Star Trek: First Contact remains the best of the four Star Trek films starring The Next Generation cast just over 25 years later.
I have to be honest here: I grew up a Star Wars fan and didn’t really watch any Star Trek series while growing up. My dad did but it just wasn’t my thing. My first experience with anything Star Trek was seeing the reboot in June 2009. Following that, it wasn’t until the end of 2010 in which I binged the films on Netflix. You can argue that it was long overdue on my part and you wouldn’t get any disagreement from me. I try and keep my rankings separate to the individual casts but First Contact is still in the top tier of Star Trek movies regardless of casts.
If you’ve never watched anything Star Trek before, First Contact is a very accessible film and highly recommended. My only history going into the movie were watching the other films. Thanks to the opening dream sequence, you don’t have to have prior knowledge of what happened during the series. It’s all self-explanatory. Of course, I’m writing this review at a time when just about everything Star Trek is streaming on Paramount+ so if you want to watch the episode with the backstory in question, it’s “The Best of Both Worlds” in Star Trek: The Next Generation.
There’s a few parts going here. Picard (Patrick Stewart) wants his revenge on the Borg for what they did to him in the past. The other part is traveling back in time to prevent the Borg from assimilating everyone on Earth. Riker (Jonathan Frakes) is put on ground control with engineer Geordi La Forge (LeVar Burton) to also make sure the Phoenix launches. This is pertinent to everybody’s future because it changes the galaxy as we know it. Without the shipping launching on April 4, the Vulcans do not arrive the next day. All in all, Picard is loyal to his crew. He goes back for Data (Brent Spiner) if it means saving the android.
It’s interesting to see the differences between Earth 2063 and the 24th century. For one, wealth isn’t important in the future. But for Zefram Cochrane (James Cromwell), he doesn’t build the Phoenix for hero worship let alone first contact with alien life. No, he’s very much a capitalist and does it for the money. All you have to do is see how everyone from the future is treating him and his response to it. You can see the annoyance in his face! I love the arc for his character throughout the film. On the other side of the coin, Cochrane’s assistant Lily Sloane (Alfre Woodard) has transferred to the Enterprise for medical attention. I completely understand why she reacts the way she does upon waking up. Anyone would be in a state of shock but Picard does what he can to calm her down.
I have to laugh at the mere mention of Picard being compared to Moby Dick‘s Captain Ahab in the film. Less than a year and a half later, Stewart would be starring as the captain himself in the USA Network miniseries. The series also features Gregory Peck in his final role prior to his death in 2003. Funny enough, this is not the first Moby Dick reference in the franchise. It’s Lily Sloane who gets credit for changing Picard’s direction in the film. He’s deadset on doing one thing but she convinces him to not act so primitive.
Jerry Goldsmith also delivers a solid score for the film, too. The composer brings over some of his music from the previous films, including a motif from Star Trek V: The Final Frontier. Beyond this, there’s some licensed songs, which are rare for a Star Trek film but they make sense in terms of what’s happening on screen. Could you blame Cochrane for wanting to rock out while piloting the ship?
At no point in viewing does the film ever feel like an expanded episode of the series. It also helps by having someone familiar with Star Trek behind the helm. In this case, it’s actor/director Jonathan Frakes, who directed some of the episodes. One of the notable things about the film is that none of The Original Series cast makes an appearance. Given the different places in the timeline, their appearances would not make any sense.
Live long and prosper because Star Trek: First Contact is the best of the films starring The Next Generation cast.
DIRECTOR: Jonathan Frakes
SCREENWRITERS: Brandon Braga & Ronald D. Moore
CAST: Patrick Stewart, Jonathan Frakes, Brent Spiner, LeVar Burton, Michael Dorn, Gates McFadden, Marina Sirtis, Alfre Woodard, James Cromwell, Alice Krige
Paramount released Star Trek: First Contact in theaters on November 22, 1996. Grade: 4/5
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