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THE SEARCH FOR SPOCK

Directed by Leonard Nimoy (1984, Paramount Pictures)
Starring William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, James Doohan, and Christopher Lloyd

Kirk and his crew risk their lives and careers to retrieve Spock's body in order to reunite it with his spirit.

View count: 4 times

 

 

3 stars

May 3rd, 2003 on DVD  
   

There are a lot of things to like, which overshadow the rest of the movie, which includes much boring time and a fake fist-fight.

Even though it is not a great movie, this is still one of my favorite Star Trek movies, simply because it was the first one that I saw in the theatre in its original release. I also read the book before going to see the movie, and had the book signed by James Doohan -Scotty, live. I still have the picture of me standing beside him. It was great!

One of the great things about this movie is the way it picks up directly from its predecessor, The Wrath of Khan. We get a small flashback to the end of the previous movie, which I suppose was necessary, but I feel that the same scene later in the movie would have been sufficient. It is Kirk's tone and his Captain's Log which gives the somber tone of the movie, and tells us what sacrifice has been made. If we were shocked at losing Spock in the last movie, this one does the mourning, but also offers hope.

In the last movie, Kirk turned death into a chance for life. Here he does the same, not only in McCoy's terrific line when they have beamed to the surface. He has to hope that Sarek is right, that Spock can be revitalized, returned to the world of the living. In order to do this, he makes so many sacrifices.

So much of this film plays like a mirror to the film that came before it. It is quite different, but it invokes the same themes that we saw before.

There are two scenes that struck me as being terrific, outshining the rest of the movie. The first is the wonderful way in which the Enterprise was stolen. I absolutely love that spacedock. It is truly massive, and a terrific backdrop for the massive spaceships. There is one shot in particular, from the inside, where we see Enterprise moving next to a window in a restaurant, that is just spectacular. It is unfortunate that the spacedock was not used outside the movies, because I find it to be a great model.

The theft of Enterprise was well handled, mainly because everybody gets something to do. It is not just the Kirk-McCoy-Spock show, though McCoy gets some great lines, like the mind-meld being revenge for the arguments the Vulcan had lost! He also gets to play Spock, being very logical yet thick-headed, a great mix of the characters. Scotty gets to sabotage the Excelsior -I love it when the seatbelts strap in, and the computer announces that they are approaching maximum speed, even after the starship stalls like an old jalopy! Sulu gets to beat up a much taller guard who calls him Tiny! Ha! He also gets to admire the Excelsior, something that was expanded upon when he gets command of the ship in The Undiscovered Country. My favorite small part goes to Uhura, though, who allows them to beam to Enterprise, while putting Mr. Adventure in the closet. She was great, and although she wasn't really needed in the middle of the movie, it was too bad she wasn't with them. Kirk's first sacrifice is of his career.

His second sacrifice comes when they arrive at the Genesis planet, where the science ship studying the planet was destroyed by Klingons. When Kirk hesitates, his son David is killed on the planet's surface. The scene where Kirk trips backwards, not able to get to his chair to seat himself, in grief, was truly emotional, and great. At least David died restoring his honor by saving the others. He and Saavik had been tracking a life sign that turned out to be the reanimated Spock. Spock's body had been caught in the Genesis wave, and he was growing with the planet. It was a great Star Trek way of bringing back the dead, and we know that by the end of the movie, the character will have aged to become Leonard Nimoy again.

The Klingon Kruge was an interesting villain. He was a true Klingon, killing his subordinates when they failed, and even risking death himself to confront Kirk on the dying planet. Christopher Lloyd did a great job most of the time. I have to admit that neither of the main characters did a good job with the fistfight, though. It looked terribly fake, especially when Kruge loses his balance at the end.

My second-favorite scene comes before this, however, with Kirk's last sacrifice. There was no other way to win the fight other than destroying the Enterprise. The slave circuits that kept the ship going to the Genesis planet were destroyed by the Klingons, leaving the ship helpless, though not destroyed, as Kirk managed to get off a crippling shot by guessing a patch of mottled stars was a cloaked ship. When the Klingon boarding party arrives, Kirk has set the ship to self-destruct. The Klingons seemed pretty stupid watching the count-down clock, but it could have easily been fake, as they assumed the ship was full to capacity, so the Federation officers must have been hiding somewhere.

The destruction of the ship was worth the setup given to it. This was an old friend who was dying, so we got to see it die in excruciating detail. First the bridge erupts, followed by the entire saucer section. Then the main hull and engineering section falls to the ground, burning up in the atmosphere. It was eerily similar and brought back painful memories of Columbia's break-up only three months ago. It's amazing how real the burning streak actually looks.

I really wonder how the Klingons, especially Kruge, thought they could ever win. One lone Klingon on the ship, and the captain beams up five Federation officers. Even armed, those are pretty poor odds for his poor transporter chief. The same could be said about the boarding party, except that Kruge was in essence holding the Enterprise hostage and could have destroyed her at any time.

The Genesis planet didn't look all that great, from the snow-encrusted cacti to the traditional cave sets, and especially the backgrounds for the fist-fight. I do have to admit that the planet falling apart was very impressive, however, even if many shots weren't convincing. Because other shots most definitely were. I loved seeing parts of the planet shoot through the ground, especially when it startles Saavik.

I wonder at the explanation of the instability of the planet, however. I didn't think the proto-matter cheat, by David, was necessary. The Genesis planet was created out of a nebula, so I am amazed it actually formed a planet. The device was meant to be used on a rocky planet, one that could be transformed. This planet was made out of gas. No wonder it was unstable. I suppose they had to make sure this concept would not be used again, but that doesn't really make sense, either. If the concept is a failure, people will still work to refine it. It was David's mother's lifetime work; I doubt she would stop now. The same argument could be used with the experiment as a success, just not working properly in this instance because the planet was not formed of rock.

I suppose that it does set up David's sacrifice, though. Because the project was a failure- because of his impatience, him dying for Saavik and Spock gave him back his honor.

The music was not as noticeable in this film as in some others, however, it was nicely understated in the return to Earth at the beginning, and I loved the complete lack of sound when Kirk enters Spock's quarters to find the possessed McCoy.

Of the special features, the trailer for this movie was pretty bad- and they give away the destruction of the Enterprise! The Nemesis trailer is nicely misleading on several fronts.

I was quite disappointed with the interviews this time around. Shatner really looked upset and resentful of Nimoy being able to direct this film. I couldn't believe the way he was talking, and couldn't stand the rest of his interview. Most of the talk came from Nimoy, and although the stories were cool, and he was very respectful of Shatner, it could have used some sprucing up. After having seen the Fellowship of the Ring extras, these ones pale in comparison- even simple interviews. I am glad they spoke with some of the other actors, but disappointed none of the other regular cast got any time.

The feature on special effects needed to be more visual. A few of the guys were good speakers, but there was one who was describing things, where he almost lost me, and I know a little about matting a shot. Imagine others who know nothing! Give us some visuals, set up the shot for us. It was tedious sitting through some of that. The features on the Klingon language was the most interesting, and the single person who spoke was the best speaker of the bunch. The costumes and terraforming were mildly interesting, but since they were barely discussions, more like lectures, they didn't hold my interest.

All of these features suffered from the same problem -aside from being boring and lacking visuals. They had way too many close-ups, and the camera was shaking, as if it was on somebody's shoulder the whole time. Amateur videographers can do a better job than this.

As I keep saying, since the special features are getting so bad these days, is that it's good to see the movie in widescreen on the disc. Because the features are certainly not drawing in buyers on their own.

 
   

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