Here's an important thing to remember when watching The Final Frontier: William Shatner directed and co-wrote the movie. We're not trying to throw any shade, but we think that might go a long way toward explaining all of the rock climbing and general coolness displayed by Kirk in this film. Dude's just trying to make himself look good.
But this is Captain Kirk, after all, so we don't mind the antics too much. In many ways, this film represents a renaissance for the ol' captain—a return to adventurous form after several boring years as an admiral.
The Coolest Captain
Rock climbing, it turns out, is associated with Kirk throughout the film (was it one of Shatner's personal hobbies?), which tells us a few things about his character. It shows his fearlessness. It shows his determination. And, most importantly, it shows his independent spirit. He likes getting his hands dirty.
There's one notable wrinkle in all of this: the rugged individualist would have died at the beginning of the movie if it weren't for Spock, who had to come along and save his "independent" butt. Isn't this contradictory? Not according to Kirk. Here's what he says about that fall to McCoy:
KIRK: And, even as I fell, I knew I wouldn't die.
MCCOY: I thought [Spock] was the only one who's immortal.
KIRK: Oh, no, it isn't that. I knew I wouldn't die because the two of you were with me.
Kirk might be a lone wolf by nature, but he's only able to be one because of the support of his pals. This seeming contradiction is, in fact, a key aspect of his character.
He might be older, but Captain James T. Kirk hasn't lost a step. Through his defiantly independent spirit, devotion to his crew, and skeptical nature, he guides Enterprise through what is assuredly one of their strangest adventures. It's not every day you meet God, after all.
In another defining move, Kirk turns out to be the only crew member in the film who doesn't give in to Sybok's mystical tomfoolery. Notably, he spits out a classic monologue about how we need to embrace our pain, not make it disappear. Check it out:
KIRK: You know that pain and guilt can't be taken away with the wave of a magic wand. They're the things we carry with us, the things that make us who we are. If we lose them, we lose ourselves. I don't want my pain taken away. I need my pain.
Not only does Kirk reject the premise that he needs to be "freed" from his suffering by some outside power, he also once again reveals his fiercely individual spirit.
A similar dynamic occurs when the crew meets God. Sybok, Spock, and McCoy instantly fall under the deity's spell, but Kirk has a few concerns. Take a look:
KIRK: I said, what does God need with a starship?
MCCOY: Jim, what are you doing?
KIRK: I'm asking a question.
GOD: Who is this creature?
KIRK: Who am I? Don't you know? Aren't you God?
Once again, Kirk refuses to fall in line and accept something simply because it feels good. This refusal ultimately saves the crew of Enterprise—and perhaps the entire universe, depending on how nasty this imposter would have turned out to be.