Let’s call this piece timely because Galaxy Quest is on netflix right now, so don’t give me any lip about it coming out 15 years ago.
For such an “old” flick it actually holds up surprisingly well, but I won’t pretend to be impartial: I love this movie. In fact I think it’s probably my favorite Star Trek film, even though it’s technically not Trek in any respect.
It’s a spoof. But its a loving spoof full of jibes and jokes which clearly illustrate that the people (David Howard and Robert Gordon) who wrote this movie knew its source intimately. This isn’t mocking Star Trek, it’s celebrating it, and in the year 2014, a time when the cineplexes are dominated by mega-franchises (including a new and “improved” Star Trek) and our action movies are main-stream-ifizing what was once nerdy sub-culture you still don’t get a lot of movies like Galaxy Quest. A one off, sequel-less sci-fi romp with a bunch of old school special effects, in jokes plus regular jokes for everybody else and starring a cast that hits it out of the park?
(I will admit that Guardians of the Galaxy, which came out this summer does have a few things in common with Galaxy Quest, including the word Galaxy in its title. However, Guardians is part of a “Mega-Franchise” (the Marvel universe) and is based on a comic book of the same name. What I find rare about Galaxy Quest, which was not rare at the time of its release, is that it isn’t actually tied to an existing “property” even if it’s core is a spoof of Star Trek. GQ is decidedly its own entity, its own “thing”, and I think a truer movie for it.)
Did I mention that I love this movie? Yeah. I love it.
Did I mention it holds up well for a movie from 1999? The pacing is brisk, and the characters are spot on. In fact I’d love to give a hand to whoever cast this film because it is star studded. Sigourney Weaver is impeccable as always. Allan Rickman, not yet famous for playing Snape (alert, another mega-franchise) in the Harry Potter films, but probably still recognizable at the time for his memorable role in Sense and Sensibility, is probably my favorite part of the movie. Tony Shalhoub also costars a few years before Monk would propel him to fame. Oh, and I almost forgot! One of my favorite actors, Sam Rockwell plays the memorable/forgettable “extra” Guy Freegman. Daryl Mitchell also does a great job, but gets a little overshadowed by the blazing ensemble around him. Even Tim Allen is terrific. (Also the guy who plays Dwight on The Office is an unnamed alien. Who could be better for that role?)
Now that I’ve name dropped just about everyone who appears on screen let me segue to why the film is still relevant thematically. The core of the story is about fandom. Specifically “trekkies” or whatever their Galaxy Quest equivalent is. In the movie a group of aliens (called Thermians) who believe the television show Galaxy Quest is “for realz” hire the show’s actors to defeat a Big Bad Alien. The fun is watching the real everyday people who starred in the show grapple with the larger than life events that they’ve been portrayed conquering countless times, but who in reality can barely cope with.
In 1999 it was mocking/celebrating a sub-culture. Today Star Trek, comic books and all the things that used to be the domain of “nerds” are now mostly mainstream, and fandom is not quite so stigmatizing. As a result the movie Galaxy Quest has never been easier to access as a viewer, nor has it, I believe, been able to speak to so many people, who like the Thermians, yearn for their favorite silver screen fantasy to be more than just on the screen.