Review – Galaxy Quest
Starring Tim Allen, Sigourney Weaver, and Alan Rickman; this scifi spoof movie quickly began a cult classic. 21 years after release the movie is still just as enjoyable as when it first released, and if you haven’t seen it, I consider it a must-see for all scifi fans.
The general premise for the movie is a cast of a TV show which was cancelled 18 years ago are travelling the con circuit when actual aliens involve them in an interstellar conflict after mistaking the show for historical documents instead of entertainment. Throughout the movie, it pokes fun at so many of the typical tropes of the scifi genre while still telling an enjoyable story.
There are three plot threads we follow as we move through the story. A dramatic action hero plot which is a classic scifi, good guys against the bad guys plot. A comedic plot of actors being thrown into their roles in real life, adding a fish out of water element. And a second dramatic plot of actors coming to grips with what they mean to the fans.
Each of these plots has a climactic moment, and each one hits just the right emotional beat. The way the stories are woven together allows for one story to be a bit playful while the others are being serious, and then they can all switch around. This allows the movie to be light-hearted and joke around a bit while still telling a good story. Galaxy Quest isn’t a lampooning of the scifi genre, but instead a satirical jibe at the genre, the actor, and the fans.
Typically, when a critic uses the word “meta-narrative” I tune right out but stick with me for just a second because this is one of the rare cases when it applies. While examining the tropes of scifi, the actors who play scifi roles, and the fans who line up for cons; the film is so expertly cast that I’m not sure if it would have worked without the actor’s real-world experience. In each case, Tim Allen, Sigourney Weaver, and Alan Rickman are all playing parts they would never usually be cast in.
Tim Allen’s character was the lead actor of a long-running show which was cancelled 18 years previous. Considering that the movie released just as Allen was finishing up the run of Home Improvement, a 9-season show from the 90’s, the role is basically playing out Allen’s own fear. What if I’ve been typecast?
Sigourney Weaver’s most famous for playing Ripley in the Alien franchise. Playing a comedic role (yes I know she was in Ghostbusters, but she was the straight foil for Bill Murray mostly) and a role which is founded on the “Blonde Bimbo” trope would usually be considered a third rail for most actors. The fact that she can play that role while poking fun at the character and nailing the dramatic plot shows what a great actress she is. There is an element of her character that makes us ask: is this what she might have become had she not been cast in Alien? There but for the grace of God goes Sigourney Weaver?
The lynchpin of the trio is Alan Rickman. Dr Lazarus is a Spock-like character with a vast amount of cultural lore. When we meet him, he is struggling with playing the character so long after the show has ended, and when the moment comes for Lazarus to really understand what his character has meant to the fans, it is a perfect moment that shows off why Rickman was just such a fantastic actor. Rickman had been Hans Gruber in Die Hard, and the Sherriff of Nottingham in Robin Hood: Men in Tights, and he was starting to become typecast as a villain. I think partially that is why he took the role, considering that same year he also played the Metatron in Dogma it seems to me that Rickman was looking for roles that break the audience’s conception of him.
Meta-drivel aside; the story stands up and is enhanced by the layered narrative. The actors are great, and the movie has held up over two decades.
All in all, Galaxy Quest is a scifi movie that is just fantastic.