Thursday, November 26, 2015

Star Trek: First Contact

Star Trek: First Contact; science-fiction, USA, 1996; D: Jonathan Frakes, S: Patrick Stewart, Brent Spiner, Jonathan Frakes, Michael Dorn, James Cromwell, LeVar Burton, Gates McFadden, Marina Sirtis, Alfre Woodard, Alice Krige, Robert Picardo

In 2373, the Borg, a highly hostile and invasive alien cyborg race, sets a course to attack Earth. Jean-Luc Picard, the Captain of the spaceship USS Enterprise, manages to destroy their spaceship, but a small Borg capsule flies back in time to the year 2063. The Enterprise follows them. On Earth, a small team led by Riker tries to convince Cochrane, an alcoholic, to proceed with his first ever war drive, which will change the course of history towards the better. Back on Enterprise, the crew is fighting the Borg who are slowly taking over the spaceship. Picard, who was once almost assimilated by them six years ago, manages to prevail, thanks to Data, who smashes a coolant tank on the dock, whose liquid destroys the Borg. The Enterprise returns to the future afterwards.

Even though it was met with critical acclaim (92% positive reviews on Rotten Tomatoes), the 2nd film of the next generation and the overall 8th film of the "Star Trek" franchise, "First Contact" is a highly polarizing experience, and may in fact be the first instalment that broke the old rule that all "Star Trek" films with even numbers are good, while those with odd numbers are weak. It has a strong villain, the cyborg alien race Borg, who seem to be an allegory of the Bolshevik-Nazi regimes or some sort of a space ISIL, an extremist-expansionist group that cannot be reasoned with, yet the film took several ill-conceived decisions, which made it seem convulsive. It starts off with an unnecessary, vile shot of Picard remembering how the Borg drill in his eye - not even the notorious scene with the worm in "Khan" was so explicit as this one. It then makes yet another turn into time travel territory - the 3rd "Star Trek" film to do so - without clearly explaining some loose ends (if the Borg could travel back in time, why do it in public, so that the Enterprise can follow them? And how could the Enterprise return back to the present?), yet the far bigger problem is that it has no function in the storyline.

It is set in the year 2063, but from the perspective of 1996 audience, the years 2063 and 2373 are equally as indistinguishable from one another. The screenwriters should have taken a note from "Star Trek IV", where the futuristic crew travels back to the present, which offers some great culture clash and jokes people can identify with since it contains two very distinctive eras. Even worse, even if the whole film played out in 2373 entirely, what role does Cochorane play in the Borg story, anyway? The Borg story works, the Cochrone story does not. The only good moment is the joke where he freaks out listening to the statue that is going to be built in his name, yet the rest of the subplot - where Riker and the others are trying to persuade him to continue with his warp drive - can only go so far after a while, and feels like a fifth wheel. Several other inconsistencies bother: when a crew member is infected by the Borg after only 60 seconds, Picard kills him - but when Picard himself was infected, and successfully managed to recover, then it is OK for his crew to save him. The dialogues were alright, save for a few good moments ("The Borg? Sounds Swedish."), whereas the finale was good. "First Contact" has one undeniable highlight: the excellent, deliciously long suspense sequence of Picard, Worf and another crew member in spacesuits trying to unlock a giant Borg antenna on the spaceship, with several inspired moments (they shoot at one Borg, the other adapts to the laser, so Picard shoots the ground under him, causing the cyborg to fly off into space). But in order to get to that good part, you have to dig your way through a mass of grey moments and characters in between.


No comments: