There are so many streaming options available today, and so many conflicting recommendations, it's hard to see through all the crap you could see. Every Friday, The edgeThe Cut the Crap column simplifies the selection by searching the overwhelming amount of films and TV series on subscription services and recommending a perfect thing to watch this weekend.
What to watch
Galaxy Quest, a science fiction comedy from 1999 in which the cast members of a canceled but still loved Star Trek-like television series are carried away by Thermians, a high-quality but gullible alien race. Not realizing that the adventures of their heroes are fictional (they cannot grasp the concept of storytelling), the Thermians have modeled their civilization after the series and their lofty values. Oh, and they also hope that the actors can help them defend against a murderous, reptilian opponent.
Because of celebrating the 20th anniversary in December, Galaxy Quest arrived towards the end of a film year full of striking visions of new and emerging voices (as noted in the first-class recent book by Brian Raftery Best. Movie. Year. Ever.). A large, public-friendly, effects-filled comedy starring Tim Allen, Galaxy Quest does not exactly match that profile, but that does not make it any less challenging or achieved. (In his book Bambi vs. Godzilla, David Mamet even includes it in a list of "perfect" films that includes that The godfather, Dodsworth, and A place in the sun.)
Designed by the first screenwriter David Howard, then reworked by Robert Gordon, Galaxy Quest started as a Harold Ramis film for the still new studio DreamWorks. But Ramis didn't want to put Allen in the lead role of the vain actor Jason Nesmith – he tried to get Alec Baldwin, Steve Martin, and others. That opened the door for Dean Parisot, who had never held a big project, didn't mind working with Allen, and probably didn't mind making a film with Alan Rickman, Sigourney Weaver, Tony Shalhoub, and Sam Rockwell , either.
Creating the world of film (and the world of show in film and the world of aliens inspired to base their entire civilization around that show), Galaxy Quest brought special effects and makeup expert Stan Winston. Winston and his team created elements suitable for a modest budget series – such as the ribbed headpiece wearing bitter British actor Alexander Dane (Rickman, perfectly cast) while playing the role of science officer Dr. Lazarus – and aliens that looked like more convincing spins on it Star TrekThe creations of rubber and prostheses. That's just one of the ways Galaxy Quest works on multiple levels. The film offers a little commentary Star Trek tropics, such as a communications officer (Sigourney Weaver) who does little, but repeats what the on-board computer says, and about the skirmishes, disappointments and long-awaited resentment that comes with so much involvement in a single project and the many, passionate fans.
Galaxy Quest also offers a loving look at fandom itself, where the enthusiasm of fans becomes so contagious and even laudable. The Thermians are mainly fans who are written big, driven to mimic the admirable principles that inform the series, while remaining blind to the flaws of the extremely human creators. Free from cynicism, they embrace the virtues of a show that opens up opportunities they had never imagined before.
Why watch now?
That last element is what makes Galaxy Quest the perfect show to watch as the annual San Diego Comic-Con takes place.
Although it is only 20 years old, it plays as the product of another era of fandom. 1999 also saw the release of Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace, a film whose arrival coincided with the rise of fan sites such as Isn't it cool news and warming up online fandebat. The following years followed the debuts of a large geek-friendly film franchise after the other. X-Men, Spider Man, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, and Harry Potter and the philosopher's stone all premiered in the coming years, and formed the stage for our current franchise-dominated moment. This peak also helped us produce our current & # 39; # ReleaseTheSnyderCut & # 39; stage of fandom, a sometimes poisonous climate in which fans pack their identity into a certain version of their favorite pop culture traits and attack them with different visions.
Yet fandom still has a way to bring out the best in people, as is often demonstrated on the floor and in the conference halls of meetings such as Comic-Con, where the excitement can create a shared warmth. Galaxy Quest fills its convention scenes with familiar attributes such as cheap merchandise and cosplayers, and it captures the backstage feeling of tired, insidious castmates who find it difficult to spend time in the same room after years of predictable, repetitive contexts long after their work ended together.
But it also records how the whole becomes larger than the same part. When those castmates enter the stage in front of a sea of fans dressed in homemade costumes and tasty T-shirts, Galaxy Quest is about something bigger than all of them: the impact they had with the series that was so central to their lives.
In the course of the film, Nesmith learns to embody the heroic values that his character stands for, values that the influenceable Thermians have transformed into a force forever in the universe. Nesmith and the others are so immersed in their careers and other concerns that they have never been able to see the effect on others, and how they have served as a moral North Star for generations of fans. (Who internalized much generally useless information about beryllium bulbs and the secret properties of Omega-13.) Galaxy Quest is an optimistic representation of what it means to be a fan. Perhaps a TV show can save the world by proposing a better, more just universe, one episode at a time.
For who it is
Filled with in-jokes about science fiction in general and Star Trek in particular, Galaxy Quest will have a special appeal to anyone who is already familiar with those worlds – and especially anyone who has ever waited in line to get a signature from a star who almost certainly wanted to be somewhere else. And despite some initial concerns from those involved with Star Trek, it has been widely embraced as the best Star Trek film that is not really one Star Trek movie. (The film avoids any mention of the show.) But even if that's not your world, it's a warm, attractive comedy full of well-realized characters and jokes ranging from the sour to the slapstick-y. It is also child friendly and can easily serve as a nice introduction behind the door Star Trek world.
Where to see it
Galaxy Quest is available for rental at all major streaming services and is currently streaming on Showtime.