Friday, February 5, 2016

Galaxy Quest Review

I grew up watching the various Star Trek series. I absolutely loved Star Trek, its characters, and the stories. A number of years later a brilliantly written movie was released called Galaxy Quest (1999). It's a fantastic bit of comedy satire that parodied the original Star Trek series beautifully; both the TV show itself and the actors in the show. It's a fantastic comedy film, and it's even funnier if you're a Star Trek fan.
The sci-fi adventure television series "Galaxy Quest" took place aboard the intergalactic spaceship NSEA Protector. Eighteen years after their series was canceled, actors Jason Nesmith (Tim Allen), Gwen DeMarco (Sigourney Weaver), Sir Alexander Dane (Alan Rickman), Tommy Webber (Daryl Mitchell) and Fred Kwan (Tony Shalhoub) are making appearances at sci-fi conventions and shopping mall openings in costume and character. They are wallowing in despair and at each other's throats until aliens known as Thermians arrive and, having mistaken the series for fact and consequently modeling their entire culture around this, the Thermians take the cast of actors into space to save them from the genocidal General Sarris (Robin Sachs) and his armada.
The characters here are great. Tim Allen is playing a fictional character variation of William Shatner who had played Captain Kirk. Jason is arrogant and cocky, and has a passion for and possibly dependence upon the Galaxy Quest series. He loves the enthusiasm of his fans and the revenue it tends to bring him, small as it may be. Jason is also a notorious ham and subpar actor; a lot like Shatner. The late and great Alan Rickman is depicting a hilarious fictional version of Leonard Nimoy; who for many years couldn't seem to separate himself from the Spock character. Alexander in Galaxy Quest was an accomplished Shakespearian actor who took the television role for the income, but was never able to shake himself free from the role afterwards. He loathes the Galaxy Quest series with all his soul and refuses to deliver his character's line to please fans. He hates that even when delivering quality material for the series, he was constantly upstaged by Jason's hammy melodrama. Sigourney Weaver's character is loosely based on Nichelle Nichols' Lieutenant Uhura character on Star Trek. Gwen's character was the communication's officer and didn't do much other than repeat what the ship's computer says. Gwen didn't like her role in Galaxy Quest because she was little more than a token female character who was present just to look attractive, which was more or less what Uhura did in Star Trek. These characters are so well written and satirize the characters and actors they parody with perfection.
There are so many nods to the Star Trek series and the culture that surrounds it. Sci-Fi conventions are about the only place these fictional actors get any recognition anymore. The fans at these conventions have a very loose grasp on reality, not unlike existing stereotypes of convention attendees. There is a group of kids, lead by a very young Justin Long, who have memorized schematics of the ship on the Galaxy Quest series and essentially know how to operate everything on the ship and the science behind it. The socially awkward fans beg Alexander for autographs which he begrudgingly grants them with disdain while they repeat his character's line "By Grabthar's hammer, by the suns of Worvan, you shall be avenged." It's meant to remind us of Spock's iconic line "Live long and prosper."
During fight scenes with aliens, Jason manages to lose his shirt just like the character of Star Trek's Captain Kirk notoriously did on a regular basis. There's an extra from the Galaxy Quest series who tags along with the actors into space. He's terrified on an away team mission to a planet surface because no one knows who he actually is and he expects to be an extra who dies on the mission, just like the red shirt ensign who always dies on the original Star Trek series. The other actors assure him that's ridiculous and won't happen. This extra asks them, "Did you guys ever WATCH the show!?" Gwen's character on Galaxy Quest was present to look attractive. Her job was basically to repeat everything the ship's computer said to the captain. Since the ship the actors are taken to was modeled after the Galaxy Quest series, the ship's computer doesn't respond to anyone other than her, thus forcing her to do the same thing she did on the series. Tommy Webber (who himself is a play on Wil Wheaton's Wesley Crusher), tells Gwen how annoying it is that she repeats everything that is said to her. "Look!" Gwen shouts in response. "I have one job on this lousy ship, it's STUPID, but I'm gonna do it! Okay!?" The actors constantly have to rely on their memories of the TV show they were in to save their lives and fight against alien threats. It's just hysterical all the little jabs and jokes at the Star Trek series and culture make their way into the movie.
The Galaxy Quest movie came out seventeen years ago, as of this writing, and it holds up quite well. The CGI effects are slightly dated, but still look pretty darn good. I think Galaxy Quest was a B movie of sorts. That. or the camera work and visuals were intentionally designed to resemble something campy and cheesy. But it works really well in this context. The makeup and costume designs looked ridiculous and fake when it needed to, and well made and believable when it needed to. I think the movie has aged quite well.
Galaxy Quest is such a good movie. It's funny, has fantastic satire, has a great cast who clearly gets the jokes and references they are spoofing, and is a great piece of cinema writing. It's aged well in the past seventeen years, and remains a good, solid movie. It makes fun of Star Trek without being insulting to it. Galaxy Quest is a good movie on its own, but you'll easily get a lot more out of it if you're a long time fan of Star Trek. This is worth seeing, and owning a copy. As of this writing, it is streaming on Netflix. This is not something you should miss.

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