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Star Trek III: The Search For Spock

review by Zach B. and Anthony D.



Rated: PG

Running Time: 105 minutes

Starring: William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, James Doohan, George Takei, Walter Koeing, Nichelle Nichols, Merritt Butrick and Christopher Lloyd

Written by: Harve Bennett

Directed by: Leonard Nimoy


Studio: Paramount

Retail Price: $24.99

Features: Theatrical Trailer

Specs: 2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen, English Dolby Digital 5.1, English Dolby Surround, French Dolby Surround, English Subtitles, English Closed Captions, Scene Selection

Released: April 20th, 2000



Are three plot threads too many for one "Star Trek" movie? When that movie is subtitled, "The Search for Spock," the response may be a bit vague. The third major motion picture from Paramount's cash cow, is an engaging little feature with a fine directorial debut from a certain Vulcan Captain's creator. Leonard Nimoy made his directing debut with 1984's feature, and appropriate choice since his character, the logical Captain Spock, was killed off in the second film of the franchise, "The Wrath of Khan." Hey, I'm not spoiling anything that even casual viewers weren't aware of. Face it, Spock died at the end of the second film. Everyone saw it. But, what viewers might NOT have caught was a little bit of business between Spock and DeForest Kelly's Dr. McCoy, a bit of business which paved the way, and loaned credibility to Harve Bennet's screenpay for this, the third entry in the series.

"The Search for Spock" begins with a brief clip from the previous film, Spock making the unltimate sacrifice in an emotionally charged scene. With just enough expository material, this prologue lets us know that Spock's body has been sent to the planet Genesis; which itself is a scientific project initiated by Admiral Kirk's son, David Marcus. The Genesis project, and its outcome, is one of the three major story lines captured in the film's brisk running time. As always, even without the actual Vulcan being there, Spock's relationship with Kirk forms the central plotline, for it is Kirk's friendship and sense of duty to Spock that gives the film its title. Add in a power hungry Klingon who wants the Genesis project for his own, and you've got the third plot device, and the one that provides the action associated with "Star Trek."

I honestly cannot figure out why "The Search for Spock" isn't as highly regarded as its predecessor. Taken together, and in all honesty, you cannot have "The Wrath of Khan" without having "The Search for Spock;" they form what appears to be an extended television episode of the series. Given that "The Wrath of Khan" was itself a sequel to one of the serie's best episodes, it could easily be said that "The Search for Spock" finishes a trilogy of Trek tales. This installment is the most cerebral and oddly enough, the most spiritual of the entire "Star Trek" film canon. Kirk is reminded by Spock's father (Mark Lenard, in a carry-over role from the series) Sarek of Kirk's duties to Spock as a friend and as a commander. Sarek assures Kirk that Spock's being wasn't merely confined to the Vulcan body lying on Genesis, but the essence of Spock, his soul, if you will, is still an active presence in need of a repository. Admiral Kirk knows what needs to be done, and in a stroke of cinematic genius, assembles his Enterpirse crew together to fulfill his duties to Spock by stealing the soon to be retired Enterprise, and heading straight towards Genesis.

Also heading toward Genesis is the Klingon ship, a bird of prey-like vehical, armed with an awesome cloaking device, and commadeered by Kruge, the versatile Christopher Lloyd, in what is probably the only misstep in his career. Llyod's Kruge is a sfi-fi villain, alright; but the kind that belongs in the Saturday Matinee serials of yore. It's as if Llyod studied Max von Sydow's Ming the Merciless in 1980's "Flash Gordon;" or worse, Emporer Wang the Perverted in 1974's "Flesh Gordon." It's a cardboard characterization, from one of cinema's most creative character actors.

With an emphasis on emotions, this trek lacks the cold, sterility of Robert Wise's "Star Trek: The Motion Picture," and takes off into the adventurous spirit of the second film. Space travel is exciting under Nimoy's reins; and the characters within are not afraid of "being human," by expressing their feelings through words and actions. Even Robin Curtis' Lieutenant Saavik, of the logic-over-emotion Vaulcan race, shows more fire than her predecessor in the role, "Cheers'' Kristie Alley. Saavik's scenes with David on the erratic surface of Genesis have an emotional resonance rarely seen in the series. Curtis effortlessly conveys a greater sense of loss at a key moment than the admirable Admiral Kirk. In a film inherently about life and death, Kirk is the put-upon character in the scenario: his logical side (Spock) has been taken from him, while his heart will be torn as he faces the death of another loved one. Only one of those two will resurface, so to speak, in a stunningly designed ritual and equally awesome temple. Dame Judith Anderson, the antithesis of her Mrs. Danvers in "Rebecca," brings a warmth to her High Priestess role, unusual, since this particular Priestess is a Vulcan.

There is an unwritten, though widely referrenced, law of the "Star Trek" movies, saying that only the even numbered films are worthwhile. It must have been a geek's brilliant idea to voice this opinion. It seems to me that "The Search for Spock" is every bit as good as "The Wrath of Khan;" and the stakes are somewhat higher. It is a sci-fi/fantasy matter of death and life which makes viewing "The Search for Spock" a special occasion. There are few things that are wrong with the film, first and foremost is William Shatner's "T. J. Hooker" toupee - if anything dates a film faster than hairdos, it's BAD hairdos, and this rug is truly, unbelievably ugly. But, Shatner's acting is less hammy here than in other "Star Trek" related films and tv appearances, obviously Nimoy wouldn't let him resort to his normal overplaying, even as Genesis takes away the life of a loved one, Shatner's Kirk remains staunch and heroic. The humanity expressed throughout the film, reaches a moving climax where even McCoy is able to express his long-stifled feelings for Spock. With its compelling storyline, a cast that knows its characters as well as viewers do, some new valuable information on the Klingon race, "The Search for Spock" is the odd-numbered film that is the exception to the unwritten rule.


Presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen, "Star Trek III: The Search For Spock" does look quite good. Granted, there are signs of its age through its worn look in some scenes, constant blemishes, scratches and pieces of dirt, not to mention how grainy the image can look. Still, there is a sharpness to admire throughout some of this transfer, with a bold color scheme that jumps out nicely and is very well saturated. Detail and black levels are very solid (check out those spaceship exteriors!), while fleshtones are on par with other Paramount transfers. Still, there is a lot of noise and edge halos to be found throughout as well, plus edge enhancment which is clearly visible. Overall, it's a flawed but pretty good transfer.


The English Dolby Digital 5.1 remix is pretty atmospheric. James Horner's enchanting score does sound pretty lovely, while dialogue is quite crisp and clear throughout. The variety of sound effects do get you into this mix though... be it the hums of space, the battle scenes and the more thrilling, high tension kind of scenes provide for some great surround effects that sound somewhat artificial, yet somehow, pretty natural at the same time. Dynamic range is pretty good while fidelity is nothing more than decent, still, the mix is finely tuned and balanced and should be quite pleasing to anyone who listens to it. Also included are English and French Dolby Surround tracks, plus English subtitles and English closed captions.


Just the Theatrical Trailer.


With a decent transfer and pretty good 5.1 remix, "Star Trek III: The Search For Spock" is a nice, simple DVD release. However, at this point, it's probably best to pick up the special collector's edition which has more for the same exact price. Enjoy, Trekkies!