REVIEW: “Star Trek: First Contact”

STAR TREK POSTERStar Trek is all the buzz right now and with the newest film about to hit U.S. theaters, I thought it would be fun to talk about one of my favorite Star Trek movies. For clarity, I wasn’t a huge fan of the original series. It wasn’t until “The Next Generation” that I became really interested in the Star Trek universe. The TNG cast would appear in four feature films that connected to their 7 season series. I think the best of those movies was “Star Trek: First Contact”. Even more, I think a good case could be made that it’s the best Star Trek movie period. We’ll save that debate for another time.

“First Contact” is directly connected to a popular storyline from the television series and it doesn’t take long to see that. I’m not going to say you would be totally lost unless you’re familiar with the story, but it certainly adds a lot to the movie if you know the story it’s tied into. The film begins with Captain Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) dreaming about his past experience with the mysterious and menacing Borg. The Borg are a group of cybernetic organisms made up of various species who have been “assimilated” into their collective. The Borg capture and brutally assimilate others through a painful implant procedure which eventually connects them to the one domineering “hive mind”. The Borg themselves are half-living / half-machine drones and the collective’s ultimate goal is perfection as they see it.

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The USS Enterprise – E

Picard is jarred from his troubling dream to find out that a lone Borg cube has launched an attack on Earth. It’s funny how out-of-the-blue this occurs in the film with seemingly no buildup whatsoever. The film expects the audience to hop onboard and go with it. Picard is ready to enter the fight but he and his Enterprise crew are ordered to stay away in fear that Picard’s past assimilation by the Borg could become a liability. Picard disobeys orders and enters the fray where he learns that the Borg plan to travel back in time to prevent what’s known on Earth as the day of First Contact. It’s when a lushy visionary named Zefram Cochrane (James Cromwell) introduces warp travel which leads to our first contact with alien life. By keeping this from happening, the Borg will keep their biggest threat, the Federation, from interfering with their plans.

The Enterprise follows the Borg back in time where the movie splinters into two storylines. An away team is sent down to Earth to ensure Cochrane follows through with his test flight while others stay aboard the Enterprise to fight off the Borg who are attempting to take the ship. Jonathan Frakes, who also plays first officer Will Riker, handles the directing after big names like Ridley Scott and John McTiernan turned the movie down. This turned out to be a good decision. Frakes’ knowledge of the material after years on the TV series pays off.

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James Cromwell, Jonathan Frakes, Marina Sirtis

Frakes weaves the stories together nicely and he’s able to keep the vital Star Trek tone and feel even though the movie features a much bigger budget and heavier dose of special effects. This is something the newer Star Trek reboot, a film I’ve grown to have some appreciation for, was never able to do. Writers Ronald Moore and Brannon Braga deserve a lot of credit for that as well. The two begin the first draft of the script shortly after the release of “Star Trek: Generations”, a film they also wrote. Their familiarity with the characters and the history of the franchise is certainly realized on screen. The story is smart and carries with it the typical Star Trek tendencies of dialogue over action although we do get more action than we’re used to seeing.

The cast is another reason the movie works so well. The main cast has already put so much of themselves into these characters that they know them by heart. Patrick Stewart is still the best Star Trek captain in my book. He’s rock solid yet again as Captain Picard. It’s also great to see Frakes, Brent Spiner, Michael Dorn, Gates McFadden, LeVar Burton, and Marina Sirtis reprising their roles as Picard’s crew. I also enjoyed Cromwell’s performance which is sometimes a bit hokey but still entertaining. It’s said Tom Hanks was offered the role but turned it down due to scheduling conflicts. And I have to mention Alice Krige as the disturbing yet seductive Borg Queen. Not only does the character offer some of the film’s slicker visual moments but she gives us a Star Trek villain unlike any we’ve seen.

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Michael Dorn, Patrick Stewart, Neal McDonough

One complaint than could be hurled at “Star Trek: First Contact” is that even with its bigger budget it sometimes feels like a longer television episode. That’s not a big deal with me because there are a couple of beautifully done effects sequences that clearly make the movie stand out, but there are many other moments that give the argument some validity. There are also a few questions that are never addressed at all. For example Geordi La Forge (Burton) no longer has his air filter visor. Now he has some type of ocular implants but its never even hinted at. And as I mentioned earlier, the film offers no real setup to the Borg attack at all.

These issues may have bothered some more than they did me because they never seriously hindered my enjoyment of the film. This is the first Star Trek movie to feature the TNG cast exclusively and the result was fantastic. Those looking for a standard Hollywood sci-fi flick may not leave “First Contact” completely satisfied. But Star Trek fans will find that same style and unique form of storytelling that they’ve come to expect from the franchise. Personally, I love it.

VERDICT – 4.5 STARS

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35 thoughts on “REVIEW: “Star Trek: First Contact”

  1. I have seen every movie and every episode of TNG and DSN but that still fails to make me a trekkie. First contact is very good the best of TNG. nice review and very timely.

  2. Nice review. I’ve never seen this or any of the other Star Trek movies besides the reboot. I’ve never even seen the TV show. Looks like I’ll have to watch this one.

    • None of them, huh? Well as I mentioned this one is directly tied to the TNG TV series so I don’t know if it will really work for you or not.that would be interesting to hear.

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    • Awesome Cindy. Glad someone else loved it as much as I did. I really liked all of the TNG movies (Insurrection being the weakest) but some o the older original cast films looked a little goofy to be honest.

  4. I’ve actually never seen any Star Trek movie before the JJ Abrams’ one but I definitely would give this a shot as I love Patrick Stewart!!

    • Really??? Oh you must. For me, this is Star Trek both in terms of story and in tone. Now as I mentioned this is directly tied into a storyline from the TNG series. It isn’t mandatory that you know it, but there are a lot of allusions to it. Oh, and yesterday I saw all of the Star Trek movies available on Blu-ray for $9.99 each at a local Walmart including this one. 😉

  5. I have learned to love Star Trek through my husband, who grew up in a household where it bordered on being a religion. I really don’t get original series though. I think it’s like old Docter Who. You had to be there.

  6. I’d have to entirely agree – this is a top Star Trek movie. I never liked Generations or Insurrection that much. It’s a good review.

    I’ve always had a soft spot for the original cast movies; but this is mostly driven by nostalgic memories of Saturday premieres on the telly as a child of the eighties. (We only had 4 channels then; a big movie premiere on the BBC was a big deal when I was a kid) we used to settle in and watch them as a whole family.

    What I always lamented was that there was no DS9 movie. That was always my favourite series.

    • Some awesome memories there. Oh it was the same where I live here in the states. Three channels, four if the weather was right. LOL

      The Next Generation is what really got me into the whole universe but the serious was practically over by the time I hopped onboard. I love Deep Space Nine as well. I had watched it all the way up until season six. We just started watching the last three seasons a week or so ago. Already on season seven and I’m having a blast with it.

      I think what made all of these Star Trek shows and movies so good is that they did focus on good storytelling. It wasn’t all explosions, space ships, and lasers. Just good entertainment!

  7. OMG, so many neophytes and non fans, what Universe have I stumbled into? First Contact is the best of the Next Generation Movies, unfortunately they could not sustain the momentum and that’s why we got the re-boot a decade later. Thank goodness that J.J. Abrams has made the series more relevant for today’s fans but I do miss the intellectual and moral stories that made the Original Series and The Next Generation so special. The Best Story arc is in Star Trek 2 through 4. Watch with your heart and listen with your head and you should love them.

    • I totally respect the original series but its just never been my favorite. For me TNG is what really brought me into the world. As for the newer series, I enjoy it a little more now than I did at first. I just wish it didn’t have to throw in huge CGI set pieces and a redefining of some key characters. That still is a struggle for me to get past.

  8. Nice review Keith, I have many fond memories of getting out of class and hanging around the dorm watching TNG in the afternoons.

    I still think Wrath of Kahn is my favorite Star Trek film but this is a close second.

  9. ” The story is smart ”

    No it isn’t. The story is retarded. See here: http://redlettermedia.com/plinkett/star-trek/star-trek-first-contact/

    The story:

    a) Makes no sense whatsoever. The borg invade the Federation so they can time travel as the worst possible moment back in time to assimilate the past.

    b) Ruins the Borg forever. By making them have a single leader, who gets frustrated and angry and succumbs to revenge – everything unique and different about the Borg as villains is thrown out the window. They become cartoon Frankensteins lead by Gargamel as the Smurfs make off with the Borg Queen’s apple pie and she yells angrily.

    c) Makes no sense whatsoever. The sheer amount of time travel disruption and butterfly effects is enough to wipe out history as we know it, and many of the character actions serve no logical purpose – especially aboard the Enterprise.

    d) Has Picard acting dramatically differently than he ever did toward the Borg in the TV series. He’s angry and violent, and MURDERS THE BORG QUEEN IN COLD BLOOD AT THE END OF THE FILM WHEN SHE IS HELPLESS AND CAN NO LONGER FIGHT BACK. This is so out of character it causes pain to watch.

    Don’t get me wrong, I still like Picard best – but because of the TV series. And I even still like First Contact – because the Zephram Cochrane story arc, strong music, and fun acting redeemed all the terrible stupid Borg shit that happened on the Enterprise.

    But calling it smart says to me that you don’t understand how to follow a movie plot.

    How old is the reviewer?

    • A). The Borg didn’t attack the Federation per se. They were there to attack earth and the Federation was there to stop them. I thought it made perfect sense.

      B). Completely your opinion which you’re certainly entitled to. I happened to disagree. Now I didn’t watch a lot of Voyager but the Borg had reached a point where very little new and fresh was coming from them. I guess they could have continued with the same “We are the Borg” thing but I like what they did and it certainly didn’t ruin it for me.

      C). Sounds like a classic case of over analyzing .

      D). Totally disagree. Picard has been on the brink of losing it ever since his Borg assimilation. He’s fought his emotions on this before and here he comes face-to-face with them again. Considering the death on his ship and his tormented past with them , his snapping didn’t seem a bit painful to watch. It found incredibly human and it was coming ever sense the TV series.

      Strange that you think I don’t know how to follow a movie plot. That’s an odd assertion. How old is the reviewer? Judging by the tone of your comments I’m probably a bit older than you.

      Thanks for your thoughts and opinions.

  10. This was the first Star Trek movie I saw although I can remember virtually nothing of it now. Think I saw it at the cinema though. I fancy going back and giving some of the older ones a go now I’ve seen the two Abrams films.

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