Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Star Trek III: The Search for Spock

As you may recall from my review of The Wrath of Kahn, that it took a little arm twisting to get Leonard Nimoy to reprise his role as the legendary Spock for the first Star Trek movie sequel. That film ended up being such a success, that after its initial box office weekend a third movie was instantly green lit. However, Nimoy only agreed to return if he could direct the picture himself. His demands were met, and in 1984 Paramount released Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (trailer).

When we last left the crew of the Enterprise, a touching funeral scene transpired on board the Enterprise as the crew were mourning the death of Spock as he sacrificed himself to save the Enterprise in the midst of a dogfight against the despicable Kahn. His coffin was shot onto the surface of the artificially created planet, Genesis, a planet created using highly coveted technology that Kahn was after. We really did not think that would be the end of Spock now, would we?

It turns out before Spock sacrificed himself, he bounded his essence/soul with McCoy (DeForest Kelley), which resulted in McCoy randomly acting like the legendary Vulucan. Spock's father informs Kirk (William Shatner) that he must recover his body from Genesis so he can reunite his body with the essence from McCoy so he can bring him back to life on the planet Vulcan. He actually berates Kirk for not knowing this beforehand in an amusing way. This shall not be an easy task though as the planet Genesis is become increasingly unstable as a result from the experimental technology it was created with. A science team is monitoring it, with David (Meritt Butrick) and Saavik (now being played by Robin Curtis since Kristie Alley demanded many monies) beaming down to track signals emanating from a new life form. While David and Saavik are exploring Genesis, a rogue Klingon ship, headed by Kruge (Christopher Lloyd) that procured data on Genesis and discovered its location is making an attempt to claim it as a new home world for its race.

I am somewhere in between in ranking the third film between the long, dragged out original, and the sequel that blew me away. Let us start off with the good. I really liked the journey to find out what happens to Spock on Genesis, and the hijinx Kirk must go through in order to sneak the Enterprise back into action. I also like how it picks up immediately after the end of the last film, with the Enterprise still showing battle scars from its epic duel with the occupied Reliant. I was originally disappointed to see Kristie Alley not return as I thought she did a fine job with Saavik, but by the end of this film I was much more impressed with Robin Curtis's performance as the expressionless Vulcan. I am also digging how the special effects keep noticeably improving with each film. Sure, some of the shots they go out of their way to show off look downright dated now, but a lot of vector graphics used for computer monitors and a interactive game in a hobby room really pop out on here with another bang up remastering job by Paramount for the BluRay.

There are a few pivotal drawbacks though that drop this film down a couple notches for me. The first thing is more of a nitpick, but I am done with the Chekov character. The guy just walks around looking all pouty and depressed in every scene he is in, will someone just give the guy a sandwich and kick his ass off the Enterprise already? Onto more pressing concerns I have, one of which is that the antagonists here are nowhere near the same level as Kahn. Christopher Lloyd does a fine job as Kruge, but I am just not feeling him as this big rival to give Kirk a run for his money like Kahn did and he comes off more like a villain of the week on a TV series than an ultimate motion picture adversary. He is apparently treated just as much, as it seems the Enterprise takes little effort to make waste of him and his crew. The final battle on Genesis between Kruge and Kirk is pretty laughable as it is atrociously choreographed. I don't know, maybe this passed for 1984 standards, but them attempting fisticuffs was a pretty sad sight for the eyes in the history of cinema. Even with the weak final act, I thought they manage to repair some damage with the film's epilogue when Spock is returned to Vulcan to be reunited with his essence. I thought it was a pretty well done scene to show all is well again in Trek universe.

Just like The Wrath of Kahn, The Search for Spock is loaded with extras. A bunch of old extras return, with a commentary track by Leonard Nimoy, Charles Correll and Robin Curtis and nearly two hours of behind the scenes features. I watched them all so you do not have to. The ones going out of your way to see are a pair of 25 minute features with Captain's Log doing a detailed and worthwhile look at what it took to get this sequel made from start to finish. The other one is about terraforming, and relating the Genesis technology in the film into what if scenarios if we were to terraform Mars. There are two painfully dull and long features on the various ship models used for Star Trek films, and another on how they crafted the Klingon language for this film. At one point I briefly fell asleep during these features, and I could not help but get the feeling that only devout, hardcore Trek fans would get something out of them.

There is a new commentary track for the BluRay featuring Ronald Moore and Michnel Taylor, along with 40 minutes of new HD behind the scenes features. One is yet another throwaway Starfleet Academy segment summing up the plot for the film and another is a short interview with Stephen Manley, who briefly portrays Spock in this film. There is an interesting special effects feature here all about how the crew were able to pull off the special effects they were capable of at the time without the assistance of computers. I also dug the interview with writer of the film, Harve Bennett, as he tours the SciFi Museum Hall of Fame as he remembers old Star Trek props and has some humorous anecdotes from the Moscow premiere to share.

I know this is the second act of a three part trilogy in the films, with the next movie, The Voyage Home wrapping this arc up. Unlike The Wrath of Kahn however, I never got the feeling of any dangling plot threads as this had a pretty feel good, conclusive ending. We shall see however when I cover that film next month, as I hear it is a big step up from Star Trek III: The Search for Spock. I may have harped on it a bit here, but I still quite enjoyed the film, and would easily recommend watching Star Trek II and III back to back any day of the week.

Star Trek Film Ratings

Star Trek: The Motion Picture - 6/10
Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kahn - 10/10
Star Trek III: The Search for Spock - 8/10

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