Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982)

1h 53m / PG / Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi

It used to be nerd gospel, somewhere between a superstition and a prophecy, than only odd-numbered Star Trek movies were good. This little pearl of well-polished cultural wisdom was taken so seriously, and held so true, that, apparently finding themselves unable to simply make odd-numbered movies better, they just stopped putting numbers on the sequels entirely. But the idea never would have taken root if it weren’t for two things: the first Star Trek movie is pretty bad (stodgy, wrong-headed, felt nothing like the show) and Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan is really, really good.

There was a lot on the line when this movie got made. Pop culture was turning away from science fiction (partially because Star Trek: the Motion Picture was so poorly received). Paramount had a huge amount of money on the line. So they took the risk of removing series creator Gene Roddenberry from the project, they saved a bunch on reused sets and special effects, they revived an under-utilized character from the show rather than risk creating new characters who might not be liked (and Ricardo Montalban knew exactly how much scenery to chew) and they hung the whole story on the bones of a tale that was acknowledged to be pretty decent: Moby Dick. The result was one of the classic all-time space movies. And yes, that’s Ricardo’s real chest. From hell’s heart, REWIND stabs at thee with Star Trek II: the Wrath of Khan.