I confess. After the first hour, I surrendered.
Never Surrender: A Galaxy Quest Documentary (2019): 6 out of 10: You know what I am cured… seriously. I have had latent nerd qualities all my life, but like the Rains of Castleton, this documentary has cured me. After an hour and a half basking in the fandom of Galaxy Quest, I am no longer a nerd or a geek.
On one hand, this is a superb documentary on Galaxy Quest
On the other hand, it is a documentary longer than the damn movie.
The Good: Lots of great interviews and an easy to follow timeline from concept to completion with details of all the bumps on the way. The only thing missing is the suits themselves and it would have been interesting to hear one or more of them speculate how they might have dropped the marketing ball. Details about how they pivoted the film to a kids’ film from an R rated comedy after the shooting had finished (Shades of Desperately Seeking Susan going PG because of all the new Madonna fans). Lots of great interviews everyone is a delight in their own way… and plenty of material to fill a tight, well-made documentary.
The Bad: But then Never Surrender adds a bunch of fans and commentators to tell us how Galaxy Quest changed their lives and influenced movies of the 21st century. And facts and rational thought go out the window. Unsupported claims, each more outrageous and detached from reality from the last enter the picture. Oh, and we meet the people cosplaying the movie twenty years later… yup, just shoot me now. Cured my geekdom, though.
A few people claim this is Tim Allen’s best film… Not really aiming high with the praise there. (I noticed that they say this about no other actor involved, including Justin Long.) I also assume they mean live action film cause Tim has four Toy Stories under his belt.
Many of the random claims in the film are in desperate need of a narrator, editor or someone to come in and say, hold on, what?
An example is the statement “before Harry Potter, Alan Rickman was best known as the serious actor in 1995’s Sense And Sensibility”. No before Harry Potter Alan Rickman was best known as Hans Gruber in Die Hard and the Sherrif of Nottingham in Robin Hood. Even today in a post Potter and sadly post Rickman world, he is still best known for Die Hard.
They keep saying the studio didn’t want Sigourney Weaver because she appeared in straight Sci-fi. They were looking for comedians, not action stars. (Like Alan Rickman?) Um Ghostbusters guys, I know you saw it because Ramis was your director at the time… and while that story makes no sense, it at least appears to be possibly true. But in desperate need of some context.
I like Damon Lindelof’s screenwriting well enough, but he speaks at length in this documentary and honestly I couldn’t stop cringing. As one example of many, Damon claims that Sci-Fi allows audience engagement, unlike other media. Look Damon, I may pretend I am in the movie while watching the movie. This is for a lot more than Sci-Fi films, Damon, it’s called engagement. It happens in all movie genres and hopefully with books and video games as well.
Where his story loses the rails is outside of the interaction, it is pretty rare and possibly a sign of mental illness to still think you are a character in the movie. Star Trek Conventions are not a normal response to any media. (Damon BTW co-wrote the screenplay for Prometheus, a film that caused an entire audience to engage in yelling at the screen “why are you running away in a straight line? Go to your left.”)
Here is another example of Damon’s claims (and if this was another commentator, I truly apologize, but I am pretty sure I recall this being Damon.) Before Galaxy Quest you couldn’t get big name actors in such roles. Now it has opened up the whole comic book universe where mainstream actors no longer fear doing sci-fi or superhero films. WTF? Dude big name actors have been appearing in superhero media since arguable the Batman TV movie in 1966. Just The Batman movies of the eighties and nineties are a cavalcade of stars and the Superman movie had Hackman and Brando… I mean talk about making claims that are head shakingly wrong.
The Ugly: Brent Spiner says “The nerds have inherited the Earth” in the documentary. Brent it is “The geeks will inherit the Earth”. You are riffing off of Matthew 5:5. The alliteration is sitting right there. Why Brent Why?????
I realize that this bothering me puts a doubt in my cured of geekdom claim. But I am sticking with it.
The Rains of Castleton
I have no idea what I meant by “The Rains of Castleton” in the first paragraph of this review. I wrote the first draft for this a while back and I am sure it means something. A reference to Castleton University featured In that MST3K’s Time Chasers? A misquote from the Tears in Rain soliloquy in Blade Runner? It sounds good, but I googled it and apparently until now the Rains of Castleton did not exist. (Crap, I got to call my doctor. My geekdom has apparently relapsed. Maybe I could take in a meeting.)
Never Surrender: A Galaxy Quest Documentary is only 95 minutes long but feels about three hours. Time stops often for cosplay shenanigans. I feel like I am punching down, criticizing the middle-aged folks wearing garbage bags and pretending to be aliens from a comedy film from twenty years ago. They seem to do no harm and are clearly enjoying themselves. Good for them.
However, do I really want to sit through an amateur skit where they interact with Galaxy Quest actress Missi Pyle, like south sea villagers meeting Cthulhu? No, not really. Do I need to visit them at the modest homes and hear how they make their costumes? Shall we film thier mating habits? Bathroom breaks?
I know Never Surrender: A Galaxy Quest Documentary is for the fans. My only concern is all the fans are already in the documentary.