Star Trek - First Contact
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"Captain Jean Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) and the Next Generation crew engage in their most thrilling adventure yet - a sci-fi action event that stands proud and apart" --Richard Corliss, Time
Even-numbered Star Trek movies tend to be better, and First Contact (#8 in the popular movie series) is no exception--an intelligently handled plot involving the galaxy-conquering Borg and their attempt to invade Earth's past, alter history, and "assimilate" the entire human race. Time travel, a dazzling new Enterprise, and capable direction by Next Generation alumnus Jonathan Frakes makes this one rank with the best of the bunch. Capt. Picard (Patrick Stewart) and his able crew travel back in time to Earth in the year 2063, where they hope to ensure that the inventor of warp drive (played by James Cromwell) will successfully carry out his pioneering warp-drive flight and precipitate Earth's "first contact" with an alien race. A seductive Borg queen (Alice Krige) holds Lt. Data (Brent Spiner) hostage in an effort to sabotage the Federation's preservation of history, and the captive android finds himself tempted by the queen's tantalizing sins of the flesh! Sharply conceived to fit snugly into the burgeoning Star Trek chronology, First Contact leads to a surprise revelation that marks an important historical chapter in the ongoing mission "to boldly go where no one has gone before." --Jeff Shannon
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Haunted by dreams of the techno-zombie Borg race calling to him Picard wastes no time (okay, maybe a little) in charging the Enterprise into a Borg battle with the Federation above the Earth. The cube is successfully destroyed, but the Borg manage to travel back to the mid-21st century, a time when Earth is fractured due from World War III, and try to prevent the first meeting between humans and aliens.
Zefram Cochrane is the man who makes that connection with his first ever warp drive flight, and he's not quite the squeaky clean hero that the Enterprise crew thought he would be. Meanwhile, with their escape pod destroyed, the remaining Borg slowly take over the Enterprise, with their as-yet-unseen Queen attempting to seduce security codes out of Data with promises of humanity (a clever reversal of Borg culture).
Naturalized Star Trek movies tend to fare better with audiences. Both First Contact and the Voyage Home are more accessible for non-Trek fans but still have a sense of adventure and a strong connection to the universe (pun intended). First Contact also receives a huge boost from Jerry Goldsmith's beautiful score, which is his best Trek effort and certainly one of his best scores overall. The action is a little bit clunky (endless generic Enterprise corridor scenes get a bit tiresome) but the character chemistry is pitch perfect and there is a good variety in the excitement.
The Blu-ray looks good in 2.39:1 1080p, but I do believe that it would benefit greatly from a 4k remastering. Surely the series has enough fans for Paramount to justify it. The Dolby TrueHD sound fares a lot better and there are loads of extras. However, there is a commentary by Damon Lindelof (!) who was not involved with this film in any way (thankfully). Why this talent vacuum was invited to spout his opinions on a film far better than anything he could ever hope to be associated with is beyond me. It's like asking Ed Wood to make his own cut of Ben Hur.
While recycling the Moby Dick motif has received much criticism (it was used to great effect in Wrath of Khan), it works perfectly in First Contact. Picard's cool, controlled persona finally cracks here and for good reason; his character underwent emotional trauma. It's only natural that he would respond with anger and frustruation. Sure, we expect reason from Picard's character but this actually contributes to the Picard.
All of the characters benefit from the expanded screen time although, again, it does feel like there is more missing. Perhaps it was sacrificed to keep the pace of the film. Regardless, it wouldn't hurt to restore it to its rightful place. After all, it benefited Nicholas Meyer's Wrath and (for the most part)the reediting on ST:TMP also helped clarify and improve the narrative flow.
First Contact was an improvement over Generations. While that film is solid and entertaining, it always felt that it was made for television and not for the big screen. The epic element always has worked well for Trek when the big screen adventures were made. The same holds true here as well. With Nemesis coming out in December it's time that Paramount and director Jonathon Frakes return to First Contact and let it live up to its five star potential.
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