Friday, February 18, 2011

Film Friday: Galaxy Quest (1999)

Galaxy Quest is not the greatest movie of all time. Nor is it the greatest comedy of all time. But it is a very enjoyable movie, and it’s a great parody. Why? Because Galaxy Quest follows two golden rules for making an effective, memorable, and long-lasting parody: the film stands on its own merits without relying on the material it’s parodying, and it respects its subject matter.

** spoiler alert **

The Plot
Galaxy Quest’s plot is rather ingenious. A group of aliens (the Thermians) from a world where untruths of any kind (including fiction) are nonexistent, come to Earth to get the help of a group of actors. The Thermians think the actors are space heroes because they’ve been receiving old broadcasts of a science fiction show starring the actors, and they don’t realize these shows are fake. . . a point brought home brilliantly when the Thermians express sympathy for the plight of Gilligan and the castaways. For their part, the actors are a washed up group of never-has-beens who now appear at science fiction conventions to make a living. They agree to go with the Thermians because they mistakenly think this is an acting gig. Once in space, they discover a spaceship that looks and functions just like the ship they “crewed” in the television series. Only, this time, the bad guys are real. What could go wrong?
Standing On Its Own Merits
The key to an effective parody is making sure the film stands on its own merits. This is because many people won’t be familiar enough with the original material to get the nuances of the parody, and because of watchability. If a movie doesn’t tell an effective story, then it’s not enjoyable. And parodies that offer nothing more than a collection of gags strung together with a plot that copies what they’re parodying (like Meet the Spartans) feel lazy and derivative and give the audience little to enjoy except the punchlines. It’s one step above doing the parody as a stand up routine.

Galaxy Quest stands on its own merits. Indeed, even if you never heard of Star Trek before seeing Galaxy Quest, you still could enjoy this film because it deals with themes with which we can relate. Jason Nesmith (Tim Allen) plays Commander Taggart. He’s self-absorbed and obnoxious, and he thinks his fake rank matters. Who hasn’t met this guy? Alexander Dane (Alan Rickman) plays Dr. Lazarus, the ship’s second in command. He’s saddled with a character who has a catchphrase everyone constantly wants him to repeat: “by Grabthar’s hammer. . . you shall be avenged.” He desperately wants to be remembered for something else, but that isn’t going to happen. Gwen DeMarco (Sigourney Weaver) plays Lt. Tawny Madison, whose role was blatant sex symbol. You’ve also got the child actor who grew old, though people expect him to still be a kid, and the guy who never really belonged but has been wedged into the group (“Guy” -- played by Sam Rockwell (Moon)). These characters give us a group of petty, jealous, former friends who are stuck together working science fiction conventions, where they meet fans they've come to despise. We can relate to these themes, even if we’ve never seen William Shatner or Leonard Nimoy or a single episode of Star Trek, because we’ve all shared their pain or known people like them. . . people who are trapped in the past.

Moreover, despite the constant references to Star Trek, nothing in the story requires you to know anything from the show to get the jokes. For example, you don’t need to know the Thermians are based on the episode “By Any Other Name” from the original Star Trek to laugh your rear off when the device that makes them appear human fails just as Fred Kwan (Tony Shalhoub) is making out with one of them, or that James Kirk always lost his shirt in fights to laugh when the actors roll their eyes when Taggert loses his shirt. These are funny moments in and of themselves and don’t require us to connect dots to the prior show. Also, as the story progresses, the actors put aside their squabbling and realize why they used to like and respect each other. Their cynicism vanishes and gets replaced with honor, self-sacrifice and love. These are classic themes of redemption that we all understand and which draw us in without needing any knowledge of the prior material.

Since the premise is strong, the acting is appropriate, the writing is funny, and the themes are things that make us happy and to which we can relate, and none of this requires any knowledge of the parodied material, Galaxy Quest wins us over on its own merit. Compare that with Meet the Spartans or Epic Movie where half the scenes require you to specifically remember the original material for the joke to work.
Good Natured and Respectful
The second thing Galaxy Quest does right is to remain good natured and respectful of its subject matter. This is important with parodies because parodies walk a fine line between fair and unfair humor. Humans have a strong sense of right and wrong when it comes to humor and they don’t think it’s funny to laugh at misfortune, cruelty, or traits that cannot be helped. Parody plays dangerously close to this line. And too often, parody devolves into snideness or ridicule and what starts as tweaking the original for its indulgences, morphs into condescension, nastiness, hypocrisy, and petty attacks.

When Star Trek went off the air the cast set about ripping each other apart for the next thirty years. There were nasty books, cast members who wouldn’t speak to each other, Nimoy declaring Spock dead, an allegation of rape against a producer, and a whole host of nastiness that absolutely tarnished the image of these people, people we wanted to see as a tight group of friends. This is the stuff of parody and Galaxy Quest couldn’t ignore it because it’s become part of Star Trek lore. But exploiting this nastiness would cause the audience to feel revulsion rather than humor. Likewise, if Galaxy Quest played into the nasty stereotype of Star Trek convention attendees, as fat creepy losers, then it would cause outrage rather than humor.

Galaxy Quest solved this dilemma brilliantly by remembering why fans love Star Trek: because it offers a hopeful vision of the future where we’ve overcome the very problems being parodied. Galaxy Quest used this vision to inform its story, (1) by redeeming the actors by having them overcome their animosities and salvaging their friendships, (2) by redeeming the show itself by using the same mistakes, bad special effects, and bad logic that we laugh at throughout the film to save the Thermians at the end of the film, and (3) by redeeming the nerds at the convention by having Justin Long, the one person who truly believed in the show, be the one person who could save the day (he also isn't the typical pathetic Hollywood nerd). In effect, after poking fun at the show’s indulgences, the film tells us these indulgences are ok after all, that we were right to like the show, and that nerds can be pretty cool people.

Galaxy Quest even carries this redemption theme into how we view the Thermians. When we are first confronted with the question of what would happen if a society with no concept of untruth or fiction ran into us, we laugh at their naïveté. This is the same thing The Invention of Lying did. But unlike Lying, which condescends until the final credits, Galaxy Quest eventually tells us there's something kind of nice about a world without lies -- a view the film reinforces when the squabbling cynical actors finally overcome their own flaws by becoming more open and truthful.
So what we have in Galaxy Quest is a movie which stands on its own merits rather than trying to ride the coattails of the original, and a movie which pokes fun at all the problems associated with Star Trek, but does so in a way that never feels unfair or cruel and which never insults you for being a fan. That’s a pretty good parody. Plus, it’s just a fun film.

Check out the new film site -- CommentaramaFilms!


LL said...

As a Trekkie, I enjoyed Galaxy Quest and remember seeing it the Day after Christmas 1999. However once seen, it's not one of those I can trot out and watch on DVD multiple times (like Dumb and Dumber, for example).

T_Rav said...

Honestly, I have never seen this movie, but I may have to after reading your review.

The only thing I really knew about it comes from a list of bloopers I saw somewhere, one of which was from the movie where Sigourney Weaver's character said, "Oh, screw that!" At least, that's what you hear, but supposedly, if you watch while she's saying it, she clearly says...a word other than "screw."

Anonymous said...

^It's not a blooper, per se. The filmmakers decided they had a family film on their hands and edited a couple things to get a PG rating instead of PG-13.

As for me, and as a Trekkie, I enjoy the hell out of this film and it's a damn shame they never did a sequel. Even today, they could do another one and given the glut of prequels and "reimaginings," they could have a lot of fun with it (the cast meeting their younger counterparts for the new hip Galaxy Quest movie, etc.).

A few facts and thoughts:

-According to ILM FX supervisor (and Trek vet) Bill George, the NTE in the ship's registry number stands for "Not the Enterprise."

-There was a time after 2002's Star Trek: Nemesis was released where, if you asked some Trek fans, "What were the last two great Trek films to be released?" the answer would've been, "Master and Commander and Galaxy Quest."

-Longtime Trek veterans Mike and Denise Okuda (co-authors of many Trek reference books) wrote a trivia track for the Galaxy Quest Blu-Ray disc which features all kinds of in-jokes and factoids, as if the Galaxy Quest show were real.

-Having said that, when the film was released, the studio did a couple of cool things: an E! Channel "retrospective" on the old show (again, as if it were real) and the website was designed as a fan site circa 1994 with clashing colors and low-rez graphics.

-There are two lines of dialogue in the film that I love: "We have to get out of here before one of those creatures kills Guy!" which is brilliant, and Justin Long's mother's line, "Well, at least he's outside" which hits very close to home for me!

rlaWTX said...

This movie cracks me up!

Tennessee Jed said...

don't know why or how I missed this, but thanks to your review, I'll definitely make sure to screen it in the near future. Gpood parodys (let alone great ones) are generally in short supply.

AndrewPrice said...

LL, I agree, I'm can watch it every once in a while, but it's not a movie and can watch over and over. It's still definitely worth seeing!

AndrewPrice said...

T-Rav, I definitely recommend it, especially if you at all like Star Trek. It does a great job of pointing out some of the sillier parts of the show and its characters, and the personalities behind the scene. And Alan Rickman in particular is brilliant.

Plus, it's one of those films that has a lot of great moments in it where you just laugh your rear end off.

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, I love that line about Guy. But the Guy line I like best is, "I'm going to die.... I don't even have a last name!"

I think a sequel would be brilliant. What would be great would be if they create a Galaxy Quest TNG, and then made it about a second cast, with the first mixing in. I think that would have real potential, especially as TNG crew seems to be finished making films -- that could really attract fans. I wonder if anyone has considered that?

I remember that line about the last two great Star Trek films and I think there is something to that in fact! There are often films that seem like they would have made better other movies. For example, when True Lies came out, the James Bond series was in a real funk and was turning out garbage. EVERYONE I knew was running around saying, "True Lies should have been a James Bond film!"

I thought the marketing campaign was brilliant because it really tapped into the spirit of Star Trek-fandom.

AndrewPrice said...

rlaWTX, Me too. Rickman in particular is just hilarious with his suffering. And Tony Shalhoub is just really funny with his calmness as the others are freaking out. There is so much to like in this film!

AndrewPrice said...

Jed, I'm glad to help!

I agree about parodies, which is why Galaxy Quest stands out to me. So many parodies just fall apart because they're little more than a collection of gags barely held together by a pointless plot, but this goes the other route. This gives you a story first and foremost, where you will recognize all the people and things they are referencing, but that won't "interfere" with the film -- it just enhances it.

Let us know what you think when you see it?!

AndrewPrice said...

Hey Scott, have you ever considered working with a parody for your stand up act? You could create a "fake" but real story that ends up parodying something. For example, you could have told the Galaxy Quest story, and in the process gone after Star Trek humor without mentioning Star Trek. That might be a good way to stand out?

Ed said...

I love this film! I'm a big Star Trek fan and this film hit all of the right notes. I've also been to a couple of conventions and they really hit the feel of the conventions too. They showed how important the conventions are to the fans and how they spend hours preparing costs and things like that. They also showed how boring it must get the actors to keep hearing the same questions over and over, which is what they parody, but you never once feel like they're insulting you.

AndrewPrice said...

Ed, I agree, they do a very good job with the convention.

In fact, a point I thought about including regarding Justin Long (but I wasn't 100% certain) is that Long may be the character who changed the way Hollywood deals with nerds.

Before "Brandon" nerds were creepy. They dressed funny, they picked their noses, they wore tape on their glasses and had weird voices. Brandon was normal, he was just a little obsessed with the show. Unlike his predecessors, he wasn't meant as a punchline. That made him different from all the prior nerds.

After him, nerds become much more acceptable and much less ridiculous. For example, you get guys like Peter Bretter in Forgetting Sarah Marshall, and similar characters.

That could make him the first "modern nerd"?

CrispyRice said...

I'm with rlw - this one cracks me up! And I can watch it over and over, LOL.

And Andrew -- "This is because many people won’t be familiar enough with the original material to get the nuances of the parody" -- are you implying that the vast majority of Americans DON'T own all the episodes of ST on DVD and/or DON'T go to sci-fi conventions regularly? Weird...


JG said...

Raised a Trekkie, this is a big family favorite. It's not "classic movie" material, I suppose. But it's a classic in our house. (Well, my parents' house. I'm still working on the Hubs.)

I have to say, though, I love Tony Shalhoub but I have a hard time placing his character. The others are are pretty easily identifiable stereotypes, but his has been harder for me to peg.

Anonymous said...

Andrew -

I don't have a standup act and I'm not a standup comedian. In fact, I even had to put a hold on improv classes due to some family business back home that required my attention. I'm starting new classes next month.

Given the nature of the way improv works (at least at this particular school), I doubt I'll be doing any parodies any time soon. However, if I take another sketch writing class, it might come up. :-)

Having said that, David Zucker always mentioned rules for writing in the Naked Gun and Airplane! DVD commentaries. Check out those rules here.

AndrewPrice said...

Crispy, No, I would never say that! ;-)

Seriously though, when I watch something like Meet the Spartans, they are making references to reality TV shows and playing off the looks and personalities of the judges, or they are playing off various things Paris Hilton has done.....

If you don't know what they are talking about, the joke goes over your head. So large parts of the audience won't get this. Also, as the film ages, people won't remember who Paris Hilton was (or a lucky few will never have known). So the film sabotages itself by including references to things that are in the pop culture at that moment.

Nothing in Galaxy Quest falls into that category. If Star Trek was banned tomorrow, kids born today could still enjoy this film just as much, because you don't have to know anything about Star Trek to get the jokes.

AndrewPrice said...

JG, Yeah, it's not a classic movie, but it's a good movie and for a Trekkie it should be considered part of the anthology!

Keep working on the husband, everyone should love Star Trek! ;-)

I agree with you about Shalhoub, I've actually had the same thought. On the one hand, he's clearly placed in role of Scotty, as he's the engineer. But on the other, he doesn't really "play" Scotty, i.e. He has no fake accent and really no personality that fits any of the Star Trek characters or actors.

So either there's something I've missed or he's just not really referencing any particular Star Trek personality. And that could be because his role is to be so calm about everything, and none of the Star Trek personalities could have been wedged into that role? In fact, if I have to pick someone who strikes me as the calmest member of the Star Trek or Star Trek TNG casts, I honestly can't think of anyone who fits that. So I guess, he's meant to be Scotty, but his real role is as a counterweight to the other characters?

Anonymous said...

I don't have much to add except that I've watched it five or six times (alone, at first, then with the older grandkids). I laugh out loud every single time. Like LL, I don't often watch a comedy more than once, since you already know the gags. But somehow, they are funny every time I watch Galaxy Quest. I'm not particularly a Sigourney Weaver fan, but her angst over having no job but to repeat what the talking computer just said is hilarious.

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, Sorry to hear that. I thought you were doing the stand up thing already -- open mics, that sort of thing.

On the rules, a lot of those are good rules, but they seem to be aimed at the specific type of comedy they created in Airplane or The Naked Gun. In truth, I think the days of that kind of comedy have passed.

AndrewPrice said...

Lawhawk, That's a great moment too. And it's even funnier that the computer won't operate unless she does her job!

I agree with you and LL. I don't watch this often, though I rewatch it periodically and I laugh at it every time. It really does pull you in and just makes you laugh.

Anonymous said...

You'd have to get me pretty liquored up to do an open mic! I've done a few grad shows for improv classes but that's it (for now).

I can't disagree that that specific type of comedy is dead but if it is, it's party because of movies like Meet the Spartans (and why the f--- are you watching that anyway!). I would reopen Auschwitz just for the two guys who wrote and directed that film (and they also did Date Movie and Epic Movie). :-)

Of course, the studios are so risk-averse so I doubt we'll be getting any truly original parodies (yeah, that concept is odd) anytime soon.

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, I try to see all movies, that's where I saw those atrocities. And atrocities they were.

But I don't think they killed the Airplane style. I think audiences just moved on. Comedy seems to have a shelf-life, a Zeitgeist that doesn't last more than a decade or so. And once something's been done, it really feels old and derivative if you do something new that reminds people of what's been done before.

I'm not entirely sure why this is so much stronger in comedy than in other genres, but I think it probably has to do with jokes becoming stale -- whereas plots and characters don't. My guess as the difference is that plots and characters spark the imagination and take you to a different place and time that is ultimately a very broad world you can explore in your head. But comedy is more about jokes, which are very narrow in your head, i.e. they don't give you a lot to think about outside of the joke itself.

Joel Farnham said...

I have never seen Galaxy Quest.

Your review makes it now a must see. Maybe netflix has it.

Andrew, have you had a chance to see "The Blind Side" yet?
I would love to see your review of it.

Ed said...

Andrew, I think that's very likely. I haven't been able to think of another "nerd" between Brandon and the guys from Revenge of the Nerds.

AndrewPrice said...

Joel, Netflix has it, but it's not on demand. It's definitely worth checking out.

On The Blind Side, I have it on DVR, but I haven't had a chance to watch it. Sorry about that. I promise to get to that within a couple weeks. :-)

AndrewPrice said...

Ed, I can't either, but I didn't want to make the statement unless I was sure and I'm not sure. But I think that's right.

Anonymous said...

Great movie! Cool review. Have you seen Trekkies and what did you think?

AndrewPrice said...

Anon, I have seen Trekkies. I don't know if I was more stunned or what. It was truly interesting. On the one hand, I love the fact these people get so deeply into it -- and talk about creative with the Klingon tribute bands and the costumes and all of that. But then you have the Dentist or the juror who wear their Star Trek uniforms all the time.... even to work. And it seems a little obsessive. Still, it's harmless and I'm happy these people are among us -- they make the world a better place.

Doc Whoa said...

Another excellent review. I think redemption themes are always popular because they feed something within human nature.

AndrewPrice said...

Thanks Doc. I think that's right. I think people like the redemption themes because everyone has made mistakes and everyone has traits we don't like, and so we like the idea of overcoming our mistakes and things getting better.

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Excellent review, Andrew!

Besides the reasons you mentioned (any my fellow commenters) I find this flick to be charmingly familiar (due to the trek references) when I watch it.

I'm not so sure any of the characters were supposed to represent any of the ST characters, other than Tim Allen who reminded me of Capt. Kirk in a lot of ways. I can't recall precisely where in the film it occurs, but a few times I noticed Allen's character talking in that patented Kirk-like (and Shatner-like) a drama effect...I think.

At any rate, everytime I watch it there seems to be something else I missed, or didn't make a connection the first time.

I definitely concur that this is the best way to do parodies/satires in movies.
And you're right about the recent batch of parody's...utterly awful.
As if they were trying to make the audience disgusted and for no purpose I can see, other than to reduce the sales.

Shoot, most parodies are written with seemingly one rule: see how vile they can be.

I mean, I'm no prude but if the writers of the Scary Movie series and We Are The Spartans can't muster up the effort to get me to care about ANYthing in their films be it the characters (any character), the story, the acting, the writing, the directing, etc., then they lost me (including any future films they make).

The best Wayan movie I can recall seeing was Major Pain which had some parodies of the USMC but still was respectful...and lol funny in many spots, although it also had the obligatory coming of age dramedy but it was done in a touching and very human way IMO.

And I suppose the kid actor was like Wesley in STTNG? But clearly he was no prodigal genius.

Other than that no one else reminded me of any characters I could think of.

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Sorry for the last comment looking...and being disjointed. Preview is our friend!

Back to GQ, and the references to ST, it had that feel of ST (the original) and yet it also had it's own identity.

Man, a sequel would be great! I'm surprised Allen hasn't pursued that (is he making another Claus movie? I can't bear to look) (okay, the first one was an okay kiddie flick, I'm just sayin' if he has the sequel bug apply it to GQ.
There's so many possibilities, and they have a fairly strong cult following now.

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Be kind of cool to see a Miror Mirror type of plot where the main characters encounter their evil counterparts in the parallel universe (or whatever it's called).

Can Allen do evil? I'm pretty sure everyone else can, especially Rickman. :^)

AndrewPrice said...

Thanks Ben!

In terms of the characters being anyone specific, I think Rickman is supposed to be Nimoy (e.g. they both had troubles feeling typecast), and Allen is supposed to be Shatner (he has a lot of Shatner's traits, particularly the idea his fake rank made him the leader of the actors, not just the characters -- and I think he did do the Shatner dramatic pause too). The others seem to be more amalgams.

For example, the "kid" is supposed to represent the youth character they always insert into science fiction to try to grab young audience, e.g. Chekov, Wesley Crusher, and a dozen more. Weaver, I think, represents female characters in general, which were often used just as sex symbols. If I had to connect her to a character, it would be Yeoman Rand or possibly early Deana Troi. In any event, you're right, they aren't perfect matches for any particular actor. Which also, by the way, is the reason that many of the TNG crew apparently thought these characters were about them -- though I think it's much more about the original cast than the new cast.

In terms of parody, I will admit that I have enjoyed some of the Scary Movie series, but the enjoyment is short lived, they've not very re-watchable, and there are moments in the films that really take me out of the film. They aren't great movies, but they were funny enough to watch.

The Meet the Spartan series, however, are just awful and I wish I could unwatch them. In fact, I now avoid their films because I just don't want their memories messing with the original films.

I know that a lot of people list Space Balls as the perfect science fiction parody, but honestly, I group Space Balls in as a slightly tamer Scary Movie. I think half the jokes take you out of the film, the plot is derivative and dull, and Brooks does something I really can't stand -- he lets the comedians he hires "do their schtik." I much prefer a parody like Galaxy Quest or Young Frankenstein that stands on its own and isn't going for cheap laughs, i.e. laughs that aren't organic to the story.

AndrewPrice said...

USS Ben, I know what you mean about the Santa movies. The first was fun (not great, but fun), but it didn't deserve a sequel or two or three or four hundred.

I would love to see a sequel and I think the idea of a rift in the universe sending them to the "Mirror, Mirror" universe would be a great starting point!

I really am surprised that they haven't at least created a sequel involving a New Gen type crew.

AndrewPrice said...

On the issue of a sequel, I don't know exactly how script writing works (in terms of rights and selling), but this might be an opportunity for an aspiring writer to make a screenplay and then present it to Tim Allen? Just sayin'.....

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Speaking of sequels and scifi, another flick I would love to see a sequel for is Serenity.
Nothin' but love for that flick!
I consider that movie to be conservative/libertarian without preaching it.

The main (good) characters wanted liberty, the empirey (government) wants to control everyone (hmm, who does that remind me of?) and takes liberty away, and the Reavers were akin to the Islamic jihadists.
I can't think of many movies that show the inevitable result of "good intentions" devoid of wisdom.

Oops. Getting OT again. But since I'm already there, I read they were planning a Lethal Weapon remake now (sans Gibson).

Good grief. Is hollywood really that short of creative ideas or are they thinking this is a sure bet?

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

I concur about Spaceballs. Mel Brooks could've done so much better. Perhaps if he had Gene Wilder in it or as a consultant?
Not a bad film, but hit n' miss.
Nowhere near the level of Young Frankenstein though.

About a new ST series, this is only speculation, but I think they have put a hold on that because they wanna avoid over saturation and make more money on the upcoming films.

Or perhaps it's because Enterprise didn't do well, which is a shame because I thought it was getting better and the actors were gelling and just hitting their stride.
I particularly liked the Trip character.

Hmmm, so all I hafta do is write a good screenplay and get it to Tim Allen. No sweat! LOL!

AndrewPrice said...

Ben, I don't mind sequels when they have a purpose. The Empire Strikes Back comes to mind as a good example. But when they're just trying to pump out a movie with a ready-made audience so they can make money, then I can't stand them. There is NO reason to remake Lethal Weapon. In fact, Lethal Weapon has been remade or re-imagined in almost every single cop movie to come out since the 1980s -- it's been copied so often it's become a cliche!

I love Serenity, but I prefer the series better, because I think the relationships they were building with the characters were better suited to a slow build up than a two hour movie. But I would be happy with either a new movie or reviving Firefly.

Joel Farnham said...

Ben and Andrew,

Remakes and sequels have something in common. Money and built-in audience. Primarily money.

Hollywood is experiencing a big problem. People aren't watching their movies. Money isn't coming in.

The solution to us, the ticket-paying audience, is make movies we want to see. Don't sucker punch. Celebrate our values. Keep the stars where they are supposed to be. In front of the camera spouting lines and acting up a storm.

The studios' solution, since they don't understand us, is give us something that we liked before. Movies that garnered a large audience and have a following. Also, they avoid government interference by not rocking the boat of an activist government hell bent on controlling everything.

Until the Marxists are kicked out of Washington, this is what it is going to be. Sequels and remakes. And an occasional movie that celebrates what the Marxists like.

AndrewPrice said...

Ben, Like I said, I'm no expert in getting a screenplay turned into a film, but it would seem to me that if you could get a good sequel written, a guy like Tim Allen probably doesn't have a million other opportunities and he might be interested in reviving that franchise? And he's probably got enough money to produce it. Just a thought.

In terms of "a new series," I mean making Galaxy Quest II about a new series -- a Galaxy Quest TNG, not starting a new Star Trek series. I think they way over-saturated the market and they won't be willing to jump back in for some time.

I loved the idea behind Enterprise, but the execution left me cold. When it started, I thought it was going to be a real rah-rah type science fiction, like the 1950s stuff -- jump suits, laserguns, humans boldly going where no man has gone before. But it quickly adopted many of the things I had come to dislike about the Next Generation model and if felt very stale to me. I think it was getting better toward the end, but I don't think it could have been saved by that point because so many people had abandoned it.

I do concede that people love Spaceballs and I enjoy it, but I think it could have been so much more. Oh well. I think Brooks fell into a pattern sometimes after he stopped working with Wilder and I don't think what he turned out later was anywhere near as good as what he turned out earlier.

AndrewPrice said...

Joel, It probably won't surprise you that I agree with both points, though I don't see them as Marxists so much as corporate-socialists.

I think the problem Hollywood is having is the same problem the music industry is having -- they are turning out garbage and people just aren't interested in what they're doing. And like all other oligopolies, they have decided to take the easy way out. So they've bought up the independent film competitors and sealed off the distribution channels to all but their own products. Then they became ultra risk averse in making their profits -- they stopped experimenting and taking chances and instead started turning out tried and true product. . . over and over again.

That's where sequels and reboots work so perfectly in their model because they come with read-made audiences and a proven track record. But they're soul-killing when it comes to art, and they bore anyone with an IQ to death.

At this point, films are manufactured more than made, right down to being focus group tested. And there is little that is worth seeing.

The politics too is a problem. They've always snuck political messages into their films, but that's really been part of the "art" game since the first cave painting. When you look back even at people like Michelangelo, he was sneaking subversive ideas into his art. I may not agree with the messages, but they don't bother me when they're subtle and can be ignored. But lately, they've stopped being subtle and have taken to just injecting massive amounts of their BS into every film. And since these films are largely commercial-grade pabulum in the first place, this is particularly jarring.

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Good points Joel.

That does makes sense. I would also venture to say that there's a severe shortage of screenwriters in hollywood that can write a screenplay with the values and principles that most Americans value. Or simply entertainment without the sucker punches.

So it does indeed make good cents to go with a "sure" thing and make more remakes rather than try to figure out what movie lovers wanna see (it's obvious to us but I think most hollywood big wigs haven't got a clue).

Andrew: I concur. One of my favorite episodes was when the Captain tortured an alien in order to get the info he needed to save Earth.
Needless to say I was surprised they allowed that, given their penchance towards the usual PC BS.

Re: the screenplay writing; funny thing is a previous unknown writer wrote the Galaxy Quest screenplay.
Can't recall his name, and some changes were made but his first draft was good enough to impress the right people.
I would look it up but I have dial-up and today it's been very slow thus far.

AndrewPrice said...


David Howard and Robert Jordan are credited as writers for Galaxy Quest. It doesn't surprise me that someone new came up with the idea, because it was clearly written by someone who was a fan, but also wasn't a jaded insider.

Also, I've observed that many of the best films come from screenplays or books by people who never did anything before.

In terms of the values issue, I think there is definitely something to that. It's very hard to be fair to people whose beliefs you don't share. And few in Hollywood have much in common with middle America. So even when they do try to incorporate middle-American values, it often comes across more like stereotyping or it feels very forced. It would help Hollywood a lot to get a little diversity.

Doc Whoa said...

Excellent discussion! I totally agree the lack of values hurts films. I find it strange liberals can whine that a lack of "diverse voices" is a bad thing in race, gender, religion, etc., but then they don't see the same problem with a lack of diverse voices in politics.

I'd like to see "Firefly" get a second chance!

AndrewPrice said...

Dco, I agree. It's pretty ridiculous that they advocate all these leftist ideas for everyone else, but not themselves. Don't forget, they push for higher taxes... but want tax breaks for Hollywood. They push for unionization.... but then flee the unions to film in other countries. They want a fairness doctrine to quick voices like Rush Limbaugh... but oppose any censorship of films. They demand speech codes.... but then call it art when they violate those codes. They yell about gun control.... yet they live on films based on guns.

It's total hypocrisy.

DUQ said...

Another good review Andrew. I'm not a Tim Allen fan, but I liked him a lot in this film. I need to break this out and watch it again!

DUQ said...

Oh, you said you do requests. Can you do "Twelve Monkeys"? I really like that movie and I want to hear your take on it?

Anonymous said...

GQ did a great article about the sorry state of the film business. You can read it here. And politics is the least of it. The operative word is "FEAR."

Re: politics, Andrew and I have talked about it ad nauseam, not to mention I'm north of a thousand posts on BH. However, I have to say that most filmmakers can only make movies that they themselves would go see. Just like Andrew could only write a novel that he'd want to read. The only difference is you have artists, filmmakers, etc. whose taste coincides with that of the general public (think Lucas and Spielberg in their prime) and you have others who just don't care.

And I think when we talk about politics in films, we're really talking about three different things:

-political movies whose POV you may not agree with
-apolitical movies with the "sucker punch"
-actors who shoot their mouths off and I don't think there's much we can do about that (IMHO, it's more about manners than anything else)

It all goes back to getting more right-leaning folks involved in the creative industries. And, of course, the cardinal rule: story comes first. :-)

AndrewPrice said...

DUQ, I'm indifferent on Tim Allen. I've liked him generally, though I was never a fan of his sitcom. I was pretty happy with his performance in Galaxy Quest.

AndrewPrice said...

DUQ, Sure, but not this week.

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, Thanks for the link. I'll check it out.

I agree with your assessment of the three types of politics. The first I don't object to. When I see an ad for a biography of some leftist hero, I know what I'm getting, and I can't complain.

The sucker punches bother me, because they are unnecessary and offensive. Also, I distinguish this from films with hidden messages. Since we're on Star Trek, let's use that as an example. Many of the old Star Treks had hidden meanings -- race relations, Vietnam, etc. But they were hidden and I didn't mind that. If you wanted to think about what they were really about, then great. But if you didn't, you could enjoy the film without thinking about it. That I am totally cool with.

What I can't stand are the films today where you go to see a movie about a guy shooting zombies and in the middle of it, you run into a character who is clearly a caricature of some famous Republican and you basically get a lecture on how evil non-leftists are, followed by a hate crime against the conservative caricature. That's bullsh~it.

On the actors, I've said before that I think it's a horrible idea to express political ideas, left or right, and that I think doing too much of that will shorten your career. I can't blame them for speaking out, nor can I blame the public for boycotting them. . . but I can blame them for whining that they're being punished by the public for speaking out. You have the right to speak freely, you just don't have a right to be heard.

In terms of FEAR, that's the problem. The model has changed. In the past, people took chances hoping they would pay off. Investors found people with "vision," invested their money, and hoped it all worked out. But now the film industry is run by big business, and they don't believe in chance. They believe in minimizing failure. Thus, they play it safe, they rework films to appeal to specific market segments, they lean on marketing rather than creativity to build the film, and they don't give a damn about niche markets -- always shoot for the biggest, richest market segment. That is not conducive to quality.... just banality.

Anonymous said...

But doesn't this statement:

"and they don't give a damn about niche markets -- always shoot for the biggest, richest market segment. That is not conducive to quality.... just banality."

...contradict statements like "Give the public what they want" and "I'd like to watch a film with my grandkids without being offended!" Etc. There's nothing wrong with those sentiments but, having read BH and its progenitors for half a decade now, there seems to be a weird dichotomy (and yes, I'm probably over-analyzing it!):

Give the public what they want and make sure people feel good afterwards and aren't offended but at the same time, take risks, have a vision, stick to your guns, and be as offensive and un-PC as you want to be.

I'm totally oversimplifying this and I had a much better version of this spiel at one point, but at the end of the day, people often don't know what they want until they've got it already. (Ask anyone who owns an iPad!)

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, I think you are over-simplifying it.

First, keep in mind that when it comes to opinions, there are millions of them. Even at a conservative website, like this one, there are various opinions. Just say "Palin" and see what happens. And if a group of conservatives who all like the same website don't have identical views or share the same tastes, then imagine how much less legitimate it is try to lump "conservatives" into one category or "Americans." It's simply wrong to assume there is a monolithic public opinion.

What that means, is that just because 10 people complain about what they don't like, doesn't mean they agree on what they do like -- even if they are using roughly similar terminology.

In fact, look back on the debate about what makes a conservative film and you'll see LOADS of different opinions, many of which showed that the people had no idea what conservatism really means. Like my personal favorite.... "this film was conservative because it kicked ass." Yeah, that's how Reagan defined conservatism too.

So first, you can't lump everyone together or make generalizations -- just like generalizations about all actors or all directors aren't valid.

Point 2, entertainment tastes very for many reasons. There is nothing inconsistent with wanting more PG material for kids or just because you like it, but also wanting more R material -- they aren't mutually exclusive. Just like thinking there is too much swearing or violence in films is not inconsistent with liking films that contain it, or wanting films that include both. Again, this is not an either or kind of thing -- you can want both.


AndrewPrice said...

Point 3, and this is the most important, we're talking about different markets. Hollywood no longer cares about niche market's that's absolutely true. But that doesn't mean they will aim their films at "middle America." Why is that not a contradiction? Because "middle America" may be the largest potential market, but they aren't the largest film consuming market.

The largest, i.e. most profitable market, is the moron market. Teenagers are the golden demographic. They spend the most, they bring dates, and they bring friends. That's why most films are written for a teenage audience. Especially when they discovered that a whole host of moron adults will happily consume teenage product, but teenagers will not consume adult product.

By the way, this problem has been made worse by the discovery that foreign markets are just as ripe for plucking, so long as the film strips out any Americanism and keeps the plots simplistic, with minimal dialog (things that are hard for foreign audiences to follow)..... things which won't offend or turn off the teenagers.

Thus, the market Hollywood aims for is basically retarded teenagers with a limited grasp of English. That's what brings in the widest possible audience.

That's why this isn't a contradiction -- Middle American mistakenly believes that they are the largest market, but they aren't.

Anonymous said...

I can't disagree with anything you've said. And I still laugh at the "...because it kicks ass" comment. :-)

I have nothing further to add at the moment so I'll see you at the next blog entry!

(Ever think about taking the 50 best Commentarama articles with comments and publishing a book?)

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, I laugh at that one too. :-)

Nope, never thought about publishing our articles. But I've been trying to think of a way to pick the best ones and maybe index them somehow. If you have any suggestions, let me know.

See you next time.

Doc Whoa said...

This is one of the reasons I love this site. I love your film articles as you really see things that I never see in films until you point them out, and then the conversation is equally fascinating.

AndrewPrice said...

Thanks Doc! I agree, the discussion is always interesting, especially about the films.

Anonymous said...

A friend of mine told me about your reviews. This is really excellent. You should write for a newspaper. You blow Ebert away.

- Bill

AndrewPrice said...

Thanks Bill. The film articles are every Friday, and you're welcome to come join in!

lilchicken2u said...

My husband and I saw Galaxy Quest when it first came out, and we HAD to have it for our film library: we've watched it a dozen or so times over the years. It is a feel good movie all the way in every way. A sequel would be fantastic! Never give up, never surrender!

funny photos said...

I would love to see a sequel and I think the idea of a rift in the universe sending them to the "Mirror, Mirror" universe would be a great starting point.the market Hollywood aims for is basically retarded teenagers with a limited grasp of English. That's what brings in the widest possible audience.

Post a Comment