7.18.2009

REVIEW: Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (Leonard Nimoy, 1984)

From the ashes of a heated battle with the notorious Khan that saw the death of Officer Spock, the Enterprise hobbles back to Starfleet. Greeted unceremoniously with an accusation that they made a mistake in leaving Spock's remains on the new and experimental planet Genesis, Admiral Kirk and company scrounge together a rescue plan under the noses of their superiors. Spock himself, Leonard Nimoy, directs the familiar crew into a tangle with nefarious Klingon rogues and through a land where no man has gone before.

The first hesitation with this third feature-length outing is that its immediate predecessor, The Wrath of Khan, was so nicely wrapped it could have easily acted as a swan song for what is likely the best known incarnation of Gene Roddenberry's Star Trek. Although Wrath's finale does subtly hint that the logical Vulcan's number is not quite up, The Search for Spock struggles to find the logic in actually bringing him back. The forty-five minutes (nearly half the runtime) taken before the Spock-searching finally commences should be indication enough that writer Harve Bennett fumbles the resurrection plot's particulars that occasionally echo the likes of Jason Voorhees' frequent revivals.

Story aside, Search's existence can be considered a mere excuse to entertain the enthusiasm of the key players and the wallets of its producers. Thankfully that presumed, self-indulgent money-grubbing pays off with pleasing nostalgia. The film is enjoyable if only for what makes any excursion with television's favorite starship successful - the cast and its hopeful air of friendship and sophistication. While Leonard Nimoy's absence before the lens proves a slight blemish on the chemistry, all the regulars - bold William Shatner, brash DeForest Kelly, sprightly James Doohan, earnest George Takei and the rest - are all back and in form. The only odd recasting to be found is with Robin Curtis in the role of Saavik - a welcome character only introduced one installment prior. Apparently Saavik's original embodiment, Kirstie Alley, demanded too high a paycheck to return but Curtis' arctic deliveries make one wonder if Alley's presence would have been worth the expense.

On the subject of poor delivery, for a film about the quest to recover a beloved friend that sees the involvement of the lead character's long-lost son and the near reckless endangerment of all involved, Search is destitute of emotion. Too much logic in place from the Vulcan director? Perhaps - the direction seems the primary aspect to blame when it comes to the lack of caring we experience when even some of the more important milestones in the cinematic history of Trek unfold. Compensating for this, however, is the often glorious photography. The exterior shots of the ships as they careen across planet surfaces or the vastness of space may not be quite up to code with the likes of Star Trek: The Motion Picture's Enterprise reveal or Wrath's nebula sequence but they rarely fail to inspire awe. Even the final bout between good and evil (albeit flaccid evil) is a treat to watch where without the well-captured backdrop its reminiscence of the infamous Kirk-versus-lizard-man scene would have been all the more apparent.

A passable return to the Trek universe, The Search for Spock is worth viewing for any fan just so long as the excellence of The Wrath of Khan is not expected. If taken too seriously, it may dismantle a portion of one's love for Trek but in the end it's quite harmless.

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