THE SEARCH FOR SPOCK : Star Trek III, 1984
Admiral Kirk and his bridge crew risk their careers stealing the decommissioned Enterprise to return to the restricted Genesis planet to recover Spock's body.
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With Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan being a big critical and commercial success, Paramount capitalized on the momentum and commissioned a third movie. Unfortunately, a vital component of TWOK’s success would be missing. Nicholas Meyer elected not to return for the third installment, as he was quite unhappy about the changes Paramount made to the ending of the second film.
The director’s chair was now vacant, and it would be filled with the unlikeliest of choices.
After viewing The Wrath of Khan and being greatly impressed with it, Leonard Nimoy became revitalized with Star Trek and wanted to continue with the franchise. The decision was made to resurrect Spock in the new movie and Nimoy was asked if he would resume the role, to which he replied “You're damned right, I want to direct that picture!”. After some wheeling and dealing, Nimoy was appointed the director of Star Trek III: The Search for Spock.
Harve Bennett wrote the script, which both he and Nimoy decided would be sombre yet operatic. Kirk (William Shatner) and the Enterprise crew throw caution to the wind by defying Starfleet orders to seek out the fallen Spock. The crew must also contend with a villainous band of Klingons led by the dastardly Kruge, campily played by Christopher Lloyd, who seek out the Genesis
Search for Spock continues the odd numbered curse of the franchise that begun with the first film. Nicolas Meyer is sorely missed in this outing, as both the script and direction lack the verve and craftsmanship exhibited in Wrath of Khan. For the most part, TSFS is campy and, like The Motion Picture, tedious. The film was Leonard Nimoy’s feature directing debut and he was obviously finding his footing as a director. Bennett’s script, while it does contain some interesting plot twists, such as the destruction of the Enterprise, is disjointed and unfocused.
In addition to the lacklustre direction and script, two performances really sink the film. As mentioned previously, Christopher Lloyd’s campy performance as Kruge, a villain who either makes you laugh or groan instead of terrifying you. Also, Robin Curtis as Saavik, who took over the role from the vastly superior Kirstie Alley. While an incredibly attractive woman, her portrayal of the cool and low-key Vulcan demeanour is just plain wooden.
The best quality of Search for Spock is a theme that permeates the entire Star Trek franchise: friendship. In this installment, friends make enormous sacrifices for friends. Kirk and crew risk their careers for Spock, and Kirk’s son David (Merritt Butrick), who was introduced in TWOK, commits self-sacrifice to save another as Spock had done in the previous film.
TSFS came very close to matching the box-office gross of its predecessor, but received mixed reviews from critics and audiences alike, who felt that it was a cross between the first and second films. Good, but not great.
However, the success of this movie insured that a fourth would come to fruition. This time, Nimoy would direct masterfully and deliver a film that would rival The Wrath of Khan as the best in the series.