Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (1984) / Sci Fi-Action
MPAA Rated: PG for violence and mild language
Running Time: 105 min.
Cast: William Shatner, DeForest Kelley, Christopher Lloyd, Merritt Butrick, Robin Curtis, Mark Lenard, James Doohan, Leonard Nimoy, George Takei, Walter Koenig, Nichelle Nichols, Dame Judith Anderson, James Sikking, John Larroquette, Miguel Ferrer
Director: Leonard Nimoy
Screenplay: Harve Bennett
Note: The following review contains spoilers for the previous entry, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.
Sandwiched in between the two standout entries in the Star Trek series, Star Trek III is understandably, but not exactly accurately, considered a weaker entry, which would formulate the opinion that even numbered Star Trek films were the only good ones. In fact, Star Trek III: The Search for Spock is quite good, and while it doesn't have the action of Star Trek II or the comedy of Star Trek IV, it does stand up on its own for being a thought-provoking and intelligent episode in the saga.
While rest of the Star Trek series of movies can be enjoyed as singular stories, Star Trek III should not be viewed without seeing Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. It is a direct sequel to that film, picking up where the previous film left off, with the heroic death of Spock to save all of his comrades. Obviously, with the title of The Search for Spock, this film offers some hope that Spock may actually still be alive, and the entire movie concerns itself exploring possibilities as to how this might have happened. Unless you're completely oblivious to all things Star Trek, you will probably know the answer to the mystery, although at the time of its release, it was not known. The only mention of Leonard Nimoy in the opening credits comes from his debut directorial effort, and every effort had been made in keeping the ultimate fate of Spock under wraps to the movie-going public. All in all, it was quite brilliantly executed at the time.
The film starts off with the weary Enterprise crew returning home after their near-death battle with Khan, and the actual death of Spock, whose body had been torpedoed to the Genesis world, which was a newly transformed planet, formerly without life. While all involved are a bit worse for wear, the biggest effect on a crew member seems to be with Dr. McCoy (Kelley), who is exhibiting strange behavior that suggests he may be cracking from the experience, babbling something about returning to Spock's home world of Vulcan. Spock's father, Sarek (Lenard), is convinced that Spock's "essence" has somehow been transferred to another before his death through a mindmeld, which would explain McCoy's behavior. With an unknown lifeform recently found on the Genesis planet, Kirk (Shatner) wants to visit and find out if Spock's body is also reincarnated, but the instability of the area makes it off limits to anyone but science officers. Kirk and company must hijack their old ship, against orders, but soon finds that murderous Klingons have discovered news of the Genesis Project, and are willing to kill anyone in order to gain information on the process.
Although Star Trek III never reaches the fever pitch of its predecessor, it does have the most character touches of any Star Trek outing to date, including the television show. For fans who enjoy the characters and their importance to one another, it's a very worthwhile drama, featuring good heartfelt dialogue, and finely drawn characterizations from the script by Harve Bennett. The score by James Horner, who also scored The Wrath of Khan, is outstanding, adding a perfect sense of mystique integral to the story. As you'd expect, the special effects are also well handled, and the backdrops and sets are gorgeous.
Star Trek III doesn't have the broad appeal of other Star Trek films, so it is really only recommended for those who are sufficiently familiar with the series, both on television and in the motion pictures. Don't expect a continuation of the adrenaline-charged Star Trek II or the space odyssey that was Star Trek: The Motion Picture -- this is a film about the characters and how much they mean to each other. Star Trek III is a bit handcuffed by being a film that tries to restore the series back to its status quo position after it had been almost irreparably changed by the loss of one of its most popular members. It may not enjoy the creative freedom allowed the other entries, but for what it is, it is remarkably insightful and gets the job done with surprising intelligence, without silly gimmicks or hackneyed twist developments.
©2005 Vince Leo