Monday, 13 April 2009

Movie Review - Star Trek: First Contact

Following the extremely disappointing Generations (ST7) [EDIT - well the first half was okay, the second half was awful], we were expecting this, the eight Star Trek film, to be a lot better. (In case you managed to miss it or haven’t seen many of the films, all the off numbered Star Trek films up to 7 were awful, while the even-numbered films were good – strange but true…) Fortunately, we were right - First Contact, while it certainly has its flaws, is well worth seeing and Star Trek: The Next Generation fans were certainly not left feeling disappointed again.

If you know the series, you’ll remember that at one point, Captain Picard was assimilated by the Borg, but was rescued by his crew. However, the memory continues to torment him, and when the Borg attack earth, he finds that at times he can still hear them inside his head Because of his experience with the Borg, he’s the ideal person to lead the attack against them – however, Starfleet feel he might be compromised by his past experience, so order him to have the Enterprise patrol the neutral zone (just in case of Romulan attack). As Earth’s forces are getting pounded by the Borg, he of course decides (in true Star Trek fashion) to disobey orders and go to fight the Borg. Data says “I think I speak for everyone when I say…. to hell with orders” – just one of many extremely corny lines in the film. (Not as bad as Worf’s “Assimilate this!” as he dispatched some Borg… probably the worst line (and the least convincingly delivered) since Arnie played the icy baddy in Batman & Robin…)

But anyway… the Enterprise goes back, Picard takes over the fleet, focuses all energy on a seemingly innocuous point of the Borg ship that he somehow knows is vital, and the ship blows up. An escape pod is released that manages to go back in time and turn the earth into cyberworld – but the Enterprise is shielded from the effects by a temporal vortex (plot plausibility is not a strong concern in this film), and has to go back to prevent the Borg from doing whatever it is they’ve done…

And what are the Borg trying to do? Prevent First Contact - the maiden flight of Dr. Zefram Cochrane, the effects of which were much wider-reaching than merely being the first person to achieve warp (faster than light) speed…

(I know, that lot looks like there are some serious spoilers in it, but believe me, I’ve not given anything away that doesn’t happen within the first quarter of an hour! Well, possibly Dr Cochrane’s name wasn’t mentioned, but apart from that…)

First Contact is an enjoyably cheesy sci-fi romp, though slightly less so because it’s trying not to be cheesy. There’s a fair amount of humour scattered throughout the film, just over half of which works. Picarda (Patrick Stewart) and Data (Brent Spiner) are the key characters here, though the others get a fair amount of screen time. (Thankfully there is no Wesley Crusher here… I never could stand him!) There’s also a brief but memorable appearance by Robert Picardo as the emergency holographic doctor (he plays the holographic doctor in Star Trek: Voyager). Newcomers Alive Krige (the Borg Queen) and Alfre Woodard (Lily Sloane – Dr Cochrane’s assistant) do reasonably well with their roles, but James Cromwell as the mad doc himself is probably the most watchable of the earth-bound characters. (The scene where he realises he’s forgotten something important as the flight countdown is commencing is priceless!) Stewart and Spiner acquit themselves well enough, but the charater studies of Data’s desire to be more human and Picard’s craving for revenge against the Borg, while interesting, had more potential than is fully developed here.

The plot moves along just about fast enough for you to stop yourself from realising just how dumb a lot of it is, and the special effects are as good as you’d expect – very impressive. The film really plays like an extended version of one of the better episodes in the series, which is not exactly a bad thing. There’s nothing at all wrong with the musical score or cinematography, production values are high, and the whole thing is directed with able (if somewhat lacklustre) skill by Jonathon Frakes (who alo plays Riker). The end result is something that is very enjoyable to watch but leaves you with a feeling that this cast could have achieved more – something that was later achieved by the excellent Insurrection (the next film in the Star Trek movie series).
All in all, I would recommend this film to fans of the Next Generation series, or people who just like fun, undemanding sci-fi films. If you’re looking for something with real depth, this will flatter to deceive, and if you don’t like the TNG crew anyway, you’re unlikely to enjoy this very much..

Main Cast Members

Patrick Stewart ... Captain Jean-Luc Picard
Jonathan Frakes ... Commander William Thomas Riker
Brent Spiner ... Lt. Commander Data
LeVar Burton ... Lt. Commander Geordi La Forge
Michael Dorn ... Lt. Commander Worf
Gates McFadden ... Dr. Commander Beverly Howard Crusher
Marina Sirtis ... Counselor Commander Deanna Troi
Alfre Woodard ... Lily Sloane
James Cromwell ... Dr. Zefram Cochrane
Alice Krige ... Borg Queen


Star Trek 9 and 10 bucked the trend – 9 was excellent while 10 was awful – links to the reviews below.

Star Trek: Insurrection
Star Trek: Nemesis

First Contact made it to no. 4 on my Top Ten Star Trek Movies list. (Yeah I know, doing a top ten for a series with ten films is a bit cheeky… but in my defence, I wasn’t the first one to do it!!)

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