A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Movie 324 – Star Trek III: The Search for Spock

Star Trek III: The Search for Spock – January 18th, 2011

So, we’re three nights into our Star Trek mini-project and I’ve got to say, it’s interesting watching these one after another, as if I’m watching nightly episodes. Indeed, at least last night’s and tonight’s feel like they’re directly following one another, complete with a “previously, on Star Trek…” section. And so if these are just feature length episodes, how does this one stack up? Well, according to Trek lore, this is supposed to be a “crappy” movie, owing to being an odd number. But I wouldn’t say that. I’d say it’s certainly not as tight as the second movie and not as epic as the first, but it’s okay. Uneven, but okay.

The trouble, I think, stems from having what are essentially two plots. On one hand there’s the action plot with the Klingons trying to get their hands on the Genesis Project information and on the other hand there’s the titular search for Spock, which isn’t much of a search since he’s right there on the planet in body and right there in McCoy’s head in spirit. And the movie has to try and balance out those two plots and meld them somehow into a single cohesive plot. After all, the title of the movie says it’s about Spock, and certainly getting his body back from the planet Genesis was used on is the impetus for Kirk and the rest of the crew to head back out there. But then the Klingons show up and repeat Khan’s whole deal, facing off with Kirk and demanding the information and threatening people Kirk cares about. It serves to make things feel sloppy.

Personally, much as I love the Klingons and all, I think the movie could have been a lot tighter and cleaner had they managed to make the retrieval of Spock’s body fraught with danger without an additional enemy. After all, they were already on the run from Starfleet, having swiped the Enterprise and disabled the Excelsior in direct violation of orders. If they were going to have an enemy show up, have the Enterprise out there legitimately, but without contact or something. Don’t split it up like this. Because despite ostensibly being a single plot, where the Klingons are a mere inconvenience in the true plot of getting Spock back, it feels divided. And while I’m complaining, if a Vulcan ambassador shows up demanding his son’s body in order to perform cultural funerary rites, dismissing it with “I’ve never understood Vulcan spirituality” seems a little off for Starfleet. Locking McCoy up even when the Vulcans have an explanation for what’s happening to him? Come on. It feels like a set-up. It doesn’t feel genuine. And that’s the problem. It needed so much tension added in that none of it feels right.

All that being said, there’s still a lot to enjoy in this movie. After all, it’s Star Trek, and it features the famous line(s) “Klingon bastard, you killed my son!” There are some truly nice performances from DeForest Kelley and, I’ve got to say it, William Shatner. Okay, in Shatner’s case it’s nice because he’s snappy and smug and having fun being an outlaw in his own fleet, but I still say that counts. I do like Christopher Lloyd as the Klingon leader. Overall I like the Klingons, even if I don’t necessarily like their role in the movie (seriously, Khan rehash). I think Nimoy did a good job directing his fellow castmates, even with the plot being somewhat messy. The funny thing is, while the plot is messy, there’s some good writing in individual scenes, so it’s possible to give and get good performances even with things being such as they are.

What it boils down to is that it feels uneven and rough, especially when set so closely after the second movie, which was nice and tight. Perhaps if it hadn’t been following on the heels of the second movie, using plot points and secondary characters. Perhaps if it didn’t feel like the second part of a two-parter season ending cliffhanger. But it was and it does, so. Yeah. On its own it’s a perfectly decent piece, but as a sequel to Wrath of Khan it just isn’t quite the same.

January 18, 2011 Posted by | daily reviews | , , , , | Leave a comment

Star Trek III: The Search for Spock

January 18, 2011

Star Trek III: The Search for Spock

This is an odd-numbered Star Trek movie which means that in accordance with the supposed curse of the Star Trek films it is regarded as lackluster. I think that’s a little unfair, though. It doesn’t live up to the high standard set by Wrath of Khan, but how could it? This movie’s biggest failing, really, is part of its very fabric. The whole purpose of this movie is to undo one of the most impact full dramatic moments in the history of Star Trek. From the moment you see the title of the film, though, you know how it inevitably has to end, so there’s not much suspense involved in the narrative.

What I do like about this movie is how well integrated it is with the second Star Trek movie. Right from the start this movie feels more like a continuation of Wrath of Khan than a stand-alone film. It starts out with footage of Spock’s death and funeral and proceeds directly into the new movie with the badly damaged Enterprise limping home to stardock above Earth. Kirk has a great log entry about how the death of Spock is like an open wound, and there’s a very defeated and melancholy tone to the start of the movie. I also enjoy some of the spooky touches that hint about what has happened to McCoy after his final mind meld with Spock in the climax of the second film. DeForest Kelley does a great impersonation of Leonard Nimoy as Spock a couple times, even doing the trademark raised eyebrow.

So most of the plot of the movie involves the crew trying to recover Spock’s body from the unstable Genesis planet and return it to Vulcan. Starfleet are suddenly complete obstructionist dufuses about returning to Genesis so Kirk and his crew have to dress up in leather jackets and hijack their own ship to do it. (I’m not sure why the leather jackets are obligatory – they soon abandon them in favor of starfleet uniforms) Then they have to deal with an annoying but bumbling Klingon captain (played by Christopher Lloyd) who wants the secret to Genesis for use as the ultimate planet-destroying weapon.

You know – I just watched this movie all the way through and I can honestly say that it feels like not much happens. Maybe it’s the lack of tension. Kirk easily outwits everybody who stands in his way. He kills off practically the entire Klingon crew without having to fire a shot. Sure, his son dies an ignoble death as a hostage in the Klingon’s hands, but aside from that and the destruction of the Enterprise it feels like nothing really goes wrong in this movie. Like I said before, we all know how it has to end, right? Even the preposterous fistfight between the Klingon and Kirk feels almost laughable. (Amanda and I sang the Star Trek fistfight music over it, which seemed to help. “Buh ba BAH ba BAH ba BAH ba ba bah bum!”)

On a more personal note: it did me good to see the fountain from the center of my old college campus which is featured as part of the scenery on Vulcan. It brought back all kinds of old memories – some of which I will probably talk about when we review Real Genius, which was also filmed on the Oxy campus.

Tomorrow we get to watch another even Star Trek film – the more humorous and light-hearted Voyage Home – also directed as this movie was by Leonard Nimoy. I’m looking forward to that.

January 18, 2011 Posted by | daily reviews | , , | 4 Comments