|In Short:||A cult classic that pokes fun at sci-fi and fandom but in a loving, funny way that leaves you warm and fuzzy while denying that you’re anything like the fans in the film when you know deep down you so are…|
|GUY:||Did you guys ever watch the show?|
There has only ever been one film which I’ve watched at the cinema, laughed myself silly and enjoyed myself so much that I’ve immediately bought another ticket and watched it again the same day: Galaxy Quest is that film. The premise of a washed-up sci-fi TV cast, with the help of their dedicated fans, saving an alien race who think the TV show was real is a fun parody of all things Star Trek and fandom on one hand, and a great comic sci-fi film in its own right on the other.
Galaxy Quest works for me because it manages to strike the right balance between poking fun and making fun of its source material. And yes: there is a subtle difference. One is done with love and the other with a certain amount of underhanded sniggering. For me, Galaxy Quest remains very much in the poking side of the fence and because of that it feels like a homage as well as a parody.
The main homage is, of course, to Trek and sci-fi. The structure of the crew of the Protector is the first thing: we have the Boy Wonder in pilot Loredo (Daryl Mitchell), the Risk-Taking Action-Oriented Commander in Taggart (Tim Allen), the resident Alien in Doctor Lazarus (Alan Rickman), the Chief Engineer in (Tony Shalhoub), and the Sexy Female in communications officer (Sigourney Weaver).
Weaver is wonderfully cast in a role so opposite to Ripley (the role she played in the movie Alien if for some reason you don’t know - and seriously where have you been if you don’t?) that it makes a statement all of its own. She actually gets many of the funniest lines from “Let’s get out of here before one of those things kill Guy!” to “This episode was badly written!” and, of course, in justifying her own existence, “I have one lousy job on this ship and it’s stupid but I’m doing to do it! OK?!”
All the actors do a great job of not over-playing their roles. Given the material, the danger was that they really could have hammed it up, winked to the camera, or gone over the top but all of them do play it straight. Alan Rickman, for example, who camped his way through Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves so delightfully, here delivers a measured performance as slumming thespian Alexander Dane and actually gets me teary when Dane reacts to his alien friend’s death by uttering the catch-phrase as an actor he has come to hate. Enrico Colantoni as Mathesar, the Thermian commander who enlists the crew’s help, pulls off the monotone and innocent naïveté really, really well, making the Thermians charming and engaging. Even Robin Sachs as the villain doesn’t overdo Sarris’s evil archness. Indeed, even though I’m not a particular fan of Tim Allen, I will admit, as self-aggrandizing actor Jason Nesmith, he does a brilliant job.
Equally a delight is Sam Rockwell as Guy, the “red-shirt,” who tags along and expects to get killed at any moment. One of my favorite sequences is when they go to get the beryllium sphere and Guy objects to the plan because it’s taken from the episode where his character died. Of course, Guy also gets to be the voice of the audience. He’s the one that points out the cute little alien guys are no doubt about to turn ugly and dangerous, and the one that suggests Jason try to make a rudimentary weapon when fighting the rock monster.
There are a lot of these in-jokes about Trek and sci-fi throughout the film: from Jason losing his shirt and rolling around the floor, to the ducts of the ship being used, to the obstacle course on the way to the self-destruct, to the self-destruct stopping at 1 second, to Sarris not dying at the end, to the pig-lizard -- it’s all familiar and perfectly judged.
There are also a lot of in-jokes about fandom from the convention with the dressed-up fans, the shipper who faints when Gwen and Jason kiss, and the technical knowledge of the techies who have blueprints for the ship and theories about the mentioned but never seen in action Omega device. Again, the film walks a fine line between poking fun at the geekiness of the fans and celebrating their dedication. It’s successful in part by elevating a group of geeks led by Brandon (Justin Long) to heroes as they help Nesmith and co. stop the self destruct, and return safely home.
That’s not to say there’s nothing wrong with the film at all. It does take forever (as in f-o-r-e-v-e-r) to get going. The set-up with Nesmith’s realization that he’s not loved by all after overhearing fans talking in the toilet, and the initial foray into space with the Thermians drags some, and the film doesn’t really get going until all the cast are on the Thermian version of their TV spaceship, the Protector, and are off to fight Sarris. The CGI is also a little shaky ten years on. But despite this, the plot still delivers a cohesive story and the movie becomes so much more than just a parody with an endless stream of in-jokes but a good film in its own right. One that JJ Abrams deservedly calls “one of the best Star Trek movies ever made.” (Abrams, in the DVD commentary, points out an homage to Galaxy Quest in his 2009 Star Trek, when Kirk and Spock plummet to Vulcan without a parachute).
In fact, the only thing that truly disappoints me is that there hasn’t been a follow-up of some kind -- either another movie or a TV show. Maybe I should start an online petition…or start writing Taggart/Madison fanfic. So sign me up as a Questorian and let me know when the convention is on, because I will so be there.
-- Rachel Day