Wrath of Khan Returning to Theaters for 35th Anniversary

Plus, we talk to writer/director Nicholas Meyer about the film’s legacy.

The Director’s Cut of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan[2], widely considered the best Star Trek film, is getting a special theatrical release this September to celebrate its 35th anniversary! I had a chance to sit down with writer/director Nicholas Meyer to discuss his experiences making the movie and its long-lasting success. But first, some exclusive details regarding the big screen re-release…

The digitally remastered Director’s Cut of Wrath of Khan will show for two days on Sunday, September 10th and Wednesday, September 13th in more than 600 theaters across the U.S. at 2pm and 7pm local time. Fans can buy advance tickets starting today. Screenings will be preceded by a brand new 18-minute interview with William Shatner about the making of the film.

Tickets can be purchased online by visiting FathomEvents.com[3] or at participating theater box offices. (For a complete list of theater locations visit the Fathom Events website[4].)

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. Image courtesy: Paramount

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. Image courtesy: Paramount

I asked Meyer why even after 11 subsequent installments, all with increasingly bigger budgets, TWOK has endured as the most revered Trek film. After lamenting not having been able to come up with a profound answer to a question he’s gotten repeatedly over the last 35 years, he said simply, “I don’t know.” As he’s done before he likened his science fiction masterpiece to a souffl?: “Some rise, some don’t. This one did.”

In the video intro to the screening, Shatner reportedly puts to rest once and for all the urban Trek legend that his late co-star Ricardo Montalban wore a prosthetic while filming to give the appearance of a muscular chest appropriate to the bio-engineered superior man Khan was supposed to be. Not so, said Meyer, who confirmed it was all manly Montalban. Shatner explains that Montalban suffered a spinal injury when a horse rolled on top of him while shooting Across the Wide Missouri in 1951.

As a result of the injury Montalban would always walk with a limp and to compensate he worked constantly to strengthen his upper body, yielding the impressive physical specimen seen in TWOK. Fans who haven’t yet seen the digitally remastered Director’s Cut of TWOK (released on Blu-ray in 2016) can expect several minutes of additional footage, which Meyer sees as “minor clarifications” to the story.

Midshipmen Peter Preston, a more important red shirt than we thought. Image courtesy: Paramount

The biggest revelation of this Director’s Cut is that Midshipman Peter Preston is Scotty’s nephew. This explains why a weeping Scotty brings the mortally wounded Preston to the bridge, which in the theatrical cut seemed to have Scotty putting Preston inexplicably ahead of the other trainees who were injured or killed in Khan’s attack. Said Meyer, “I felt the omission of Scotty’s avuncular relation to Midshipman Preston made his emotional reaction to the death of this particular crewman arbitrary at best and out of proportion at worst.”

There have been rumors over the years of revisions Meyer and late producer Harve Bennett had to make to the script to accommodate scheduling needs or entice main cast members back. Though indeed there were five wildly different script attempts before Meyer completely rewrote the whole thing in just 12 days, he has no memory of any such changes being made after the fact. The decision to omit a face-to-face meeting between Kirk and Khan, for example, had nothing to do with Montalban’s rumored scheduling conflicts; in fact it was the plan all along, playing into the dueling sea captains motif Meyer transplanted from the Horatio Hornblower novels.

And the only enticing needed to enlist the core cast came in the form of Bennett promising Leonard Nimoy a great death scene, which Meyer certainly delivered. The most iconic moment of TWOK and probably all Trek films is the death of Spock. I asked Meyer if he knew, either when writing it or filming it, that he’d captured something special.

He responded, “Henry James said that Life is hot but Art is cool. If you are the puppeteer you cannot be out front, sobbing at the performance; you must remain dry-eyed behind the scenes and make sure the strings do not become tangled.

spock-death

I have been, and always shall be… your friend. Image courtesy: Paramount

“Maybe this was not a bad way to approach Spock’s death scene,” Meyer said. “Dry-eyed… and concentrating on not getting ‘the strings entangled,’ I focused on the scene itself, on the staging, on the actors’ performances, on the nuances. I was vigilant that no detail anywhere in the frame should distract the audience from what I wished them to absorb. In the midst of my concentration on a myriad such details, I was astonished to see my cinematographer, Gayne Rescher, in tears.

Then I turned to behold other members of the crew also weeping.” Meyer shared a funny anecdote from filming Spock’s death. Apparently Nimoy took offense to the outfit Meyer wore to the shoot.

Nimoy, he said, thought he had come to the set “dressed up as Sherlock Holmes.” Meyer explained that, while his first directorial feature had indeed been the Holmes movie The Seven-Per-Cent Solution, he had never dressed up like Holmes in his life. He did, however, wear a three-piece suit that day so he could go see the visiting New York City Opera as soon as shooting wrapped. I asked about the closing shot of the film, which depicts Spock’s photon torpedo casket lying amid the lush greenery of the Genesis planet, and which had been inserted by Paramount over Meyer’s vehement objections.

His initial reaction as he put it was “utter astonishment.” I asked if he still thinks it was the wrong call to give fans a hint that Spock would return. To that he said simply, “I think I got it wrong.” He went on, “As I watched, I began to appreciate the whole thing from a different perspective and, in God’s words, ‘Saw that it was Good.'” He said he wasn’t thinking in terms of a franchise at the time and looking back he now sees the elegance of TWOK’s cliffhanger ending. Though Meyer isn’t able at the moment to discuss his work as a writer and producer on the upcoming TV series Star Trek: Discovery, I dared to ask him about the other new Star Trek property he’s reportedly working on.

No details of any kind have been released about the mystery project yet, but Meyer did confirm that such a project exists: “I can say it’s something I’m excited about. I will allow that.” Tickets for Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan 35th Anniversary screening can be purchased online at FathomEvents.com[5] or at participating theater box offices.

Would you like to know more?

Follow @FireballMcPhan[6] on Twitter.

Service guarantees citizenship.

References

  1. ^ Adam DiLeo (people.ign.com)
  2. ^ Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (uk.ign.com)
  3. ^ FathomEvents.com (www.fathomevents.com)
  4. ^ Fathom Events website (www.fathomevents.com)
  5. ^ FathomEvents.com (www.fathomevents.com)
  6. ^ @FireballMcPhan (twitter.com)

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