Monday, August 15, 2016

Re-Viewing Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan: Part 2




          As we begin Part II of this deep viewing …
          Don’t you agree that the sfx people did a great job of re-using footage from ST:TMP, without making it look recycled? Of course, this semi-cheat is aided by James Horner’s lovely music.
          If you know to look for it, there’s an abrupt cut, just as Sulu says, “Any chance to go on board the Enterprise.” You can see him take a breath to keep on talking.  That’s because the next thing out of George Takei’s mouth was about how Sulu was fixing to get his own ship.  That’s why Kirk talks about only having Sulu for three weeks.
          When Kirk walks the line at the inspection in “Torp Bay 2” (as it’s labeled), he asks Commander Scott about his health, and Scott admits to having had “a wee bout” of shore leave.  This is a reference to Jimmy Doohan’s heart attack in 1980 or so.
          When Kirk learns Preston’s name, you can’t tell me that he didn’t already know the kid was Scotty’s nephew.  I like how, when Preston tries to be all snappy and brisk, Kirk draws himself up and replies in kind.
          Marc Okrand did a pretty good job of making up Vulcan words to match the lip movements of Nimoy and Alley as they speak English.
          Down in the engine room, Kirk is just ready to string Preston along as the nervous kid pipes up about how ship-shape the Enterprise is.  This Director’s Edition does contain a few more lines of Kirk winding up Preston, describing the way (supposedly) that Kirk has been teased about the rundown Enterprise.

          As Kirk and McCoy step onto the bridge, we see how young these kids are, that are playing vroom-vroom with Kirk’s starship.  And the whole novice-drives-the-ship, as Mr Saavik takes the conn, is cute.  De Kelley and Shatner, provoked by an arch, impish Nimoy, do a fine job on action and reaction.


          One bit of footage re-used from ST:TMP is this undercarriage view of the Enterprise clearing the drydock.  The above image is the original shot seen in theatrical releases of the first film.


          This shot is from the original VHS release of STII.  They didn’t try to clean up these “beauty spots,” as I call them.  However, in the “Collector” or “Director” versions of the movies, these camera artifacts (dirt on the SFX lense, I assume) were cleaned up.

          Meanwhile, on Regula One, the Doctors Marcus are talking about memory banks and computers.  Cutting-edge terms in 1982, but somewhat dated-sounding now. 
          After all, nowadays we can simply download more RAM!
          Soon a brainwashed Chekov is announcing the imminent appropriation of government-sponsored experimental product.  And he throws out the name of somebody they can blame … Admiral Kirk.  Marcus’s scientists then assume that Kirk is acting on behalf of the Starfleet Council.  Isn’t it typical of scientists? – they’re perfectly willing to be financed by the government, but they act all hot and bothered when the bill-paying government wants what it paid for.
          I really can’t figure out just WHY Khan a) gives Regula One a three-day warning; b) drops Kirk’s name, knowing that now Kirk will be warned that something’s afoot.  As far as the story mechanics go, that’s the way to get Kirk to explain the Genesis Project, via a demo “proposal” that the audience gets to watch.
          But first we get to see a bit of torrid Kirstie Alley in an elevator scene with Kirk.


          Besides marveling at these two trim waistlines, let’s note that the NCIS Gibbs elevator trick might have been stolen from this scene.


          On Regula One, the scientists are doing what they excel in … fussing self-righteously.  Note that Carol Marcus says that “Starfleet has kept the peace for a hundred years.”  That statement alone probably tells the audience more about Starfleet than the entire original series!
          Don’t you sometimes get the idea that Starfleet only has about two ships?  For the umpteenth time, Kirk tells Spock, the Enterprise is “the only ship in the quadrant.”  Maybe Kirk doesn’t know about Reliant’s secret scouting mission, but … come on, the only ship around?
          It’s pretty handy that “the needs of the many” – that Kirk take command – also lines up with “the needs of the one” – Kirk’s desire for command.  You’d almost think it was scripted that way!
          On Reliant, an uncredited helmsman tries to divert Khan from his planned revenge on Kirk.  Khan’s next speech, beginning “He tasks me, he tasks me …” is another paraphrase from Moby-Dick or, the White Whale, this time from chapter 36:
Aye, aye! and I’ll chase him round Good Hope, and round the Horn, and round the Norway Maelstrom, and round perdition’s flames before I give him up.

          About 45 minutes into this film, we have the first example of extended CGI in a mainstream movie, provided by Lucasfilm Graphics Group, later known as Pixar. This one-minute-long achievement was rapidly overshadowed by the release, later this same year of 1982, of Tron.


          Another with-it, happening-now type attribute of this sequence is the retina scan ID.  This is so Starfleet can avoid the old amputate-the-finger-for-ID trick.  After all, who’s gonna pop out an eyeball to bypass the retina scan?  (See TV Tropes for a list.)
          

          By the way, the voice of the computer was provided by Marcy Vosburgh, a writer and producer of many TV episodes.  She recently died, in June 2016.


          Oh look, honey!  In the 23rd century, they’ll still have tape recordings!


          You tell me.  The top image is from Marcus bawling out Chekov.  The bottom image is from the Genesis proposal.  It was supposedly filmed months previously.  Is her hair any shorter, supposedly months or years earlier than the beginning of this film? At least it’s tighter to her head; the stylists tried to make her look *a little different* from the live-action scenes.
          The background soundtrack for the Genesis sequence was provided by Craig Hundley/Huntley/Huxley – yes, that child actor who appeared in Star Trek episodes and elsewhere.  He’s also something of a musical prodigy, and made his way in music and film, working on such films as New York, New York and E.T.  Oh, yeah – incidentally, Huxley INVENTED THE BLASTER BEAM, the device that produces of the familiar zooming, whanging sound first featured in ST:TMP.  For some reason, he went unlisted in this film’s credits.
          As Dr Marcus discusses planetary remodeling, note that nowhere does she discuss the necessary power to produce instant terraforming.  Presumably the “Genesis Device” simply starts a chain reaction, the “Genesis Effect,” in the same way that critical mass induces a nuclear chain reaction.
          “Matter is reorganized, with life-generating results,” Marcus says.  This emphasizes my question, “Where does the energy come from?”  After all, any closed system is subject to entropy.  Any change must result from the application of energy from outside (kind of like when my dad paddled me).
          (And here I thought “Critical mass” referred to an anti-Catholic person!)


          Perhaps I’m viewing through the eyes of nostalgia, but to me the cheesiest part of this entire sequence is the matted-in “controls” to the right and left of the Genesis Tape.  Presumably these are circuit boards or something on either side of Kirk’s viewscreen.  Feh!
          “Consider the cosmic problems of population and food supply,” warns Marcus.  To which I respond (again), “How many could be fed with the energy and resources used up by this thing?”
          In his protest against the concept, McCoy doesn’t mean to question our intelligence, just our self-control.  And his question about using this thing where life already exists … sets up the big ending, when Khan tries to drop-kick a big Torpedo of Creation onto Kirk’s butt.  And note that this argument is one of the scenes which includes dialogue extended from the original release.
          Now about halfway through the flick, we get our first star war.  But first, Saavik interrupts the colloquy in Kirk’s cabin.  Kirk’s line, “What do you make of her?” always makes me think of Johnny, in Airplane.


          I keep hoping that THIS TIME, Saavik is gonna respond, “I can make a hat, or a broach -- a pterodactyl!”
          When the Big Three step onto the bridge, we get a slap in the face from James Horner’s great “attack” music.
          Khan shows his 20th-Century intellect when he brags that Kirk can “eat static.”  Hasn’t he heard of noise reduction?
          Of course, before the Klingons said, “Revenge is a dish that is best served cold,” it was a phrase that popped up in a French novel The Orphan, published around 1840 by Joseph Marie Eugène Sue, and appropriated for The Godfather in 1969.


          I love the inset after Saavik relays the order, “Energize defense fields!”  To me this shot SCREAMS 1980s hi-tech.  Compare with this photo of 1960s-1980s tube amplifiers for sale:


          But this sequence has a lovely back-and-forth between the two bridge sets (filmed on the same redressed set at different times, of course).  And the insets of the various touchscreens are much more acceptable, as Khan screams “FIRE!” in orgiastic ecstasy.


          Meanwhile, in engineering, there’s a lot of smoke and breathalyzing going on.  Look at the viewscreen next to Scott.  No wonder the Enterprise isn’t going anywhere – the brakes are applied!


          A few seconds later, as Scott talks to the Man Upstairs, note that the blueprints flashing on the display are for the TV Enterprise.
          When Khan’s photon whatsit hits, we have another instance of Hollywood’s predilection for showing explosions on the bridge, where the heroes are.  Of course it makes sense!  We just saw Khan’s weapon heading for the bottom-right edge of the bridge viewscreen, just where the explosion comes from!

          Tune in next Monday, to learn if the Enterprise survives!

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