Review for Star Trek III: The Search For Spock
Things aren’t looking good for Captain James Kirk and the crew of the Enterprise. Following the events of Star Trek II, Spock is dead, the badly damaged starship limping home. Kirk’s son David Marcus, along with Saavik may be off exploring the Genesis planet, created after Khan suicidally detonated the Genesis device, but Kirk has been ordered to stay away from the planet, the Enterprise is to be decommissioned, and Starfleet security is clamping down on any mention of Genesis. On top of that Dr McCoy is behaving very erratically. When Spock’s father Sarek tells Kirk that there may be a chance that Spock’s soul has survived, if not his body, it becomes even more imperative for Kirk to return. All the answers lie on the Genesis world, but it’s not developing as expected, and the Klingons won’t countenance a doomsday weapon in the hands of the Federation.
The 2.35:1 widescreen 1080p transfer on this disc exhibits the same issues as most of the films in this collection, that of DNR applied until the film grain is mostly eliminated. It’s certainly not what you would hope for from a Blu-ray, with some of the finer detail scrubbed away. That said, you do get much more in the way of clarity and definition than the DVD disc, and colours are strong and consistent, a little too strong towards the red end of the spectrum (the red alerts in this movie are a little too red). The image is clear of any significant print damage or signs of age, although cine wobble is apparent at times.
You have the choice between Dolby TrueHD 7.1 Surround English, DD 5.1 Italian, DD 2.0 Surround German, Spanish, and French, with subtitles in these languages and Arabic, Dutch, Danish, Croatian, Norwegian, Portuguese, Finnish, and Swedish. What is it with Star Trek on Blu-ray! The original series, The Next Generation, the ten ‘classic’ movies, all suffer from wayward audio sync on my player. The lip sync drifts back and forth through the movie, just a smidge, and if it gets noticeable, you have to pause playback and resume to get it back into sync. Just like the Wrath of Khan, the audio in The Search for Spock is unremarkable. Certainly the music comes across well, and the action is suitably immersive, but dialogue isn’t quite as crisp as you might hope, probably the legacy of a film that was distributed in cinemas in Dolby Stereo, and hasn’t really had the attention it deserves when it comes to its HD release.
Once again we get a mix of old and new when it comes to the extra features on this disc.
The Commentary with director Leonard Nimoy, producer Harve Bennett, cinematographer Charles Correll and actress Robin Curtis was taken from the DVD and is a bit of a patchwork with the speakers recorded separately.
New for this disc is the commentary from Ronald D. Moore and Michael Taylor.
The Library Computer is the glorified pop-up trivia track.
In Production you’ll find four featurettes looking at the making of the film, and exploring some of its story elements. Two are in SD running to 52:06 in total. Two are in HD and run to 20:12.
The Star Trek Universe has the rest of the featurettes, three in SD running to 61:09, and two in HD running to 19:34.
You get the theatrical trailer in HD, and a BD-Live link.
They talk about the odd-number curse of Star Trek movies, and I think it’s unfair when it comes to Star Trek III, which is actually a really good movie. I think it suffers from two problems with regards to audience reception. The first is that it relies on having seen Star Trek II for it to make sense. Of all the Star Trek films, it is the least stand-alone. The second thing is that of all the Star Trek films, it is the most downbeat. You can accuse Star Trek of getting dark, more horror oriented (especially when it came to Borg in First Contact), but that is a tonal darkness. Star Trek III’s darkness is more thematic, looking at loss and sacrifice. The film begins with Spock having died in the previous film, and as it unfolds, when you learn just what Kirk has to sacrifice to help his friend, you might be tempted to ask if it was actually worth it.
In terms of the script however, in terms of the performances and the story, Star Trek III is much more impressive than many of the films that followed it and Star Trek IV. This was back when the Star Trek films tried to do something different with each iteration instead of constantly trying to remake Khan. You could say that it does boil down to a confrontation with a scenery chewing villain over a doomsday weapon, but the weapon doesn’t get detonated in this film; the threat is more a political one, with the Klingons wanting to maintain the balance of power. What makes this film different is the length that Kirk will go to in his self appointed mission, breaking the law and stealing the Enterprise. Compare that to Picard’s weak and wobbly Insurrection in the film of the same name, and it’s clear that the personal stakes are much higher for the characters, and that helps make The Search for Spock a gripping adventure.
As for this Blu-ray release, once more it’s another slap on Paramount’s wrist, and a ‘could do better’ written in the report card. Of course, Star Trek fans are Paramount’s cash cow, and it wouldn’t do to actually give them what they want right away, not when you can eke out more moolah with incrementally improved releases year on year.