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Leonard Nimoy
William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, James Doohan, George Takei, Walter Koenig, Nichelle Nichols
Harve Bennett

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Rated PG.

Widescreen 2.35:1/16x9
English Dolby Digital 5.1
English Dolby Surround
French Dolby Surround

Runtime: 105 min.
Price: $29.99
Release Date: 4/11/2000

• Theatrical Trailer


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Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (1984)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson

Maybe I'm just contrary, but I've never quite agreed with the notion of the "odd-even" curse for Star Trek films. That concept states that even numbered Trek films rule while odd-numbered entries drool. Yes, it's true that volumes 2 and 6 are the best of the bunch and 8 is very good as well, while the first picture is easily the worst, and nine and five aren't that great either. However, I really like the seventh (Generations), and even nine and five are entertaining, while I dislike the fourth film; at this point, I'd rate it above only the abysmal first movie.

Star Trek III: The Search For Spock is also a pretty good film, but I think it's always suffered because it follows the second picture, the one that so many people love. It's hard to follow such a hugely successful project, and although Search doesn't quite match up with its predecessor, it's still quite exciting and entertaining.

Its main fault stems from a plot that largely lacks nuance. It offers a very blunt and direct storyline. The crew of the Enterprise go to find Spock, and that's about it. It includes no real subplots and just concentrates on matters that directly relate to Spock's final outcome. Not much else spices up the proceedings.

Despite that, the movie moves at a good pace and the execution seems solid. We get to see the usual things we want in a Trek project: the crew encounter apparently overwhelming odds and Kirk must scheme his way out of the predicament. It also tosses in a little comedy, some pathos, and a bit of strong action to make the proceedings compelling.

Because of the nature of the story, Spock (Leonard Nimoy) remains almost-totally absent from the film, and that becomes another reason Search may suffer in some folks' eyes. Indeed, I did miss the interplay between Kirk (William Shatner), Spock and McCoy (DeForest Kelly), especially since we don't even get much of Kirk and McCoy together. Bones was literally not himself for much of the film, so the piece focuses more tightly on Kirk than most. While that's fine, it does make the movie seem less fully Trek than most.

I actually thought Shatner seemed unusually good in this effort. Yeah, he's still a ham, and his acting always earned the mockery it received, but he fits Kirk to a "tee", and he holds up to the added focus here well. I especially liked the way he communicated his relationship with his son David (Merritt Butrick). We only learned of David's existence in the prior film, so there's been virtually no time for the two to develop a connection in front of us. Nonetheless, Shatner aptly conveys the burgeoning bond between the two, and he does this almost single-handedly.

Guest actor Christopher Lloyd also seems solid as Klingon commander Kruge. Klingons tend to all seem a lot alike, but Lloyd brings a fine spark to the role. There's something about him that adds an element of personality to the role that wasn't there in the script and that lacks in most other Trek aliens. One oddity about the Klingons in this film: although they usually speak Klingon amongst each other, sometimes they lapse into English. This occurs for no apparent reason. All I can figure is someone at Paramount thought, "Say - we're gonna need a lot of subtitles for all this Klingon dialogue. People hate subtitles - better inject some English!" It doesn't hurt the movie, but I found it to make for an odd inconsistency.

Despite that, I continue to really like Star Trek III. It's a firmly middle-of-the-pack offering for the crew of the Enterprise, but since most of their films are pretty good, that's not a bad thing. It can be basic at times, and it lacks some of the customary Trek pizzazz, but it remains a lot of fun.

The DVD Grades: Picture B / Audio A- / Bonus D-

Star Trek III: The Search For Spock appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Although the picture showed its age at times, it generally provided a solid presentation.

Sharpness seemed very good. The movie consistently displayed a crisp and distinct image. Softness never caused any concerns, as the film remained distinct and accurate. Jagged edges and moiré effects also presented no issues, but I did notice a smidgen of edge enhancement on a few occasions. Print flaws created most of the picture’s problems, as I noticed light to moderate grain during a number of scenes. Various examples of speckles, grit and marks also appeared at times. The prevalence of these varied and never became heavy, but they did cause some small distractions.

Colors also appeared a bit erratic. For the most part, the hues of Spock looked nicely natural and distinct, but scenes with colored lighting created concerns. Those tended to look a little murky and runny; shots on the Klingon bridge displayed most of the issues. Nonetheless, the hues generally worked fairly well. Black levels came across acceptably deep and rich, while shadow detail looked appropriately opaque but not overly thick. Much of Spock presented very good visuals, but the mix of small concerns knocked down my grade to a “B”.

Though it also displayed a few problems, I felt that the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of The Search for Spock provided a surprisingly strong experience. The soundfield offered a nicely active affair. Given the age of the material, it used all five channels well. Ships flew from speaker to speaker smoothly and cleanly, and the different environmental conditions on the Genesis planet appeared natural and lifelike. The score presented good stereo imaging, and the entire package melded together neatly. The surrounds really added a nice kick to the piece, especially during action sequences or those on the planet. The decloaking of the Bird of Prey offered a wonderfully involving and dynamic segment.

Audio quality varied but usually seemed quite positive. Speech showed the weakest elements. Although most of the lines came across as distinct and they always remained intelligible, the dialogue occasionally appeared somewhat flat and dull. Still, those pieces lacked edginess and they were acceptably natural. Music could have boasted a moderately bolder presence, but the score still sounded reasonably bright and vibrant; those elements didn’t impress me tremendously, but they seemed more than acceptable for the age of the material.

Though the effects also were erratic, they possessed some very impressive aspects. On the negative side, a few stems sounded somewhat thin, and I noticed mild distortion in a few shots such as the explosion of a ship. However, much of the time these elements provided a much stronger impact than I expected. Scenes that involved the Klingon Bird of Prey presented a wonderfully deep bass rumble, and other low-end sequences packed a nice punch. Bass response remained rich and tight and never became boomy or inappropriately heavy. Overall, the audio seemed very strong, and it worked much better than I’d expect for an 18-year-old movie.

The only area in which this Star Trek III DVD really falters comes from its supplements. All we get is a theatrical trailer, and it’s a bad one at that. This clip reveals a tremendously important plot point, so don't watch it if you’ve not already seen the movie.

Despite that lack of extras, Star Trek III: The Search For Spock remains a decent DVD. I've always enjoyed the film a lot, and unlike the subsequent Trek picture - which I like less and less every time I see it - it's held up well over the years. Paramount have created a DVD with surprisingly fine picture and sound. If supplements matter to you, seek out the special edition of The Search for Spock; it adds a nice roster of interesting materials. Otherwise, this version provides visual and audio quality that seem identical to that newer release, so it should be fine for fans with no interest in extras.

To rate this film visit the review of STAR TREK III: THE SEARCH FOR SPOCK - SE.