My countdown to the release of Star Trek Into Darkness continues with a look at Star Trek III: The Search for Spock. I don’t know how much hope or potential Star Trek III may have had when it was first released in 1984. It certainly has a lot to live up to compared to its predecessor, The Wrath of Khan. This movie is not a bad film, but it’s not terribly great either. The difference here seems to be that Star Trek III is driven more by plot than character. It tries to be as big and epic as the first two films, even going so far as to kill Kirk’s son and blowing up the Enterprise. It tries really hard to be just as captivating and memorable as number 2, and in some ways tries to duplicate its success by creating another bigger than life villain with Christopher Lloyd’s Klingon Kruge. But the energy of this film never really builds or goes anywhere that interesting. This ship is running on impulse folks.
I guess I’ll start with Kruge as a comparison to Khan. It’s sort of funny, because Kruge comes up with the perfect way to destroy Kirk that Khan would have done if he’d known: killing his son. If Khan knew Kirk’s son was there and killed him, it would have completed his revenge. But in Star Trek III the death of his son doesn’t really mean anything. For one, Kirk has no relationship with Kruge as a villain. He doesn’t even meet him until the very end when everyone shows up at the Genesis planet. Kruge’s mere presence as villain doesn’t serve much of a purpose in the film except to make Kirk sacrifice something for bringing back Spock. Kruge’s motivation to get the information on the Genesis device seem pretty futile. How exactly would he use it as a weapon? And who can he really ask for information on how it works or how to build one? He kills David, the only person around who actually knows anything about the Genesis device.
I think my biggest disappointment with the film was that by the end of it didn’t feel like a whole lot actually happened. Compared to the previous film, there really isn’t a lot of action in part 3. Everyone sets about doing their task. By the end of the film, I’m not sure what the adventure really means to anybody. I felt there could have been a lot more exploration into McCoy having to share his mind with Spock, and the maddness that could have ensued within him. It doesn’t really seem to affect him that much at all. He has no life affirming moment because of any of this. And after a few crazed out moments in the beginning, he’s acting normally for the rest of the film. As for Kirk, he’s driven to go back when he finds out that Spock’s body is regenerating from the Genesis planet. But problems arise when we see he has no relationship with the villain or his son, which doesn’t really give us a reason to care. Somehow I keep thinking this would have been better if they could have gotten Carol Marcus to be in this film and have her killed instead. We at least know that Kirk has a history with her, unlike his son which in the time span of the two films he’s probably known him for about two weeks, and he hasn’t done much in the way of bonding in either films. I’m not saying Kirk wouldn’t care if his son was killed, but the relationship isn’t given enough screen time to make us, the audience, care what happens to him.
The film has its share of cleverness to it, but there just isn’t anything that memorable about the movie. The characters are just basically going through the motions. No one particular character is driving the story. There was some missing potential here with Bones going mad with Spock’s essence trapped in his mind. Kirk could suddenly be faced with losing another close friend, this time to maddness, and his drive to go back to the Genesis planet was the need not to just save Spock but Bones as well. It would have been more interesting throughout the film to see Bones jumping back and forth between the Spock personality, and getting the crew into more problems. This is a film that probably should have been much darker, but we’re never given the chance to explore this side of the characters. As I was watching the film, I just felt pretty much indifferent to everything that was happening. The consequences seem more arbitrary to the plot than driven by the characters. It’s not enough however because there isn’t any motivation behind the consequences. In the long run, non of it will really mean anything to the characters.
Star Trek III is a pretty weak entry in the Trek series. I think it ranks slightly better than the first film, which is horribly slow at times and way too serious for its own good. This film has a few enjoyable moments to it. Sulu beating up that huge guy. Uhura putting that obnoxious cadet in the closet. The scene with Bones in the Alien Bar. Also, it’s always fun to watch Christopher Lloyd play a Klingon. Although I felt Kruge could have been so much more outrageous and over the top. My other complaint I want to mention with this film is the effects work which, so far, is the weakest in the series. However, the one effects shot I like is the space station orbiting Earth, a really impressive and detailed miniature. For the rest of the movie, there isn’t a whole lot else that seems worth mentioning. Again, it’s not a bad film, but it’s a disappointment that could have lived up to a higher potential.