Of the four Next Generation feature films made, “First Contact” is the only film which truly hits the nail on the head and delivers the type of film we expected from the crew of the Next Generation television series. Unencumbered by the ‘baton-passing’ requirements of “Generations”, this film is spectacular sci-fi/action adventure, complete with great story-telling, absorbing acting, spectacular visuals and a chilling, threatening villain. “First Contact” is widely regarded as the second best Star Trek film and it’s for all of these reasons. Director Jonathan Frakes, who also stars in the film, deserves special credit for making a true “Star Trek” story while at the same time upscaling it to feature-film level. All of the elements came together correctly for this film, leaving an experience that will entertain, enthrall and enlighten.
Next Generation villains, the Borg, decide to invade Earth. In a failed attempt to attack Earth, the Borg travel backwards in time to attack humanity in the mid-21st century when they are at their weakest. Picard and the Enterprise crew follow the Borg back to stop them, but become unwittingly entangled with Zefram Cochrane, the inventor of warp drive and whom the Borg target. Picard and the crew now not only have to stop the Borg from taking over the Enterprise but they have to make sure that Cochrane first warp flight goes as scheduled, otherwise humanity’s destiny to head in to the stars will be at risk.
By choosing the Borg as villains in this piece, this Star Trek film offers a rare opportunity to create a wonderfully sci-fi rich environment for the visuals. The depth and texture afforded the design of the Borg in this film is truly first rate, and is truly creepy when you start to see them slowly assimilating the Enterpries. One other spectacular visual is seeing Picard, Worf and another crew member walking on the outside of the Enterprise with the Earth as a backdrop; quite amazing.
Of all the Star Trek films, for this reason, “First Contact” is probably one of the most sci-fi driven films, not only in these visuals but also in the ideas behind them. The Borg make for a fascinating concept; the idea that technology is integrated in to our bodies to improve efficiency is certainly one that can resonate for us in the real world as become so reliant on technology. Will we take it one step further and integrate technology in to our bodies? The Borg make for a representation of what we could turn in to if we do this and it’s a frightening concept. In addition to the Borg, there’s the idea of warp flights and how Cochrane inadvertently triggered humanity’s “First Contact” with an alien species, in this case, the Vulcans. It’s an intriguing thought; how would we react as a race upon meeting an alien race for the first time?
The acting in this film, as led by Patrick Stewart, is spot on perfect. Much of this also is derived from the very literate script by Brannon Braga and Ron Moore who provide several moments for the character’s to shine. Surprisingly, for all the high-tech wizardy, amazing visuals and gripping action sequences, perhaps the best scene in the film is a character moment; when Lilly (Alfre Woodard) confronts Picard about blowing up the Enterprise to stop the Borg, Picard is stubborn and relentless, refusing to give in to defeat. Both characters verbally argue in a contest that sees Picard become the most volatile, yet vulnerable, we have ever seen him. Stewart really shines in this scene and this scene alone gives the film such a strong narrative intelligence and depth that it elevates the film above and beyond not only a lot of the other Star Trek films but also other sci-fi films of its type.
This film literally has no fat. It moves along at a bristling pace and doesn’t let up. Right from the beginning, we’re thrown in to the action with the Borg and at times you really have to pay attention to keep up with what’s going on. This isn’t a bad thing, especially the execution of this story is so engrossing. Each moment is perfectly placed and executed; kudos to the writers who produced a lean and mean script, and to Jonathan Frakes for directing with such confidence and authority.
“First Contact” is an excellent film, and a major highlight in the Star Trek feature film franchise.
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