A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Galaxy Quest

January 29, 2011

Galaxy Quest

How else could we possibly conclude our Star Trek extravaganza than to watch this hilarious, wonderful, meta masterpiece? It may not be a Star Trek movie, but this movie, especially after the fun of Trekkies and Trekkies Two, is clearly a giant love note to Trek fans.

Indeed the movie begins at a fan convention. It’s full of folks in uniforms and dressed as various aliens buying merchandise and waiting in lines to get signatures from the fans of the show. Of course in this movie the show is not Star Trek (in spite of the many resemblances) but is Galaxy Quest – a cheesy 1980s program about the adventures of the NSEA Protector and her crew. There’s the brash captain, the young pilot, the sexy communications officer, the brilliant engineer and the alien science officer. As we join the actors who played these parts back in the day it is eighteen years later. They are washed up has-beens working the con circuit with no particular careers to speak of. Jason Nesbith in particular (who played Commander Taggart on the show) is caught up in his own legend. As one of his co-stars puts it: the fans love him – almost as much as he loves himself.

The twist here is that far off on the other side of the galaxy a naive race of aliens called Thermians have been watching the old Galaxy Quest programs and are under the mistaken belief that all the events portrayed in the show were historical fact. They have built their civilization and technology on what they observed of Galaxy Quest, and as a result there is a real Protector with a real beryllium sphere and real energy armor and real transporter pods. When their civilization is threatened by an evil overlord they turn to Jason Nesbith and his fellow actors, thinking that they are the actual Commander and crew they have seen so much of in the “historical documents.”

The joy of this movie is that it is the dream of every sci-fi fan. Everything that was on the old Galaxy Quest program turns out to be real. What if it turned out that all those unimaginative thugs throughout the lives of every fan with their “get a life” taunts about what a waste of time your dedication to your fandom is ere actually completely wrong all along? What if you could actually take part in the adventures you’ve always felt were more important than reality anyhow? It’s just spectacular to see these washed up actors discovering that they actually have it inside themselves to be the heroes they used to portray. There’s a dedicated young fan of the show played by Justin Long who seems to be directly modeled on Gabriel Koerner from our last two movies – and he gets probably the most enviable character arc since his lowly nerd is actually able to save the crew of the Protector using his knowledge of the show. Every fan’s dream.

This movie is packed with wonderful performances and memorable moments and lines. Tim Allen is wonderful as William Shatner Jason Nesmith. Alan Rickman is perfectly cast as the weary Shakespearean actor Alexander Dane – who portrayed the alien on the bridge (apparently a sort of combination of the logic of a Vulcan with the nobility of a Klingon.) His complete disdain for his character’s catch phrase not only makes for some laughs at the start of the film, but gives the movie one of its most touching and tender moments near the end. Sigourney Weaver plays the only female member of the bridge crew, and her character is well aware of how stupid and demeaning her role is. One of my favorite parts of the whole movie is Tony Shalhoub as the perpetually stoned and completely unflappable Fred Kwan, who is unfazed by the discovery that there are people who believe the role he once played was real. I’ll admit that I never watched Monk while it was on TV, but I was tempted because I so loved Tony’s performance here. He has most of the best lines and deliveries in the movie. Then there’s my other favorite part – Sam Rockwell as Guy, the character so unimportant that he doesn’t even have a last name. In one of those self-aware bits of humor that makes this movie so great Guy is perfectly aware that since he is the only human who is not a member of the bridge crew he is expendable and will probably die at any moment. Sam Rockwell is just fantastic in every role I’ve ever seen him in from this to Zaphod Beeblebrox to the trapped space miner Sam Bell to Iron Man’s nemesis Justin Hammer to anti-Nixon journalist James Reston Jr. Go read some of our other reviews – Sam Rockwell is all over our collection and discovering him as an actor has been one of the joys of this project.

I once kicked a hole in a wall because my sister teased me by telling me that something I cared deeply about was just fantasy. Of course I know that – I knew it then. I don’t think that there are many fans of anything who cannot tell the difference between reality and fantasy (hint: reality is unfair and difficult to win at) but I also don’t think there are many fans who don’t wish deep in their heart that what they love and obsess over was actually real. This film is an exploration of just how wonderful it would be if that were true. (For a darker and much more upsetting take on the same basic theme I recommend Lev Grossman’s The Magicians: A Novel.)

January 29, 2011 - Posted by | daily reviews | , , , ,

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