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OK, Star Trek film number eight. Let's cut to the chase ('cuz the Trekkers are going to go anyway). If you find yourself getting lugged to a theater because your loved one is awaiting Trek Rapture, will you be bored out of your mind? Will you be confused because you don't know 30 years of Trek history?
Honestly? No. The second Trek film to feature the Star Trek: The Next Generation television cast not only manages to shed all that Kirk-Spock-McCoy history (as well as a hunk of its own), but it delivers solid action, a suspenseful story and enough flying bullets and phaser fire to keep you heartily entertained. You don't have to know that all Klingons prefer to die in battle, or even what a Klingon is. You don't need to know that the Starship Enterprise was destroyed in the last movie (and the new ship is so cool it is going to get cheers from the Trekkers in the audience). You don't have to know why one character has eyes that go "whrrr."
If you do want the background . . .
As we all know from History holodiscs, 21st century Earth was ravaged by nuclear war. In its aftermath, while civilization sought to pull itself up out of the sludge, the team of Zefram Cochrane (James Cromwell) and Lily Sloane (Alfre Woodard) created the Warp Drive. The "star trek" of the Phoenix warp drive rocket, on April 5, 2063, brought Earth into "first contact" with an alien race, which would lead to the creation of the United Federation of Planets.
Sure, there were problems with the Romulans and Klingons in the 23rd century, but in present day 24th century time, the biggest threat is posed by the technologically advanced and incredibly arrogant Borg collective. The Borg have failed to conquer and assimilate Earth into their collective mind in the past, but they are persistent. In First Contact they try again with a new twist. They return in time, seeking to prevent the flight of the Phoenix, and thus to prevent the formation of the Federation and its flagship, the Starship Enterprise.
The Enterprise is captained by Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart), who at one time was assimilated into the Borg collective mind, and renamed "Locutus." For this reason, Starfleet wants him to stay the hell away as the Borg ship approaches Earth. For the same reason, he disobeys orders and behaves like an action figure, disregarding all the history set up in the Next Generation television series.
Setting the story in the past was a brilliant decision, because everything about the Enterprise and the Federation has to be explained to Woodard's character. More than that I won't say.
Two stories play out at the same time. On Earth, a team led by the first in command, William Ryker (Jonathan Frakes), must help Cochrane repair the rocket damaged in a Borg attack. On the Enterprise, Picard leads what's left of his crew in attacks on the Borg who have invaded his ship. The first story is full of comic bits; the second is full of suspense, thrills, and the possibility of betrayal from within.
The stakes are high, the villain is cruel, and the Enterprise is the only thing in the way. Even with all the Sturm und Drang that suggests, First Contact is secure enough to poke fun at its own characters and characterizations. The ever-uptight ship's counselor Troi (Marina Sirtis) gets drunk. The yearning-for-humanity android Data (Brent Spiner) gets hit on, in the sexual sense, by the Borg Queen (Alice Krige). You don't have to know the history of ST:TNG to be amused or shocked at the situations. It doesn't hurt, but it is completely unnecessary.
As with the second Trek film (The Wrath of Khan), this second second is superior to the first (Generations). Indeed, it is almost superior to all seven that preceded it. But not quite. The only failing of Star Trek: First Contact is that the suspense does not build to an out-and-out feverish pitch. It comes close, but it isn't the same as the venom spewed in lines like, "With my last breath, I spit at thee," (from Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan)
Yeah, I know too much of the Star Trek universe. Sue me.
On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Eight Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Star Trek: First Contact, he would have paid...
The rating is $7.50 if you're into Trek, as I am. By comparison, The Wrath of Khan would have scored a perfect $8.00. It all comes down to this: If you really, truly detest Star Trek, you'll still have a good time.
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