by Michelle Erica Green

Grade: A
Production: Paramount, 1982
Running Time: 1 hour 53 minutes

Video Summary:

While helping Spock evaluate recruits, Admiral Kirk feels old and useless. But an unexpected message from long-lost love Carol Marcus sends him racing across space to save her and her crew of scientists from a deadly menace. Khan, the genetically engineered superman stranded by Kirk many years before, has wrested the starship Reliant from its Starfleet crew. He wants vengeance against the man who abandoned his crewmates on a desolate world.

Kirk finds Marcus hiding underground with David, the son he never met. The two scientists have developed a technology which can turn barren planets into thriving worlds. But Khan learns of the "Genesis torpedo," the device which initiates the evolutionary process. Kirk must stop the madman's plan to use it as a weapon of destruction, no matter what the cost to his crew.

Best For Ages:

6-8 - This film may be a bit intense for younger viewers, though those familiar with the franchise will probably enjoy it anyway.

8-12 - Breathtaking action sequences and accessible humor make this a great family film.

12 & up - Anyone who has ever seen STAR TREK will be delighted by this powerful character story; science fiction fans will appreciate the technological innovation.

Parental Advisory:

Educational Value: One of the first STAR TREK installments to feature formal cadet training, THE WRATH OF KHAN centers around Saavik's education and Kirk's recognition of all he has learned in Starfleet. As always, Kirk tries to duck some of the rules, but this time he suffers the consequences. The value of scientific knowledge is stressed throughout.

Entertainment Value: THE WRATH OF KHAN is the best of the Trek films, slightly less funny but also less dated than THE VOYAGE HOME. While the special effects can't compete with newer computer graphics, they hold up very well. Familiar, powerful theme music underscores the dramatic conflict between Kirk and Khan.

Violence: Khan puts agonizing eels into the ears of two men. One of the victims shoots himself with a phaser. The Enterprise crew finds the mutilated bodies of murdered scientists. A survivor attacks Kirk. Space battles result in dozens of deaths. Khan blows himself up along with his ship.

Sex: A long-ago affair resulted in the birth of David, the son Kirk never knew he had.

Profanity: Very mild language and innuendo.

Emotional Intensity: Saavik suffers through a Starfleet "no-win scenario" exam. David Marcus must come to terms with a father who left his mother before he was born. Spock gives his life to save his crewmembers, leaving his friends to cope with his death.

Questionable Behavior: Khan's vengeance knows no bounds. Kirk brags about cheating on a Starfleet exam. Spock jokes about the implications of lying.

Mature Themes: In the words of the film, "The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few." Kirk must take responsibility for decisions he made decades earlier. Carol Marcus must justify her decision not to tell her son about his father. A group of scientists must come to terms with the destructive power of a technology they developed for positive purposes.


While a non-Trekker can appreciate THE WRATH OF KHAN on a story level, the second film in the franchise will resonate for long-term fans. By his own admission, daredevil and maverick Kirk has never really faced death before. His best friend's loss forces Starfleet's most famous officer to confront mortality.

Ironically, the Genesis torpedo, which makes Spock's death necessary, also brings Kirk out of his mid-life crisis by renewing his excitement about the wonder of exploration. A six-year-old viewer needed clarification about exactly how Spock died, but accepted the loss as necessary to save the rest. Two powerful subplots about family ties enrich this film. As Kirk tries to forge a relationship with a son who resents everything he stands for, Spock serves as a mentor to Saavik, a young half-Vulcan like himself who is struggling with control of her emotions and the complexities of living among humans. Scotty, Uhura, and the rest of the crew are like family as well, particularly McCoy, whose wisecracks break the tension and lighten Kirk's crabby demeanor. Almost everyone knows that Spock doesn't stay dead - he returns in the sequel, THE SEARCH FOR SPOCK - but that doesn't diminish the power of Kirk's eulogy at the funeral, nor of the bittersweet image of the coffin resting on the brand-new Genesis planet the crew helped to create. Like THE IRON GIANT, the ultimate resurrection gives a spiritual angle to the hero's noble sacrifice.

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