and Bennett rebooted the series — long before rebooting was an everyday term and a popular Hollywood strategy.
Meyer had written "Time After Time," a new take on H.G. Wells' adventure "The Time Machine," and he'd re-imagined Sherlock Holmes, so he had some experience in reboots.
Meyer went back to the source material, The Original Series, for inspiration and found an episode form the first season, "Space Seed."
The Enterprise discovered a derelict sleeper ship in deep space, the Botany Bay, which carried Khan and his crew. Khan was the product of eugenics program, where scientists tried to "improve the species" by messing with genetics.
What they, instead, produced was a race of supermen that enslaved Earth. A third world war resulted and the supermen either were killed or fled. Khan and his people took a sleeper ship and headed out into space in search of another world to conquer.
Instead, they slept for two centuries only to be discovered by Capt. Kirk and crew. They woke Khan up, who still felt the boil of conquest in his blood, and he tried to take over the Enterprise. But his hubris got in the way, and Kirk beat him down in a cheesy fight scene down in the engine room.
Realizing that Khan could never be rehabilitated to 23rd Century ideals, Kirk gave Khan a choice: Spend the rest of his life in prison or try again at ruling a world.
He set Khan and his crew down on Ceti Alpha V, a wild world with which to tame, and headed off into the starscape to continue the five-year mission.
Meyer and Bennett knew where to pick the story up from there. Set it 15 years later, after the five-year mission is long over. Spock is captain of the Enterprise now, training a new crew for exploration. Kirk is an admiral, assigned to a desk at Starfleet Headquarters. It's also his birthday — we don't know which one, but assuming it's 50 — and he's feeling old, worn out.
Oh, and he meets a son that he's never met.
It's this existential crisis that serves as the backdrop for the film, which brings back a deadly foe for Kirk (with Ricardo Montalban reprising his legendary role).
Playing up the Horatio Hornblower aspect of Star Trek, Meyer and Bennet put the crew in naval-type uniforms (over the objections of Roddenberry), had the Enterprise and Reliant trade phaser blasts like they were cannonballs, and throw in a doomsday weapon that threatens the universe, allusions to Moby Dick, utilitarian philosophy and dealing with life and death in Shakespearian terms and you've got a hell of a sci-fi movie.
Not just a sci-fi movie, but a damn good movie, period. Good sci-fi isn't about all the technology or the setting, but the timeless story lines that we've been telling since Greek tragedies.
And these characters are classic archetypes, and that's why J.J. Abrams' 2009 reboot worked so well. But it would have never worked had there never been, "Star Trek II," had the franchise died with the first motion picture.
"Star Trek II" ended up being the first of an accidental trilogy, with "Start Trek III: The Search for Spock" and "Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home" (which was the highest-grossing film of the franchise and arguably the most popular), but "Star Trek II" has lasted the test of time.
Watching "Star Trek II" on the big screen brought a whole new dimension to the film to me. There were things I had never noticed before, because I'd only seen it on TV screens.
I reconnected with timeless characters I had known all my life, and I felt like a kid again.
That's the magic of film and of good storytelling.
Live long, and prosper.
* * * * *
We would like to thank our sponsors:
The Independent Tribune; the Gem Theatre; The City of Kannapolis Parks and Recreation Department; Restaurant Forty Six; Cabarrus Regional Film Commission; Sign Market; Cabarrus Arts Council; Sleep Inn of Concord; John Cox, Cabarrus Regional Chamber of Commerce; Alex Rankin, CESI Land Development Services; Black Buck Graphics; Comic Monstore of Salisbury, Stiff Magazine, Old Stone Vino Bistro and Wine Bar
For out of town guests, Sleep Inn of Concordl is offering a special rate to Modern Film Fest customers with rooms with King beds at $69 a night and rooms with a double bed for $75 the first night, or $69 per night when getting two or more nights.
Sleep Inn Concord Exit 60<http://www.sleepinn.com/hotel-concord-north_carolina-NC288>
***Contact the front desk to confirm your negotiated rates by September
15th at 704.788.2150***