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For The Love Of Spock

FilmRise // Unrated // December 6, 2016 // Region 0
List Price: $29.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Randy Miller III | posted January 12, 2017 | E-mail the Author

Originally conceived as a "Spock doc" celebrating one of Star Trek's most iconic characters for the franchise's 50th anniversary, Adam Nimoy's For the Love of Spock (2016) grew from extended character study to full-fledged biopic after his father's death in February 2015, just four months into development. Funded by nearly 10,000 backers on Kickstarter, much of the film's $600,000 budget went towards licensing film clips and other archived material to punctuate this celebration of Nimoy's personal life and career. There's no shortage of interviews, either: we hear from dozens of friends, fans, and family members including William Shatner, George Takei, Walter Koenig, Nichelle Nichols, writer D.C. Fontana, daughter Julie Nimoy, brother and sister-in-law Mel & Sybil Nimoy, Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Simon Pegg, Zoe Saldana, Jim Parsons, Jason Alexander, astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, director Nicholas Meyer, NASA engineers Bobak Ferdowsi and Samantha Cristoforetti, actress Catherine Hicks, Jeffrey Katzenberg, JJ Abrams, and many others...including Adam himself, who acts as more of a host than narrator.

Not surprisingly, the inclusion of so many familiar licensed clips and candid photos---some of which also came from the Nimoy estate, of course---are what make For the Love of Spock feel like the genuine article, aside from its "friends and family" interviews. They give the film plenty of additional seasoning at times; whether it's a well-placed jab or a sobering emotional moment, the effort to include this material is much appreciated and it's usually sourced from the best versions available (aside from those CGI-infused TOS scenes, but that's a personal preference). The interviews are carefully balanced with Adam's more intimate stories of his father, who he obviously idolized as a child but grew apart from at several points during the last few decades...especially the mid-2000s, when they barely had contact at all for roughly three years. Though For the Love of Spock veers off-track a bit when Adam takes more of the center stage, it's an unavoidable branch of the very real connection between aging son and late father.

From Leonard's early TV appearances (Dragnet, Gunsmoke, The Outer Limits) and the massive footprint of Star Trek to his turn on Mission: Impossible and stage career, his multiple forays into music and directorial work (Star Trek III and IV, Three Men and a Baby), and his unyielding love of poetry, Boston, and photography, For the Love of Spock stands tall as a well-paced production that covers a lot of ground and leaves few stones unturned. Notable exclusions are I Am Not Spock---glimpsed during at least one scene, but not discussed---and much of his life during the 1990s, including a memorable appearance on Star Trek: The Next Generation; doubly confusing, as Adam directed two episodes of the series as well. Yet all the expected (and a few unexpected) bases are covered in modest to great detail: an incredible work ethic that included no shortage of odd jobs before Star Trek, placing family before his career in later years, and the wonderfully assured presence he brought to every aspect of a long and prosperous life.

Though For the Love of Spock has been available via theatrical screenings and VOD since September 9th of last year (one day after the original series' 50th anniversary), FilmRise's burn-on-demand Blu-ray edition remains an irresistible keepsake of this accessible, entertaining, and life-spanning tribute. While the technical presentation leaves a bit of room for improvement, a thoughtful assortment of supplements gives the main feature plenty of support. Whether you were a full-fledged backer or have yet to see the film, it's a souvenir worth taking home.

Video & Audio Quality

Presented in its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio, this 1080p transfer of For the Love of Spock look to be on par with most documentaries of this type. Though limited to a single layer on this burn-on-demand disc (which displays an average bit rate right around 19-20 Mb/s, about 25% lower than most releases), the overall image displays good detail, texture, and very few compression related issues. Small amounts of banding and aliasing could be detected at times and the film has something of a "thin" appearance most of the way, but the licensed Star Trek clips look more or less identical to Paramount's Blu-rays in both quality and aspect ratios. Still photos and older home videos, oddly enough, are presented in a mixture of cropped and pillarboxed formats, but their non-uniform appearance isn't too distracting. Colors are evenly saturated with appropriate contrast and black levels. Overall, this is a capable presentation of varied source material; there's slight room for improvement, but I'm happy with its appearance.

DISCLAIMER: The still images and screen captures on this page are decorative and do not represent the Blu-ray under review.

Though limited to your choice of Dolby Digital 5.1 or 2.0 (presumably for space reasons), the default surround track gets the job done in all expected areas. Interviews, licensed clips, and Nicholas Pike's original score---supplemented by some of Leonard Nimoy's own music, several cover songs by his grandson Jonah, and more---are balanced nicely without fighting for attention. A handful of subtle rear-channel effects are present on occasion, but this is a largely front-loaded mix from start to finish. So aside from the lack of a lossless option, there's very little to complain about here. A whopping 17 sets of optional subtitles are offered during the main feature only, including English, Spanish, French, German, Russian, and Japanese....especially nice, as this is a region-free disc.

Menu Design, Presentation & Packaging

The basic but perfectly functional menu interface has more in common with your average DVD release, but the quick loading time and smart layout are appreciated. This region-free disc arrives in a standard keepcase with poster-themed artwork and no inserts. Not the most polished package, but perfectly acceptable under the circumstances.

Bonus Features

The first and most substantial extra is an Audio Commentary with director Adam Nimoy, producer David Zappone, and film critic Scott Mantz (of Access Hollywood) who, for the most part, serves as moderator. Topics of discussion include starting For the Love of Spock four months before Leonard Nimoy's death, their first introductions to Star Trek and other childhood memories, favorite 1960s TV shows, Gene L. Coon's substantial contributions to the original series, bullying, religion, Leonard Nimoy's discography, transitioning to Mission: Impossible after Trek's cancellation, Fiddler on the Roof and Leonard's other theatrical performances, Adam finding a 1973 letter from his dad, connecting with fans, the mass appeal of Star Trek IV, and much more. Overall, this is a very entertaining and lively session from start to finish, with all three participants almost tripping over themselves with enthusiasm at times.

Leonard Nimoy's Boston (28:37) is a short TV documentary that first aired on WGBH Boston in May 2014. Hosted by Leonard and Adam Nimoy, this casual sight-seeing tour captures the father and son on location at or around Boston's most famous (and not-so-famous) landmarks, reminiscing about decades past and other changes throughout the years: growing up in the city's West End, sailing on the Charles River, going to free outdoor concerts at Hatch Memorial Shell, selling newspapers near Boston Common, and more. There's a lot of personal and civic history here, supplemented by vintage photos that add a good amount of texture to many of the heartfelt observations.

Also here is a short Tribeca Q&A Panel (15:26) with Adam Nimoy, David Zappone, Scott Mantz, and Zachary Quinto, recorded on April 18th, 2016. Moderated by Variety's Gordon Cox, topics of discussion include early development of the film, Quinto's portrayal of Spock from a non-Trekkie's perspective, Adam's childhood memories behind the scenes, putting his family in front of the camera, and deleted material. Ultimately, there's a lot of repeated information here from the commentary, but still plenty of good conversation that fans will enjoy listening to.

"On Set with The Big Bang Theory" (9:15) was recorded during the sixth season episode "The Spock Resonance" guest starring Adam Nimoy, and features short interview clips with actress Mayim Bialik, writer/producers Steven Molaro, Chuck Lorre, and Bill Prady, actor Jim Parsons, director Nikki Lorre, and assistant director Anthony Rich (no Wil Wheaton, oddly enough). Some of this material made it to the final cut, but it's still worth a look.

For short odds and ends round out the package. These include "Trivia Time with Jason Alexander" (4:24), a Kickstarter Gallery (5:54) of backer-submitted photos, the Theatrical Trailer (2:32), and a Teaser (1:07) from the Tribeca Film Festival. Overall, it's a satisfying collection of bonus features; there's some recycled info and the lack of deleted scenes is certainly disappointing, but it's a more well-rounded package than most documentaries get.

Adam Nimoy's laudatory For the Love of Spock obviously changed direction sharply after his father's death just four months into development...but to the film's credit, you almost wouldn't know it. Featuring a well-balanced collection of personal interviews and licensed clips from Leonard's career (and no shortage of family photos), it's an extremely intimate, funny, touching, and heartfelt tribute that fans of all ages will enjoy. FilmRise's Blu-ray package is quite good overall: featuring a decent technical presentation and several thoughtful and engaging bonus features, it's a great keepsake despite the obvious handicaps of a single-layer "burn-on-demand" release with lossy Dolby Digital audio. Highly Recommended to die-hard Trekkies; slightly less so for more casual fans of the franchise.

Randy Miller III is an affable office monkey by day and film reviewer by night. He also does freelance design work, teaches art classes, and runs a website or two. In his limited free time, Randy also enjoys slacking off, juggling HD DVDs, and writing in third person.
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