Sunday Night Movie: Star Trek III: The Search For Spock

It is a well know dictum in the SF community that the ‘good’ Star Trek films are all the even numbered ones and that the odd numbered movies are ‘bad.’ I have advised people to remember that what the even numbered, II, IV, and VI, have in common is Nicholas Meyer. He had a hand in writing all three and directed two of them.

I myself have espoused this Even/Odd dictum to people about how to judge Star Trek movies. (Counting all the Next Generation films as ‘odd.’ The first, a weak and bull film was the best of the lot. They proceeded to become more and more idiotic as the series progressed becoming what can oxymoronically called Luddite Science-Fiction.)

Recently Star Treks, II, III, and IV were released a a single blu-ray set with new bonus features. I resisted as best I could, but when I found a set for about $25 I broke down and purchased it even thought it had a ‘bad’ movie in the collection. I spent part of the weekend watching the bonus material and oohing and awing how gorgeous the films look in the Blu-ray format. Last night I decided that I would make Star Trek III: The Search For Spock my Sunday Night Movie.

My judgements on Star trek III have been too harsh. Watching the movie last night I was engaged in the story and in the characters and cared about the resolution of the plot-lines. That is not to say it is not a flawed film, because it is flawed. However, it is no more flawed that say Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country a film I did not hesitate to buy in a special edition DVD when I could.

I think that my judgement and perhaps those of many other people are too harsh because this is the movie that followed Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan. That film is a masterpiece of SF filmmaking and it’s flaws are small and nearly unnoticeable.  I do not think any film in the series would have been seen favorably after following The Wrath Of Khan. Compared to the slow and plodding Star Trek: The Motion Picture, this film dashing along at a brisk pace, never stopping to let the audience rest. Compare to the idiocy of Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, this film is marvelously intelligent and witty, while honoring and not insulting the characters. Comparing to ALL the the next Generation movies this film is actually Star Trek, grappling with the idea of duty, friendship, and loyalty while delivering an honest action film rather than a pale watercolor impression of an action movie.

Now as I said this film is flawed and it is sad that many of the flaws were avoidable and fixable had they been caught in the writing or planning stages.

There are scale issues in the special effect. The stolen Warbird (a plot element dropped from the final version is that Kruge stole the warbird and is operating entirely on his own.) when it first appears seem enormous, but later we learn it has a crew of just a dozen Klingons. The audience was tricked into thinking one thing when another was the actual case. This is bad filmmaking.

The conceit of having Spock be ‘reborn’ and age progressively and quickly with the Genesis planet is stupid science. It would have been much more plausible to have Spock revived by the Genesis Effect, but suffering total memory loss. It would not have changed one element of the core plot and been much more acceptable to those of us with a scientific bent. (However, Star Trek often had bad science.)

Having the planet ‘age’ and explode at the end of tis life was also unjustifiable by scientific standards. Since the matter had been rearranged at the sub-atomic level by the Genesis Effect the aging could have been skipped and the planet and it;s star could have been simply unstable from the revolutionary new process. When planets age, they simply grow cold and airless. They don’t explode.

All in all I am happy to own this movie in the Blu-ray format and I plan to watch it many time in the future.