No, It’s Really Good is going to be a recurring column in which I examine overlooked or under appreciated films. Today’s film is Star Trek III: Search For Spock.
Maybe this is an extremely unpopular opinion but I’d put Star Trek III: The Search For Spock up against any film in the franchise.
Let’s take a quick step backwards and remember some of the history that got us to Search For Spock.
Star Trek: The Original Series was a cult show. Yes, it had massive cultural impact after it left the air, but while it was on it did ok. Not Great, not terrible, but ok. So mediocre, if fact, that it almost got canceled after season two. But thankfully, due to a massive outpouring of love from the fan base a third season was greenlit. And then we all know what happened next. The show got canceled.
While the show was off the air, a massive fan base developed. A convention circuit was established, and a cultural phenomenon was cultivated. Both Shatner and Nimoy became American royalty. Seeing the potential to make some money off of the franchise, Paramount agreed to make a feature film.
Thus, Star Trek: The Motion Picture was birthed. Unfortunately.
Even the most hardcore of Trekkers will acknowledge that Star Trek: The Motion Picture is god awful. I’ve seen the film three or four times over the years and I honestly don’t remember what it’s about. The film is slow, plodding, and has the design sense of a 1970 used car lot. The movie blows. The most frustrating aspect of the film is how they shoot the enterprise. They’re so hopped up on having a budget that will enable them to make a somewhat not-terrible looking model that they forgot to actually make a movie. Star Trek: The Motion Picture is just one massive montage of slow motion shots of the enterprise drifting through space. The movie is terrible. And the box office receipts said the exact same thing. The film failed. Can you guess why? It sucked. It really really sucked.
Here’s where things start to get interesting. Star Trek: The Motion Picture was a mostly stand alone film. This was done to attract as many non-Trek people as possible. It’s arguably the films largest weakness. That and the Enterprise glory shots. So what’s the remedy for this problem? Link the next film to the show. Concretely. Not in a way that makes people confused, but in a definite way. How did they accomplish this?
Arguably the most inspired choice in all of Trek, they used Khan. Now let’s remember that previous to the release of Wrath of Khan nobody cared about him. He was in one episode. One. He wasn’t even that memorable. It’s not like the tribbles where everyone remembers that episode. He was just in an episode. He was a monster of the week, if you will.
Selecting Khan, previously a two bit, one off villain, was brilliant. It allowed the creatives behind the camera to really expand on what was there, provided a foothold for the Trek faithful and gave the crew of the Enterprise a real villain to fight.
Wrath of Khan is undeniably amazing. It’s not even a thing. I don’t need to waste words typing about how great the film is and how impressive it’s accomplishments are. We all know.
And now we’re back at the beginning. Search For Spock. Obviously, Spock dies at the end of Wrath of Khan. And then we go on to one of the most underrated and critically overlooked entries into the franchise.
Let’s start with the obvious, the elements that were inherited from Wrath. Spock’s death, Kirk’s son, and the re-casting of Kirstie Alley. Spock’s death at the end of Wrath is the pivotal moment in Trek cannon. There’s pre Spock’s death and post. That’s just the way it is. The ending of Wrath is so ballsy that you can’t talk about Search For Spock without discussing how immensely impressive killing the fan favorite Vulcan is. The decision is so big they had to use a whole movie to deal with the fallout. If we’re being honest, it’s two movies. It takes all of three for them to revive Spock and then all of four to get back on the same page with him. That’s really ballsy as well.
Search for Spock had a few puzzle pieces to find a place for 1) How were they going to resolve Spock’s death, 2) How was David, Kirk’s son, going to fit into the Trek world, and 3) How would Kirstie Alley’s Saavik be incorporated. Well, the answers are fairly simple, Genesis will brink him back, he’ll die for Genesis, and we’ll recast her and then never use her again after Trek 4.
Let’s get to the most important part of Search For Spock: Kirk. This is one of the few films where Kirk actually has an arc. He goes from morning, grief stricken to released that his friend is alive again. Granted, he had to blow up the enterprise to do it, but hey…them’s the breaks. This is one of the film entries into the Trek universe where one actually feels empathy for Kirk. Or really feels anything at all. Usually, Kirk and Shatner are so concerned with being cool and maintaining their wish fulfillment vehicle-ness that they don’t have any time to actually be a human being. Search For Spock shows us the human side of Kirk, which is no small feat.
The cinematography in Search For Spock is my favorite out of every feature film. I love the complementary color scheme, the rainbow light speed trails, and simultaneous grit and glam of the film. Leonard Nimoy, in the director’s chair this time, constructed an utterly beautiful film. And he killed David… so… bonus points.
With all the talk surrounding Into Darkness both old and new fans should give Search For Spock a second look. The film holds up well, and is a visual delight. Also: Doc Brown is a Klingon. What’s not to like?
Star Trek III: Search For Spock is an overlooked gem in Trek cannon and deserves a resurgence in popularity.
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Tagged: Chris Pine, Into Darkness, Khan, search for spock, star trek, star trek 3, Star Trek Into Darkness, Wrath of Khan, Zachary Quinto
Posted in: Cult Movies, Featured (Film), Film, Film Reviews, Sci-Fi Movies