It’s such a superior film to it’s predecessor that a direct comparison isn’t really possible. It really relaunched the Trek franchise, and its echoes still reverberated through the other movies and television series. Everything from the plot– direct, but with enough twists to make it unpredictable– to the acting– Ricardo Montalbán’s over-the-top performance was only matched by Shatner’s– to the music– the score really put James Horner on the map– to the costumes — you still see the “monster maroons” showing up in flashbacks in the TV series as late as Voyager– just everything is perfect.
This was one of the highlights of 1982, when I was an impressionable 16 year old, my life stuffed full with Trek, and gaming, and science fiction in general. It was a great watershed, and a film I will still watch whenever it comes on.