Star Trek III: The Search for Spock

Star Trek III: The Search for Spock
Director: Leonard Nimoy
Screenplay: Harve Bennett
Stars: William Shatner (Adm. James T. Kirk), DeForest Kelley (Dr. Leonard "Bones" McCoy), James Doohan (Cmdr. Montgomery 'Scotty' Scott), George Takei (Cmdr. Hikaru Sulu), Walter Koenig (Cmdr. Pavel Chekov), Nichelle Nichols (Cmdr. Uhura), Mark Lenard (Ambassador Sarek), Merritt Butrick (Dr. David Marcus), Judith Anderson (High Priestess T'Lar), Robin Curtis (Lieutenant Saavik), Christopher Lloyd (Cmdr. Kruge), Leonard Nimoy (Captain Spock)
MPAA Rating: PG
Year of Release: 1984
Country: USA
Star Trek III DVD Cover

Following on the heels of the grandly operatic Star Trek II: The Wrath of the Khan (1982), Star Trek III: The Search for Spock feels like it's practically crawling. While in no sense a bad movie, Star Trek III is, nonetheless, something of a let-down, a longwinded paean to the grandeur of Leonard Nimoy's famous Vulcan character, which shouldn't come as much surprise since Nimoy himself directed it.

As a first-time director, Nimoy proves himself to be capable, although still decidedly wet behind the ears. Having been with Star Trek since it began as a TV show in the late 1960s, Nimoy had an intuitive understanding of the material that neither of the previous Star Trek movie directors, Robert Wise and Nicholas Meyer, had. Yet, that actually turns out to be something of a deficit as both Wise and Meyer brought something new and fresh to the Star Trek universe without losing its core ideas or what makes it so appealing to its legions of fans. Wise brought a stately (perhaps too stately) elegance to Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979), while Meyer brought a sensibility of fun and an over-the-top attitude that made Wrath of Khan the best of the bunch. Nimoy wrests The Search for Spock back into a more analytical mode, treating everything with a humorless sincerity that pleases some and bores others.

At the end of Wrath of Khan, Spock had sacrificed himself to save the Starship Enterprise. It is a loss that is still deeply felt by the Enterprise crew, especially its commander, Admiral James T. Kirk (William Shatner), who was also Spock's best friend. However, we learn that Spock, being a Vulcan, has not died in the simple, mundane sense in which humans die. Rather, prior to sacrificing himself, he "mind melded" with Dr. Leonard "Bones" McCoy (DeForest Kelley), thus imparting his spirit into McCoy's mind (of course, the beautiful irony of this is that the cold, logical Spock is the natural intellectual enemy of the sentimental, liberal McCoy). Therefore, Kirk and company must find a way to get back to the planet Genesis, which was created in Wrath of Khan and became the resting place for Spock's material body, and reunite body and spirit.

The twist here is that Kirk and the others become renegades. The bureaucratic know-nothings of the Federation don't feel this is a legitimate cause, and Kirk must essentially hijack the Enterprise, damaged and crippled as it is from the battles with Khan, to get to Genesis. There are other problems as well, notably a renegade group of Klingons (see the nice parallelism laid by writer Harve Bennett?) led by Kruge (Christopher Lloyd) who have their sights set on stealing the Genesis Device and undermining on-going peace negotiations between Klingons and the Federation.

Although it includes several action sequences, including a stupendeously ridiculous battle to the death between Kirk and Kruge on a self-destructing planet that has turned into a fiery inferno, Star Trek III never quite establishes its footing and subsequently never gets on a roll. We keep waiting for something truly awe-inspiring to happen, particularly since the film is built around mystical notions of spirituality and rebirth; unfortunately, it remains mired in its own self-importance. Star Trek: The Motion Picture had many of the same problems, but Nimoy isn't half the director Robert Wise was and he isn't working with the same level of awe-inspiring special effects.

In the end, "The Search for Spock" is completed and it turns out just as we suspected it would. There is a brief rush of emotion as the crew is reunited, and for fans in the mid-1980s it probably felt even sweeter as it was proof-positive that the series would go on, despite stated intentions that would conclude a trilogy. Of course, now that we know that it has gone on ... and on ... and on, the reunion doesn't have quite the same kick.

Star Trek III: The Search for Spock Special Collector's Edition Two-Disc DVD Set

Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
LanguagesEnglish, French
Subtitles English
DistributorParamount Home Video
Release DateOctober 22, 2002

2.35:1 (Anamorphic)
Unlike the previous two newly released Star Trek special edition DVDs, Star Trek III appears to use the same anamorphic widescreen transfer that was featured on the previously available bare-bones release. While the transfer is not bad, it's not particularly great, either. The image is consistently smooth and filmlike, with some instances of grain, particularly in the composite shots containing special effects. Colors look good, but the print used for the transfer bears some traces of dirt and age that are noticeable at times.

English Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
English Dolby 2.0 Surround
French Dolby 2.0 Durround

The Dolby Digital 5.1-channel surround soundtrack does its job very well. Although the surrounds aren't in constant use, they are used incredibly well at times, particularly in the space battle scenes and in an extraordinary moment when the Klingon ship first appears.

Audio commentary by director Leonard Nimoy, writer/producer Harve Bennett, director of photography Charles Correll, and actress Robin Curtis
The four participants in this screen-specific audio commentary were recorded separately and then edited together, but it is clearly dominated by director Leonard Nimoy and writer/producer Harve Bennett, who together offer a great deal of insight and detail into the making of the film and how it fits into the larger Star Trek universe. Cinematographer Charles Correll does have some interesting things to say about the film's visual look, but one has to wonder why exactly actress Robin Curtis was included, as she doesn't have a great deal to offer beyond a few amusing anecdotes and a lot of enthusiasm for having participated in the film.

Text commentary by Michael Okuda and Denise Okuda
As on both of the previous Star Trek Special Collector's Edition DVDs, trivia fanatics can get their fix of minutiae by reading a text commentary by Michael and Denise Okuda, coauthors of The Star Trek Encyclopedia. They supply all kinds of trivia on both the making of the movie and the Star Trek universe in general.

Captain's Log
This 26-minute look back at the film's production includes new video interviews with director Leonard Nimoy, writer/producer Harve Bennett, stars William Shatner, Christopher Lloyd, and Robin Curtis, associate producer Ralph Winter, and cinematographer Charles Correll. By far the two best moments in the featurette are when Shatner declares that he taught Nimoy everything he knew about directing and when he tells the story of how he single-handedly saved the set from burning down. The joy in watching Shatner is that it is impossible--absolutely impossible--to tell if he's serious or joking in his self-aggrandizement. A real pleasure. Presented in anamorphic widescreen (1.78:1).

The Star Trek Universe
The section of the DVD is divided into three meaty featurettes, each of which focuses on a different aspect of the film's production. Space Docks and Birds of Prey focuses on the film's special effects and rounds up new interviews with a host of behind-the-scenes people, including spacecraft designer Bill George, modelmaker Steve Gauley, and visual effects cameraman Scott Farrar, who gives a lengthy and informative explanation of the blue-screen process. If there's a theme here, it's that special effects were a helluva lot harder in 1983 than they are now. In Speaking Klingon, I was surprised to learn that the Klingon language was invented for Star Trek III. Not knowing much about Star Trek, I had somehow been under the impression that the language dated back to the original series. In this 21-minute featurette, linguist Mark Orkrand explains how he created the Klingon language from scratch, building off other languages and incorporating various mistakes made by the actors into its grammar. Klingon and Vulcan Costumes is the shortest of the three, running only 12 minutes in length. It features jewelry designer Maggie Schpack and costume designer Robert Fletcher discussing their work on the film and also includes numerous costume sketches and photographs of the props. All three featurettes are presented in anamorphic widescreen (1.78:1).

Terraforming and the Prime Directive
If you're looking for a little Discovery Channel in your Star Trek experience, here it is. Running 26 minutes in length, this featurette focuses on the scientific realities of terraforming, mostly concentrated on turning Mars into a habitable planet (this is connected to Star Trek via the fictional Genesis Project). It includes intriguing interviews with Dr. Louis Friedman, executive director of The Planetary Society, NASA research scientist Chris McKay, and sci-fi author David Brin, who offers a compelling discussion of the power of science fiction to effect change in society. While it might seem a little "out there," this featurette is definitely worth watching, if only to remind ourselves that science fiction often becomes science reality. Presented in anamorphic widescreen (1.78:1).

This section is divided into storyboards and photos. The storyboards section contains dozens of storyboards of 10 major sequences in the film, and the photos section is divided into 25 production and behind-the-scenes photos and 26 stills from the movie. Presented in anamorphic widescreen (1.78:1).

Original theatrical trailer
Presented in anamorphic widescreen (2.35:1).

Star Trek: Nemesis teaser trailer
Presented in nonanamorphic widescreen (2.35:1).

Copyright © 2002 James Kendrick

Overall Rating: (2.5)

James Kendrick

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