A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Movie 329 – Star Trek: First Contact

Star Trek: First Contact – January 23rd, 2011

Another night, another Star Trek movie. But tonight? Tonight is a really really good one. It is, in my opinion, the best of the Next Generation movies (though I have yet to see Nemesis, I’ve heard enough to stand by my opinion) and I think it easily stands next to Wrath of Khan and I’ll get to why in a moment. It’s well done on so many levels and it’s an utter joy to watch it again tonight.

This movie came out when Andy and I were dating. I don’t remember when I first saw it, though it’s likely we saw it in the theater together. Andy thinks we probably did and he’s probably right. I just remember loving it. I remember thinking it was fantastic and miles ahead of the first TNG movie. It had everything I could want from a TNG movie. Plenty of screen time for my favorite characters, fantastic bad guys, history, action and just the right amount of humor. Part of this – a large part – is that it’s solidly written and plotted. There are two major storylines going on as part of the larger plot and they’re handled well and balanced perfectly.

Of the two storylines – Picard and the crew on the Enterprise dealing with the Borg invasion and Riker and the crew on Earth getting Zefram Cochrane’s ship ready – I like the Picard plot best. But the Cochrane plot is fantastic too, largely, I think, because it’s handled with both humor and admiration. Cochrane turns out to be nothing like what Riker, Troi or Geordi expected. He’s a heavy drinker and easily discouraged who turns out to have started the warp drive project with hopes of selling the technology and retiring somewhere tropical. The crew’s reactions to him (and his reactions to them) are comical, yes. But they still know that regardless of what he appears to be, he’s also a genius and the man who managed warp drive, making possible the world they know. And when the Phoenix makes the jump and they turn around to look at Earth, James Cromwell as Cochrane has this moment of awakening, realizing that what he said he wanted and what this actually means aren’t the same thing at all. The ending, with him playing Roy Orbison for the Vulcans and pouring them shots, shows he hasn’t changed that much, but that moment in the cockpit makes me believe that his aims have. And the crew’s reactions to being a part of this history they’ve known and revered for years are wonderfully played by all. They’re clearly in awe of the situation, but frustrated by the reality of it. It’s all just so very nicely done and I have to credit the writing, directing and acting, because any of the three being off would have ruined it.

Really, though, it’s the Picard and Borg plot that makes me truly love this movie. I’ve always found Picard to be a compelling character and his arcs in storylines like The Best of Both Worlds, I, Borg and Starship Mine (and The Inner Light, which I think is the best Picard character story ever) as well as his interactions with Data in Measure of a Man and The Offspring lay some solid groundwork for his character here. With the Borg attacking Earth, using a temporal vortex to go back in time and disrupt first contact so as to be able to assimilate the Human race, you can see all of Picard’s motivations. With the Borg involved there’s no way it couldn’t be personal for him. And that gives the whole movie an immediacy and intimacy that I love. Yes, it has a big space battle and it has a sweeping scale to the plot, but the series made Picard’s relationship with the Borg so painfully close that it’s the perfect thing to use to give the movie a character-driven plot. As I said, it stands with Wrath of Khan for me and I think the personal involvement of the captain of the Enterprise is a big deal there. It’s an important note in the overall scheme of things.

There are some fantastic moments in this movie. Picard’s conversation with Lily (played amazingly by Alfre Woodard), with the Moby Dick quotations and his breakdown in the face of realizing just how personal this all is to him? It’s one of my favorite Trek moments of all time. Patrick Stewart can get away with quoting Melville and shouting about drawing lines and it works for him. It works for Picard. There’s some fantastic stuff between Data and the Borg queen as well, tying into Data’s quest for more humanity. And on the other end of the spectrum there’s Geordi and Cochrane and every interaction they have. Geordi’s clearly got a bit of hero worship and Cochrane’s freaked by the whole idea of becoming a hero to be worshipped in the first place. It adds a warmer human connection to the movie than the cold and angry Borg and Picard bits. All in all, it’s just plain wonderfully done, with fun cameos and good action to round out some truly great Trek storytelling.


January 23, 2011 - Posted by | daily reviews | , , , ,

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