GALAXY QUEST (1999) Reviews and overview

 

‘Never give up. Never surrender’

Galaxy Quest is a 1999 comedic science-fiction film about the stars of a TV sci-fi show who are drawn into a real-life alien war in space. It is a parody of and homage to science-fiction films and series, especially Star Trek and its devoted fans.

Directed by Dean Parisot from a screenplay co-written by David Howard and Robert Gordon. based on a story by the former. The Gran Via Productions movie stars Tim Allen, Sigourney Weaver, Alan Rickman, Tony Shalhoub and Sam Rockwell. The soundtrack score was composed by David Newman.

Plot:

A cancelled, TV space programme called Galaxy Quest (suspiciously resembling Star Trek) is cherished by a cult of admirers. Principle cast members of Galaxy Quest, unable to get work since, stay together for hotel-based fan conventions and humiliating guest-celebrity bookings, even though most of them dislike the conceited leading thespian in their ensemble, Jason Nesmith (Tim Allen).

At a low point in relations with each other, Nesmith and the troupe are paid to reprise their roles onboard a replica of the show’s famous spaceship, The Protector. A semi-drunken Nesmith believes it is just an elaborate fan-fiction indulgence, but in fact, due to alien misunderstandings, the ship has now been rendered real, and the cringing has-been actors find themselves in actual deep-space war between a peaceful race and reptilian conquerors.

Review:

Remember what you were doing on the eve of 1999, the popular dawn of the new millennium? (Yes, yes, mathematically the real new millennium started in 2001, but people tend to be stupid; evidence for this is abundant). Well, a lot of Christmas-time viewers were going to see Galaxy Quest, a release from the much-hyped new DreamWorks Hollywood super-studio.

The film has a stellar idea behind it and certainly entertains, but – just like the new 21at century supposedly being inaugurated – it could have been much better, let us admit this to ourselves.

Imagine an early-1980s American TV series called Galaxy Quest whose memory is sustained by nerdish admirers and teenagers forever after, just like Star Trek. Its main actors, unable to get work elsewhere, morosely suit up to reprise their old characters at California mall openings and weekend fan conventions. Jason Nesmith (Tim Allen), as the fictitious programme’s lead hero, Captain Peter Quincy McTaggart, piloted the spaceship Protector, got his shirt torn off in fight routines, stole scenes and stepped on lines of his fellow thespians, something over which they still resent him, even in their has-been status.

Then the crew are recruited to again play themselves for a bunch of strange-jump-suited people and act out a confrontation against reptilian monsters, in which the drunken Nesmith believes is just an elaborate fan-fiction fantasy. But this time it’s for real. An advanced, peaceful alien race, the Thermians, have been watching Galaxy Quest reruns, and, having nothing in their culture resembling artifice or theatrics, assumed the show was in fact, true.

With their entire culture constructed around Galaxy Quest and an actual working model of The Protector (a nice twist on the exact same lame plot device Gene Roddenberry and friends would use for their show, whenever sets or costumes became available to put the crew of the USS Enterprise into a setting, say, of, the Old West, ancient Rome or Jazz Age Chicago) Nesmith and his uncomfortable castmates are thrown into a genuine interstellar war.

How can you go wrong with a premise like that? Well… it may be relevant that director Dean Parisot replaced original director Harold Ramis, of Ghostbusters fame, mid-way through. Which may or may not be why things here just seem slightly off-note, gags falling victim to mistiming or botched delivery (Ramis would instead work on a very unnecessary remake of the iconic comedy Bedazzled, so no points awarded there either).

On the other hand, flashes of brilliance do occasionally burst through the expensive creature F/X and CGI, spoofing The Protector’s ridiculous duct-laden schematics and overly dramatic self-destruct mode. One of the actors fears that because his character wears a red shirt and had no name, he is fated to die anonymously, as an expendable extra. Sigourney Weaver, startling in blonde hair and cleavage, is a network sex symbol whose sole function on the ship is to repeat back exactly what the Protector’s talking computer just said.

Alan Rickman plays the show’s Spock equivalent, a classical actor of vaguely Patrick Stewart quality, forced to play a sort of half-fish alien sidekick and wear a scaly head-makeup appliance (which he never removes, not even in private). Tim Allen, having the juicy opportunity to go hammer-and-tongs at a William Shatner-like Nesmith, is curiously restrained about it; he showed more proper spirit as the voice of Buzz Lightyear in any given Toy Story cartoon. Then again, nobody can burlesque William Shatner better than William Shatner himself, as the actor demonstrated around the same time in the lower-profile comedy Free Enterprise.

So, Galaxy Quest is no Ghostbusters, but then again, what is? Enjoy it for the better bits, and hope that more superior satires (and, for that matter, centuries) lay ahead.

Charles Cassady Jr., MOVIES and MANIA

Other reviews:

“Deceptively sharp but never cruel, affectionate but never affected and never patronising of its subject or the fanbase, Galaxy Quest manages to pack a lifetime’s worth of fandom into its 100-minute runtime and succeeds in not only honouring those fans and the shows they love but giving them something new to love as well.” The Craggus

“Not only is it a brilliant satire of Star Trek but it’s also a respectful (and touching) tribute to fandom in general.  Amazing cast, fast pace, Grabthar’s hammer, impressive special effects, historical documents, chompers, rock monster, tentacles, great story. Galaxy Quest is an excellent film that can be enjoyed over and over again. Highly recommended.” Happyotter

“If you buy into the infectious (but admittedly corny) spirit, you’ll enjoy the experience. Those expecting a heavy dose of action and adventure or some genuine substance will be disappointed. Galaxy Quest isn’t always funny, but, for the most part, it is fun. And, in terms of production values, the film looks a lot better than one might expect from a space comedy. Most of the special effects are first-rate.” Reel Views

“The movie’s humor works best when the illogic of the TV show gets in the way. There is on board, for example, a passageway blocked by alternating vertical and horizontal clappers that smash back and forth across the passageway. Negotiating it could be fatal. Why are they there? No reason. Just because they look good on TV.” Roger Ebert, December 24, 1999

“The crazy thing about Galaxy Quest is that it captures the spirit of the show better than most of the actual Star Trek films.  In fact, I’d go so far as to say that this is better than twelve of the thirteen Star Trek movies.  Hell, I even got kinda choked up when Rickman said his most hated catchphrase to bolster the spirit of a dying crew member.” The Video Vacuum

Cast and characters:

Tim Allen … Jason Nesmith
Sigourney Weaver … Gwen DeMarco
Alan Rickman … Alexander Dane
Tony Shalhoub … Fred Kwan
Sam Rockwell … Guy Fleegman
Daryl Mitchell … Tommy Webber
Enrico Colantoni … Mathesar
Robin Sachs … Sarris
Patrick Breen … Quellek
Missi Pyle … Laliari
Jed Rees … Teb
Justin Long … Brandon
Jeremy Howard … Kyle
Kaitlin Cullum … Katelyn
Jonathan Feyer … Hollister
Corbin Bleu … Young Tommy
Wayne Pére … Lathe
Sam Lloyd … Neru (as Samuel Lloyd)

Technical details:

102 minutes
Technicolor
Aspect ratio: 2.39: 1
Audio: DTS | Dolby Digital | SDDS

Fun facts:

The theatrical version was screened at three different aspect ratios: the early scenes, featuring clips of the TV series, were shown at 1.33:1; the initial part of the story, set on Earth, was framed at 1.85:1; the scenes set in outer space were screened at 2.35:1. The DVD release keeps only the initial 1.33:1 full-frame scenes, then shows the rest of the film at the wider aspect ratio of 2.35:1. This was done on purpose because director Dean Parisot felt it played better on home video screens.