YMMV: Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan

  • Award Snub: James Doohan said he thought Ricardo Montalban should have received an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor, complaining that movies like Star Trek never receive nominations for major awards.
  • Critical Research Failure: When this film came out, one movie reviewer said that Ricardo Montalbán was "horribly miscast" as Khan. Oops!
  • Crowning Music of Awesome: They couldn't afford to bring back Jerry Goldsmith for the sequel, so they took a chance on an up-and-comer named James Horner... who proceeded to kick ASS.
  • Foe Yay: There is some palpable sexual tension between Kirk and Khan, even if it's just rivalry. When Khan is preparing to fire on the Enterprise, he seems to be close to ejaculating at the prospect.
  • Franchise Original Sin: Although it did save the Star Trek franchise, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan kicked off the trend of every Star Trek film being built around a confrontation with one particular villain, as it was the first in a very long line of Actionized Sequels.note  For better or for worse, this was a necessary change of pace for the series after the lukewarm response to Star Trek: The Motion Picture, which went for a more cerebral storyline but was roundly criticized for its slow pace. Two decades later, when Star Trek: Nemesis became a Box Office Bomb after being criticized for its one-dimensional villain and its gratuitous action (most infamously, the nonsensical car chase that comes out of nowhere), the producers finally realized that they couldn't keep milking the old Wrath of Khan formula indefinitely. The Star Trek reboot films avoided that pitfall by placing less emphasis on the big villain and more on the ensemble cast trying to deal with the villain's plot.
  • Fridge Brilliance: In the Director's Cut, Midshipman Preston claims that if Kirk can't see that the Enterprise is the finest ship in the fleet, then he's as blind as a Tiberian bat. Did the Plucky Middie just make a pun on Admiral James Tiberius Kirk's middle name to his face? No wonder Kirk was impressed. Kid's got balls the size of Kirk's ego.
    • Not just his name — Kirk wears reading glasses now, remember?
  • Fridge Horror: Almost a Brick Joke, if it really were intended as one.
    (from Film/Star Trek: II The Wrath of Khan)
    Kirk: Of all the souls I have encountered in my travels, his was the most ... human.
    (from Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country)
    Kirk: Do you want to know something? Everybody's human.
    Spock: I find that remark ... insulting.
  • Fridge Logic: Khan seems to believe that he's buried Kirk alive, and that he'll be stuck in that asteroid forever. It seems likely another Federation starship will be along well before anyone gets really uncomfortable.
    • The implication is that, now that he's dealt with Kirk, Khan is going to go make a power play for control of the Federation using the Genesis device (no doubt replicated through superior Augment intellect). Nobody is going to have time to come looking for Kirk. Since the Enterprise is the only ship in the vicinity, and Khan believes her to be helpless, he likely figures he has time to waltz over and finish her off; he can then take his time to loot the station of the resources he needs to replicate the torpedo and sustain the Reliant, torturing Kirk on the side should he wish to do so, and by the time Starfleet could get another ship out there, Khan could be long gone, plotting his next strategy in safety.
  • He Really Can Act: "KHAAAAAN" aside, Kirk has a lot of quiet, subtle character moments, and William Shatner really delivers. Nicholas Meyer took credit for this one, forcing re-take after re-take until Shatner finally got tired of "performing" and actually did some acting.
    • It probably should be pointed out that with even the "KHHHAANNN!" line, the character of Kirk was likely deliberately overacting to fool Khan.
    • Also true of Ricardo Montalban, oddly enough. At first glance that may seem absurd. Montalban was a movie star in The Fifties and also starred in a long-running hit TV series, Fantasy Island, that was even still on the air when Khan came out. But most of his leading man roles from the Fifties were unchallenging Latin Lover stereotypes, which Montalban hated. (One of these films was even named Latin Lovers!) In The Sixties, Montalban switched to doing guest star roles in television (like Star Trek: The Original Series) which is great for expanding range but less so in gaining/maintaining name recognition (few people would be watching an episode of a TV series mainly because Montalban was guest starring in it). As for Fantasy Island, it was always more of a popular hit than a critical one, with Montalban admitting his character there was mostly Mr. Exposition. When Khan came out, Pauline Kael (who was one of the toughest, harshest film critics of the time) was so impressed by his performance that in addition to her (mostly) favorable review she wrote up an admiring profile on Montalban. Nicholas Meyer would later say that Khan showed Montalban was capable of playing King Lear.
  • Harsher in Hindsight: In Space Seed, Mc Coy advises Khan on the most effective way of slitting a throat (his own!). In the movie, when Mc Coy stumbles across the bodies of the murdered Regula-1 scientists, they all have slit throats...
    • Also, Spock's comment at the end of Space Seed must count as well. He basically said it would be interesting to see how these people cope and evolve over time. In this movie we find out exactly how they managed.
  • Heartwarming In Hindsight: Spock says that Kirk's solution to the Kobayashi Maru "was, shall we say, unique". In Star Trek, when Kirk says to Spock Prime that what he's doing, disclosing future history, is cheating, Spock answers that it's "A trick I learned from an old friend."
    • Now that Leonard Nimoy has passed away, McCoy's line after Spock's funeral is especially poignant.
    McCoy: He's not really dead, as long as we remember him.
  • Hilarious in Hindsight: Spock invented The Picard Maneuver!
  • Ho Yay: Kirk/Spock (surprise, surprise). Notably at the end of the movie: Kirk and Spock press hands against the glass as Spock dies. Spock's death has a huge impact on Kirk (which continues into the third movie.) Kirk says he's never truly faced death before, "not like this," even though his brother died during the series. Kirk would go on to say that he had lost "the noblest half of [him]self" - and look closely. Kirk and Spock are Vulcan kissing through the damn glass!
    "When I try to explain slash to non-fans, I often reference that moment in Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan where Spock is dying and Kirk stands there, a wall of glass separating the two longtime buddies. Both of them are reaching out towards each other, their hands pressed hard against the glass, trying to establish physical contact. [...]And, I tell my nonfan listeners, slash is what happens when you take away the glass."
    • Khan's obsession with Kirk can be interpreted as Foe Yay.
    Nicholas Meyer: Kirk did not lie awake thinking about Khan; Khan lay awake thinking about Kirk.
    • It takes three men to restrain Kirk from opening the door holding back lethal radiation just so he can be with Spock in his final moments. And what's more, Bones and Scotty knew full well they would have to do it and were already prepared when he arrived.
  • It Was His Sled: The Kobayashi Maru opening sequence was included because Spock's death was one before the movie was finished.
  • Jerkass Woobie: Khan. He may be a mass-murdering warlord, but you can't help but feel bad for him as his happy life from the end of "Space Seed" had been ruined.
  • Like You Would Really Do It: Subverted to Hell and back in the climax with the death of Mr. Spock.
  • Magnificent Bastard: Kirk and Khan both.
  • Magnum Opus: Widely considered to be the best Star Trek movie ever made and the gold standard against which all subsequent series films will have to be judged (see the Tough Act to Follow section below). Also, as mentioned above, Ricardo Montalban and William Shatner's performances are thought to be among their best (especially Montalban's).
  • Moral Event Horizon: Well, by the time he shows up, we know Khan Noonien Singh is a bastard, if a magnificent one, especially if you've seen Star Trek: The Original Series. But when he starts putting worms in people's ears, you realize that perhaps he's kicked it up a notch on the Evulz scale; but you say to yourself that he's intelligent and charming and surely he can be reasoned with. But...when he listens to a minion kill himself and doesn't so much as blink, merely ordering the surviving minion to hurry up and carry out his orders, you realize this guy ain't coming back from the horizon. Khan also certainly reminded the audience that he was evil when he activated the Genesis device instead of surrendering to the Enterprise. He knew that he would take down at least one of the Enterprise's own, if not the entire freaking ship. He would have wiped out many people just to satisfy a longtime desire for revenge. It wound up that Spock, Kirk's closest friend, sacrificed himself to save the Enterprise.
  • Memetic Mutation: "KHAAAANNN!!! KHAAAAAANNN!!!" Though oddly enough, many of the parodies use an overhead spinning camera shot, when the scene itself is just a straightforward close-up.
  • Narm: As Scotty and McCoy attempt to restrain Kirk, a third person (an engineer) is also shown trying to restrain him, but as he's collapsing, it looks like he's doing something else to Kirk...
  • Narm Charm: See Memetic Mutation.
  • Newer Than They Think: "The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one." It sounds like an old Vulcan proverb, but more reliable sources point to this movie as the origin of the phrase.
    • On the other hand it sums up the philosophy known as utiliarianism, which is about two hundred years older than the movie.
  • Older Than They Think / "Weird Al" Effect: Much like Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, all the literary quotes used throughout are often attributed only to this film.
  • Rooting for the Empire: Many fans, especially new ones who loved Montalbhan in Fantasy Island, hoped Khan would actually succeed.
  • Surprisingly Improved Sequel: To the point that other film series which follow up on their first installment with a much better-received sequel are said to have "pulled a Wrath of Khan".
    • Arthur C. Clarke considered listing Khan as one of the best science fiction movies of all time. Considering Clarke's far greater enthusiasm for 'hard' science fiction, any recommendation at all suggests a pretty strong film.
  • Tough Act to Follow: Every subsequent Star Trek film has been measured up to this film, frequently falling short among fans. The only two that are really comparable are Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (which is so different in tone and plot as to be almost impossible to really compare), and Star Trek: First Contact (which is sort of rehashing this one, with its themes of obsession, though in that case it's the hero, Picard, who is obsessed with his enemy, not the villain).
  • What an Idiot: Adm. Kirk, which he admitted to being one immediately after getting bushwhacked by Khan, for not putting the Enterprise full defensive alert as directed by regulations when facing the unresponsive and then outright lying, USS Reliant.