Retro Review: Star Trek: First Contact


I was trying to catch Smackdown off of youtube last night and muted the TV and for some reason it was on SyFy and they had Star Trek VII: The Undiscovered Country on, which is a great movie but I was more into Smackdown.  Anyway, dozed off for literally a moment and woke up and got Smackdown wasn’t working properly, it was frozen and not loading properly so I looked over and noticed that Star Trek VII was finishing and I saw a pop up say, “Star Trek: First Contact next!” And I immediately went: “Ooh!”

I don’t remember the last time I saw Star Trek: First Contact, I’m pretty sure I showed it to Melissa back during college, but I haven’t even seen it on TV or anything. So, when I saw it advertised I thought, why not? I could add it to my “Retro Review” list. It was not my intention to review something from 1995 and then 1996, which was when First Contact came out. But I’m just going with it.

I first saw Star Trek: First Contact when it came out back in November of 96, I saw it with my old Elementary School friend Andrew, which if memory serves me correctly was actually the last time that I saw him. We were supposed  to go see Batman & Robin and things just didn’t work out, maybe it was the fact that the movie sucked! We have since reconnected, on occasion, off of facebook. That’s life.

But like the Retro Review: Die Hard: With A Vengeance from yesterday I am going to review this on my viewing of it last night and not when I first saw it. Also, I’m going to let you know if I think it stands up to time.

Retro Review: Star Trek: First Contact

First thing that I want to say that still stands up and helps to give the film scale is the musical score by Jerry Goldsmith (with his son Joel Goldsmith). The main title, which I found on youtube and you can listen to below, is such a great piece of music. It is one of those themes that expresses sadness and darkness but at the end of the film is able to turn into triumph and hope. The theme has a very emotional tone to it that still stands today.

The Goldsmiths also created a very distinct theme for the Borg, the hive like cybernetic race of zombie like synthetic beings, which I will get to later. In this day and age, where scores for movies are extremely interchangeable and sadly uninspired (there have been very few stand out themes from last year, the best one in my opinion was from Inception) and it really surprises me when some of the “Oscar Nominated” film scores are so bland and some of those end up winning. The Goldsmiths could have easily gone with traditional Star Trek style music, but they went out of there way to make a distinctive sound that definitely added to this memorable film.

Second, it is no surprise that the three highest grossing Star Trek movies have been the ones that deal with time travel (and/or parallel universes–which go hand in hand in the grand scheme of things) Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, Star Trek: First Contact and the reboot Star Trek from 2009. First Contact is no different and it handles time travel amazingly. The crew of the Starship Enterprise have to chase The Borg back in time to the mid 21st century and stop them from destroying Zephram Cochrane who was the person who created warp drive as well as assimilate Earth, thus destroying the future. The best of the Star Treks have always been when there is something truly at stake. Which goes back to my argument that I posted in my A-Team review (found here: Cos Reviews: The A-Team) which I’ll actually quote below:

Recently, I’ve felt that there has been a lack of something in movies, A-Team included, and that is a true sense that something big is going to happen if the heroes of the movie don’t beat the bad guy. I can pop in a bunch of old movies (I don’t actually think they are old, but I grew up with them so some people could argue that they are in fact old), and there was something at stake. The lives of the hero or the hostages or the world, were all on the line if the bad guys weren’t killed. Raise your hand if you’ve seen a movie recently that truly put you on the edge of your seat and made you root for the good guys? I’m not saying that The A-Team needed this, but I felt like this was a good place to talk about this. I feel that as time moves on, many filmmakers are less about bringing the audience in and more about wowing the audience…I for one would love to be brought in and felt like something could happen to one of these characters.  And I’ll leave it at that…

With the time travel aspect adding that extra bit of drama and excitement, anything can go, even though we know going into the movie that the good guys will most likely prevail, you don’t really know what is going to happen during the course of the movie. Which is one thing that I love about this movie, we don’t know if the Borg are going to kill off any of the main cast of characters, or if Captain Picard will have to blow up the ship. Even after all of these years, it still makes me anxious watching it, which is a great thing. Which leads me to…

Three, a great story. One that we’ve seen many times before and have seen butchered many times since. First Contact was essentially the Star Trek version of Aliens meets Night of the Living Dead and it did a great job with it. There were two other Star Trek: The Next Generation movies after this movie and neither of them can compare to this story. It was as if the stars (no pun intended there) aligned for a great story. It was right around the time that Worf was on Deep Space Nine and he actually had a reason to be on the ship, as opposed to Star Trek: Nemesis where he was just there without any real reason. Also, it just felt like everyone had their part to play and everything just felt like it was written perfectly.

Four, speaking of perfect, the bad guys, The Borg were a great choice for villains in this movie, the make up and special effects work on them were great. Even noticed some work on the Borg Queen that I hadn’t noticed before, she had small lights on her skull. Such a great visual. I guess its because Zombies have become a more series on screen villain in recent years, as opposed to the 90’s where I don’t think they had a single Zombie movie, but I really realized how much a zombie the Borg were. And I for one enjoyed it. They were just like robot Zombies and I really think that George A. Romero (director of the original Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead and Day of the Dead–the “Grandfather of the Zombie”) would be proud. The make-up still stands up to the amount of time that has past since that one time.

Five, the special effects were pretty good. I’m not going to look it up, but I’m pretty sure for the most part, the ships and space battles were probably models and let me tell you if they weren’t models but CG, damn, those were some pretty good ships. But I’m almost pretty sure that this film pre-dated a completely CG Starships in a Star Trek movie. I think that is something that is missing in movies today, the models just looked more real for some reason. And I wasn’t that offended by the fact that Earth looked big and bright and colorful, it made me think of a world that after the third World War was finally cleansing itself and getting rid of a century of pollution. I added my own story to that.

Six, I can’t write about this movie without complimenting Jonathan Frakes, director and actor who portrays #1 William Riker. He did a fantastic job, one that they tried to have him duplicate with Star Trek: Insurrection, which to be fair I would have to watch again to give it a fair review, but that one just felt like a two hour long Next Generation show. But that’s just from my memory of seeing it back in the late 90’s. I can only hope that Frakes is allowed to direct more theatrical movies and not just the direct to television “The Librarian” shows.

Seven, with that said, and with all of the praise, there must be some criticism and  I don’t know if it was because of the dialog, or because of direction, but I have to say the James Cromwell and Alfre Woodard, though both are highly praised and decorated actors, they both seem to be overacting in this film. Almost as if the lines were written for the characters, read well on paper but were never changed for the actors once the scenes were being shot.

Eight, like the other three time travel Star Trek movies, you do not have to be a Star Trek fan to watch this movie, in fact everything is explained either verbally or visually. You know who the good guys are and who the bad guys are and I think that is one of the best compliments that a film can have, especially one with as much history as the entire Star Trek universe.

Honestly, if there is only one criticism for the film, than that’s pretty good. I don’t think I can find too much wrong with this movie. I was extremely pleased watching it last night. Completely enthralled in the story and the visuals. I wish there was more to this franchise after this that was on this type of high quality storytelling. Just like Die Hard: With a Vengeance, if you haven’t seen this movie, I would recommend it. It might even make you into a Star Trek fan. Let me know what you think!

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