JT Film Review

92 – Star Trek: First Contact (1996)

Star Trek: First Contact REVIEW

2.5/5 stars

Director – Jonathan Frakes

Cast – Patrick Stewart, Jonathan Frakes, Brent Spiner, LeVar Burton, Michael Dorn, Gates McFadden, Marina Sirtis, James Cromwell, Alice Krige

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– follows Star Trek: Generations

– followed by Star Trek: Insurrection

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Star Trek: First Contact is the eighth Star Trek movie, and the second to feature the cast of the Next Generation. It is directed by Jonathan Frakes, who plays Commander Riker, which makes it the fourth to be directed by a cast member, (Star Trek III: The Search for Spock and Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home were directed by Leanord Nimoy, who played Spock, and Star Trek V: The Final Frontier was directed by William Shatner, who played Captain Kirk.) The plot is set in motion when Captain Picard and Co. are sucked into a time warp with evil Borgs, who are intent on stopping a historic space flight which initiated first contact between humans and the Vulcans.

There is a myth which every Trekkie knows, that every even-numbered Star Trek movie will be good, and every odd-numbered one is destined to be bad. This certainly would seem to apply, given Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, and Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, all of which were great, while the ones in between are mediocre to awful.

Now I will admit that most people would have included Star Trek: First Contact in that list as an example of an excellent Trek movie. I however, always remember not being as fond of this film as others are. Having recently re-watched it I have no choice but to say that my memory has served me right. The film is certainly quickly paced, and features an interesting side character in James Cromwell, but the whole thing to me felt a little trite and uninteresting.

I am usually fairly skeptical about time travel plots in movies, and this one is one of the worst uses of it I have ever seen. Time travel opens up so many problems that it should be dealt with carefully, especially in a franchise. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban ran into this problem as well. The biggest problem raised with time travel is as follows: if you can go in time, why not go back and kill the villains before the events of the story? Why don’t Picard and his crew go back before the Borg arrive, and ambush them? Why not go back to the big ol’ battle and join forces with their “past selves” and help defeat the Borg? Hell, why don’t the Borg do that? etc etc. Instead of the seriousness with which this should be treated (it was done half decently in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home), we essentially have the characters (after having been “stuck in the past” for days,) suddenly saying “Well, that was fun! Now lets head back home, put in the time travel coordinates!” and off they go! Weeeeeeee, time travel sure is fun and full of absolutely no consequences, eh Picard! Excuse me while I take a dump on any resemblance of dramatic urgency. Weeeeeeee!

All of this could have been excused if, as in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, the movie was entertaining or made us feel for the characters. Instead, this felt like one long TV episode. The characters come across as dull and uninteresting, and we never feel that the characters or the Enterprise ship are ever in danger. The plot comes in half hour bursts, reinforcing the feeling that we are watching TV.

A subplot features Data, the android of the ship, being taunted by the movie’s “villain” (if she can be said to be so), a Borg queen. She knows he desires to be human, and gives him a skin graft on his arm. This could have been an interesting topic, that of a machine wishing to be human, but here we are treated to one cliché after another. These scenes were boring as heck.

Some aspects of the film are solid, granted. The special effects, despite seeing them almost fifteen years later, still hold up. James Cromwell is a welcome little splash of colour as the drunk, misunderstood pilot of the spaceship which initiates first contact. His character has some degree of dimension, and is quite funny to boot. Watching him try to welcome the calm and serene Vulcans to Earth with booze and rock music was hilarious and yet touching in a strange sort of way…

OVERALL

Star Trek: First Contact is well produced, but its story is sadly lacking, with no feeling of risk to the characters, and with too many discrepancies. James Cromwell is fun, and the rest of the cast do what they can. But the writing here is lazy at best. Trekkies may enjoy it (in fact, most of them do). Personally, I can’t really recommend it.

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TRAILER

“Star Trek: First Contact” on other websites:

IMDB —– Rotten Tomatoes —– Wikipedia

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June 1, 2010 - Posted by | 2.5 Stars, Film Review, Genre - Sci-fi, Year - 1990-1999 | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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