Star Trek First Contact was a huge critical and commercial success on its release in 1996. It gave a much needed boost to the television franchise at a time when viewing figures were flagging.
This is amongst the very best of the Star Trek movies. It has a consistent tone and is accessible to non-trekkies, whilst rewarding the hard-core fans.
First Contact was ably directed by Jonathan Frakes, (Commander Riker) whose fast shooting style earned him the nickname ‘two-takes Frakes’. He uses off-kilter camera angles to convey unease and handles the action scenes very well.
Maybe it was Frakes’ familiarity with the cast that brought out such good performances from his cast mates. In particular Patrick Stewart, who revels in the Ahab like role afforded him. I also enjoyed Alfre Woodards performance as Lily Sloane, who more than holds her own against Patrick Stewart. The large ensemble cast all get memorable moments, with Marina Sirtis unexpectedly funny as a drunk Deanna Troi.
First Contact plays to some of the greatest strengths in the Star Trek movie franchise, great music, strong action scenes with impressive and ground-breaking visual effects sequences. Jerry Goldsmith’s score is excellent and develops some of the themes used in The Motion Picture. I love the sweeping main title music that incorporates the Alexander Courage fanfare.
The film had a larger budget than the disappointing ‘Generations’ and it’s put to very good use, with impressively large sets and superior special effects work from ILM.
The audacious entrance of Borg queen is especially memorable. Her head and shoulders descend from the ceiling and fuse with the rest of her body. The special effect combined make-up, blue screen and CGI to produce an intense and creepy sequence.
Alice Krige’s Borg queen is a kinky delight, at once both seductive and repellent. She tries to seduce Data by grafting flesh onto his arm. The scene where she urges him to ‘ tear the skin from your limb as you would a defective circuit’ is genuinely disturbing.
As with many of the Star Trek films, the movie does have its flaws. For example, if the Borg can go back in time, why bother to attack Earth at all? Simply go back in time, fly to Earth and assimilate it – with no pesky Picard following through the temporal vortex! Also, the movie is a little violent and brutal in places, perhaps unnecessarily so.
But these are minor nit-picks, the things that Trekkers get their panties in a bunch over. For the vast majority of the movie going public this is a solid action-adventure movie with some nifty effects work.
Although we can see influences from other films, notably James Camerons Aliens, the films themes are typically Star Trek and involve loyalty, friendship, honesty and mutual respect. This is evidenced by Picard’s refusal to destroy the Enterprise and to instead rescue his friend (Data). Indeed, this theme of loyalty to ones friends is one of the overall themes of Star Trek as a whole. Despite moments of darkness, the film is unashamedly Star Trek and was a wonderful treat for fans celebrating Star Trek’s 30th anniversary. The movie remains optimistic and stands the test of time well – much like Star Trek itself.