Sunday, May 26, 2013

Sunday Movie Theater: Galaxy Quest (1999)

More than just a sci-fi movie, more than just a parody, more than just a comedy

The second visit to Sunday Movie Theater this month after "Blackadder Back & Forth" (1999). ^^

Movie poster is from IMDB.

Trailer of the movie.
Video clip is from Youtube. Follow this link to the website if you can't see anything.

"Galaxy Quest", a 1999 movie directed by Dean Parisot. Technical movie details can be seen on IMDB.

I first watched "Galaxy Quest" around the time when it came out in theaters. I enjoyed it immensely for its humor and remembered nothing much of it for quite a while. ^^; Many, many years ago when I learned to appreciate movies for more than just their story and action, I re-watched "Galaxy Quest" and fall in love with it all over again. ^^ The level of humor is still very high, XD but there are definitely more than that which I love about the movie ever since the first re-watch. To be discussed in this posting, all those factors make this movie an absolutely worthy mention for this segment.

The movie's main cast members are actors and actress themselves in the story. ^^ They once stared in a hit space adventure TV series entitled "Galaxy Quest", which as you can tell, is the title of this movie. ^^ Lead by the overconfident, very much self centered Jason Nesmith (played by Tim Allen) who played Captain Peter Quincy Taggart in the TV series, the crew members relied on the popularity of the show and continuous support from the fans to make a living. Real life issues including cracks in relationship between team members, rejection of typecast character, harsh realization of self worth and even desperation for new work were plaguing the team when they received an opportunity to "reprise" their characters in a "Galaxy Quest"-esque space adventure, except everything was real. ^^; The crew members must save a group of high-tech, peaceful, but unfortunately naive alien beings from total annihilation at the hands of another alien race that craved for a technology the former possessed. Total hilarity followed as the crew members stumbled between the "real deal" and their acting experience in similar but fictitious episodes of the TV show. Against a powerful and ruthless enemy, the team had to put aside their personal issues to save the alien host and themselves.

The display of multiple aspects in the story of "Galaxy Quest" is one of its major successes in my opinion. It's simple enough to be watched as an old-versus-evil space adventure, or comedy of course. ^^ That was the theme I understood when I first watched the movie. There are other messages beneath that space adventure, for example the journey of self discovery and self worth. For overestimating his character's popularity and in relation to that, his personal worth, Jason the captain was forced to face the truth when the bubble burst. Alexander Dane (played by Alan Rickman), Dr. Lazarus from the TV series confronted his disdain and frustration of the character he played when he realized the inspiration others drew from that character. For displaying the conflict between the actors and their typecast roles, the issue of dedication and passion is an important message behind the story as well. "It's just a TV series, it's not real!" is a constant message in many scenes, but when the roles are no longer "just for a TV show episode", and that the characters' lives actually depend on how much they believe in their roles, it's a matter of self-discovery as well. ^^

The movie also showed the appreciation that ought to be given to fans of a particular show or series, in a very straight-forward manner. ^^ If not for the help from fans who understood the super technical and niche details of elements from the show overlooked by the TV series' cast members, it wouldn't be a happy ending for Captain Taggart and his crew members. Their massive participation in conventions shown at the beginning and the end of the movie were also part of the movie writer's effort to highlight the importance of fans to a particular show. For that, I think it's great to see the change in the characters' attitude on the two different occasions as well. It shows the great length and generosity of support fans are willing to give to their beloved shows and the cast members, even when the shows are on production hiatus or are no longer available. The renewed interest shown by the characters for their roles in the end is a very hopeful conclusion on the point about the fans I think. It's rewarding to see support from the fans is matched with passion and dedication for the show and their roles from the actors and actresses. ^^

Because of the "blatant" references to "Star Trek" it's exhibiting throughout the movie, you can treat it as a  parody of  homage to that beloved sci-fi franchise as well. ^^ I watched a few "Star Trek" movies in the last three to four years, and a few episodes of the original TV series, so I was able get a few of the references thrown out in the movie. ^^ I think the excessive fear of death because of being an unnamed character in the show displayed by Sam Rockwell's character, Guy Fleegman who was "Crewman #6" (XD) sums up this point very well. ^^ He did such tremendous job fearing his "fictitious" death that other characters started believing that character jinx as well. ^^ "Let's get out of here before one of those things kills Guy." by Gwen DeMarco, Lieutenant Tawny Madison in the TV series (played by Sigourney Weaver) totally cracked me up. As he wished, he became a named character as the security chief in a renewed "Galaxy Quest" TV series shown at the end of the movie, and his wide smile seemed to indicate that he believed his jinx was over. However, based on the similar situations in "Star Trek", a named security chief is not a safe position to hold on the ship. XD Then again, for someone who doesn't get that subtle "Star Trek" connection, you can perceive that as a happy ending for Guy, who seemed to represent minor characters who are definitely important in a TV show. ^^ As I get more and more into "Star Trek", I'm sure I'll be able to learn new things from this movie as well. ^^

The casting for this movie is absolutely fantastic. The characters given to the cast members are just spot-on, even when some of the other movies they made are considered. ^^ Tim Allen was fantastic for his comedic touch as the captain in this movie, as he certainly had the look of a captain. An overconfident, self-centered, irritating showboat, but a captain nonetheless. ^^ Interestingly, Tim Allen's other famous role in the sci-fi genre is the voice for Buzz Lightyear from the "Toy Story" franchise. In the story of the first "Toy Story" movie, Buzz Lightyear is the main character of a cartoon series. The penchant for uttering their respective catchphrase is a similarity between the two characters as well. It's "Never give up... never surrender" for Jason Nesmith, and of course, "To infinity ... and beyond!" for Buzz Lightyear. A mere coincidence, or perhaps the character connection element was indeed planned ahead before the characters were cast - the first "Toy Story" movie came out four years before the release of "Galaxy Quest". ^^

Such character connection can be said to be similar, but was executed very differently for Gwen DeMarco, Sigourney Weaver's character in this movie. Sigourney Weaver's other famous role in the sci-fi genre is none other than Ellen Ripley from the "Alien" franchise. However, instead of being a strong and fearless woman as she demonstrated in the "Alien" franchise, Gwen's role on board the ship was just to facilitate communication between the main computer and the rest of the crew members - repeating what the computer says. XD Despite being the kindest and most caring to the fans, she questioned her role and even the story logic more than any of her other team members. "Look! I have one job on this lousy ship, it's stupid, but I'm gonna do it! OK?", "I'm not doing it! This episode was badly written!", "Whoever wrote this episode should die." I imagine those lines are what Ellen Ripley is going to say when she looks at Gwen DeMarco character as Lieutenant Tawny Madison's contribution in the story. XD As revealed in "Alien: Resurrection" (1997), Ripley's last rank was Lieutenant as well. ^^

Since some the spoofs shown in the movie supposedly aimed at "Star Trek" are also applicable to the sci-fi genre in general, the character connections mentioned above are deliberately designed so I believe. I really love how expansive the references are in order to generate the comedic effects shown in the movie. ^^

On the other hand, Alan Rickman was just being Alan Rickman in this movie. XD The frustration he had with his "Galaxy Quest" character was demonstrated in full Alan Rickman-style sarcastic performance, which is absolutely fun to watch. Right at the beginning, when he very coldly shut a fan up when the latter tried to recite the character's catchphrase was hilarious. It was a really funny moment, but I kind-of felt bad for the fan at the moment. ^^; Alexander Dane (Alan Rickman's character) had other opportunities to display his awesome sarcasm in the movie as well, since he also felt that Jason stole many of his shining moments in the TV series. The friend-competitor, hot-versus-cold relationship between the two was just as interesting to watch as the actors' individual performance. Fred Kwan, who played Tech Sergeant Chen in the TV series (played by Tony Shalhoub) was another character I like. For being a very weird character but with very simplistic motivation - just to score with an alien girl, Tony Shalhoub certainly did his best in performing that role, which shouldn't be too much of a surprise if you remember him being an alien character himself in "Men in Black" (1997). ^^

For a 1999 movie, the CG looks a bit dated now. The composition between actual camera shots and computer animated elements, such as the the desert scenes with the green midget aliens, extreme booby trap passage scene during the climax was evidently a bit off. You can obviously tell how the shots were put together just by looking at the contrasting lighting effect. ^^; Still, this doesn't take away my enjoyment of the movie. With CG being an intricate part of the making of sci-fi movies nowadays, and almost to an excessive level as well, ^^; I certainly appreciate the usage of props and actual costume design in realizing the enemy alien forces' look. The design of General Sarris (played by Robin Sachs) featuring moving "lobster legs" on top of his head, moving shell pieces that formed his shoulder armors and wing blades that would expand when he was enraged is really awesome. ^^ On the other hand, I really like the design of the ship used in the movie - NSEA Protector as well. ^^ Its aerodynamic design with blue thrusters makes it a really beautiful spacecraft in my opinion. ^^

A really fun movie this is. ^^ As I said before, you can watch it for the many messages it contain, and it would seem more than just a space adventure comedy. ^^ But ultimately, the movie's intrinsic comedic nature, simple storyline and great performance from the cast members make it a really joyous watch from time to time as well. It's a "versatile" movie that has very high re-watch value in that sense. ^^

No comments: