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Star Trek: First Contact

movie reviewmovie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: Star Trek: First Contact

Starring: Patrick Stewart, Jonathan Frakes
Director: Jonathan Frakes
Rated: PG-13
RunTime: 112 Minutes
Release Date: November 1996
Genres: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Action

*Also starring: LeVar Burton, Brent Spiner, Alfre Woodard, Gates McFadden, James Cromwell, Marina Sirtis, Michael Dorn, Neal McDonough, Robert Picardo

Review by Dragan Antulov
3 stars out of 4

When STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION first aired in 1987, few people believed that it had potential to match the original 1960s series. But the sceptics were proven wrong - the show lasted for seven years and is now fondly remembered even by those who don't fit the usual description of "trekkies". The show finally proved its equality with original by serving as basis for brand new motion picture series. Following the not so successful "transitional" film STAR TREK: GENERATIONS which featured the protagonists of both series, STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATIONS had a feature film adventure completely of its own in STAR TREK: FIRST CONTACT, 1996 film directed by Jonathan Frakes.

Plot begins in 24th Century when the crew of USS Enterprise E must face not only its greatest challenge but also the meanest of all villains in the known universe - Borg, race of cyborgs that destroy and assimilate anything in their way. Captain Jean-Luc Picard (played by Patrick Stewart) was once assimilated by Borg and he is still traumatised by the experience. This won't prevent him from performing his duty when huge Borg ships attacks Earth. Starfleet wins the battle but small Borg ship manages to poke hole in time and travels back to 2063. In that year great inventor Zephram Cochrane (played by James Cromwell) made the historic flight with the ship using warp drive and thus triggered first contact with Vulcans and other events that would lead to creation of United Federation of Planets and Starfleet. Borg plan to conquer Earth in 2063 and thus prevent all that from happening. USS Enterprise follows Borg back in time and tries to protect Cochrane, but soon the real nightmare begins. Borg drones have infiltrated USS Enterprise, started assimilating the crew members and taking over ship. Picard would need all the ingenuity and luck to defeat such formidable and unstoppable foe.

STAR TREK: FIRST CONTACT, just like the all STAR TREK movies, had to satisfy two very different sets of viewers - fanatical "trekkies" that want to see their favourite fictional universe recreated with loving detail and the general audience that wanted more conventional, in other words simpler, plots and characters. Reconciling those opposites requires great deal of skill, and this is something creators FIRST CONTACT apparently had. This film represents one of those rare compromises that could more-or-less satisfy both camps. The reason for that is in the screenplay that, unlike television show, puts more emphasis on action and special effects and less on plot and dialogue. Another important reason why FIRST CONTACT stands out is in its tone, which is surprisingly dark for Roddenberry's optimistic vision of the future. Some characters, like Picard, embodiment of the intellectual enlightenment in the series, show their dark, sometimes atavistic side; the interior of Enterprise becomes dangerous and dark place, completely resembling the mood of the protagonists. The dark tone of the film stays even despite the predictable ending and (usually lame) attempts to lighten up with some humour. "Trekkie" segment of the audience would, on the other hand, find itself in familiar territory thanks to plenty of in-jokes, some of them including references to VOYAGER, the most recent incarnation of STAR TREK.

Apart from the larger special effects budget, FIRST CONTACT owes its success to the very good talents involved. The series cast, reunited for the second time, could act those roles in their sleep. Patrick Stewart adds another dimension to his character, showing some emotions we weren't accustomed to see from Captain Picard. The regular cast is joined by James Cromwell in very interesting role of hippy inventor and Alice Krige whose Borg Queen character looks both intimidating and perversely appealing. Jonathan Frakes, best known for his role of Commander William Ryker (whom he portrayed in this film too), had already gained directing experience on the show and this experience is put to good use in this film. Many scenes reveal great influence of classic SF-horrors like ALIENS and Frakes manages to make this film different both from the series and from most of the other films in franchise. Because of its innovative (and brave) approach to STAR TREK, FIRST CONTACT represents one of the better chapters in the long history of this prosperous franchise.

Copyright 2003 Dragan Antulov

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