Friday, September 30, 2016

Revisiting a Classic - Star Trek II on the Big Screen




Cinemark has been running their "Classics" series for a few years now and we've caught a few of them before. Recently they were previewing the latest round which included American Graffiti and Godfather I & II but the standout star to me was ... Star Trek II!

Of course we had to go so I checked with the rest of the family and Apprentices Blaster and Who ended up going with me Wednesday night.

My report: It was awesome!



Keep in mind this is the movie that rivals Star Wars for "most seen film of all time" for me. I saw it in the theater in 1982. It was one of the few movies I bought on VHS when I still lived with my parents. A friend of mine had it on laser disc and we watched it roughly weekly for a couple of years so I have seen it at least 100 times (which is ridiculous, I admit) and it got to where we knew the lines so well that in my group of friends one of us could just drop a line from anywhere in the movie and the rest could take it up instantaneously and run with the scene. It was the first Trek movie DVD I bought and I've probably watched it once a year since then. I just really like it and never seem to get tired of it.

Now even with watching it all of those times most of them were done on a small (by current standards) tube TV with mediocre sound. I saw it on the big screen in 1982 and now I've finally seen it on a big screen again in 2016 and let me tell you - it does make a difference.



  • First, the space scenes are much stronger on the big screen as the slow movement, the the camera work, and the lighting, say in the spacedock scene, all have much more impact at that size than on even a 60" TV. When the Reliant and the Enterprise start exchanging fire in their initial encounter it just hits that much harder as you can see and feel the impact. It feels like big ships trading body blows. Then the nebula battle, which I was worried would not hold up after 30+ years, looks great and those colors and sounds as the energy waves move across the screen really stand out.  



  • Second there is a ton of detail in those sets that is much easier to spot on that size screen. Signs! So many signs and labels and warnings on walls and doors and pieces of equipment that I realized how amazingly real it looks. It's exactly the kind of thing I would expect in a working military space ship. It made me think of Battlestar Galactica in terms of realistic treatment of a military ship and that's not something I had really noticed before.  There was a lot of thought put into "how this would work" and it really shows.


  • Third - the sound! Even with a decent surround sound setup at home it's difficult to compete with a full-blown modern theater sound system. The effects still sound great today, no question. The music ... the music to this movie is part of a "trilogy + 1"  of movie music that set the standard for me: Star Wars, Superman, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and Star Trek II. Over a span of 5 years which coincided with my formal introduction to music with various school bands this movie is one of the ones that defined "timeless classics" for me. It takes the theme from the series and blows it up to hurricane force, adding in the unforgettable Khan theme (reminiscent of Jaws in a way, communicating a lurking menace in a tremendous way), and adding in quieter sets here and there when called for. I've owned the soundtrack CD for at least 20 years and it's music I never tire of listening to. This movie is my most perfect example when it comes to syncing up the music to what is going on screen. It's just amazing, and to hear it in a big time theater again was a peak moment for me. 


It's just a great movie and great movies are worth seeing on a big screen with big sound. The Enterprise crew seems to actually like each other in this one. Saavick is a nice addition to the old crew (if only Kirstie Alley had stayed with them for the rest!) Khan is a great villain with understandable motivations and understandable flaws. The literary references (Tale of Two Cities and Moby Dick) are on point and not over done by beating you over the head with them. The parallels between Spock and Saavik, Kirk and his son, and Khan and his first mate are nicely and subtly done. It has a great mix of action and character development.

If you're wondering the "Director's Cut" is the one with Scotty's nephew scenes included. There's nothing new included here and no other remastering or updating that I could see.



It was fun to see an old friend in a "new" way. Again. For the first time. It was fun to take the apprentices too as while they've seen it on the TV they'e never seen it "at the movie" and they both admitted it made a difference. Also, with both of them being band kids, the music made a strong impression on them as well. I was really happy that a theater chain is doing something like this and giving us a chance to both relive these kinds of moments and to share them with our kids.


1 comment:

Kelvin Green said...

Gosh, I would love to see this on the big screen. It's one of my favourites but I was three when it came out, so I missed the cinema release.