Tuesday, May 17, 2011

2000 Hugo for Dramatic Presentation – GALAXY QUEST

Galaxy Quest follows actors from a fictional Star Trek-like show of the same name that aired in the early 80s for three or four seasons. The actors now make their living touring the con circuit and dealing with obsessive fans. These fans include a group of real aliens, Thermians, who think the old episodes are “historical documents.” They need the crew from Galaxy Quest to save their species from the cruel alien overlord Sarris. Tim Allen plays the Shatneresque Captain, full of swagger and always trying to overshadow his crew. Alan Rickman plays his alien first mate, who, like Nimoy in the ‘70s, wants to be taken seriously and is somewhat ashamed of his role. Sigourney Weaver plays the female officer who never had much to do (her job was to repeat everything the computer says). Sam Rockwell gets some of the biggest laughs as a “red shirt” who died early in an episode. All of them are taken by the Thermians to a complete, thorough recreation of their ship.

I’ll be honest; when I first saw this film, I really didn’t like it. A lot of the satire, especially in the first half, is dead on… But, as the film goes on, it becomes more and more like the material it initially mocks. By the end, it’s much more of a love letter than a satire. It’s a full on space adventure with real action, and real stakes. Back in 1999, I was in my heady, pretentious college days. I was both too good for Trek and really sick of it, and I was in no mood for a corny knock-off, as I saw it.

On this review, I enjoyed it quite a bit. Mostly, I’ve just gotten over myself. The thing is, this film works both as a space opera and as a gentle, fun-poking love letter. In hindsight, it’s one of the best space operas between Star Trek: First Contact in ‘96 and Serenity in ’05. The Fifth Element is the only film during that almost-decade span that I can really say might be better. True, the rest of the qualifying films are horrible Star Trek: The Next Generation films, awful Star Wars prequels (none of which even received a nomination from the Hugo voters, amazingly), and failed Vin Diesel vehicles. After all of those trainwrecks, this film looks a lot more successful. It’s funny, fun, and it has a great cast.

That said, this is a spectacular era for films with speculative elements, and I would’ve been happy with any of this crop of nominees. I already talked about Malkovich and The Matrix. The Sixth Sense is a fine supernatural drama, that holds up despite the steep decline of its creator's reputation. The Iron Giant is a wonderful animated film by Brad Bird, who went on to greater fame with Pixar. I’d probably rank Galaxy Quest fourth or fifth out of that set of films, and it certainly doesn'r have the credentials or influence of The Matrix. But, I do have a much greater appreciation of it now.

I guess you could even argue that this movie continues our “what is reality?” theme in the film reviews of late, as it does rest on a misunderstanding about the nature of fiction in a sf tv show. That's kind of a stretch though.

Grade: B+

No post on Monday, but I'll be back Wednesday.

1 comment:

  1. This one was funny, especially in group viewings. by Grabthor's Hammer!