Wednesday, October 28, 2009

1999: Let's get out of here before one of those things kills Guy!

When it came time to think about the movies of 1999 I tried very hard to think about the movies that I loved that year. Of course there was American Beauty, Iron Giant & The Matrix, but honestly most people will discover those films eventually if they haven’t already simply because of the influential people they were made by and I’m sure they’ll end up with something special to honor them. Instead, I wanted to pick an amazing film, a film that most people probably missed or would never think of recognizing as a great film, so I jumped on google and found the perfect film, a film that I didn’t discover until it was forced to watch by putting it in playstock at my video store. It’s a movie about actors whose television show was cancelled, but not before it began a cult following that has followed them ever since – a lot of you may think I’m talking about Trekkies, but that film was earlier in the 1990’s, I’m actually talking about a flick called Galaxy Quest.

Why is Galaxy Quest one of the most memorable films of 1999? It’s the only film from that year that I can quote at random moments and will make me laugh every single time I watch it. This is a smart, well written comedy that plays on the real life mania of Star Trek fans but wraps it in a fictional show and has real actors playing fictional actors that have insane egos and personalities.

What makes Galaxy Quest utterly unique to me in the genre of movies about movies is that it’s about the actors and their failed television show, but they are actually abducted by aliens who have modeled their lives after the show these people created. The Thermians picked up the broadcasts of Galaxy Quest and assumed it was a documentary or real time broadcast as their race doesn’t have fiction. Since theThermians have watched Jason Nesmith & his fellow actors be heroic figures for years and abduct them because they decide the crew of the Protector are what’s needed to save their species.

The concept of Galaxy Quest is complicated but brilliant. It’s downright reflexive, and it’s a comedy, something that’s almost unheard of. Galaxy Quest turns the plight of actors “trapped” by fandom and how their fans respond to the reality of the actors that play their heroes.

A very important selling point for Galaxy Quest is the cast – Tim Allen, Sigourney Weaver, Alan Rickman, Tony Shalhoub and even a very young Justin Long and not yet discovered Sam Rockwell. The two best characters in the entire film are Gwen, Sigourney Weaver’s character and Guy played by Sam Rockwell.

Gwen is the Uhura of the piece; her job on the ship was to repeat the computer and look good in uniform and Gwen is not only annoyed with her status as the geek sex pot but has the best lines in the entire film, she is the actress who always wanted to move past the television show and like her costars was trapped there forever.

On the other hand, Guy is a young actor who was at the convention and when the aliens take the crew of the Protector, they also grab Guy. Guy and the crew quickly realize that if what they are experiencing is just like the show then he is the “expendable” crew member, the random crew person who dies early in each episode when the conflict is revealed to prove how dire the situation really is and because of this the actors spend most of the film trying to keep Guy out of situations where he will be killed while Guy freaks out about knowing he’s going to die because no one even knows his last name. It’s the character that could be overplayed and absolutely annoying, but even in an absurd role like this Sam Rockwell manages to find a way to make the character enduring and memorable, making the writing and directing jump off the screen.

Galaxy Quest didn’t win much recognition, but what it did do is develop a slow and steady following after it’s theatrical run, one that I hope will keep growing. This is a movie that reminds me why I love movies, it’s not only well made, but it makes watching movies fun and no matter how many movies you watch you should still be able to have fun at the movies.

Gwen: What is this thing? I mean, it serves no useful purpose for there to be a bunch of chompy, crushy things in the middle of a hallway. No, I mean we shouldn't have to do this, it makes no logical sense, why is it here?
Jason: 'Cause it's on the television show.
Gwen: Well forget it! I'm not doing it! This episode was badly written!


Chris W said...

Awesome pick! I always forget this came out in 1999 as well. I'd love to say this is one of my favorite "guilty pleasure" movies but it's not really a guilty pleasure, it's a very well constructed sci-fi comedy. There have been very few entries into that specific sub-genre and I think MEN IN BLACK is the one that gets the most recognition but GALAXY QUEST is better in every way. While the film isn't quite as good as GHOSTBUSTERS they are very muck kindred spirits in that they are trully engaging, fascinating, exciting movies that also make you laugh your butt off. I loved your quote inclusion at the end. I actually think about that every time I write something.

Anonymous said...

Sam Rockwell is so underrated.