Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (4K UHD Review)

  • Reviewed by: Bill Hunt
  • Review Date: Sep 01, 2022
  • Format: Blu-ray Disc
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Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (4K UHD Review)

Director

Leonard Nimoy

Release Date(s)

1984 (September 6, 2022)

Studio(s)

Paramount Pictures (Paramount Pictures Home Entertainment)
  • Film/Program Grade: C+
  • Video Grade: A
  • Audio Grade: B+
  • Extras Grade: B-

Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (4K Ultra HD)

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Review

Star Trek III: The Search for Spock picks up shortly after the events of Star Trek II. Kirk and company have defeated Khan, and are limping home aboard a badly damaged Enterprise. But Spock has given his life to save the ship from Khan’s last gasp—the detonation of the stolen Genesis device. Per custom, Spock was buried in space, his body fired in a casket (fashioned from a photon torpedo casing) into the atmosphere of the newly-formed Genesis planet. As if the loss of their friend isn’t bad enough, upon returning to Earth, Starfleet informs Kirk that Enterprise is to be decommissioned and its crew disbanded.

But in Kirk’s darkest hour, a glimmer of hope appears—Spock’s father, Sarek (Mark Leonard), reveals that his son may not truly be gone. It seems that, just before his death, Spock transferred his katra (read: soul) to Dr. McCoy in a Vulcan mind-meld. If Kirk can retrieve his body from the Genesis planet, the Vulcans may be able to reunite body and soul... and Spock may live again. But Starfleet has quarantined the planet and denies the request to take Enterprise on one final mission. So Kirk and his crew are forced to make a choice—either steal Enterprise and destroy their careers, or lose their friend forever. And if they do proceed, they’ll still have to face a rogue Klingon captain (Christopher Lloyd) who’s determined to obtain the power of Genesis for the glory of the Empire.

This third installment in the Star Trek film series is somewhat frustrating. Written and produced by Harve Bennett and directed by Leonard Nimoy (no less than Spock himself), the story opens with Kirk and the crew of Enterprise having won a victory, but licking their wounds as a result. Sarek’s appearance adds a welcome air of mystery and hope, while the Klingons deliver a bit of requisite tension and drama. Once the action kicks in, it’s not bad—the sequence where Kirk and company steal Enterprise is entertaining, if not exactly action-packed. But then the film hits the brakes with a poorly-written subplot involving Kirk’s son David and Lt. Saavik (Robin Curtis, replacing Kirstie Alley from the previous film) exploring the Genesis planet. Some of the dialogue here is terrible and it doesn’t help that Curtis gives a bland performance. Due to budget limitations, most of the Genesis planet scenes were filmed on a soundstage and they look like it. But perhaps the biggest problem is that this story simply doesn’t stand on its own; it’s tied too directly to the events of Wrath of Khan.

Still, there are bright spots. Christopher Lloyd is terrific as Kruge, the Klingon captain who pits his tiny Bird-of-Prey against Kirk’s Enterprise. Their head-to-head conflict in this film feels legitimately dangerous, with real consequences for Kirk that will continue to play out in later films. And there are some lovely, funny, and endearing moments here with McCoy, Scotty, Sulu, Chekov, and Uhura. Each character get the chance to shine and is critical the success of their group mission to save Spock. The film also gets major points for bringing back actor Mark Leonard as Sarek (a role he first played in The Original Series episode Journey to Babel) and for casting Dame Judith Anderson (the great Australian actress) as T’Lar. These elements almost, but not quite, make up for the film’s deficiencies. And that’s what makes Star Trek III so frustrating in the end—you find yourself alternately enjoying the film and being bored by it.

Star Trek III: The Search for Spock was shot on 35 mm photochemical film using Panavision cameras and anamorphic lenses. Visual effects work was also completed using VistaVision, and the film was finished photochemically at the 2.39:1 aspect ratio. For its debut on Ultra HD, Paramount has completed a new 4K scan of the original camera negative and master interpositive elements to produce a new 4K Digital Intermediate, complete with color grading for High Dynamic Range (both HDR10 and Dolby Vision options are available). Other than the opening title sequence (which re-uses footage from Star Trek II but run through an optical printer to add titles, resulting in a noticeable reduction in quality) and the occasional soft focus shot, the uptick in resolution in this 4K presentation is significant. Live action footage features abundant detail, while film’s the model photography is simply gorgeous—the opening Bird-of-Prey attack is particularly good, with stunning texturing visible on the ship’s wings, not to mention the outer hull of Spacedock in the scenes that follow. The image is no longer plagued with DNR and there’s lovely and well-controlled grain visible throughout. The latter is mostly organic looking (though as is the case with the other films, there’s a bit of blurring or artifacting apparent in the grain in a few shots). The film’s color palette is stunning thanks to the wider gamut of HDR, with vibrant reds, blues, and greens, not to mention well-nuanced skin stones. Blacks are pleasing inky, while the highlights are brightly bold. Once again, the Dolby Vision has a modest edge over HDR10, but the latter is excellent too. All in all, this is a great looking image and massive improvement over the previous Blu-ray release.

Once again, primary audio is included on the 4K disc in English 7.1 surround in lossless Dolby TrueHD format. This is the same mix found on the original 2009 Blu-ray. A new Dolby Atmos mix would certainly have taken the sound to the next level, but the TrueHD was and remains a solid experience. The soundstage is medium-wide across the front, with good use of the surrounds for music, ambient effects, panning (spaceship flybys notably benefit from this), and directional cues (including computer sounds, wind and earthquake rumbles on the Genesis planet, and explosions in several scenes including the Klingon attack upon the freighter early in the film). Dialogue is clean at all times, bass is firm, and the James Horner score is presented in pleasing fidelity. Optional audio mixes are available in German, Spanish, and French 2.0 stereo in Dolby Digital format, along with Japanese 5.1 surround in Dolby Digital. Subtitles are available in English, English for the Hearing Impaired, Danish, German, Spanish, French, Japanese, Dutch, Norwegian, Finnish, and Swedish.

Paramount’s new stand-alone 4K UHD release is a 2-disc set (UHD and Blu-ray) featuring the exact same discs found in the 2021 Star Trek: The Original 4-Movie Collection 4K set (reviewed here). Each disc offers a simple menu interface featuring the Bob Peak poster artwork for the film. The 4K disc includes the following special features:

  • Commentary by Leonard Nimoy, Harve Bennett, Charles Correll, and Robin Curtis
  • Commentary by Ronald D. Moore and Michael Taylor

The commentaries are the same ones found on the previous Blu-ray edition. The track with Leonard Nimoy and company is particularly notable as not only was this his first directorial effort, Nimoy commentaries are rare indeed. Even so, he delivers a steady stream of insights and behind the scenes stories. The second track features a pair of longtime Trek writers who went on to work on many other science fiction TV projects (including Battlestar Galactica, Defiance, and For All Mankind). Legitimate experts on Star Trek, they offer bits of trivia and other anecdotes. Optional subtitles are available for the commentaries in English, German, Spanish, French, and Japanese.

The newly-remastered film is also offered in 1080p HD and SDR on a Blu-ray Disc that’s included in the packaging (and is also available separately). It features the exact same audio and subtitle options as the 4K disc and adds the following additional special features:

  • Commentary by Leonard Nimoy, Harve Bennett, Charles Correll, and Robin Curtis
  • Commentary by Ronald D. Moore and Michael Taylor
  • Library Computer Viewing Mode (HD)
  • Production
    • Ken Ralston on Models and Creature Effects Easter Egg (SD – 7:06)—Select ‘Right’ from the Production menu item
    • Captain’s Log (SD – 26:13)
    • Terraforming and the Prime Directive (SD – 25:53)
    • Industry Light & Magic: The Visual Effects of Star Trek (HD – 13:50)
    • Spock: The Early Years (HD – 6:22)
  • The Star Trek Universe
    • Space Docks and Birds-of-Prey (SD – 27:49)
    • Speaking Klingon (SD – 21:04)
    • Klingon and Vulcan Costumes (SD – 12:16)
    • Star Trek and the Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame (HD – 16:52)
    • Starfleet Academy SCISEC Brief 003: Mystery Behind the Vulcan Katra Transfer (HD – 2:42)
  • Photo Galleries (HD)
    • Production
    • The Movie
  • Storyboards (HD)
    • Main Titles
    • The Klingons Attack
    • Entering Spacedock
    • Search for Life
    • Finding Spock
    • The Destruction of the Grissom
    • Stealing the Enterprise
    • Self Destruct
    • Kirk Fights Kruge
    • The Katra Ritual
  • Theatrical Trailer (HD – 1:12)

These extras unfortunately feel a bit more generic and uninspired than those for the other films, though that’s probably because the film itself feels generic. Even so, there’s some good content here and certainly much of you’d want discussed is covered. Both commentaries are well worth your time. The Easter egg featurette from the 2002 Special Collector’s Edition DVD release has carried over too. Really the only thing that’s not included is the Okuda text commentary from the DVD, though the Library Computer feature mostly makes up for it. A Digital copy code is also included on a paper insert.

The Search for Spock is far from the best entry in the Star Trek franchise, but it should really be looked at as the middle chapter of a trilogy that begins in Wrath of Khan and concludes in The Voyage Home. The film manages to be somewhat entertaining and ends on a high note, with our beloved Enterprise crew reunited for new adventures. This is also the most consistently good looking of the first batch Trek feature films in terms of 4K presentation quality. So we’ll call it a win. Recommended for fans.

- Bill Hunt

(You can follow Bill on social media at these links: Twitter and Facebook)

 

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