Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (1984)

16 Feb


Smith’s Verdict: ***

Reviewed by Tanner Smith

The third “Star Trek” movie is subtitled “The Search for Spock,” leading to the possibility that by the time this movie is over, Mr. Spock will return to join the USS Enterprise crew once again. But it starts out with Spock not merely missing—in fact, for those who don’t recall the end of the previous movie (if you don’t, this movie recaps the moment), Spock sacrificed his life to save the ship and the crew. The crew threw a funeral for him, launched him out into space, and fans of the series undoubtedly cried at the fact that Mr. Spock (Leonard Nimoy), arguably the most famous character in the “Star Trek” franchise, has died. But in the movies, anything can happen—thus, we have “Star Trek III: The Search for Spock,” in which Admiral Kirk and his crew are going to find Spock and bring him back from wherever he is.

Strangeness occurs that gets the search underway. For one thing, Dr. Bones McCoy (DeForest Kelley) seems to be of two minds, so to speak. It seems as if some of Spock’s memories have been stored into McCoy’s mind. He begs Kirk (William Shatner) to find Spock on the Genesis planet, where it turns out Spock has been reborn due to the planet’s growth. (At least I think that’s how it worked—certain parts of the story seem kind of odd to me.) For those who remember, the Genesis planet, from the previous movie, was created for new life. Kirk and the crew are to be reassigned and are forbidden by the Federation to go to the planet to search for Spock. But they disobey their orders and go for it anyway. However, they run into trouble with a ship of aggressive Klingons, led by the ruthless Kruge (Christopher Lloyd), who want to steal the secret to Genesis.

The search is a good deal of fun, though the scenes leading up to it could’ve used either tighter editing or a simpler script. There’s a great deal of heavy exposition involving the location and rebirth of Spock, mostly by Spock’s father (Mark Lenard), and they go on for quite a while. But once Kirk steals the Enterprise from the Federation, in a terrific ten-minute sequence, the movie gets on its feet and gets more interesting. The afore-mentioned sequence is quite impressive and very well-paced. There’s some tension on the planet, as Kirk’s son David (Merritt Butrick) and Vulcan Saavik (Robin Curtis, taking over for Kirstie Alley) make their own expedition on the planet for inspecting a “mysterious life form.” The Klingons continue to zero in on the heroes, such as when the Enterprise is met with a Klingon bird-of-prey. And of course, everything must come down to a battle between Kirk and the nasty Kruge, and once that’s done, we can deal with the matter of Spock’s return.

Christopher Lloyd’s Kruge is just an OK villain—he doesn’t really have the same kind of menace that Ricardo Montalban’s villain had in the previous movie. Sometimes, with Lloyd’s eyes bugging out half the time, it’s hard to take him seriously. And when you’re familiar with the actor’s other work, hearing him speak Klingon (which sounds like a cat throwing up half the time) is, let’s face it, quite hilarious.

I won’t be spoiling anything when I say that Spock does return at the end. What, did you expect the Enterprise crew do go on this search and not find him? This isn’t that kind of movie, guys. I’ll praise the scene involving his return because it reigns as one of the more satisfying moments in the “Star Trek” series—I was glad to see him again.

“Star Trek III: The Search for Spock” isn’t as great as “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan”—there are some overlong scenes, some moments that are silly, and the villain isn’t particularly compelling. But the theme of sacrifice is still present—like how Kirk has to sacrifice just about everything to save his best friend—and the action is still tense and exciting, while leaving for the beloved character interaction “Star Trek” fans have grown accustomed to. This is a good “Star Trek” movie, but not a great one. Still, like all good movies, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t deserve to be checked out.

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