Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Star Trek: First Contact

Now this movie is awesome.

Free from the shadow of the original series, the Next Generation crew get their first solo theatrical adventure, and it's a damn good one. In terms of action and thrills, this is the best Trek film of all, though it doesn't quite have the intelligence or emotional impact of Voyage Home or a villain nearly as memorable as Khan. But it's my second favorite Trek film, and far and away the best from the Next Generation cast.

In the director's chair is Riker himself, Johnathan Frakes, who had already earned a reputation as one of the best directors from the TV series. Frakes is a great action director who gets the best out of his cast of actors. I wish he had gone on to bigger and better things after the end of this film franchise, instead of bombing with the Thunderbirds. The man can direct, Hollywood. Give him another chance!

The storyline is one of the most clever and epic from any Trek film, with branching storylines taking place on the Enterprise and on the surface of Earth in the past. The action and suspense never let up, and the plot keeps you guessing as the story unfolds. It's a testament to the script and to Frakes's direction that the film never gets confusing, even for casual viewers and nontrekkies.

I do wish the film had a better villain, however. Alice Krige is a wonderful actress and she turns in a suitably creepy performace as the Borg Queen... but I dunno. Borg Queen? I don't think we needed that. The Borg are creepy enough as a collective, and somehow the concept of Borg Queen just didn't feel right. But, all things considered, it was well done and worked within its own internal consistency. But she was no Khan. Maybe she should've quoted some Moby Dick.

No wait... that was Picard! Another problem with the movie -- at least for a die hard Trekkie -- is that they brought out another parallel to Captain Ahab! Just like Khan was the Ahab to Kirk's Dick (um, Moby, that is), now Picard is the Ahab to the Borg's Dick. However, unlike in Khan where the villain follows the same character arc and goes to the same fate, Picard actually has somebody point out the similarity to Moby Dick, cluing him in to the error of his ways and leading him back to his humanity. It's a retread, but it works better this time around, in my opinion.

And, of course, we get the awesome scene where Picard totally freaks out and screams, "The line must be drawn HEE -HAW!! This FAH!! NO Further!!!" It's hammy and overthe top and ridiculous, but I could watch that scene a thousand times and it would never get old. The film is filled with other such great moments, like when Data shuts off his emotions before going into battle, Troi getting drunk, or the spacewalk on the outside of the Enterprise. In fact, when Cochran played Magic Carpetride during the launch of the Phoenix, the crowd in the theatre where I saw it errupted into applause. It was one of the biggest, and funniest, crowd reactions I've ever seen in a theatre. I giggle everytime I watch that scene.

And then we also have Oscar nominated actors Alfre Woodard and James Cromwell, both of whom are brilliant, though Cromwell is given a better role and more to do. Some Trekkies have taken issue with Cromwell's portrayal of Zephram Cochran because it doesn't quite fit with the one we saw, briefly, in the original series, but I'm ok with it because Cromwell is so good and because it's from a time far earlier in his life. He'll still move to Andromeda, or wherever the heck he is when the Kirk and his crew find him. The Continuity is fine.

In conclusion, this movie is an awesome, exhilarating crowd-pleaser. Check it out.

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