Movie Reviews

I Watched Star Trek 3: The Search For Spock & Inside Out 2 And They Paired Perfectly

WARNING: Contains SPOILERS for Inside Out 2!


Summary

  • Star Trek III & Inside Out 2 are quest movies exploring the turmoil of puberty with themes of emotional growth and self-discovery.
  • Spock’s puberty triggers chaos on the Genesis Planet, mirroring Riley’s struggles in Inside Out 2 with Joy and Anxiety symbolizing conflicting emotions.
  • Both movies depict the journey from childhood to adulthood, emphasizing the importance of embracing complex emotions for personal growth.


I love watching a good double bill at the movie theater, and Star Trek III: The Search for Spock and Disney Pixar’s Inside Out 2 are a perfect pairing. To celebrate The Search for Spock‘s 40th anniversary, the movie had a short theatrical re-release in the UK on the same weekend as Inside Out 2 hit theaters. Given that Spock (Leonard Nimoy) is an emotionally repressed Vulcan, it may seem insane to compare Star Trek 3 to a movie where each emotion has a cartoon avatar. And yet, as I watched both movies on the big-screen, I was really struck by their thematic similarities.

In Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, Admiral James T. Kirk (William Shatner) and the crew of the soon-to-be decommissioned USS Enterprise risk their lives and careers to bring back their fallen comrade before the Genesis Planet destroys itself. In Inside Out 2, Joy (Amy Poehler) and her fellow emotions have to reunite Riley (Kensington Tallman) with her sense of self before she’s torn apart by new emotion Anxiety (Maya Hawke). Both the Star Trek movie and the Pixar sequel are classic quests that also examine what it’s like to experience the emotional turbulence of puberty.


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Star Trek 3 & Inside Out 2 Are Movies About Puberty

Inside Out 2 tackles the complex set of emotions that we all experienced while going through puberty. As in the first movie, Joy is unnerved by the arrival of these new emotions, particularly Anxiety, who banishes the other emotions from the control room, meaning they can’t help Riley through this turbulent time. It’s not unlike how Kirk and the Enterprise crew are barred from returning to the Genesis Planet in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock. As Joy and her fellow emotions navigate Riley’s psyche, the landscape becomes increasingly unstable as the teenager struggles to respond to the physical changes that define puberty.


It’s no coincidence, after all, that the Genesis Planet finally falls apart when Spock is on the cusp of manhood.

Spock undergoes puberty in Star Trek 3, which has a similarly destructive effect on the Genesis Planet. Like the destructive wave of negative memories and the Sar-Chasm in Inside Out 2, the Genesis Planet also rips itself apart in response to Spock’s physical changes. It’s no coincidence, after all, that the Genesis Planet finally falls apart when Spock is on the cusp of manhood. Watching both movies back to back, I was really struck by how, 40 years apart, The Search for Spock and Inside Out 2 portray the destructive transition from childhood to adulthood in such a similar way.


The Search For Spock & Inside Out Are Both Quest Movies

Star Trek III: The Search for Spock is a quest movie, as Kirk and the crew of the starship Enterprise race against time to reunite Spock’s “katra” – his life essence – with his newly regenerated body. At the end of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Spock placed his katra in the mind of Dr. Leonard “Bones” McCoy (DeForest Kelley). To make both Spock and McCoy whole again, Kirk and the crew have to take them back to Vulcan, where their souls can be untangled during the “fal-tor-pan” ceremony. Spock’s katra is removed from McCoy, which heals both men and completes the Vulcan.


Inside Out 2 tells a very similar story, as Joy is on a quest to retrieve Riley’s life essence from the Back of the Mind, a dark region where she’s been dumping Riley’s negative memories. The moral of Inside Out 2 is very similar to the first one, which is that no matter how inconvenient they are, we need all our complicated emotions to be ourselves. Therefore, the climax of Inside Out 2 is the inverse of Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, as it relies on Anxiety’s “new” Riley and Joy’s “old” Riley combining to create the teenager’s true sense of self.

The fact that a Pixar movie from 2024 and a
Star Trek
movie from 1984 can both tap into the universal experiences of puberty and struggling with emotions like anxiety and anger is a demonstration of their timeless appeal.


It was fascinating to watch both Inside Out 2 and Star Trek III: The Search for Spock back-to-back in a movie theater. The fact that a Pixar movie from 2024 and a Star Trek movie from 1984 can both tap into the universal experiences of puberty and struggling with emotions like anxiety and anger is a demonstration of their timeless appeal. We all struggle with our mental health from time to time, and Inside Out 2 genuinely helped me remember that, like Spock on the Genesis Planet, we’re nothing without our complex and conflicting emotions.

  • star trek iii the search for spock film poster

  • Inside Out 2 Poster Showing Joy and the Other Emotions Squished Together

    Inside Out 2

    Inside Out 2 is the sequel to the 2015 original film, which starred a young girl named Riley with a head full of emotions. – literally. With Amy Pohler as Joy, Bill Hader as fear, Mindy Kaling as Disgust, Phyllis Smith as Sadness, and Lewis Black as Anger, the all-star cast brought to life the emotions that adolescents face as they grow, change, and adapt to new situations. This sequel, currently in development, will bring Amy Pohler back as Joy, with Riley, now a teenager.


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