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Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan is a more violent feature than the original Star Trek: The Motion Picture, with assorted character deaths and torture. One of the biggest stars of the series dies. While the TV Captain Kirk always seemed to have girlfriends on every planet, this is the first time it's acknowledged that one of them bore him a now-adult son, and their paternal relationship is not close or cordial.
- Parents say
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What's the story?
STAR TREK II: THE WRATH OF KHAN takes place 15 years after "Space Seed," an episode from the original Star Trek series. In it, The Enterprise discovered a vessel whose crew were placed in suspended animation, banished form Earth in 1996. When Captain James T. Kirk (William Shatner) realized their leader, Khan Noonien Singh (Ricardo Montalban), was still as dangerous some 200 years later, the Enterprise marooned him and his followers. Now 15 years later, Khan has managed to escape with his people and hijack a well-armed Federation starship of his own. Obsessed with wreaking vengeance on Kirk, he lures the Enterprise into a devastating battle while plotting to steal the Genesis project, a bomb-like device capable of creating or destroying new worlds.
Is it any good?
This sequel combines passionate acting, great music, fine effects, philosophy, ethics, and derring-do to create what some fans consider the best of the Star Trek features. The script contains observations about friendship, aging, military misuse of science, contentious father-son relationships, and the futility of revenge. Since the chance of any further Star Trek movies was iffy -- and Leonard Nimoy was hoping at the time to sign off playing Spock for good -- viewers get the feeling here everyone is really giving the material all the respect it's worth, just in case this turned out to be the final Star Trek as we knew it (it wasn't, of course).
It was good to be a science-fiction movie fan in 1982. Out-of-this-world features released that year, which seemed to reach a pinnacle of entertaining scripts, mind-expanding concepts, and cutting-edge special effects, included E.T., Blade Runner, The Road Warrior, Tron, and Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. This last one even proved that sequels from adaptations of TV shows could be better than originals (talk about mind-blowing concepts), since the first Star Trek: The Motion Picture was a bit of a disappointment. Director Nicholas Meyer claimed to have very little prior knowledge of Trekdom when he came aboard. Instead, he said, he took inspiration from his favorite Napoleonic-era naval adventures, novels in the C.S. Forester Horatio Hornblower series. That's indeed how Star Trek II plays out, as a seagoing military epic transplanted to deep space, with questions of command and leadership, duty, and sacrifice for the welfare of the crew.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the parallels between Khan's obsession with avenging himself on Kirk and one of the books glimpsed in Khan's personal library, Moby Dick. How is the theme of vengeance similar in both works?
What do you think of Spock's code of sacrifice for "the needs of the many"?
This movie added to Trekkie lore a Starfleet Academy flight simulation test in which a practice captain faces a seeming no-win battle scenario. Why do you think this is important training? What would you do in this scenario?
- In theaters: June 4, 1982
- On DVD or streaming: August 2, 2002
- Cast: Leonard Nimoy, Ricardo Montalban, William Shatner
- Director: Nicholas Meyer
- Studio: Paramount Pictures
- Genre: Science Fiction
- Topics: Adventures, Space and Aliens
- Run time: 116 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: violence and language
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.