The best movie featuring the "Next Generation" crew, "Star Trek: First Contact" is also the first film after the "trade-off" of "Generations", which handed the reigns for the "Trek" franchise from the original crew to the "Next Generation" actors. Directed by actor Jonathan Frakes, the film opens with captain Jean-Luc Picard reliving his time assimilated by the Borg, a a man-machine race that absorbs other life forms into its collective, which all operate under one mind. While this scene is only a dream, it's not long before Picard is once again battling the Borg, who he barely managed to escape from only years before.
The Enterprise soon finds itself battling a Borg Cube - the race's giant, cube-shaped ships. While Picard's knowledge of the race allows the fleet to destroy the ship, another pod launches and makes its way towards Earth, travelling back in time to try and assimilate the Earth by changing events - namely, keeping humans from making the first warp speed space flight, which will be built and piloted by one Zephram Cochrane (James Cromwell), a drunk who has no idea of his place in history. The crew of the Enterprise have to follow in persuit to try and keep the Borg from taking over the Earth.
When they arrive, they have to find Cochraine, who takes some convincing. There's also the matter of the Borg, who have found their way aboard the Enterprise and are assimilating both the ship and it's crew, with only Picard and the remaining crew as defense. Data (Brent Spiner) has been captured, and is being interrogated by the Borg Queen (Alice Krige). The Borg are a tough foe, and probably the most popular "Trek" villain, as they're both utterly creepy and pretty tough - they are able to quickly adapt to weapons fire.
The film's performances are excellent, especially Frakes, Stewart and Brent Spiner. While the original crew were terrific, the "Next Generation" crew were more than up to the task of taking over the franchise - especially Stewart, whose performance as Picard should have gotten more awards notice. Technically, the film is also superb - the action scenes are first-rate, especially the early battle against the Borg and a zero-gravity battle against the creatures outside the ship.
If anything, "First Contact" goes wrong in its attempts to add humor, which mostly doesn't work - there's a couple of real groaners. The film also seems slightly long in spots. Aside from those mild concerns, it's a very good film - it's too bad that the feature films starring the "Next Generation" crew (which I'm guessing are over) were never quite able to reach the heights of this one.
VIDEO: "First Contact" is presented by Paramount in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. This is an absolutely fantastic presentation that stands as one of the studio's finest efforts in recent memory. Everything about this presentation is quite terrific, such as sharpness and detail, which are first-rate throughout the entire show. Not once did the presentation veer into softness, and small object detail was fantastic.
The presentation did not suffer from any of the usual flaws: edge enhancement wasn't spotted, nor were any instances of pixelation. The print looked to be in fantastic condition, with no dirt or debris. Colors were rich and vibrant, with excellent saturation and no smearing. Black level remained solid, while flesh tones looked accurate.
SOUND: "First Contact" is presented by Paramount in Dolby Digital and DTS 5.1. The film's soundtrack is generally fantastic, using surrounds aggressively for all sorts of effects and ambience. Audio quality is terrific, as well: effects and music seemed crisp and clear, while dialogue seemed natural and easily understood. Both the Dolby Digital and DTS soundtracks sounded very good, although the DTS edition seemed a bit more enveloping and dynamic.
EXTRAS: Director Jonathan Frakes and writers Ronald Moore and Brandon Braga offer audio commentaries for the film, while Michael Okuda offers an optional subtitle text commentary. I went in most interested in the writer's commentary, as the duo contributed an honest, informative and occasionally very funny commentary for "Star Trek: Generations". They once again deliver a great track for this film, discussing a lot of the production details of the film, while also offering a lot of insight as to how the film's story changed before filming started. Frakes offers a somewhat underwhelming track, though: he does offer some good insights about helming the picture, but he also leaves some silent spots and narrates the film at times.
The second disc continues this Special Edition's impressive helping of supplemental features. First is a "making of" documentary that offers the usual interviews and behind-the-scenes clips. There's some interesting tidbits here, but there's also a lot of happy talk about how wonderful everyone was - a lot of time is spent discussing how good Frakes was as director. "The Art of Trek" offers a look at some of the sketches and designs that went into the ships and other aspects of the production.
"Story" has writer Brandon Braga, Ronald Moore and others discussing the creation of the film - in their opinion, a chance to get back to telling an entertaining sci-fi adventure after the troubles they'd encountered working on "Generations". There's some great tales and insights here, and we hear some stories, such as one that was also mentioned in the commentary, where MAD magazine got ahold of the first draft of the script of the film and parodied it in a way that resembled in no way the actual final film.
"The Missile Silo" is a look at how the "Trek" production crew was able to use a real missile silo in Arizona as a set. The silo, which was turned into a museum, allowed the "Trek" crew pretty much complete access to film. An interesting piece about the filming at the location, but moreso about the history of the place. "The Deflector Dish" is a featurette that looks at the making of the scene where Picard and crew go outside the Enterprise. Interviews with the crew and a lot of behind-the-scenes stills are offered - interesting stuff. "From A to E" is a look at the Enterprise ship and its sets.
The next section of the second disc offers three scene deconstructions. These featurettes look at the various elements in play that went into making these moments in the film. Interviews with cast and crew are offered, as well as behind-the-scenes clips, stills and other information. The three scenes are: "Borg Queen Assembly", "Escape Pod Launch" and "Borg Queen Demise".
The next section is the "Star Trek Universe", and it starts off with a very touching and well-done tribute to legendary composer Jerry Goldsmith, who has scored some of the "Trek" films and whose work has been an influence on the series. This is a very enjoyable look at the great composer's career. "The Legacy of Zephram Cochrane" looks at how the character was portrayed in the original series and how the filmmakers changed the character for his inclusion in "First Contact". "First Contact: The Possibilities" takes a look at our obsession with the possibility of life on other planets and how the evidence seen so far has been weak.
Finally, "The Borg Collection" looks at the creation of these villians. "Unimatrix One" looks at the Borg's introduction in the "Next Generation" TV series, in the episode "Q Who". "The Borg Queen" is a look at the character in the film, with interview footage from actor Alice Krige. Finally, "Design Matrix" looks at the challenges of updating the Borg for the feature film.
Rounding out the disc are storyboard galleries, a photo gallery, teaser and theatrical trailers for "First Contact" and finally, a promo for "Borg Invasion".
Final Thoughts: "Star Trek: First Contact" is a fun ride, with some great action scenes and terrific performances. Paramount's DVD edition provides superb audio/video and a wealth of informative, insightful supplements. Recommended.