Khan's considered great not because he's well-written but simply because Montalban
is so much fun to watch - he's so
good at doing what he's called upon to do in this movie. There's never been an actor who's played heavy in any version of Star Trek
who made such an impression, never an actor as exuberant and skillful at chewing scenery not
out of egoism but because the part he was reading simply demanded
that he go over the top. Colicos and Carmel would be distant seconds. The rest of 'em...meh.
Look at the length and variety of Montalban's career in movies and of course countless episodes of all kinds of TV shows - and yet the two things he's probably best known for are playing the host on Fantasy Island
and hissing dialogue like "THIS
is Ceti Alpha V!"
(Okay, maybe something to do with leather car seats as well. Maybe.)
TWOK is Montalban, period.
As for over- or underrated...the American Film Institute just finished the latest of what seems to be a recurrent (maybe it's annual) month-long series of screenings of memorable '80s movies. These things include E.T.
, of course, and Bladerunner
and John Hughes movies and so on, about what you'd expect...
...I don't recall them ever running a Star Trek
movie, including Star Trek II
. TWOK was a modest hit - cost about 11 million to make, pulled in 80 million at the box office - but was not one of the most talked-about hits of summer 1982. Non-trekkies who remember those movies now are likely to say, "I liked the one with that guy from Fantasy Island
. Was that the one with the whales?" So it's vastly overrated by Trek fans relative to its real significance or success.