Friday, November 4, 2016

Adam Nimoy Meanders Through Memories Of His Father And His Father's Iconic Character: For The Love Of Spock!

The Good: Some decent interviews and clips
The Bad: A lot of common knowledge, Incoherent progression
The Basics: For The Love Of Spock feels far more exploitative than informative or a true tribute to Leonard Nimoy and Spock.

When Leonard Nimoy died, it was a shock and left a deep sadness within the Trekker community. For me, Nimoy's death stung, but I had had the good fortune to meet the actor multiple times at various Star Trek conventions and even inteact with him. Indeed, when I first met Leonard Nimoy, I carried out a postumous wish of a friend who died before she could meet him and I wrote a short story about it. Leonard Nimoy's death is one of the few celebrity deaths that resonated with me personally, but the sting of his death was muted rather quickly when Adam Nimoy announced his plans for For The Love Of Spock. At the time, the project did not have a name, but director Adam Nimoy announced he was making a documentary about his father . . . and he went to Kickstarter to raise funds for the project. As a fan of Leonard Nimoy's works, as one who watched legions of fans repeatedly shell out piles of cash to get Nimoy's autograph at conventions (and knowing those companies paid Mr. Nimoy for his time and service), I was offended. Leonard Nimoy did not die a pauper and regardless of how much Adam Nimoy inherited (or not) from his father, it was in pretty poor taste to solicit fans for money to complete the project.

Apparently, I was in the minority view for such things and Trekkers once again shelled out and allowed Adam Nimoy to complete what could have been a vanity project on his father's life. For The Love Of Spock is a meandering documentary that vaguely follows the narrative of Leonard Nimoy's life, blended with stories about the popularity of the character Spock and self-referential bits about the documentary itself. Given that there are two autobiographies from Leonard Nimoy, there is shockingly little information that is unique to For The Love Of Spock . . . so what is truly new in the film seems mostly like therapy for Adam and Julie Nimoy to talk about their father.

Opening with a self-referential clip that explains how For The Love Of Spock came to be, intended as a tribute to Spock for the 50th Anniversary of Star Trek, Adam Nimoy had begun work on the project before Leonard Nimoy died. After a brief biography of how Leonard Nimoy - who had never held an acting job for more then two weeks and was working as, essentially, a jack of all trades in order to make ends meet for his family while pursuing his passion of acting - was hand-selected by Gene Roddenberry to play Spock, the documentary transitions into an exploration of the character. Featuring interviews by William Shatner, George Takei, Karl Urban, Simon Pegg, Jason Alexander and Chris Pine and others, For The Love Of Spock discusses the dynamics of the character with how Nimoy portrayed the logical character against the more emotive Kirk and McCoy.

Adam Nimoy infuses himself into the documentary as it progresses. Adam Nimoy discusses the effect of popularity of Star Trek on the Nimoy family - mostly admitting repeatedly that his father was a workaholic who was barely around. Adam Nimoy's infusion of self into the narrative leads to some weird dead ends within the narrative, like his inclusion of a letter from the early 1970s where Leonard Nimoy wrote to Adam about his relationship with his own father after the two had a fight. Adam Nimoy then declares he was a deadhead at the time, puts up a video of Nimoy singing his song "Bilbo Baggins" . . . and the way he uses it seems like a way to subtly mock him. The weird infusion of Adam Nimoy talking about himself allows Adam Nimoy to promote himself - showing his first Star Trek convention, describing his father's support of him in being an entertainment lawyer, etc.

But the lack of a coherent narrative, any sense of linear development, quickly wears thin. For The Love Of Spock leaps from Star Trek into Nimoy's theatrical career after Mission: Impossible. But before discussing Star Trek: The Motion Picture (referencing the Animated Series, but not the aborted Phase II project!), Adam Nimoy leaps ahead to discuss directing his father in an episode of The Outer Limits . . . which came well after Leonard Nimoy had established himself as a director. In addition to having shockingly little new information, For The Love Of Spock starts to feel disengenious about the life of Leonard Nimoy.

Neglected in For The Love Of Spock is the period of Leonard Nimoy's life where he purposely attempted to distance himself from his experiences in Star Trek. Nimoy wrote his first autobiography, I Am Not Spock long before writing I Am Spock - which Adam Nimoy is shown reading and listening to in For The Love Of Spock. And then Adam Nimoy tosses in, late in the film, weird mentions of his personal conflict with his father and Leonard Nimoy's alcoholism.

The result is a documentary that very sloppily shifts from discussing the character of Spock and detailing the life of Leonard Nimoy. Adam Nimoy's late shift to discussing his estrangement seems incredibly self-serving as having so much material for people discussing Spock and Leonard Nimoy, there is an abrupt shift to only Adam Nimoy discussing his relationship with his father. In other words, despite its other narrative problems, there is a wealth of information and sources for so much of the information about all other aspects of Leonard Nimoy's life and the cultural impact of Spock . . . but then only Adam Nimoy's word for what went on in his relationship with Leonard Nimoy. And it is somewhat weird to see Adam Nimoy opening up to Zachary Quinto where Quinto asks some of the most pointed questions of the documentary. Similarly odd is that during that section of For The Love Of Spock, there is no material wherein Leonard Nimoy's second wife is given a voice in the documentary. The film climaxes not with any sort of tribute to Leonard Nimoy at any number of the Star Trek conventions that were done following his death . . . but rather with a Burning Man tribute from 2015 to Nimoy?!

So much of For The Love Of Spock is similarly sloppy or contradictory. I am a big enough person to admit when I am wrong, but with For The Love Of Spock, my impression before the fact was definitely right. This barely-documentary is more exploitative than it is revealing or engaging. For those who want to know about Leonard Nimoy's life, picking up either (or both) of his autobiographies is a far better use of one's time than For The Love Of Spock.

For other documentaries based on Star Trek, please check out my reviews of:
Trek Nation
The Captains


For other movie reviews, please check out my Film Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2016 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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