As voted for on Twitter by followers, I will be analysing Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan scene by scene in this multi-part exploration of Nicholas Meyer’s 1982 sequel…
In a very real sense, the space battle that cuts right into the end of Act One, and roughly the mid-section, of The Wrath of Khan is the first true example in Star Trek of the kind of space combat we would witness in subsequent TV series and movies even up to the present day, as of writing, with the huge space combat sequence in Star Trek: Discovery’s Season Two finale.
The Wrath of Khan, as we have discussed, defined itself visually and formally on the British nautical structure, given Nicholas Meyer’s love of the Horatio Hornblower series. Yet before this, Gene Roddenberry’s Original Series had framed the Enterprise’s encounters with dangerous alien life forms often more as a camera-shaking face off as opposed to a true battle of wits.
James T. Kirk most often fought the bad guy in close quarter combat, as indeed he did Khan Noonien Singh in Space Seed, and the Enterprise rarely felt the consequences of space combat. The Wrath of Khan changed that when Meyer pitched the central encounter between the Enterprise and the hijacked USS Reliant as a World War Two submarine battle in space, particularly come the battle later in the Mutara Nebula. Their first skirmish ends up as an ambush, the lawless pirates taking on the nation-sailing frigate, and it’s one the Enterprise barely manages to escape from.
Crucially, Meyer ensures Kirk’s first encounter with Khan is not an anaemic one. As befits the overarching themes of loss and discovery, death and rebirth, the Reliant’s ambush takes its personal as well as metaphorical toll. People die. And for once, defying the classic Star Trek trope of the ‘redshirt’, we *feel* it.
Hello film fans!
So thanks to the lovely folks at Running Press, I’ve been reading a whole bunch of film books in the last couple of months which I thought I’d badge together in one post, as I wanted to recommend them to any of you who have an interesting in learning more about cinema.
Here are some deeper thoughts on what I’ve been reading…
When someone mentions the greatest footballer of all time, three names most likely come to mind. The oldest is Brazilian legend Pele. The newest would probably be Barcelona’s Argentine master Lionel Messi. In the middle, arguably, could be Argentina’s controversial and flamboyant striker Diego Maradona.
Just the name conjures up a whole wealth of iconic cultural images for anyone born before or around the early 1980’s; lifting the World Cup trophy in Mexico ’86, the same tournament as the infamous ‘Hand of God’ goal against England. But how much do we stop and consider the man behind the images himself? Maradona spent years in the tabloids, particularly for a powerful drug addiction which all but destroyed his playing career after his glory days, but do we know the man behind the myth? Asif Kapadia attempts to explore this question in his documentary, much anticipated after his striking debut Senna and the searing, emotional heights of Amy. There is a reason he doesn’t call his film simply Maradona, as we all know him. This is as much, if not more, about Diego too.
This question provides the lynchpin of a film which never hits the potent, powerful and affecting heights of Kapadia’s tragic previous two examinations, but nevertheless shines a light on a fascinating man at a fascinating point of sporting history.
Even if you haven’t read Herman Melville’s 19th century novel, who doesn’t know the story of Moby Dick? Captain Ahab and his wooden leg obsessively hunting the titular white whale off the Cape of Good Hope. Moby Dick means all kinds of things to a great many people, in the case of this 1956 adaptation, film director John Huston.
Before this lavish Technicolor adaptation, Melville’s great American novel had only been committed to celluloid once, or sort of twice; John Barrymore starred in 1926 in The Sea Beast as Ahab, which was then remade with sound in 1930 as Moby Dick, as the silent film gave way to the pre-Code Hollywood age of talkies. Huston’s version was the first screen take on the source material to truly capture the scope and majesty of Melville’s tome, and no one since in over sixty years has really tried to better it, even if certain seafaring pictures have emulated it, or allegorically science-fiction—Star Trek in particular—has worked to capture the spirit of Moby Dick on a different canvas. Perhaps nobody has tried to match Huston’s version, co-written incidentally with legendary science-fiction author Ray Bradbury, even with more advanced effects and filming techniques, because it would be hard to do a better job.
By degrees theatrical, Shakespearian, moving and thrilling, Huston’s Moby Dick remains a gorgeous piece of late Hollywood Golden Age filmmaking to this day.
Hosted by film writer Darren Mooney of The M0vie Blog and Andrew Quinn, The 250 is an excellent, Irish-based film podcast which covers the 250 Top Movies as voted by IMDB users.
Every year, Darren and Andrew mark another successful year of movie podcasting with a roundtable of contributors listing their favourite movie from the IMDB 250 of the year, and in this case their best from 1999, a year the show has focused on given the 20 year anniversary.
Always a huge pleasure being invited to contribute to this terrific podcast, which I’ll hopefully be back on again at some point in 2020…
The latest episode of my podcast about cinema I’ve launched with my friend and podcast buddy, Carl Sweeney.
Motion Pictures is designed to be more of an informal, free-flowing chat about movies, geared around a topic of the week. There will also be choice episodes around an idea, whatever takes our fancy really! It’s an exciting project.
In this one, with Doctor Sleep now out, we explore the enduring popularity of Stephen King as a writer of copious novels and short stories and how many of them convert successfully, or unsuccessfully, to celluloid – from Brian de Palma’s Carrie to Rob Reiner’s Misery to Andy Muschetti’s two-part adaptation of It, and beyond.
Over the course of last year, I began my first deep-dive TV review series looking at JJ Abrams’ Alias, which ran from 2001-2006. Over the next year, I’ll be looking at Season Two’s 22-episode run in detail…
If Trust Me worked to establish Sydney Bristow’s psychology toward her mother, Cipher begins the same process with Jack Bristow as regards the woman who used to be his wife.
Understandably across the first two episodes of Season Two, Alias didn’t really devote a lot of time to Jack and where he stands with all of this. The Enemy Walks In saw him mainly putting Will Tippin back into the world, while in Trust Me he voices brief notes of caution about Irina Derevko which are entirely to be expected. Jack was the man she betrayed in the most personal and soul-destroying way, and Season One established very clearly just how much Irina’s ‘death’ and the betrayal about her origins he kept from Syd all her life had turned him into an emotional shell of a man, one unable to truly connect with the daughter he loved dearly from such a tragic relationship. Jack was always going to react badly to Irina’s reappearance on the scene but Cipher establishes the terror underneath the anger and caution: that Syd might be bewitched by her mother.
This fear forms the core basis of Cipher, an episode which otherwise is a fairly formulaic outing for Alias. It feels the most ‘Season One’ of the three Season Two episodes to date; that sounds like a rebuke, but please don’t read it as such. Season One, which I’ve talked about in depth, is an extremely confident and accomplished first year of television but many of the early initial episodes lack the same nuance and depth of the middle and later half of the season as they work to establish plot points and character arcs that will pay off down the road. Cipher suffers from the same problem, as writers Alex Kurtzman-Counter & Roberto Orci (in their first script this season) seed storylines that will bloom: Jack’s secret about Syd’s childhood, Will’s CIA interactions, Sloane being ‘haunted’ by Emily. Around this, they strive to stick to the spinal mission structure employed by the first season as Syd pursues a MacGuffin, but there is less weight and heft than the previous hour.
In truth, Cipher is probably the first of the five weakest episodes of Alias Season Two, running from here through to The Counteragent. Fine episodes on their own terms, and necessary ones, but hours which lack the dramatic payoff Season Two later provides in droves.