1982 / Nicholas Meyer > A lot has been said about The Wrath of Khan, but mostly that it stands, on its own, as the best that Star Trek has to offer. So, do we view the film as a movie in its own right or contextually as a Star Trek, sci-fi genre piece? Ultimately, it depends on tone. When a film follows genre thematics, it should be blessed in a similar light. But when it jumps the rope into competition with anything and everything, a whole slew of additional criteria come into factor. The Wrath of Khan attempts the latter, but doesn’t do it particularly well.
There’s a certain level of Star Trek lore one needs to know to fully appreciate the context of Khan, a character who had previously appeared in an episode of the original series some time ago. Not knowing the backstory doesn’t exactly hurt, but it does mitigate his “wrath” factor. The film, though, is broader than its title. It’s really about the characters—How’s Captain Kirk? What’s Spock up to? Again, all this requires some elementary knowledge of the players. Most of us have grown up to some degree with these characters amongst our midst, but often a lot of our peripheral knowledge comes off of caricatures in mainstream media (think Saturday Night Live, et al). Thus, the gravity of the storyline doesn’t hit home, and viewers like myself are left wondering what the big deal is. Essentially, it fails to resonate because its seriousness isn’t backed up by greater context, and its finale tries to touch upon aspects that a fan familiar with the world would appreciate considerably more.