Trolling the Trekkies: Why ‘Wrath of Khan’ is Overrated

It occurs to me that I’m in possession of a really, really unpopular opinion. And there’s nothing the blogosphere loves more than unpopular opinions. So here goes:

I’m not that big a fan of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.

(Please don’t hurt me!)

In the interest of full disclosure, I’m not much of a trekkie. It’s my wife who loves the Trek, and since she refuses to give Star Wars a chance, I find myself watching all them star tracks over and over again. And they’re mostly good. I’m not saying they’re bad.

I just don’t see how Khan is the best one, even though everybody says it is. There are something like half a dozen Trek movies that hold up better.

That’s all I’m saying.

Do you want to see my personal ranking of all 12 films? Would that help?

You do? It would?

Oh, thank you! You’re so good to me, imaginary reader I’m talking to! Here’s how it breaks down for me:


Star-Trek-IV-poster-21. The Voyage Home (IV)

Yeah, this one — the sitcom-y one where they travel back in time and Shatner shouts “Double dumbass on you!” at some random guy on the street — is my favorite. I’m biased, because I have an embarrassing love for all things cheesy and corny, but what’s wrong with preferring movies that are actually fun — especially when the original series itself was so cheesy and corny? Asking me to take Star Trek seriously is like asking me to take Batman seriously.

Okay, now there are at least two nerd fatwas out on my head.


 

First-Contact-poster2. First Contact (VIII)

I think most people agree this is one of the best in the series, so I’m not saying anything too controversial here. This might be the best example of a Trek movie with something for everyone, and not in a lame “Fun for the Whole Family!” sort of way. It opens with an epic space battle before segueing into some tense stealth scenes, some weird robot sex, Patrick Stewart with a tommy gun, some stylish magnetic boots, and some honest meditation on the age-old question, “Why does man look to the stars?” Also, they finally let LeVar Burton ditch that stupid visor, and he returns the favor by putting in one of the best performances of his career.


 

star_trek-newposter33. Star Trek (XI)

You knew this one was coming as soon as I said I was a Star Wars fan, seeing as this one is pretty much a Wars film in Trek clothing. It’s fun, it’s fast, it’s jokey, and it’s all about young turks sticking it to The Man. But we all love this one. It’s so much fun, it even got away with tossing canon and continuity to the wind, which is amazing, given that Trek fans have been known to kill for less.


 

108551_orig4. The Undiscovered Country (VI)

This might be the one that manages to get the most stuff right, in general. It’s the Murder on the Orient Express of the series, and it manages to make its mystery plot culturally relevant without descending into conspiracy-theory nonsense. It’s epic and claustrophobic all at once, and it carries on the sociopolitical commentary of the series with aplomb. Side note: “aplomb” is a stupid word.


 

ST Insurrection Poster US 015. Insurrection (IX)

I know people are divided on this one, but let me make my case for it. Insurrection is the kind of sci-fi flick that almost never gets made anymore: a low-budget, quick-and-dirty, noir-esque mystery set on a remote planet. It’s a modern-day B-movie in the best possible sense: a great script full of twists and turns, produced economically and efficiently. It’s also pretty much the only Trek movie where they actually “seek out new life and new civilizations,” for whatever that’s worth.


 

star-trek-into-darkness-teaser-poster1-610x9036. Into Darkness (XII)

And…this is where things start to get thorny, because Into Darkness and Wrath of Khan are the only two good movies left, and I could put them in either order — because, the thing is, they’re the exact same movie. I feel like Darkness deals with the Khan character a little better than Wrath does, but it borrows so many ideas from Wrath that it ends up feeling lazy. If you put them side-by-side and made me choose which one I’d rather take with me to a desert island, I’d probably choose Darkness, but since I’m not going to a desert island, I’ll just say that watching Darkness is nearly as pointless as listening to Aerosmith’s cover of “Come Together.”


 

Star-Trek-II-The-Wrath-of-Khan-poster-star-trek-movies-8475612-1707-25607. Wrath of Khan (II)

And here we are. I’ll admit it’s a good movie, but I’m just not sure it’s a great movie. There are just too many things that bug me about it. Like, for instance:

  • The way Trekkies speak of it in hushed tones led me to expect some sort of epic masterpiece, but what I got instead were two spaceships playing cat-and-mouse for a couple hours.
  • The Genesis Project just doesn’t seem that threatening of a super-weapon. It’s just cuddly early-’80s CGI.
  • Despite the series’s and the film’s insistence that Khan is genetically engineered to be a super-genius, he ultimately loses due to a bunch of really stupid blunders.

I’m generally good at suspending my disbelief, but I just have too many hang-ups to really get into this one.


 

Is there really any reason to list the rest? I guess I might as well finish…


 

Movies-for-Gamers-Star-Trek-The-Motion-Picture-Poster8. The Motion Picture (I)

I don’t think I’m saying anything too controversial when I say this is the best of the bad Trek movies. In fact, it’s so visually stunning that it’s almost tragic it bombed as hard as it did (subsequent Trek movies would be much cheaper and much uglier). As it is, it’s really, really pretty, and really, really boring — like a remake of 2001 that completely misses what was actually good about 2001. Oh well.


 

star_trek_V_b1_us1sh9. The Final Frontier (V)

The problem with this one is that it could have been awesome. The idea — “Let’s search for God in outer space!” — might be a little half-baked on the surface, but it’s rich with thematic potential. It’s too bad they wussed out in the last act and decided to have no opinion on God’s existence. Even a movie where they discovered Scientology was the One True Faith would have been more interesting.

 


 

star-trek-generations-poster10. Generations (VII)

I’m okay with the campiness of the original series, and I’m okay with the self-seriousness of The Next Generation, but as far as I’m concerned the two don’t really go together. Smashing them into one movie is less like the great taste of chocolate and peanut butter, and more like the self-loathing feel of Pitbull-meets-hoedown.

 

 


 

Star-Trek-X-Nemesis-poster-star-trek-movies-8475703-1000-147811. Nemesis (X)

At least The Final Frontier is unforgivably terrible, and therefore interesting. Nemesis is just plain boring. I seriously can’t think of anything interesting to say about it, except, what was Picard’s clone thinking with that stupid trench coat? Apparently, even centuries in the future, Hot Topic is still a thing.

 

 


 

search-for-spock-poster12. The Search for Spock (III)

This is the other pointlessly boring one. The entire movie exists only to undo the climax of Wrath of Khan, and it’s a slog. They actually got this one right with Into Darkness: they used the exact same faux-heartrending climax, but managed to undo it before the end credits rolled. Now that’s smart filmmaking.

 

 


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3 thoughts on “Trolling the Trekkies: Why ‘Wrath of Khan’ is Overrated

  1. The 1976 porn movie, “Star Trick” didn’t make your cut?

    Seriously, a few months ago I jokingly said to a Trekkie friend that I should make a porn film titled, “Star Trick”. Someone in 1976 beat me to the idea. I reckon I’m not as creative as I thought I was.

  2. Interesting list. I haven’t seen most of these yet, but I’m embarrassed for you that you missed a golden chance to bring up the original movie’s (kind of awesome) nickname: Star Trek: The Slow Motion Picture.

  3. Pingback: Thoughts on Hobby Lobby: “Rights” Don’t Really Exist, So Let’s Stop Pretending They Do | The Western Branch of American Reform Presbylutheranism

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