Author’s Note: While on a survey mission, Al Gore is sucked into a giant hole in the ozone that deposits him in the past. Stranded, he uses his knowledge of the future to invent the internet decades sooner than he did in his original timeline. By the 1980s, the internet has evolved to what it became by the early 21st century, dragging fan culture with it.
This is one such review that I obtained from our alternate past.
Reviewed: Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan Is a Slap in the Face to Fans!
I’m sorry. I took some heat for posting that as the headline in my earlier screening report, but the fact is that it’s impossible to discuss this movie without discussing that salient point. Let’s also get to what’s really important – Nick Meyer, Harve Bennett AND Leonard Nimoy all lied throughout production when they refused to confirm the rumors of Spock’s death. It was ridiculous, as this had to be the worst kept secret in Hollywood. Everyone knew about this beforehand, so I don’t know why some of my critical brethren are kissing Paramount’s ass by pretending we all didn’t know the ending.
And let’s face it, Paramount doesn’t deserve any consideration after what they’ve inflicted on us with this film. This is a cash grab – a dying gasp from a franchise that deserved a lot better. Last time we got the acclaimed director of The Sound of Music, The Andromeda Strain, and The Day the Earth Stood Still. This time? We get a director who’s notable credits are a Sherlock Homes film. But really, we should have expected this when Paramount ripped Star Trek away from the brilliant Gene Rodenberry and handed this film to the producer of The Mod Squad. (I can only assume that Roger Corman was otherwise occupied when Paramount was hunting for producers.)
Yes, Harve Bennett is a TV guy and a TV guy who admits he never watched the original series before he was hired for the job! He had seen the previous film, which he called “boring.” Boring! I guess this is how one fails upwards in Hollywood. Some of you might be wondering how this sort of thing happens – well I’ll tell you. This film was produced by Paramount’s TV division at a third of the budget of the previous movie. This is a slapdash effort.
I’d enumerate the writing credits so we could assign blame appropriately, but the official credits tell only half the tale. My studio spies reveal that Nick Meyer (writer of Invasion of the Bee Girls, it’s worth mentioning) assembled the screenplay in 12 days, pasting together pieces of four radically different scripts. This probably is why there are huge plot holes like Checkov “remembering” Khan’s first visit to the Enterprise when Walter Koenig wasn’t even part of the cast then, and the fact that the new female Vulcan appears much more emotional than ANY Vulcan we’ve seen, even the half-human Spock.
I haven’t even addressed the main plot, which is little more than a continuation of “Space Seed” with a lot of Moby Dick thrown in. Trek used to explore brave new worlds, now it not only rips off far better works of literature while it strip-mines its own past. This series shouldn’t be out of gas, but the people put in charge simply have no idea what makes real Star Trek. Their idea of drama is giving Kirk a bastard son and a midlife crisis. (Did anyone really want to see Captain Kirk talk about how much he hates getting older?)
And then there’s the Genesis Device. If you have ANY kind of science background (as in, you skimmed your science textbook in grade school!) the mechanics of this thing will make your head explode. It’s a torpedo that can almost instantly terraform a dead moon into a living, breathing planet. In a brief moment of lucidity, the script seems aware of how ludicrous this all is, having McCoy spout that what once took God six days to accomplish can now be done in six minutes.
Seriously, fire a tiny rocket at the moon, and in an hour, you’d have a planet more idealistic than our own. Even by science fiction standards this is dumb, dumb, dumb.
It gets better – when the device is actually used, its not on a planet. Instead it explodes in a nebula and somehow it spontaneously forms a planet out of nothing – complete with oceans, clouds, tall trees AND its own sun! It’s pretty clear that the first thing cut from this bargain basement production was the science advisor.
This is what Spock dies for – in a sequence so horribly contrived and forced that it clearly only exists so Nimoy can piss off the loyal fans so much that they’ll leave him alone. With power failing, Spock has to go into the engine room to do… something. I’d go into more detail, but I don’t know what exactly he’s doing and it’s a good bet Nimoy didn’t either. I’m pretty sure repairs don’t involve opening some kind of radiation container and waving one’s hands inside of them. Even though this should probably kill him in short order, he hangs on long enough for a melodramatic death scene Paramount deserves for this to fail, and it will.
Maybe if they just outright marketed it as the Death of Spock, curious folks would have flocked in opening weekend before word got out about how bad this was. Instead they pushed it as run-of-the-mill sci-fi, and hardcore Trekkers will be so angry about Spock’s death that there will be no repeat business.
Parmount, next time you need to give the reigns of the film to a REAL fan. If Bennett and Meyer get work after this, it’ll be a miracle.
The Bitter Script Reader (@BittrScrptReadr) has spent many years – “perhaps too many,” he says – working in development and as a reader at production companies and agencies. For over three years, he’s blogged regularly about the missteps he’s seen writers both young and professional make, and implored his audience to avoid those same writing pitfalls. You can find him at his blog and check out his videos on his YouTube Channel.