Star Trek: First Contact (1996)
Release Date: November 22nd, 1996 MPAA Rating: PG-13
Director: Jonathan Frakes Actors: Patrick Stewart, Jonathan Frakes, Brent Spiner, LeVar Burton, Michael Dorn, Gates McFadden, Marina Sirtis, Alfre Woodard, James Cromwell, Alice Krige, Neal McDonough, Marnie McPhail, Robert Picardo, Dwight Schultz, Adam Scott
esistance is futile.” The Borg have always been one of the most interesting villains invented for the “Star Trek” series, so it’s a welcome idea to finally give them a shot at a theatrical presence. But with the use of temporal vortexes, quantum torpedoes, and traveling back in time to correct history, there’s far more going on than necessary. Fortunately, the introduction of the Borg Queen, with her extra slimy makeup and prostheses, along with the many nods to the story arcs weaving throughout the various television episodes (specifically “Star Trek: Voyager”), are refreshing and different. For the first time, a “Star Trek” movie skims the surface of the potential the theatrical medium allows.
The Borg have begun an invasion of Federation space, heading inevitably for Earth. But instead of zipping back to the frontline, Captain Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) and his crew aboard the brand new Enterprise-E are sent to the Neutral Zone to patrol for Romulan instigators. As Commander Riker (Jonathan Frakes) soon realizes, his leader’s peculiar mission is due to the fact that Picard was once assimilated by the cybernetic conquerors, and may pose a threat to the success of Earth’s defenses, if that experience – and a potential remaining link – can be used against mankind.
“Star Trek: First Contact” is instantly darker, less flamboyant, and more sinister. There’s something undeniably cinematic about this latest effort – one that far eclipses the lackluster affair that was “Star Trek: Generations.” Most competently, the writers this time around have opted to maintain the tone and behavior of the television series, rather than concocting new gimmicks to alter familiar activities (such as the embarrassing emotion chip subplot used by Data in the previous film). Geordi (LeVar Burton) may have abandoned his visor and Dr. Crusher (Gates McFadden) may have given up the red hair dye, but this classic ensemble is just as amusing as ever before.
Now that new sets, uniforms, weaponry, and visuals are in play, the look of the film seems to be aiming for something along the lines of “Aliens” (and, curiously, serving as a precursor to “Virus”). The Borg themselves present an opponent not entirely unlike James Cameron’s xenomorphs, slowly pushing their way into the dim crevices, lower decks, and lightless corridors of a cold, mechanical ship – overrun by an abundance of tubes and wires, steam, and glowing green lights. And the gray, mutilated flesh of the bionic zombies is particularly grotesque – in an effective sci-fi way.
Since the standard crew provides the main stars (no longer forced to share the screen with overbearing supporting roles, though there are certainly a few additions), there’s more for them to do and better lines for them to chew on. Plus, Picard gets a chance to fall into the “Moby Dick” parallel (for which he would soon get to be Ahab for a miniseries) and be something of an action star, despite his age. The dialogue has improved and the story elements are more in tune with the show, but, as with most adaptations from the little screen to the big screen, there’s a wealth of unrealized potential and an equal amount of underdeveloped concepts. It’s much more authentic than before, but it’s still underwhelming when compared to many of the top episodes from “Star Trek: The Next Generation.”
– Mike Massie