I will admit that i’m not a fan of bringing characters back from the dead. Or at least not as often as say Comic Books do it. Genuine loss is a certifiable way of raising stakes, what better way is there to show the enormity of the conflict that faces the characters within a story than by taking something or someone away permanently?
The writers of DS9 made the decision to kill off Dax, in an aim to show how the Dominion’s war upon the Federation was indeed going to have real consequences and not just a mention of casualties, and in Wrath of Khan the unthinkable happens when Spock dies saving the Enterprise. Thus underlining the moral of that film, and making its story for a lack of a better term “matter”.
To take that final sacrifice that a character such as Spock made and then reverse it, is not in and of itself a bad one, it does require a great deal of care in how it is handled, and i for one can say that Star Trek III does indeed handle that particular subject matter appropriately.
I stressed in my review for Into Darkness, for the need of consequences and how that particular film didn’t really have any, specifically it lacked them with the dealing of Kirk’s death and subsequent resurrection. I still maintain that Kirk being brought back to life with the injection of some magical blood from Khan is a travesty. This is the type of resurrection subplot that i despise, the death had no weight to it, and no consequences felt or endured, as a jump cut later had us with the Enterprise crew reunited and set to explore the galaxy.
Compare that “shake and bake” resurrection to the one in Search for Spock, and you will hopefully see how miserable the mistake Into Darkness made when it took and switched around that death scene. In ST III: SFS the journey to bring back Spock is one filled with tremendous loss for all involved. All of the crew throw away their careers, and risk their lives to bring back Spock. Kirk himself suffers the most, he pressured by Sarek to fulfil his duty as Spock’s friend bring his mind and body back to Vulcan, his son is killed while attempting to protect his best friend, and lastly his ship is destroyed.
All of this is suffered and lost by the crew, and all of it is to bring back to life one man. It is a suitable rebuttal of Spock’s assertions that “the needs of the many, outweigh the needs of the few…” Because to everyone the loss of their dear friend Spock, was too much to bear, too tremendous a sacrifice to have been made for them to feel that their lives were worth it. That is how you bring a character back to life, that is how the loss suffered is still relevant when it is reversed, it succeeds in strengthening the bond between all of the crew as they all saved each others lives directly.
To top all of this off, the film again looks rather good. With a heightened budget that they used to hire more extras and actors and give the film a colourful aesthetic, ST III proves a personal theory that the films kept looking better than their previous incarnations.
It is a damn shame that while the story or central conflict of bringing Spock back to life is well done, everything else surrounding it isn’t. McCoy, doing a Spock impersonation isn’t as funny or good as it sounds, as it comes off as really awkward. Also i never got the sense that McCoy was in any real danger of dying, other than his bad impersonation and a moment of psychosis at the beginning of the film he acts more or less normal.
Christopher Loyd’s Kruge is indeed another sore spot for the film. An article on Cracked had compared his casting as a villain to audiences of the time (as he was known for his role in Taxi) as the same as what we as modern audiences would feel if The Architect from Matrix Reloaded was played by Michael Richards. While that sort of bewilderment has been lost to time (at least on me), i can agree that he is a truly dreadful choice for a truly dreadful Klingon. His attempts at chewing up the scenery just end up making him seem like a fool, as Loyd’s charisma just isn’t suited for the part.
As for the character himself, the biggest question i ask myself while viewing the film is: how does a man this incompetent get to command a starship? He falls for the most simplistic of ruses, and he acts on idiotic whims and out-and-out paranoia. As shown in the film this is a Klingon that would be better suited for use as cannon fodder, on some suicidal boarding action in the depths of the void, and in a part of space that no one gives a shit about. He is shockingly inept, and his character’s inclusion hurts the film.
It is also a shame that Kirstie Alley’s didn’t return to reprise her role as Saavik, and the part was recasted. While Robin Curtis does a better job of being a more traditional Vulcan, the playfulness that makes the character so remembered is sorely missing from her here.
Ultimately, The Search for Spock is indeed a disappointment. While its central journey to bring back Spock is well motivated and has the right amount of weight to it, ultimately it is pulled down by its surroundings. But honestly what could be expected? How could a film follow-up The Wrath of Khan and not be seen as a disappointment, when directly compared to it?
It’s that directness that is ultimately the film’s biggest boon and biggest anchor. The film is inseparable to Star Trek II, and that is mostly because it does what it needs to do (bring a character back from the dead) in good fashion.
*** OUT OF FIVE