Monday, September 12, 2016

Galaxy Quest (1999) inspires us to never surrender our fandom

Galaxy Quest Sci-Fi  movie review
Photo Credit: Galaxy Quest / Dreamworks Pictures
Galaxy Quest is a very clever satire, mixing fans' passion for science-fiction and highlighting the best and corniest aspects of its entertainment with clever homages.

At the height of its popularity, a fictionalized sci-fi soap opera Galaxy Quest was canceled. The riveting cliffhanger involving Cmdr. Peter Quincy Taggart (Tim Allen) and his crew are left to the imagination of hardcore fans in cult corners and fan conventions. Science fiction proves to be all too real when the dysfunctional cast is greeted by real aliens who misinterpreted their tv show as facts and are calling on them to save their race.

Parodies are a particularly challenging film to pull off. Films like Scary Movie or Epic Movie start off with decent ideas to spotlight inconsistencies and zany cliches but then it's enterprise is warped by absurd and irrelevant jokes. Galaxy Quest, on the other hand, is a totally fun ride notating just how quirky, heartfelt, and bold the genre is while honoring the big role fans play in its success.

Using Star Trek and similar franchises as it's backdrop, the movie latches onto details that a variety of viewers can understand from the most hardcore Trekkies to most general movie goer. The story (even if it has a plot-hole or two the size of a black hole) and the script makes entertaining references everyone has seen at some time- like the suave captain who takes his shirt off for no reason, fans knowing more about a spacecraft's technology than the actual crew, the unaccredited crew member who is doomed to die, the cross-species romance subplot, and so much more.

With all the little nods aside, one of the best ways Galaxy Quest spoofs beloved various series is how the cast resents or embrace the lasting impact of their one hit wonder.

One of my favorites is Sigourney Weaver as Gwen DeMarco, or Lt. Tawny Madison. (The other credited actor is below). Her main role is to repeat every command the computer responds to or gives. She represents the token female character who isn't given much to do except look hot. (Doesn't this sound like a few franchises nowadays?) Despite her lack of agency fans dress up as her to value her inner strength, sure but also question whether the torrid chemistry DeMarco has with Tim Allen's Commander was genuine. When Gwen's mates recognize the ridiculousness of her role, she owns up to it but does it anyway with authority. The movie scoring Sigourney Weaver to portray Gwen takes the movie to another level of meta brilliance.

And there is also Alan Rickman as Alexander Dane. Similar to the "don't want to be recognized only as Luke/Spock' phases Mark Hammill and Leonard Nimoy went through, Dane is entirely over his involvement in the franchise. He can't stomach repeating catch-phrases and making appearances, yet for all the lamenting he does, it is uniquely a part of him; a role he can't even shake off when he's at home. Rickman delivers a wonderful performance, putting his underrated timing and humor to great use.

For a movie that's seventeen years old, Galaxy Quest achieves an impressive feat by being highly aware of how geek culture supports, and nearly rescues, the cast from their own intergalactic demise. To great surprise, upon the film's initial release, it was a hit not only with Star Trek's Trekkies but even actors from the series like George Takei and Patrick Stewart. Even though the landscape of the genre and it's devotees has changed since 1999, the movie stays surprisingly relevant with age.

Beaming up the power of sci-fi and its earthling admirers, the movie was way ahead of its time. Galaxy Quest affectionately celebrates eccentricities within this ever-growing community: the conventions, actors dealing with the pros and cons of a canceled franchise, its tropes, and the fans. It doesn't skewer or point fingers, casting the genre or fans out to be bad or weird. In fact, with comedy, action, and heartfelt respect, it teaches to never give up, never surrender your fandom.
Rating: ★★★
Have you seen Galaxy Quest? What are your thoughts?

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