The Most Meta Sci-Fi Movie Predicted The Best Part of Modern Fandom
“By Grabthar's hammer, by the suns of Worvan, you shall be avenged.”
As franchises like Star Wars, Star Trek, and the Marvel Cinematic Universe have become increasingly popular over the past few decades, the conversations surrounding their fans and fandom at large have become all the more common. No demographic seems to dominate the online pop cultural space more these days than comic book and sci-fi/fantasy fans.
Despite that fact, very few movies have ever successfully managed to address the intense fandom surrounding genres like science fiction and fantasy. At least, no movie has ever done it quite as well as Galaxy Quest. The beloved 1999 comedy not only boasts a murderer’s row of screen performers but its observations about online fans and the power of certain genre tropes seem even sharper than they did when the film was released.
Directed by Dean Parisot, Galaxy Quest follows the cast members of a fictional, clearly Star Trek-inspired cult TV series, including the egotistical Jason Nasmith (Tim Allen), constantly exasperated Gwen DeMarco (Sigourney Weaver), and vain, cynical Alexander Dane (Alan Rickman). When the film begins, its central actors have gotten used to spending their days attending fan conventions for the TV series they once starred in together, which remains the most popular project in any of their filmographies.
Their humdrum lives are turned upside down, however, when they are recruited by members of an alien race that not only believe the events of the film’s eponymous sci-fi show actually happened, but that its actors are actually their characters. Unaware that the show in question is fictional, the aliens ask Galaxy Quest’s washed-up actors to save them from a dangerous intergalactic warlord that is intent on destroying them. From there, Galaxy Quest follows its unlikely heroes as they slowly but surely discover that they’re more well-equipped for the challenges that lie before them than they may have realized.
Along the way, Galaxy Quest finds more than a few opportunities to poke fun at everything from the sci-fi genre’s occasionally cringey tropes to the positives and negatives of intense fandom. These moments of humor, along with the film’s meta sci-fi story, have only grown all the more relevant in the 24 years since Galaxy Quest was released. That’s thanks in no small part to the ever-growing popularity of previously niche, “nerdy” properties like Star Trek, Star Wars, and Lord of the Rings.
What is, perhaps, most surprising about Galaxy Quest, though, is just how genuinely affecting it is. Despite repeatedly poking fun at itself and its characters, the film still manages to advocate for the power of even the corniest of genre stories in a way that’s not only shockingly sweet but earned. The razor-sharp wit of David Howard and Robert Gordon’s script helps the film pull that rare trick off, as does the pitch-perfect work done by its cast members — namely, Alan Rickman.
The Die Hard star gives one of his best screen performances in Galaxy Quest as a disillusioned actor who gradually comes to appreciate his place in pop culture history. By seeing how warmly his work has been embraced by others, Rickman’s Alexander is able to accept his own legacy, even if it isn’t quite what he wanted it to be. And it’s through his journey that Galaxy Quest ultimately emerges as a tongue-in-cheek, extremely meta sci-fi adventure film about, of all things, the importance of embracing joy even when it feels easier than ever to give into cynicism.
Even now, when fandom seems to carry a far different and more complicated connotation than it did 24 years ago, Galaxy Quest still stands as a reminder that loving something with your whole heart doesn’t have to be toxic. There is, after all, joy to be found in being a fan of something, and Galaxy Quest understands that better than most movies ever have.