Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (1984) (part 2 of 2)
The great thing is how pretty much everybody has their own separate cool moment.
Sulu gets the “Don’t call me tiny” scene. Scotty tells the Excelsior’s computer (voiced by Nimoy) to screw itself.
Nichelle Nichols gets to turn into Pam Grier for a minute or two with a mouthy young officer, which is always good for a laugh. On a related note, if you really want to have your mind blown, watch any episode of the original series where Uhura is her usual sweet, likable self… and then put in Truck Turner. Let’s just say that Ms. Nichols plays a very, very different character there.
As for Chekov… Well, the rather hideous pink shirt with huge ‘70s collar makes him stand out, so there’s that.
The bridge of the Excelsior is pretty cool, to be fair. The way Scotty sabotages it is even more so.
The bit where Grissom is destroyed by the Klingons is pretty well done, though what really makes the scene is Kruge shooting his gunner for accidentally blowing the ship up in the first place.
Kruge’s extremely casual fight with a giant worm by Spock’s burial tube is also funny.
Another cool bit is the sun going down on the planet. It’s neat enough that the characters react to it in the story.
The stuff with young Spock is interesting, if a little perfunctory, given everything else that happens in the film.
The brief battle between Enterprise and Kruge’s ship is a nicely done bit of business, nothing too fancy, since this is more of an emotional story than an action piece. It works well.
Equally effective is the exchange between Kirk and Kruge, and the ensuing death of David. It’s been said before and I’ll say it here: Kirk falling backwards is a very effective moment as he’s told of his son’s death. Shatner underplays it quite nicely.
The self-destruct sequence is oddly emotional, which is understandable if one is a die-hard fan of the franchise attached to the ship, but even I, someone who is casual in his fandom to the point of being lackadaisical, get a little teary-eyed during this bit. That’s a sign that a film is well made.
Either that, or it means I’m a tremendous sap.
The stuff following on the planet is pretty good too, with the planet tearing itself apart as Kirk and Kruge have a fairly decent fight. I especially like the very Shatner-esque way Kirk kills Kruge. Kruge mentioning how exhilarating the planet falling apart is was also a good bit.
I dig the little moment McCoy has with the unconscious Spock. It’s a very nicely done bit of emotional acting.
The last ten minutes or so of the film are interesting, though a bit sluggish, as Spock is put back together mentally and physically. The final scene where Spock recognizes Kirk is a nice emotional moment to end the film on, though.
Apart from the last few sluggish minutes, the film moves like a rocket with good humor, some nice emotion, and one or two fine action beats. Performances are strong across the board for the most part, with Shatner and Christopher Lloyd doing the best work, as Kruge is a fun villain and Kirk has some of his best moments on screen here.
Leonard Nimoy does a fine job for a first-time director, keeping the pace steady for the most part and characterization consistent.
What didn’t work:
Not much, really. Apart from one or two stiff performances and the somewhat obtuse finale, it all comes together pretty damn well. The f/x work is great for 1984, and nothing looks too dated when viewed today.
The third Trek film is a solid “meat and potatoes” Trek outing, with a good blend of the stuff that the franchise does well, and while it lacks the spectacle some of the later films delivered, it more than makes up for it with the heart some of the later films didn’t bother with.