This one gets its own post both because I have thematic thinky thoughts and because it's going to take me a bit to obtain the other movies.
- Right off the bat, projection is a huge trope in this movie. Kirk projects his own "obsessive behaviour" about Spock onto "this entire crew," Spock's mannerisms are projected onto McCoy via the katra, the CNO of Starfleet projects his own ideas about "rationality" onto Kirk's career (WTF!?), David projects his own scientific nonviolence onto Kruge, and at the end of the movie we have people beaming around like it's a game of interstellar musical chairs. I think this is more than tolerably clever, and I approve.
- One of the things I love about this movie is that it shows off the crew's personalities. Sulu saying "Don't call me tiny" is right up there with Uhura telling adventure boy to "get in the closet" at the business end of a phaser--or for that matter, Scotty and his clear disdain for the transwarp unicorn as well as his merry sabotage of Excelsior. I liked on a thematic level the fact that not all of Starfleet is as enamored of Kirk & Co. as the people in the audience are--it's a nice antidote to the "only you can save us now Kirk!" spirit of the earlier movies and TV shows, and it just makes it all the sweeter when the Enterprise crew take back a bit of their own.
- What is with Starfleet captains and admirals being asshats? Grissom's CO and his obsession with rules, Captain Stiles carrying around the 23rd century equivalent of a riding crop (the nail-filing is just icing on the cake), the CNO of Starfleet going on about "Vulcan mysticism." The 23rd C clearly isn't as enlightened as it pretends, which isn't news, but is worth repeating.
- It's so heartbreakingly clear that Kirk can either have his relationship with Spock or his relationship with son but not both--David re-entered Kirk's life just when Spock left it, and David gives his life to save Spock (and Saavik, for whom he seems to have had a thing). (Picard isn't the only captain of the Enterprise left without descendents--and if the ship had to die, it's best at least that she died by her captain's hand.) Given all that, I have to think at least a little bit of Kirk's reaction to David's death is also (possibly repressed) reaction to Spock's death, though how much, I couldn't say. At the end of the movie, Kirk essentially has nothing but his friends--which is more than a lot, but quite less than he had at the beginning of TWoK. But as he says explicitly, if he hadn't done it, he would have lost his soul, so on that level, the price is fair. Relatedly: McCoy telling Spock('s unconscious body) that he couldn't stand to lose him again is adorable and tragic.
- The secret of Genesis is death; Kruge obtained it in the end (after giving those flobberworms what for, no less). This is both ironic and a reinforcement of the fact that the ends do not justify the means. I give Saavik a lot of credit for calling David on his decision to use "protomatter," and I give David a lot of credit for not begging her question, or the consequences of his actions. Relatedly: shouldn't the plants have started hyperevolving, if the microbes did?
- I'm just going to pretend that the massive Orientalism/genderfail of the Vulcan sequence never happened. WTF is with those handmaidens dressed like Egyptian slave girls? And did everyone hear the didgeridoo sound in the Vulcan gong? Relatedly, I wish Saavik hadn't looked down when Spock surveys his shipmates--I'm aware that the shooting script of this movie and the next debated her being pregnant as a result of Spock undergoing pon farr on the planet, but even if she were pregnant, there's no logical reason for her to have been ashamed of her actions (for that matter, shame isn't logical). Granted if anything sexual had happened between them it would have been very dubious consent on Spock's part at best, but pon farr is canonically "fuck or die," and saving his life would seem to override other ethical objections to the situation. Even so, I like Saavik even more than I did before. Also, Sarek is awesome, QED.
- I love this movie, but I have no desire to see the new movie cast replay this movie, or any other Trek movie for that matter--and I say this as a Trekkie and as a woman (we don't like science fiction in general and Star Trek in particular, don't you know).