Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Film Review: STAR TREK III: THE SEARCH FOR SPOCK (1984, Leonard Nimoy)

Stars: 3 of 5.
Running Time: 105 minutes.
Tag-line: "Kirk must battle the Klingons to protect the Genesis Planet and save a friend's life..."
Notable Cast or Crew: William Shatner, DeForest Kelley, James Doohan, George Takei, Nichelle Nichols, Walter Koenig, Robert Hooks (PASSENGER 57, FLED), Robin Curtis (HEXED, BABYFEVER), Christopher Lloyd (BACK TO THE FUTURE, TAXI), John Larroquette (TALES FROM THE CRYPT: DEMON KNIGHT, NIGHT COURT), Miguel Ferrer (TWIN PEAKS, ROBOCOP, THE NIGHT FLIER), Judith Anderson (REBECCA, LAURA), Marl Lenard (ANNIE HALL, HANG 'EM HIGH).  Music by James Horner (COMMANDO, TITANIC).  Written by Harve Bennett (THE MOD SQUAD, STAR TREK II: THE WRATH OF KHAN).  Sound FX by Alan Howarth (John Carpenter's co-composer on ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK and BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA).
Best One-liner: "I.... have... had... enough of you!"

There's a well-known "odds and evens" rule of STAR TREK movies– that is, the even ones (WRATH OF KHAN, THE VOYAGE HOME, THE UNDISCOVERED COUNTRY) are good and the odd ones are bad.  Well, I'm here to tell you that that's not entirely true, although perhaps it will depend on your definitions of "good" and "bad," your enthusiasm for early 80s fashion, and your general interest in character actors.

 The SFX hold up, too.

I'll try to make this brief, so without further ado, here's SEVEN WAYS THE SEARCH FOR SPOCK SURPASSES ITS SHAMEFUL REPUTATION:

(spoilers ahead, but then again, it doesn't really matter)

#1.  Noted alcoholic Dr. McCoy being forced to order water at a bar, because he's sort of being possessed by quasi-deceased fuddy-duddy Spock.  (Oh, the indignity!)


Also of note:  this bar features a "Tribble" cameo:
a golden glitter glo-lamp (pictured in the second screencap), XANADU-meets-THE APPLE-style sci-fi disco barmaids, and some smoove lounge jazz.  ...A+!

 #2. Miguel Ferrer, celebrated portrayer of sleazebags and arrogant dicks, appears in a (very) bit part as the First Officer of the U.S.S. Excelsior.  In the universe of this movie, if the Enterprise is the band of scrappy misfits, the Excelsior is the equivalent of the pompous rich kids' baseball team.

 And even in the future, Ferrer still has a legendary stink-face.

#3.  As I promised:  John Larroquette as a sensible, semi-compassionate Klingon.

It's hard to tell it's even him under that makeup.  The whole thing is kinda bizarre (apparently Laroquette was a big STAR TREK fan), and for that I must applaud it.

#4.  Dame Judith Anderson, dragged out of retirement to play a Vulcan high priestess–  Wait, whuutttt?!?

Best known to me as the icy and terrifying "Mrs. Danvers" in Hitchcock's REBECCA,

she was an accomplished film and stage actress who here lent some weight to religious gesticulations on a set that looks straight out of THE NEVERENDING STORY (that's a compliment, by the way). 

While STAR TREK has a long, rich tradition of taking Shakespeare actors and placing them in costumes with varying degrees of silliness, I feel as if this deserves special mention.

#5.  Rockin' leather jackets.
Lookin' like a bunch of kool dads who escaped a late 70s sitcom, Shatner, DeForest Kelley, and George Takei partake in the unauthorized commandeering of the decommissioned Enterprise, which, in the STAR TREK universe, is definitely a crime.  But they do it in style– specifically in those rockin' leather jackets.  Later, just to amplify his bachelor-pad-badassery, Shatner pops his collar... TO THE MAXX!

 He's definitely ready for "the popped-collar zone."

#6.  An unexpected Christopher Lloyd performance!

He's no Khan– who could be?– but he does a fine job, and I'm a bit surprised that his performance isn't mentioned more in the annals of sci-fi character work.  He gives complexity to a character who, though brutish, is not merely a brute.  Also, he gets a nice scene where he strangles a tentacle to death.

Lloyd throttles an ersatz Sarlaac to the minor delight of his henchmen.

 The beauty of Lloyd's performance reaches its natural culmination when...

#7.  We are entreated to the majestic sight of a grief-stricken William Shatner kicking Christopher Lloyd in the face until he falls off a cliff ledge... and into a volcano.


To be fair, he had it comin'.  And that, ladies and germs, is worth the price of admission.  Three stars!

–Sean Gill


J.D. Lafrance said...

Was this the one where Christian Slater had a cameo or was that IV? I always forget... but hey, Laroquette, Ferrar and Lloyd - not too shabby. That fight between Shatner and Lloyd certainly has its moments of scenery-chewing hilarity as a clearly too-old-to-credibly-fight Kirk actually wins... c'mon! But still, would STAR TREK fans ahve it any other way? I think not!

Anonymous said...

Wholeheartedly agree with J.D. above; I've never been a big Star Trek guy, but Larroquette AND Ferrer? It might be time to see what all the fuss is about!

Cannon said...

I'll be right up front with it: that moment when James Horner's score swells with excitement as the Enterprise is pulling out of Spacedock and the smug Captain Styles of the Excelsior says over the intercom, "Kirk, If you do this, you'll never sit in the Captain's chair again," before cutting to the fate-accepting expression on Kirk's face ...Search for Spock has its limitations but that moment right there was pure movie magic for me.

It's one of the ultimate Kirk moments -- Kirk, at heart, the ultimate rebel, who's just like, "Fuck Starfleet and everything else. I'm gonna go save my friend's katra."

And, yeah, the FX in that movie are rad; when the Enterprise explodes and trails through the evening sky of the Genesis planet. 80s ILM rocked-out with their cocks out.

Sean Gill said...


Slater has the bit in part VI- heh, believe you me, I wouldn't have ignored the Slater Factor in a review! But yeah, Shatner/Lloyd fight stretches credibility- to best possible breaking point!


Just a heads up- Ferrer probably has three minutes of screentime, and Larroquette maybe 15- if you're fresh to STAR TREK I would humbly submit as a good start the Ricardo Montalban-Khan saga double feature: the classic episode "Space Seed," followed by STAR TREK II: THE WRATH OF KHAN (both on Netflix instant!).


Yeah, I probably should have mentioned the Horner score- he takes themes from the original series and orchestrates them in a manner worthy of John Williams- definitely leads to some good moments like the one you describe. And 80s ILM- definitely at the height of their game.