For 60 years, Mr. Spock has remained a cultural icon, an alien with an indescribable magnetism. Behind the arched eyebrows, Leonard Nimoy is equally influential as an actor and as an artistic Renaissance man. With “For the Love of Spock,” fans of “Star Trek,” Nimoy or pop culture legacies in general can look to the screen for two hours of gratuitous eyebrow raises and perceptive analyses on the legacies of these great men. God bless that blunt-bang cut, that silky stoicism and those delicately pointed ears.
“For the Love of Spock” focuses on the creation, development and impact of the “Star Trek” character Spock, the life and impact of Leonard Nimoy himself and director Adam Nimoy’s own tumultuous relationship with his father. The film is an attempt to showcase the multifaceted life of his father and his monumental cultural legacy.
The documentary is structured chronologically, moving from the beginning of Leonard’s career as an actor to the creation of “Star Trek” to Leonard’s death in 2015. However, within this time frame, the doc discusses Spock, Leonard and Adam in a seemingly random movement that feels fluid sometimes, while other times seems abrupt. At one moment the film analyzes the role of Spock as a love interest with a magnetic attraction that subverts expectations of manhood, and in the next it sharply moves to discuss how Adam and his sister dealt with the celebrity of the Nimoy name. Yet, the somewhat jarring structure works, reading like a book with chapters rather than a continuous storyline. Adam does a spectacular job at making each segment so wholly intriguing that you forget to wonder how one moves into the other.
Adam’s creation is equal parts media texts and interviews, the latter composed of commentary from Leonard himself, his family members and his costars. Retro clips from the original “Star Trek” series as well as moments from the recent cinematic remake, are sprinkled throughout, supplemented by promotional posters and fan art that together emphasizes the expansive and enduring reach of Spock across popular culture. The interview testimony is especially interesting — “Star Trek” actors and directors act as experts in their field to provide analyses of Spock as a character while offering insight into the complex and influential life of Leonard. This technique also bridges the generational gap between those who watched the original series and new fans. Commentary from William Shatner (“Star Trek”) and George Takei (“Kubo and the Two Strings”) is intermingled with remarks from J.J. Abrams (“Star Wars: The Force Awakens”) and Simon Pegg (“Star Trek Beyond”). A balanced mix of media and interviews works to create an engaging, hilarious and insightful exploration of Spock and Nimoys.
One of the most unexpected but nevertheless fascinating components of the film is its exposure of Leonard’s flaws. Through interviews with Leonard himself as well as his children, the film discusses Leonard’s relationship with alcohol as a coping mechanism that gradually turned abusive and put a strain on his family and career. The film also dives into the unexplored corners of Leonard’s personal life, specifically his role as a generally absent father figure. The film doesn’t shy away from the raw and the uncomfortable, but ultimately smooths the edges with a satisfyingly happy resolution.