Directed by Leonard Nimoy
With Spock dead and the threat of Khan ended, the Enterprise limps home. David Marcus (Merritt Butrick) and Saavik (Robin Curtis taking over for Kirstie Alley) have transferred to the USS Grissom to study the newly created Genesis Planet. Now a Klingon madman has stolen the plans for the Genesis Device and is headed to the planet to learn its secrets. After stealing the Enterprise, Admiral Kirk (William Shatner) must not only stop Kruge (Christopher Lloyd) but save Spock so that his mind which is trapped in the McCoy’s body can be reunited with his physical form.
It’s difficult to bring back a dead character no matter what fictional universe they exist in. The majority of the time it’s explained away as not seeing what you actually saw or something happened that moment the camera wasn’t on them but here in Star Trek III they not only acknowledged that all the events you saw happened as you saw them but they brought back the character in a way that made sense in the fictional Star Trek universe. They tossed in Vulcan mysticism with a heavy dose of preexisting canon and managed to touch on the concept of a soul while doing so.
While much of Star Trek was built around “the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few” this story inverted that philosophy because the needs of the one outweighed the needs of the many. These characters had become a family and were willing to risk it all to save one of their own. The soul of Spock was just as important as their own.
Robyn Curtis makes one of two appearances as Saavik since Kirstie Alley had decided not to come back out of a fear of being typecast. I felt Curtis was not as good as Alley. Her delivery was more staccato and a bit more wooden than her predecessor. Vulcans are cold but not robots. I’m not calling her bad. I’m just saying it needed improvement.
Sarek (Mark Lenard) returns in the first of what will become a series of appearances until the final original cast film. The mind meld scene between Kirk and Sarek was as powerful as any special effects heavy scene. Two actors with nothing to help them but their skills and it was awesome.
If you saw Wrath of Khan, you knew Spock had done something to McCoy (DeForest Kelley) just before he stepped into the chamber to repair the warp drive but the reveal that McCoy had Spock’s very soul just smacks you in the face. They were friends but reluctant friends and two characters that would probably not associate with one another if it had not been for their mutual friend in Kirk.
Christopher Lloyd as Kruge was an inspired choice. I was unfamiliar with any of his work beyond the tv series Taxi and him as Reverend Jim. And I did not like Taxi. Needless to say, I was not too excited with him in a major role. Boy was I relieved to be wrong. He blew me away. Kruge was a perfect contrast to Kirk. Both were intelligent and capable commanders but while Kirk’s crew followed him out of loyalty, Kruge’s people followed out of fear.
Uhura (Nichelle Nichols) gets a rare bad ass moment in the transporter room with her coworker Mr. Adventure (Scott McGinnis). Mr. Adventure is a Starfleet officer that feels stuck in a dead-end job and he’s pining for a little bit of excitement to liven up the day. Nichelle Nichols pulls a phaser on him and gets very tough. The character practically wet his pants while Uhura is dangerously cold.
Wrath of Khan was a tough act to follow yet Leonard Nimoy did a great job here directing his first ever feature film. He created an epic story that was true to Star Trek. This was a Star Trek movie that not only reached into and honored the mythology of that universe at the time, but it also took Star Trek into a new direction. For the entire run of the show and the previous two films the crew of the USS Enterprise were good Starfleet officers. Here they had to go against Starfleet and risk everything in order to save their friend. It changed the game without tossing everything out. Not many movies can or will do that. They either play it safe or toss out everything that came before in order to achieve something new.
One of the most exciting parts of the movie was the space dock escape. No guns were fired. No missiles were launched. It was just all acting and the tension the director created and the music that accompanied. The James Horner score just steadily raised the stakes as it played. It just built and grew and brought you to the edge of your seat. When the payoff came you were cheering. Star Trek has rarely equaled that since.
The second best of the Star Trek movies also contains the second most surprising and shocking scene in Star Trek film history. The destruction of the Enterprise was one of the more shocking scenes in any Star Trek film. It is probably only bested by the death of Spock. If your jaw didn’t drop when you saw the Enterprise destroyed on screen, then were you truly ever a fan? It was no secret what was going to happen, but it was still a gut punch to the fans. The Enterprise was as much a character as any member of the original crew. It wasn’t a quick explosion either but rather a slow and painful death.
This was no easy decision for the character of Kirk. Kirk’s heart and soul were in that starship. He sacrificed a part of himself by doing what he did. This was probably one of his most difficult decisions. He had to destroy his ship. Kirk loved the Enterprise as much as he would a child and having just lost his son a short time before this was doubly impactful to him.
Bones statement about Kirk turning death into a fighting chance for life eases the fan pain of the loss of the Enterprise and summarizes what had just occurred. It had an emotional punch to it that shouldn’t be possible when talking about a fictional vessel.
This movie and this scene alone put the characters into an uncertain future. If there was another film-which is never guaranteed-would the characters be able to re-join Starfleet somehow? How would that happen? They had stolen a starship to go to a forbidden planet and proceeded to destroy that ship. That’s a lot for a fictitious organization to look the other way on.
In a fictional universe where every story ended with a happy ending or at least everything OK for the main characters this was unprecedented. They had changed things up without changing the nature of the material.
It’s a worthwhile sequel and a good film in its own right. This is among the best of the Star Trek films. It’s a great story with great acting and amazing action. You don’t get much better than this movie.