What a better way to honor the late, great Alan Rickman than by watching the sci-fi cult classic Galaxy Quest. Prior to his run playing Severus Snape in the Harry Potter series, Rickman was already beloved by geeks everywhere for co-staring in this highly quotable Star Trek spoof. Rickman is one of a dream cast including Sigourney Weaver, Tim Allen, and Sam Rockwell, not to mention the first big screen appearances of Rainn Wilson and Justin Long. The British actor’s character in the film, Alexander Dane aka Dr. Lazarus, is humorously close to real life as Alexander is also a classically trained Shakespearian stage actor who is primarily known for his genre work. Rickman, however, never seemed to relish his sci-fi and fantasy movie roles, whereas Dane is tortured by Galaxy Quest.
The premise is simple but great. What would happen if the fake crew of a cult sci-fi TV show were recruited to save the universe for real? The team includes token woman Gwen (Weaver), former child actor/navigator Tommy (Daryl Mitchell), stoner chief technician Fred (Tony Shalhoub), and an extra that gets caught up in the action, the aptly-named Guy (Rockwell). The washed-up actors have been relegated to signing autographs and hawking discount electronics, although their fearless leader Jason Nesmith (Allen) has remained as pompous as ever. The actual aliens in dire need of help have modeled their entire civilization off the transmission of the show, complete with working replica of the ship. Since everything is based off of their movements and actions in the series, the actors are able to wing it in an attempt to save the dimwitted extraterrestrials.
The movie strikes the perfect balance between amusingly mocking and genuinely loving towards the extreme fan culture and conventions that Star Trek cultivated, which has blown up to the massive billion dollar industry it is today. Galaxy Quest hooks you in with great comedic timing and spot-on satire, and keeps you absorbed with sincere character development. Don’t be put off by the close references to the Trek phenomenon. The movie stands on its own by developing a mythos and doesn’t require any knowledge of the classic series. However, fans of the original sci-fi show will no doubt enjoy the first half of the film, wondering if the squabbling and jealousies among the crew members are true to life. After all, in 1999 George Takei did jokingly (maybe not so jokingly) refer to Galaxy Quest “as a chillingly realistic documentary… a powerful piece of documentary filmmaking.”
The alien prosthetic effects are surprisingly good, courtesy of Stan Winston Studio, and reminiscent of the creatures in The Fifth Element. ILM did the CGI, which holds up pretty well considering it’s a comedy made at a time where digital effects were just taking hold (1999 was the same year of The Matrix, The Mummy, and The Phantom Menace just to name a few).
The message of the film is ultimately a positive one, which is why it has amassed its own loyal following for over fifteen years. Yes, the movie takes little jabs at nerd fandom and some of the more ludicrous details of Star Trek, but the ending is happy, the jokes are affectionate, and the tone is playful and warmhearted.
As a special bonus, it seems Amazon Studios are turning the film into a series. “Never give up; never surrender!”