April 27, 2009

Galaxy Quest (1999)
Dreamworks Home Entertainment

101 mins. · PG
16x9 · 2.35:1

Format
DVD

Audio
English - DD 5.1
Spanish - DD 5.1
Thermian - DD 2.0

Subtitles
English, French, Spanish

Extras
Thermian Language Track, Deleted Scenes, Featurettes, Trailer

Starring
Tim Allen, Sigourney Weaver, Alan Rickman, Tony Shaloub, Sam Rockwell

Review by
Guido Henkel


Rating



(1999)

It is hard to believe but yes, "Galaxy Quest" is 10 years old already. To celebrate the anniversary, Dreamworks Home Entertainment has prepared a new DVD version of the film, although one has to seriously wonder why not Blu-Ray version has been added to the line-up as well. Be that as it may, "galaxy Quest" is a fun ride, a hilarious comedy and wonderfully charming homage to science fiction TV serials like "Star Trek" and "Babylon 5" but without ever becoming a real cheap spoof, always making sure to maintain style and class, just as these television series do.

Not much of the glory is left of their heydays when the cast of the television series "Galaxy Quest" make their money with appearances at fan conventions and car dealership openings. It has been 20 years since their famed television show last aired, and still the legions of fans keep the myth and the actors afloat - in part against their will. But who's to complain? You tell the same stories you told for 20 years, you repeat the same catch phrases that made you famous in the first place, and you try to be who the fans want you to be. Reminds you of certain celebrities? Me too.

In "Galaxy Quest" the troupe surrounding the self-centered Jason Nesmith (Tim Allen) who played Commander Peter Quincy Taggert on the show in question includes busty Gwen De Marco (Sigourney Weaver) as Lieutenant Tawny Madison, the neurotic Alexander Dane as Dr. Lazarus (Alan Rickman), Fred Kwan (Tony Shalhoub) as Tech Sergeant Chen, Guy Fleegman (Sam Rockwell) and Tommy Webber (Daryl Mitchell) as Lieutenant Laredo.

Disillusioned, frustrated and tired of the routine they are on the brink of killing each other when a strange group of people asks Nesmith for help. Nesmith takes them for yet another group of sad fanatics and plays along with them when he suddenly realizes that he is in fact dealing with real creatures from outer space. Caught in the middle of a war with reptilian opponents, Mathesar (Enrico Colantoni) and his people put all their hopes into the heroic team of space aces they have been witnessing through broadcasts for the longest time from outer space. Mistaking the TV show for historical documents these Thermians cannot wrap their brains around the thought that the show might just be an illusion created merely for entertainment purposes. In the firm belief to simply act out yet another fan fantasy, suddenly the crew of the "Galaxy Quest" TV series boldly finds itself in a galaxy far beyond to battle a real war against real aliens!

The idea behind "Galaxy Quest" is as simple as it is ingenious. The thought of forcing actors to actually become the parts they play is interesting indeed, and combined with the all-too familiar science-fiction-television-series-fandom-syndrome, you are looking at a hilarious persiflage of an accustomed scenario with an entirely new twist. Where other films make fun of the characters of certain shows, "Galaxy Quest" makes fun of these shows themselves, and more importantly of the surreal fanaticism surrounding them. More than once I thought, "that's how William Shatner must feel practically every day of his life, and it won't go away until the day he passes." But of course, this can be applied to so many other actors who have created iconic characters and potentially lived to rue the day.

"Galaxy Quest" is superbly cast and acted and especially "Just Shoot Me" star Enrico Colantoni as Mathesar makes a lasting impression. His half-robotic atonal talking with the irrational phrasing is a riot. Tim Allen all too often resembles Captain James T. Kirk, not only in looks but also through his voice and the overacting he puts in whenever his character supposedly 'acts.' Alan Rickman is superb as the ever-nagging Dr. Lazarus who doesn't believe a thing of what he sees at first and is sickened by the past that brought him here. A total hoot is "Guy" (Sam Rockwell) a throw-away character from the show who suddenly realizes that he doesn't want all the fame and attention because following the show's formula, he will quite clearly be the first one to die a horrible death. All in all, this is the perfect cast in a perfect environment!

A huge portion of the movie plays in outer space and turns into a space opera with starports, spaceships, strange planets and vibrant aliens. The effects work on "Galaxy Quest" is breathtaking, bringing the full glory of space operas to life. Gigantic spaceships, colorful worlds, and inventive aliens dominate the film, eventually giving the viewer the impression he's watching a real space odyssey as the events unfold and the actor-crew forgets about the absurdity of the situation they're in.

As they did 10 years ago, Dreamworks Home Video is dishing out a superb DVD with this release. The disc contains a highly detailed and sharp-looking anamorphic widescreen transfer of the movie in its 2.35:1 aspect ratio. Without any hint of speckles, the transfer is absolutely clean and without any noise or grain. Colors are bold and powerful, even a tad more vibrant than before I would say, bringing the strange worlds to breathtaking life with their intricate details. Especially the coloring of Sarris' spaceship and his reptilian creatures is superbly rendered on this disc with powerful colors that are never over-saturated, but also with very fine nuances and gradients. The black level presented on this transfer is meticulous, creating deep solid shadows that never lose any of their definition. Hues and shades are flawlessly reproduced and flesh tones are absolutely natural looking. The transfer is entirely devoid of any compression artifacts.

The DVD contains a 5.1 channel Dolby Digital mix as well as a Dolby Surround mix in English. Especially the 5.1 mix is very dynamic and active. With a wide frequency response and great bass extension, the track has plenty of punch and crystal clear high-ends. Dialogues are well balanced, always understandable and never drowned out by the sound effects. The clipping in some dialogue lines I noticed in the previous release seems to be gone entirely, making for a perfect sonic presentation also. With its aggressive use of the discrete surrounds and its sonic depth, the 5.1 audio mix on the disc is much more expansive than the tight sounding Dolby surround mix.

The release offers up a number of new bonus features, in addition to the ones found on the previous release. The Thermian audio track, the Deleted scenes and the trailer are there, and they are complemented by new features such as "Sigourney Weaver Raps," and a series of new featurettes. Among the featurettes there is "By Grabthar's Hammer" giving you a look at the special effects in the film in more detail. Also included is "Never give Up, Never surrender," a featurette covering the crew of the NSEA Protector with insightful cast and crew interviews. Also look for "Historical Documents" and "Alien School," which gives you a lesson in the creation of the Thermian race, as well as actors in space.

While there are new bonus materials, somehow the release does seem to lack some serious meat. It all appears a little on the fluffy sight, featurettes created more for pure entertainment purposes rather than insightful production information. The complete lack of a commentary track also adds to this impression I got from this release.

"Galaxy Quest" is walking a thin line between a comedy and a real dramatic action-loaded space opera and it does so with ease. Never becoming a blatant spoof it is an enlightening and highly entertaining movie that combines many elements of the genres and creates a truly unique experience. With cleverly written dialogues - look out for the line "Do you guys ever watch the show?" - and a superb cast, I am honestly surprised how the film disappeared in virtual obscurity so quickly. It had all the makings of a cult film itself and it also had plenty of promise for a sequel. Sadly neither ever materialized but I hope that the film may get some renewed attention with this re-release. As I said before, it is a shame there is no Blu-Ray version of this film as this would surely have been a knock-out.

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