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Star Trek III: The Search For Spock
Special Collector's Edition

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:
Disc 1:
Audio Commentary with Director Leonard Nimoy, Writer and Producer Harve Bennett, Director Of Photography Charles Correll and Robin Curtis, Text Commentary by Michael Okuda and Denise Okuda
Disc 2: Terraforming and The Prime Directive, Archives, Captain's Log, Space Docks and Birds Of Prey, Speaking Klingon, Klingon and Vulcan Costumes, Theatrical Trailer, "Star Trek: Nemesis" Teaser 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 (11 Scenes)

Released: October 15th, 2002

 

 

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.

 

Hmm, Paramount is making good on these reissues. The next "Star Trek" film to be reissued in their "Special Collector's Edition," fans of the film will probably want to revisit the third entry. The only extras on disc one are two commentaries. The first, an Audio Commentary with Director Leonard Nimoy, Writer and Producer Harve Bennett, Director Of Photography Charles Correll and Robin Curtis, is pretty strong. Despite some occassional gaps of silence here and there, a lot of information is shared here and since each job is so different for each participant, you truly get a unique perspective on the production. Nimoy was my favorite speaker here. I'm a fan of the actor and his behind-the-camera work, so it was pretty interesting to hear his vision for the film, the kind of film he wanted to make. He strays here and there, but offers some very nice stories and insights. The differences between film and television are talked about here, while Charles Correll talks about his technical style, Robin Curtis in her acting and working with the cast and crew and Bennett in the story he wanted to make and expand the universe with. Nicely done.

The Text Commentary by Michael Okuda and Denise Okuda is also quite good. It can be distracting to read since the words jump up and down on the screen, but if you're a Trek nut (I'm not), then I'm sure you will be fascinated by the variety of facts presented throughout the film. If you're really into the franchise, then this text commentary is worth turning on and reading. A lot of information is covered throughout and really is quite articulate.

Moving on to the second disc, the bulk of the supplements lie here. Terraforming and The Prime Directive is presented in anamorphic widescreen, and lasts a good 24 minutes or so. Unfortuantly, I found this featurette to be pretty dull. Interviews with author David Brinn, NASA egghead Chris McKay and another egghead by the name of Dr. Louis Friedman. Interwoven with clips from the film, the speakers talk about the Genesis device and how it's "terraforming" powers and whatnot have been used quite often in science fiction. So, the main point here is to talk about the film, the technology and how something like it could be close to becoming a reality. Or is it? BWAHAHAHAHAHAHA. I'm sorry, but you really have to be into the film to be enraptured by this.

Captain's Log is pretty good, and probably the best featurette on this set. Also presented in anamorphic widescreen, interviews with William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, Christopher Lloyd, Robin Curtis, Harve Bennett and a few more (all new interviews) talk about the making of the third installment. It actually is pretty entertaining to watch, especially Shatner's stories that are kinda full of it, Nimoy's take on directing the project and some interesting production stories, not to mention some decent behind-the-scenes stuff to view. This is worth a watch even if you're a casual fan of the film. It lasts a bit over 26 minutes.

"The Star Trek Universe" is broken up into three featurettes (and all presented in anamorphic widescreen - yay). The first, Space Docks and Birds Of Prey, features interviews with associate producer Ralph Winters, spacecraft design Bill George, modelmaker Steve Gawley, camera guy Scott Farrar and Leonard Nimoy. This near 28 minute featurette focuses on the more technical aspects of the film. Using clips from the movie, models and storyboards, the more technical and design aspects of the film are discussed here in pretty good detail. It does kind of drag on after the bit, but there are some interesting moments if you are into this kind of thing.

Speaking Klingon lasts a tiny bit over 21 minutes... and man, this is for die-hards of "Trek" universe only. Marc Okrand introduces himself and basically speaks for the whole time, but here and then clips from the previous "Star Trek" films and show are shown. I felt like I was watching a seminar held in some hotel watching this... right down to the white board and the black marker, oh, and the choppy editing. Okrand talks about his work mostly and how the Klingon language basically works and his developments to the language. There's a focus here somewhere... but I think this one could have been condensed. Be warned again... this is really for the biggest fans of the franchise.

The last featurette, Klingon and Vulcan Costumes, is the shortest running at slightly over 12 minutes. Costume designers Maggie Schpack (I hope I spelled that right) and Robert Fletcher are on hand here to discuss their work and how important their work is to "Star Trek." Clips from the film are shown here and there... but they really babble on way too much on stuff that does not have such important relevance. It would have been nice to see the actual costumes instead of rough sketches, and I'm sorry, stills of costumes and the holding of one and describing it just doesn't cut it. Unless you really love the visual design of the film in its costumes and all, then you can pass on this.

Rounding the disc out are very extensive Archives for storyboards (Broken down into "Main Titles," "The Klingons Attack," "Entering Spacedock," "Search For Life," "Finding Spock," "The Destruction Of The Grissom," "Stealing The Enterprise," "Self Destruct," "Kirk Fights Kruge" and "The Katra Ritual") and photos (broken down into "Production" and "The Movie), the film's Theatrical Trailer in anamorphic widescreen and a Star Trek: Nemesis Teaser Trailer in non-anamorphic widescreen.

 

Certainly if you're a fan of the "Star Trek" franchise or this third installment, this is worth the upgrade. The transfer and 5.1 Dolby Digital mix might be the same, but if you love supplements, then you need this... even if most of them are drab. It's worth a rental for sure if you're a casual fan of the "Star Trek" movies and of this one in particular, otherwise, if you're a big fan, the price is decent so just go ahead and pick it up. Here's hoping the next "Star Trek" re-release will fare better...