When you talk about the year of cinema that was 1999, there are the films that come immediately. Fight Club, The Sixth Sense, The Matrix, Eyes Wide Shut. I love The Insider, have a soft spot for eXistenZ and Three Kings and then it starts getting complicated, as films like American Beauty, Girls Don’t Cry, and The Green Mile haven’t exactly weathered as well, while films like Office Space have only grown in estimation. At the time, most wouldn’t have listed Galaxy Quest as one of the great films of 1999, and yet ten years later, someone like David Mamet can call it a perfect movie. And it is. By Grabthar’s Hammer, my review of Galaxy Quest after the jump.
The premise is simple: what if aliens watched Star Trek and thought it was real? Tim Allen plays Jason Nesmith who plays Peter Quincy Taggart, the Kirk character that – like his crew – is relegated to the con circuit. Alexander Dane (Alan Rickman) thought he was a real actor, but he’s playing Dr. Lazarus, the Spock-type science officer, while Gwen DeMarco/ Lt. Madison (Sigourney Weaver) was the T&A/Uhura/communications expert of the show. Fred Kwan/ Tech Sgt. Chen (Tony Shaloub) was the engineer, and comes across as stoned most of the time, while Tommy Webber/ Laredo (Daryl Mitchell) was the boy genius pilot now grown up. Nesmith really loves his fans, but loves the center stage even moreso, and so when four fans ask him to do a special appearance, he assumes it’s a basement TV gig. But, in fact, Mathesar (Enrico Colantoni) and his crew (including Rainn Wilson and Missi Pyle) are aliens hoping for Nesmith to help them beat the evil Sarris (Robin Sachs). He treats it like a basement gig (he’s hung over) and leaves them, only for it to only piss off Sarris something fierce. His crew comes along for a second engagement thinking it’s a paid gig, along with Guy Fleegman (Sam Rockwell), the classic red shirt. And there they have space battles and a trip to a planet with killer midgets and rock monsters.
Galaxy Quest pulls off one of the most stunning feats in comedy, yett it’s done so well you don’t realize how hard it is in that the film exists at once as the straightforward narrative but also a clever commentary on the tropes of Star Trek without ever being a direct corollary. Gwen has a great freak-out when she addresses the computer to ask it questions already asked by the other crew members, and when they bitch she says “Look! I have one job on this lousy ship, it’s stupid, but I’m gonna do it! Okay?” This joke both works for our awareness of characters like this, but also for the performer, who recognizes the absurdity of the situation, without breaking character to wink at the audience. It’s just as brilliant when the performers comment on Nesmith’s scene-stealing ways that work both as a comment on a type, and on William Shatner’s James T. Kirk.
The film was well received, a minor hit upon release, but word grows because the film manages to deliver action sequences that work along with the comedy, and you grow to love the cast and crew. J.J. Abrams and the rest of the Star Trek reboot crew swore this was their favorite Star Trek film, and though that’s not really fair, it works by not being hampered by the baggage, but being able to pick and chose what they reference as they like. But one of the most amazing feats of the film is Dane’s character of Dr. Lazarus, it’s set up brilliantly in that he hates his signature line “By Grabthar’s Hammer,” but when he delivers it for the final time, it gains a poignancy and depth that you wouldn’t expect from a film like this. And that’s the thing. You would never expect this film to be this good, but it’s such a solid piece of craftsmanship, and such a smart film that it’s easy to take it’s steadiness for modesty. But time has proven this is a classic.
Paramount’s Blu-ray presents the film in anamorphic widescreen (2.35:1) and in Dolby 5.1 TrueHD. The film original had its opening section in 1.85:1, but this has never been replicated on home video. The transfer is perfect, as to be expected. The extras kick off with a “Galactopedia” which walks through all the elements of the TV show in similar ways to the Star Trek Encyclopedias on the new Star Trek discs. It’s – essentially – an interactive fact track for the fiction show and the film’s characters. The rest of the supplements are carried over from the DVD special edition “Historical Documents: The Story of Galaxy Quest” (18 min.) talks about the film’s development and its growing cult, while “Never Give Up, Never Surrender: The Intrepid Crew of the NSEA Protector” (23 min.) gives the cast its due. They got pretty much every one, Allen, Weaver, Mitchell, Rockwell, Shaloub, Rickman, Colantoni, Pyle and Justin Long all show up, along with director Dean Parsoit and screenwriters Robert Gordon and David Howard. “By Grabthar’s Hammer, What Amazing Effects” (7 min.) covers the technical side of this, while “Alien School: Creating the Thermian Race” (5 min.) gives Colantoni the credit for helping come up with the Thermian inflections. “Actors in Space” (6 min.) talks to the conceit of the film, and how the actors enjoyed making fun of their profession, while “Sigourney Weaver Raps” (2 min.)is something the crew did on a break for Weaver’s agent’s birthday party. There are eight deleted scenes (11 min.) with two intros, and the film’s theatrical trailer. The film also comes with a Thermian audio track which consists of clicking noises for the dialog. This covers the whole film.