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For the Love of Spock - Cinemaholic Movie Reviews
one person's obsessive addiction to film
For the Love of Spock
Directing: B+
Writing: B+
Cinematography: B
Editing: B+

Here is an example of a documentary that works extremely well when it's preaching to the choir: fans of Leonard Nimoy, and in particular fans of Spock the Star Trek character, are pretty much guaranteed to love it. Anyone else? They might take it or leave it. Taking fandom out of the picture, For the Love of Spock is a serviceable documentary film about an iconic character presented and directed by the son of the actor who played him. There may be some fascination for the average viewer in that context; there's nothing otherwise particularly flawed about this film. But Trekkies -- those are the ones who will have genuine interest in this. And they won't be disappointed.

Leonard Nimoy's son Adam decided to make a documentary about the love for Spock the character before Leonard even passed away. Adam states directly to the camera in this film that Leonard was on board from the start. And there is indeed a fascinating aspect to this story, from the perspective of the child of such a famously iconic actor, dealing with such fame as a family.

Adam clearly attempts to present his father as someone who was more than just Spock. There's an early montage of Nimoy's varied television and film roles before he landed the role of Spock. This is a guy who looked pretty old rather early on; he was 35 when he started the original series of Star Trek, and even by then he had deeply drawn lines on his face, making him look older. It's somewhat jarring to see clips from his many earlier roles, when he looks much younger. But, by the time he landed the role of Spock, that was what he was forever associated with.

Granted, he was on Mission: Impossible after the original Star Trek was canceled, and even had a major part in the 1978 remake of Invasion of the Body Snatchers. But then came the 1979 film Star Trek: The Motion Picture, which was then followed by five sequels over the next 12 years</i>, essentially solidifying Nimoy's legacy as Spock, a character so iconic that it overshadowed everything else he did put together -- including a rather successful live theatre career, and even a musical career.

Leonard Nimoy somewhat famously published a memoir in 1975 called I Am Not Spock, which he followed up 20 years later in 1995 with I Am Spock. (This is not to mention seven collections of poetry.) Adam, in this documentary, never mentions of the first memoir; but he shows us several shots of himself listening to the audio book version of I Am Spock, as Nimoy clearly embraced his Spock legacy in his latter years. Adam and Leonard clearly had a tumultuous father-son relationship through the years, and Adam examines that relationship somewhat intimately in this film. It helps that by the end of Leonard's life, they had mended fences.

Naturally, even with the focus on Spock the character and how he resonated in American pop culture, there's a lot of ground to cover. I was a little disappointed that only the first four films were even mentioned; Star Trek V: The Final Frontier and Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country might as well not exist as far as this documentary is concerned. Granted, the first four films are much more relevant, given Spock's death scene in Star Trek II and the fact that Leonard Nimoy directed both Star Trek III and Star Trek IV. Still, it's somewhat odd to jump from Star Trek IV, which was released in 1986, to J.J. Abrams's Star Trek, which was released in 2009. That's a 23-year jump.

As it is, 111 minutes is plenty of time to spend on the cultural impact of Spock the character, and Leonard Nimoy as the man behind the character, and how his dedication to that character affected his family. We are treated to interviews with case members of both Star Trek's entire original cast as well as the cast of Abrams's reboot series (in which Nimoy appears in two of the films). There's a lot of ground covered, and a fair amount of ground there was simply no time for -- for instance, Star Trek Conventions get just a few minutes, as does the Kirk/Spock relationship as the original basis for slash fiction. But that touches on the vastness of Star Trek's legacy in American pop culture: take any one aspect of it, and that alone could make for a full documentary film on its own.

The focus here is on Spock himself, which has never been done before. And who better to do it than Leonard Nimoy's own son? Adam clearly understands that this is a film for Star Trek fans, and particularly fans of Spock -- of which there are many. If you are indifferent to the history of Star Trek, For the Love of Spock might still be interest but there would be no rush to see it. But there is little doubt that genuine fans of Gene Roddenberry's love of this idealized vision of the future, and how singularly Spock as a character embodied that vision, will love this movie.

Leonard Nimoy's son Adam visits him on the set of 'Star Trek', as shown in Adam's documentary FOR THE LOVE OF SPOCK.

Overall: B+
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