Friday, May 15, 2009

DVD of the Week: Galaxy Quest: Deluxe Edition

When Galaxy Quest was released in 1999, it was a modest success but it certainly didn’t light the world on fire. Over the years, it has quietly amassed something of a cult following who delight in the film’s affectionately satirical jabs at the Star Trek franchise and its fans, specifically the first incarnation with William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy. With this new Deluxe Edition DVD, it is about time for Galaxy Quest to be revisited and re-evaluated.

Like Star Trek, Galaxy Quest was a popular science fiction television program featuring the adventures of the “intrepid crew” of the NSEA Protector. There’s Connie Madison as played by Gwen DeMarco (Sigourney Weaver), the requisite eye candy, Laredo as played by Tommy Webber (Daryl Mitchell), the ship’s pilot, Dr. Lazarus as played by Alexander Dane (Alan Rickman), the very Mr. Spock-like alien adviser, Tech Sergeant Chip as played by Fred Kwan (Tony Shalhoub), the ship’s chief engineer, and Peter Quincy Taggart as played by Jason Nesmith (Tim Allen), the two-fisted captain.

The show has been over for years but the cast still frequents fan conventions, signing autographs and reliving their glory days, which has gotten to be a tedious chore. Nesmith has a raging ego and is something of a glory hound, much to the chagrin of his castmates, but when he overhears two non-fans slam him, the show and its fans, he suffers a mighty blow to his ego and begins to question his lot in life. Along come four aliens, Thermians from the Klaatu nebula who plead for his help. They have seen the show, or “historical documents” as they call it, and think that Nesmith and his cast are the real deal. They implore for his help against another alien race that is systematically hunting down and exterminating their race.

Nesmith is beamed aboard an actual working, full-blown version of his spacecraft from the show. Of course, he thinks that it’s just another publicity gig through the haze of a brutal hangover, that is, until he’s teleported back to Earth via a wormhole. Pretty soon, his disgruntled castmates are recruited along with Guy (Sam Rockwell), a glorified extra who played Crewman #6 in one episode of the show and was promptly killed off. Everyone is going to have to put aside their gripes with one another if they hope to survive and prevail.

Galaxy Quest does a spot-on job poking fun at the archetypes from the Star Trek with Tim Allen playing the William Shatner/James T. Kirk type, Alan Rickman playing the Leonard Nimoy/Spock type, and so on. The way the cast plays their respective roles not only relies on our knowledge of their Star Trek counterparts, but also the people who played them. That’s not to say that you have to be familiar with Star Trek to enjoy Galaxy Quest but it certainly helps and you will enjoy the film even more.

All of the cast do an excellent job, in particular Tony Shalhoub as the perpetually mellow engineer – his Zen-like reactions to the various dangers that he and his fellow actors face are hilarious – and Sam Rockwell as the freaked-out crewman who is convinced that that he’s going to be killed at any moment, just like on the show – he plays the character with the same kind of hilarious paranoia as Bill Paxton’s memorable character in Aliens (1986). Look closely and you’ll see The Office’s Rainn Wilson in a small role as a Thermian and Live Free and Die Hard’s (2007) Justin Long as an uber fan.

Galaxy Quest is a fun film that pays an affectionate tribute to shows like Star Trek while also gently poking fun at some of its clichés. It is also rather ironic that the film sends up a show known for its clunky special effects with its own state-of-the-art (at the time) visual effects by Stan Winston and Industrial Lights and Magic. Galaxy Quest starts off lampooning science fiction and its more obsessive fan culture but then halfway through celebrates it. The film is just flat-out entertaining and fun to watch, while managing to accomplish what many thought impossible – actually getting a good performance out of Tim Allen.

Special Features:

“Historical Documents: The Story of Galaxy Quest” is a retrospective making of featurette that has key cast and crew members reminiscing about the experience of working on the film. They take us through its origins and we see how the original concept was quite different but was tweaked over time. In a nice touch, the main cast members return and tell all kinds of filming anecdotes, clearly looking back at this project with genuine affection.

“Never Give Up, Never Surrender: The Intrepid Crew of the NSEA Protector” takes a look at the cast of Galaxy Quest and they talk about how they approached their respective roles. The filmmakers talk about why they cast the actors that are in the film and everyone dishes more wonderful stories.

“By Grabthar’s Hammer, What Amazing Effects” takes a look at the film’s snazzy visual effects. They had Stan Winston do the aliens while ILM do the special effects. Winston speaks about his creations in archival footage.

“Alien School: Creating the Thermian Race” examines the alien race that enlists the help of the Galaxy Quest crew. Actor Enrico Colantoni talks about how he came up with his character’s voice.

“Actors in Space” takes a look at how the cast made fun of their profession and their character archetypes.

“Sigourney Weaver Raps” features a taped message that she made for her agent’s birthday where the veteran actress raps with help from her fellow castmates.

Also included are eight deleted scenes that feature more with Fred Kwan as he tours the ship’s engineering section with his Zen-like calmness. There is a scene where the cast are shown their quarters based on their characters’ personalities from the show. And we also get more of them bickering among each other on the alien planet.

“Thermian Audio Track” allows you to watch the entire film dubbed in the alien language, which is actually pretty funny but I don’t know if you would ever watch it more than once.

Finally, there is a theatrical trailer.

5 comments:

  1. I really have a spot spot for this movie...I'm not even a Trekkie. The obvious humor works (the good-natured ribbing of Trekkies) because it's obvious, and even if you're not well versed in the world of Trek, you still laugh because of how the film gets to laugh genuinely -- not because it's hitting you over the head with lame physical or "nerds are funny" type humor. I always appreciated that Justin Long, the uber geek, saves the day with all of the information he's amassed over the years.

    You're right about Tim Allen, too. This is one of the rare times where he has been subdued, therefore he is funny.

    I'm getting ready to write about this in the next month or so as I continue to revisit 1999 over at my blog -- I'll be sure to link to your fine review.

    Great stuff here for an under appreciated film that was Tropic Thunder 10 years before Tropic Thunder, and doing it a lot better I might add.

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  2. Good call on the Tropic Thunder comparison. While TT still succeeded in being funny, I prefer the well-written humor of Galaxy Quest to the somewhat-slapsticky humor of TT.

    I'm one of those people that joined the cult in the 10 years since it hit theaters. This is one of those "basic cable classics" that shows up all of the time, and yet gets better and more rewarding with each viewing, giving you more and more to notice.

    Like, for example, that it's Tech Sergeant Chen. :)

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  3. I saw this film when it first hit theaters. I really enjoyed it. I haven't seen it in years though. I'm going to have to revisit it very soon. Hope you had a good weekend. Cheers!

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  4. Kevin J. Olson:

    Hey there. You know, I'm not a Trekkie either... or, rather, a causal fan of the franchise but I really dug this film and enjoyed it for the reasons you mentioned so eloquently.

    "I always appreciated that Justin Long, the uber geek, saves the day with all of the information he's amassed over the years."

    I forgot to mention this in my review but that is definitely one of the best things about the film. That it doesn't disparage the geeks who love the show in obsessive detail. That attention to minutia is what actually saves the day.

    Thanks for stopping by and for the compliments. And good call on the comparison to TROPIC THUNDER.


    Fletch:

    Thanks for the comments. You are quite right about GALAXY QUEST improving upon each viewing. It has aged quite well.


    Keith:

    Hey there. You should really check it out again. Esp. this new DVD edition.

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