First Contact: Star Trek's Magnum Opus

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First Contact: Star Trek's Magnum Opus

Postby Jeff » 2008.01.10 1:53 pm

Time travel
Right from the start, this story is about time travel! How cool is that? We get to visit a previously unseen turning point in the Star Trek universe with the Next Gen crew. Even without the Borg, this makes for an excellent concept.

The new Enterprise
While there will always be a special place in this nerd's heart for the fallen D, the new Enterprise-E is one helluva ship. Go ahead and watch the scene where they alter course for earth to join the attack on the Borg. This now twelve year old concept design still looks sleek and futuristic. In fact, its one of the few Federation vessels that, in my opinion, has yet to show its design age.

The logical inclusion of Worf
After the destruction of the Enterprise-D, Worf joined the DS9 crew. The efforts of later movies to reintegrate him with the Next Genners seem dubious at best, but it made perfect sense here. Of course the Defiant would be sent to take on the cube. That's what the thing was built for. The plot device of disabling the ship and having its crew receive medical treatment aboard the Enterprise just seems natural. How many times in the series did they rescue a ship's crew? I lost count. Worf's back on the bridge, and it feels great. He also brought the personality he picked up on DS9, and I, for one, have no complaints. Oh yeah, and he slices the arm off of a Borg and uses some cables from the severed appendage to tie off a leak in his environmental suit. Chuck Norris and Bill Brasky combined have NOTHING on Worf.

The score
Wow. I think most of you know how I feel about this film score; I used it at my wedding reception for God's sake. This movie has the best arrangement of the classic Jerry Goldsmith theme that I've ever heard, and the haunting new Borg theme is a perfect fit. I also thought it was a damn fine touch to give the Klingon trumpet fanfare to Worf's scenes. It turns him into even more of a badass. The actual "first contact" theme is also excellent. It's very powerful and feels more like a current-day space theme for a film like Apollo 13 or Armageddon than a far-out fantasy theme, and I think it works out very well for the film. It almost makes you hopeful for a Federation future. Side note: I think the best part of the entire score played during the launch of the escape pods.

The direction
Frakes, what's up? Why can't you do more movies like this? Why kids' movies? This was the top-grossing Trek film of all time, and it had a lot to do with the fact that it was helmed by a seasoned Trek star who cared about the franchise. For your first movie, fella, this is downright incredible.

The pacing
This movie has no low points whatsoever. It makes you care about both plots; the Borg fight and the Cochrane story, and switches between them well.

The Borg
What a way to introduce the Borg! I'm not referring to the initial attacking cube, but the stowaways aboard the Enterprise. They're like technozombies. The first few scenes give them such an amazing presence: where we're only shown drones' shadows and get to hear them banging down the door of sickbay, the change in environmental controls, the crew's preparation... This builds a ridiculous amount of suspense that I'm not used to from Trek. I love it. We don't even see a drone for the first half-hour of the movie (unless you count Picard's opening flashback) but when we do, the new costume and lighting choices make them truly creepy. There's no antiseptic appearance to these Borg. They're... slimy. I don't know who decided that would be a good idea, but they have my thanks. It makes the contrast between flesh and machine more stark.

Visual effects/lighting
The look of this film is unreal. It just makes the charaters pop in a way they never got to on the small screen. The outdoor shots are great, the Enterprise just looks much more serious, and the main deflector scene is the best spacewalk I've ever watched. The CGI stills holds up a dozen years later, as the sweeping shots of the ship and the cube battle just look spectacular.

Geordi's eyeballs
It's about time they got him out of that blindfold! Don't get me wrong, Levar Burton did an amazing job of showing emotions with his eyes hidden for seven years of TNG, but the introduction of his bionic eyes was a great idea in this movie, especially because it was warranted by the fact his visor was compromised in Generations. It's new, but it makes sense and we all accept it without problem.

James Cromwell
What a perfect casting choice. He plays the reluctant hero to a T and gets to be the first to say "Star Trek" on screen in the history of the entire franchise!

Character interaction
Troi drunk is probably the funniest thing I've ever seen in the whole of Trekdom. Any moment with Worf is just cinematic gold, from his humorous exchanges with Riker to his stare down with Picard. The personal side of the Captain they awkwardly coaxed out in Generations finds a much better outlet in his Borg vendetta here, but it's Data who steals the show. They've finally made him a perfectly rounded character (let's not talk about the movies that come after, ok? Savor the moment...) and his mix of machine efficiency, curiosity, ambition to become human, and humor are precision balanced. His interplay with the Borg Queen is incredible, and by the end of the movie the camaraderie between Picard and Data is as good as any Kirk-Spock moment.

The Voyager crew... and more
Who wasn't happy to see the EMH? And did anyone notice that the holodeck bartender was a makeupless Neelix? Nice touches, both. It was also nice to know that Majel Barrett was still voicing Federation ships, and that Reg Barclay was still the hyper little dude he's become famous for.

Memorable quotes
"The line must be drawn here! This far, no further! And I will make them pay for what they've done!" Not since "There are four lights!" has Stewart packed such emotion into Picard.
"Brave words. I've heard them before, from thousands of species across thousands of worlds, since long before you were created. But, now they are all Borg." One dynamite opener for the Borg Queen.
"Assimilate this!" Only Worf could get away with this line. It doesn't even sound cliche coming from a Klingon.
"Reports of my assimilation have been greatly exaggerated." A welcome continuation of the Clemens line that shows the writers really paid attention to the show.
"If you were any other man, I would kill you where you stand." Sorry, had to. Worf is a fucking badass.
"Tough little ship." "Little?" Riker pokes the beehive, and it's awesome.
Also, I think Cochrane's blasting of Steppenwolf's Magic Carpet Ride should get special mention. That was a great moment.
"Resistance is futile." Coming from Data, this is another would-have-been-cliche moment if it wasn't so perfectly executed.

The sleek military style introduced here and later adopted in DS9 is probably the best of the entire franchise. I won't lie, the original Next Gen outfits looked a lot like pajamas. This design just makes everyone look like a broad-shouldered soldier that shouldn't be messed with.

Universal appeal
You don't have to know Star Trek to like this movie. It struck the balance of introductive storytelling and plot advancement that's usually quite hard to achieve. I almost think I'd like this better if I didn't know the backstory. The Borg are just such a perfect enemy, and the concept of fixing past events is something we've all been used to since 1985. Besides, this is an action movie first, and a sci-fi flick second, with room, somehow, for excellent writing and dialog.

God damn, I love this movie.
I do what I can.

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