Star Trek: First Contact

Star Trek: First Contact

****

Reviewed by: Scott Macdonald

Noted as the least Trekky of the series, First Contact makes a grand departure from the usual shenanigans. Gone is much of the dull musing space opera about boldly going nowhere, and in its place is a competent and entertaining sci-fi adventure.

And you know what? Like its cinematic villains, the Borg, the screenplay works as a reasonable amalgamation of interesting science-fiction cinematic achievements. The hives of Aliens, the thunderous action assault of the original Star Wars series, and echoes of the first contact of Close Encounters Of The Third Kind. We introduce the Vulcans to rock and roll! And it doesn't forget to develop its Next Generation characters.

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Perhaps the best characteristic of First Contact's screenplay is the lack of prerequisites needed to enjoy the film. It explains almost everything needed on the run, and rewards fans with little "in" moments too. This was my first Star Trek film, and I felt comfortable with it, while enjoying the ride for what it was.

The first 20 minutes of First Contact are outstanding, exhilarating entertainment. A creative opening assault of visual effects. The opening shot reveals a Borg ship in an extended take, starting from Captain Jean-Luc Picard's eye, extending to near infinity. Its economy of storytelling quickly builds up the viewer's expectations, only to subvert them. Thus follows a brief period of verbal and visual exposition which introduces us to the crew and their frustrations.

We speedily move into a spectacular space battle with the Borg. The Star Wars-style editing and framing works favourably to provide the most spectacular space battle seen in a Trek movie. They successfully destroy the Borg's ship, but it ejects an escape vessel which creates a "temporal vortex" (muahahahaha! - I love the Trek gobbledygook), sending it back through time to take over Earth. The Enterprise must prevent any major changes from occurring through the timeline, so it follows the Borg through the time wormhole.

Somehow some of the Borg manage to beam aboard the Enterprise and immediately begin assimilating its crew, with an icky and well-realised depiction of infection, like Wrath of Khan's ear-slugs. The Borg's purpose is to fuse the strengths of defeated foes and to adapt against attack. Unflappable and impossible to bargain with, the Borg are frightening in their own way. And of course, they don't react to pain, giving them a visual inhuman invulnerability. Ironically, the Borg queen is a dull villainous archetype, although given a strangely delightful form of sexual strength through her eyes and body. All that lube over her body doesn't hurt either!

Patrick Stewart exorcises the ghost of Shatner with his Jean-Luc Picard, the Next Generation captain of the Enterprise. He also has a unique knowledge of the Borg, having previously been assimilated into their collective hive-mind. His sense of purpose is obvious, as he has not forgotten his dignity. The human vengeance he seeks against the Borg simmmers throughout. Meanwhile Data, his android friend, presents an interesting counterpoint. Data amalgamates Picard's knowledge and fatherly advice into his own memories and programming to better himself.

Johnathan Frakes sure-footedly directs and we are always clear on where we are going with the story. The film is tightly and crisply edited with nothing wasted on frippery or dull speeches. And the key to good editing is to never leave the audience bored, or confused. (If you have to break with that, just don't make it boring!)

Star Trek: First Contact is an unmitigated success as a piece of entertainment. It reinvigorated the franchise at the time, but the quality has nosedived in recent years from the light comedy of Insurrection to the, frankly, terrible Nemesis. Due to fans staying away in droves, it seems unlikely that we'll see Star Trek films this good for some time. When they're done well, they're worth my time, and although First Contact is strictly not real Trek, it's a damn good movie.

Reviewed on: 06 Dec 2006
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A hectic chase back through time as the Borg try to stop humans from making first contact with alien life, and Captain Picard and his crew try to stop the Borg.
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Director: Jonathan Frakes

Writer: Rick Berman

Starring: Patrick Stewart, Jonathan Frakes, Brent Spiner, LeVar Burton, Miceal Dorn, Gates McFadden, Marina Sirtis, Alice Krige

Year: 1996

Runtime: 106 minutes

BBFC: 12 - Age Restricted

Country: US

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