Galaxy Quest (US - BD)
By Grabthar’s Hammer Gabe swears to never give up, and never surrender...
Seventeen years after its cancellation the ‘Galaxy Quest’ Sci-Fi television show still has legions of die-hard fans, who regularly sell out series conventions, all the chagrin of the exhausted cast. During one of these particularly depressing fan gatherings actor Jason Nesmith (Tim Allen), who played the show’s captain, is approached by a group of particularly strange fans calling themselves the ‘Thermians’, that beg him to help them during negotiations with their mortal enemy General Roth'h'ar Sarris, and insect like warlord that has driven the Thermian race to near extinction. Assuming their request is just a well advertised acting gig, Nesmith accepts, and proceeds to sleep through the rest of their ‘pitch’. It turns out that the Thermians are real aliens that have built their society upon episodes of ‘Galaxy Quest’, which in their naïveté have mistaken for ‘historical documents’. Nesmith botches the negotiations, and returns to Earth. The next day the Thermians return looking for more assistance and Nesmith gathers the rest of his crew (Alan Rickman, Sigourney Weaver, Tony Shalhoub, Sam Rockwell and Daryl Mitchell) to help.
Galaxy Quest works where other spoofs fail because it’s concerned with storytelling on top of fun-poking. The film also has genuine affection for the source of its satire, unlike more ‘pure’ spoof films like Airplane or Scary Movie, which usual (and normally fairly) treat their spoofed subject matter with some contempt. The basic concept of a tribe or culture mistaking actors for real-deal heroes is far from an original piece of filmic plotting (see Three Amigos, A Bug’s Life, and My Name is Bruce), that largely owes its existence to Akira Kurosawa’s oft-adapted Seven Samurai, but Galaxy Quest owns its tropes gracefully, likely due to the fact that so many of the most popular modern tropes started with Star Trek. Yet the film feels so authentic that it’s often hard to remember that there never was a Galaxy Quest television series, which makes for a genuinely rich atmosphere and believable back-story. Beyond all the things that make the film a clever spoof, Galaxy Quest works best as a warm bath of buoyant satisfaction. It’s sweet with just enough sour to keep your teeth from rotting or your stomach from turning.
The film features pretty spectacular effects, especially for a relatively modestly budgeted, ten year old film, and the story is extremely clever, but most audiences remember the film for its characters and some impossibly quotable dialogue. The characters are written to recall classic specifications, and would probably feel fully formed even in the hands of lesser actors thanks to the efforts of all of the films and TV shows Galaxy Quest satires. But the actors are fantastic, which pushes things up a notch to ‘significant’. The ensemble cast is filled in with a supporting cast that now find themselves on the A-List, including Tony Shalhoub, Sam Rockwell, Justin Long and Rainn Wilson. Everyone is pretty top form (it’s pretty clearly Tim Allen’s best film), but there are some definite standouts. Shalhoub chews the scenery without breaking a sweat by remaining as nonchalant about the whole situation as humanly possible, and Rickman is a monster of deadpan fury, but I’m particularly fond of Rockwell’s fearful ‘red shirt’. A self aware piece of cannon fodder is a particularly clever bit of meta-humour (‘Don't open that! It's an alien planet! Is there air? You don’t know!’).
Galaxy Quest makes its first appearance in hi-def, and the results are a bit middling. This is an improvement on the DVD release, but not such a dramatic one that fans with smaller sets will want to bother with the upgrade. The print is a bit grainier than I’d expect from a ten year old movie, but for the most part the grain and noise subsides a bit in more stylized lighting. The problem is at its most obvious against otherwise clean greys and whites, but once the film gets off Earth and into space, and the colours get a little more wild things clean up quite a bit. The greens of the bad guy craft and the yellows of the mining planet are much brighter here than they were on the old DVD. Details are a bit hit-and-miss, but there are some prime samples of stuff standard definition cannot manage, specifically the bits of the evil alien costumes. The digital effects stand up better than expected, especially the space stuff (some of the creatures are a bit too smooth). There are some noticeable flecks of white, black scratches, and a few other artefacts smeared over the print, but you’re going to have to look for them to be bothered by them. The bigger problem is inconsistency in image quality. Though the overall transfer is solid there are obviously bad moments. Examples include a close-up of Rickman inspecting a bug on his spoon, and a few wide shots on the miner planet, which are a bit muddy. DNR and edge-enhancement is a minor issue throughout the wider shots.
The new Blu-ray comes fitted with a new Dolby TrueHD 5.1 audio track. The track isn’t the most dynamic thing you’ll ever hear, but it’s clearly the ideal way to experience the film. The overall sound design features a somewhat original voice, but is overall clearly meant to evoke the films and series Galaxy Quest apes and pays homage too. As in all the various incarnations of Star Trek, the scenes that take place aboard the Thermians space ship feature an undercurrent of hum and bass, and the space battles are feature a nice mix of zippy silliness, and realist destruction. I found the LFE a little too thin overall (I watched the disc back to back with the nearly perfect Star Trek reboot), but the overall surround and directional output is quite impressive for a ten year old comedy. The dialogue track is perfectly centred, and clear, but there are a few bad bits of lip-sync (beyond the very obviously re-dubbed f-bombs). Composer David Newman is firmly set in his comfort zone with this score, which is referential, but also infectiously hummable in its own right. The music is mostly represented in the stereo channels, with a minor rear channel echo. Again, the whole thing could do with a punchy LFE boost, but overall the music is warm and well integrated into the occasionally busy track.
If Galaxy Quest is going to spoof one of Paramount’s most sought-after franchises, the Blu-ray extras might as well spoof those Star Trek re-release extras a bit. In that spirit, the extras begin with a ‘Galactopedia’ option to watch the film with pop-up factoids concerning attributes of the fake Galaxy Quest TV series, including the actors, behind-the-scenes, characters, episodes, fandom, planets and aliens, pop-culture, and science and technology. This is pretty much the same thing as the ‘Library Computer’ option that comes with every one of Paramount’s Star Trek Blu-ray film releases.
New featurettes, which are also available on the ‘Deluxe Edition’ DVD, start with ‘Historical Documents: The Story of Galaxy Quest’ (18:10, SD) which covers the basic’s of the making of the film in retrospect, from inception, scripting, the facts of Trekkies, real Star Trek conventions, tropes, and the film’s rough reception. Besides major members of the cast and crew, other interview subjects include Wrath of Khan and Undiscovered Country director Nicholas Myer. A fluffy but joyful little featurette. ‘Never Give Up, Never Surrender: The Intrepid Crew of the NSEA Protector’ (23:30, SD) covers the intricacies of casting the film, and crafting the characters. It’s fun to know that Justin Long partially based his performance on the real life geeks of Trekkies. ‘By Grabthar’s Hammer, What Amazing Effects’ (07:00, SD) covers the film’s digital and practical effects work, and set pieces which are, as mentioned, pretty impressive based on the film’s comparative budget and age. The looks at Stan Winston’s make-up and monster effects are the most interesting bits. ‘Alien School: Creating the Thermian Race’ (05:20, SD) briefly covers the creation of the film’s good-guy alien race, which was apparently mostly inspired by Enrico Colantoni’s casting tapes. ‘Actors in Space’ (06:10, SD) finishes the new stuff off with a look at actors dealing with sending themselves and their contemporaries up in the film. Oh, and there’s a brief bit of Sigourney Weaver and a few cast members rapping for Weaver’s agent’s birthday (02:00, SD). Silly.
The disc is completed with eight deleted scenes, one with an optional introduction (10:10, SD), a Thermian audio track (which is cute for about two minutes, then really annoying), and the trailer.
Though it’s obviously not a Star Trek film, Galaxy Quest was really the closest thing we had to a good Star Trek film for a very long time, and it really deserves its cult following. It’s definitely a satire, but it’s also a standalone feature with a story, characters, and very memorable dialogue. It’s never too heavy, but there is some emotional weight that grounds the comedy. This inaugural Blu-ray release sounds great, and features a handful of new, retrospective extras, but some fans might find the new high definition transfer a bit lacking. The disc looks good, better than the old DVD, but it’s not perfect, so the choice is yours.
Now, let’s get out of here, before someone kills Guy.
* Note: The images on this page are not representative of the Blu-ray release.
Review by Gabriel Powers
Some material may not be suitable for children
Release Date: 17th November 2009
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: Dolby TrueHD 5.1 English, Dolby Digital 5.1 Spanish, Dolby Surround 2.0 Thermian
Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish and Portuguese
Extras: Galactopedia, Historical Documents: The Story of Galaxy Quest, Never Give Up, Never Surrender, By Grabthar's Hammer, What Amazing Effects, Alien School, Actors in Space, Sigourney Weaver Raps, Deleted Scenes, Trailer
Easter Egg: No
Director: Dean Parisot
Cast: Tim Allen, Alan Rickman, Sigourney Weaver, Tony Shalhoub, Sam Rockwell, Daryl Mitchell, Enrico Colantoni, Justin Long and Rainn Wilson
Genre: Action, Adventure and Comedy
Length: 101 minutes
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