Star Trek 8: First Contact (1996) Movie Review

“Star Trek” has never been like any of the other science fiction franchises out there. It’s always had a distinctive look, feel, and vibe to its aesthetics and storylines that I find attractive. Also, I have always considered “Star Trek” technology to be more feasible than most films/TV shows. Which is not to say I think mankind will be zooming around in spaceships anytime soon, but just that “Star Trek” makes it a point to explain itself, even if it all comes out sounding like techno babble. For a comparison, do you even know how those “hyperdrive engines” on the “Star Wars” movies are supposed to work? I grew up watching the TV show “Star Trek: The Next Generation”, so the further adventures of Picard, Riker, Data and the rest of the Next Generation crew has always been closer to me than Kirk and company.

“First Contact”, the 8th film in the franchise and 2nd to star the Next Generation crew, is directed by Jonathan Frakes (who also plays Riker). The movie also has the distinction of being, in my opinion, the first full-blown “Trek” action film, even though the movie still maintains those human elements that make the franchise so special and unique. What I noticed most is how quickly “First Contact” becomes a Last Stand in a Haunted House movie, with the Borg (a race of aliens that “assimilates” — that is, co-opts — other races into their own) providing the menace.

To fully appreciate the first 15 minutes of “First Contact” one needs to have been a constant viewer of the TV show. Even though the movie explains the context of the Borg invasion into Federation space, it pays to know the full story. It took the TV show many seasons, and many, many episodes to build up the relationship between Picard’s crew and the Borg, and the animosity that has developed between the two factions.

Needless to say, the Borg’s invasion of Earth is thwarted, but the Borg are clever and enacts a Plan B: Time travel to 21th century Earth and kill an important scientist, thus halting mankind’s future progress and making conquest easier! Before you can say, “Hey, what about time paradoxes?” the crew of the Enterprise has followed the Borg into the past, only to have the Enterprise fighting off an invasion when the Borg beams over!

With Picard and half of the crew onboard the Enterprise fighting the sudden Borg infestation, the other half are down on the planet trying to help that “important scientist” get his ship back together and meet his destiny. But there’s a problem on both ends: the Borg has almost completely taken over the ship, and the scientist (James Cromwell) turns out to be not only a boozehound, but also lacking in any self-confidence!

Under Frakes’ direction, “First Contact” is brimming with style. The Borg invasion of the Enterprise looks terrific, and the usually bright corridors of the ship are turned into dangerous dungeon-like hallways of neon green that is swarming with biomechanical humanoids with machines for bodyparts. But while the action onboard the Enterprise is gloomy and filled with dread, the sequences on the planet is comedic and very grounded in human elements. Frakes and the screenwriters manage to switch between the two very different parts of the movie without missing a beat.

Like Pierce Brosnan in “Die Another Day”, the actors in “First Contact” have been at their roles for so long they don’t even need to “act” anymore. This is second nature to them and they all acquit themselves well, even though it was obvious nondescriptive dialogue was spread among the regular crewmembers to keep everyone happy. The movie, of course, centers on Captain Picard (Patrick Stewart), who has to deal with his seething hatred for the Borg before it destroys him.

It’s hinted in the ads for “Star Trek: Nemesis”, the 10th in the franchise and the fourth for the Next Generation crew, that the film may be the last trek for said crew. This may very well be the case, considering that the “Trek” movies and TV shows are really glorified hour-long (or in the case of the movies, 2 hour long) commercials for the sea of “Trek” merchandise out there. Of course, if “Nemesis” does good box office business, I’m sure the Powers That Be will change their minds quickly enough…

Jonathan Frakes (director) / Rick Berman, Brannon Braga, Ronald D. Moore (screenplay)
CAST: Patrick Stewart …. Captain Jean-Luc Picard
Jonathan Frakes …. William T. Riker
Brent Spiner …. Data
LeVar Burton …. Geordi LaForge
Michael Dorn …. Worf
Gates McFadden …. Dr. Beverly Crusher
Marina Sirtis …. Deanna Troi

Buy Star Trek 8: First Contact on DVD