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STAR TREK: FIRST CONTACT
Special Edition

Review by Michael Jacobson

Stars:  Patrick Stewart, Jonathan Frakes, Brent Spiner, LeVar Burton, Michael Dorn, Gates McFadden, Marina Sirtis, Alfre Woodard, James Cromwell, Alice Krige
Director:  Jonathan Frakes
Audio:  Dolby Digital 5.1, DTS 5.1
Video:  Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1
Studio:  Paramount
Features:  See Review
Length:  111 Minutes
Release Date:  March 15, 2005

"We must follow them back...repair whatever damage they've done!"

Film ***1/2

Star Trek: Generations allowed the Next Generation cast to test the waters on the big screen by safely segueing their story from the original tried and true characters.  But with First Contact, the crew of the Enterprise E proved they were more than up to the challenge of handling a feature film adventure all on their own.

They started by bringing the series' most formidable villains into the mix (the Borg), added an ever stable story line of time travel to the past, and most importantly, allowed Trekkies to finally witness the moment that made everything possible for earth in the Star Trek universe...namely, first contact with extraterrestrial intelligence.

Jonathan Frakes, who spent seven years on board the Enterprise as First Officer William Riker, helmed many of the television series' episodes as a director, and fortunately for fans everywhere, he got to take the reins of the first all-Next Generation production.  He's a solid director at ease with both action and character driven stories, and managed to combine both into one of the best of Star Trek films.

It begins with the Borg's newest assault on Federation space.  Captain Jean-Luc Picard (Stewart) is eager to lead the fight against them, having once been assimilated by the enemy collective and forced to act as a pawn in their game of universal conquest.  But the Federation's victory is short lived...the Borg send an escape pod to earth's past in order to assimilate the entire human race and change the course of history.

How?  By sabotaging the once and future flight of Zephram Cochrane (Cromwell), whom history recorded manned the first human warp drive flight and attracted the first contact, which drew earth out of a hell of world war and into a bright new future.  Now, it's up to the Enterprise and her crew to follow the Borg back and make sure Cochrane's ship flies as scheduled.  But something wicked their way comes when the Borg begin their attempt to take over the ship, meaning Picard and company are in a race against time to save the future of humanity.

This is a spirited, well paced story that takes characters we've grown to know and love over the years and turns them loose in an all out sci-fi adventure of excitement and intrigue.  Moving from TV to features meant bigger and better ideas, and you'll see some sequences that will definitely have you agape in your seat.  As a director, Frakes was obviously ready to use a bigger budget to his advantage, and the money spent is definitely there on the screen for the fans to see.

Many consider First Contact the last great Star Trek film.  As for me, I'm still hoping against hope that the series hasn't really ended up decommissioned in dry dock for good.  There's still plenty of life in these characters and these stories that traced their roots back to the fertile seeds of Gene Roddenberry's imagination.  One need only look at this movie to realize there's still a galaxy of potential left unexplored.

Video ****

The original release of First Contact was one of Paramount's first DVD offerings, and at the time, I thought it was one of the best looking discs I've ever seen.  I still think so.  This is possibly the best anamorphic transfer I've seen for a space movie.  Detail and color levels are incredible, right down to the most miniscule piece of visual information, whether it's the twinkling stars or the texture of the Borg's circuitry.  Despite a wide range of lighting levels, including many sequences in smoky atmospheres, every frame renders with amazing integrity and clarity.  Highest marks.

Audio ****

The audio likewise always sounded great, but with the addition of a DTS track, there's even more bang for your buck.  Either 5.1 track will give you a full, open audio experience, but if you can opt for the DTS, you'll find much more dynamic range, much more clarity in the sound detail, and a more spatial sense of ambience for the background effects.  And either track will deliver the late great Jerry Goldsmith's terrific score with full sonic potency.

Features ****

Paramount's double disc Special Editions of the Trek films continue to offer fans everything they could ask for.  Disc One features the usual great text commentary trivia track by Star Trek Encyclopedia authors Michael and Denise Okuda, plus an audio commentary from director/star Jonathan Frakes.  It's a little slow going at first, but as the movie progresses, it evolves into a delightful listen, as Frakes offers insights and thoughts with a winning, self-depreciating sense of humor.

Disc Two has the rest of the goods, divided into six sub-sections for easy navigation:  The Star Trek Universe has a tribute to Jerry Goldsmith, a look at how the saga of Zefram Cochrane developed over the years, and a discussion of the possibilities of first contact.  The Borg Collective has three featurettes devoted to our favorite sci-fi bad guys.  Scene Deconstruction examines three of the film's big special effects sequences in detail.  First Contact Production has six featurettes devoted to the making of the film.  Archives has storyboard and photo galleries, while the Trailers section has both theatrical and teaser trailers, as well as a look at the new Borg attraction in Las Vegas...where they're no doubt assimilating the slot machines as we speak.

Rounding out are some good animated menus with sound.  This DVD is a Trekkie banquet!

Summary:

What can I say...not only is Star Trek: First Contact a fun filled ride for fans of the franchise, but it's one of THE best looking and sounding discs on the market.  Paramount outdid themselves with this double disc Special Edition.  Beam this one into your collection without hesitation.

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