Jun 8, 2012

[Movies] Star Trek: Insurrection (1998)

And now we get to this weird movie involving the cast of Star Trek: the Next Generation. My general dislike for this movie is primarily based on the merits of the movie on its own. I do my best to ignore the fact that this movie can be counted as the ninth movie in the entire franchise, thus making it part of the "unlucky" odd-numbered movies that tend to do worse at the box office compared to the others. At least that's how the fan theory goes at times.

In many ways, the story at the heart of this movie felt a lot like one of those weird TNG episodes that just didn't quite go well. It's the same situation with any long-running TV series - what more one that lasted 7 years on television. And given all those episodes, you're bound to come across some pretty lousy ones that just don't flow well.

For now I'll defer from citing additional one - at least for now...

To be fair though, it was nice to see the new Enterprise in a heck of a lot more action compared to the last movie. While I did enjoy the whole Borg aspect, we have to admit that the ship itself became little more than a part of the scenery, which kind of sucked. But even the fun moments weren't enough to fully save this movie.

Synopsis: Star Trek Insurrection is the 1998 science fiction movie that continues the Star Trek movie franchise. It's the 3rd movie to feature the TNG cast and the 9th movie overall. It was directed by Jonathan Frakes based on a screenplay by Michael Piller.

Through the use of a form of cloaking technology, the Federation, together with a rae known as the Son'a, have setup an observation post to watch a less-advanced civilization known as the Ba'ku. But their efforts to remain undetected, in line with the Prime Directive, is thwarted when Lt. Commander Data (Brent Spiner) appears to go wild due to some malfunction. He manages to disrupt the cloaking filed that hides the observation post, thus exposing the entire operation to the Ba'ku.

Thus Captain Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) and the crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise-E are asked to aid in finding a way to disable Data and extract the observation team, who are now being held hostage. Admiral Dougherty only asks Picard to turn over all technical information about Data and leave the resolution to this team but eventually Picard defies orders and brings the Enterprise into the anomaly known as the Briar Patch in order to retrieve Data for themselves. And there they discover that not everything is as it appears to be and the Federation's mission is not quite so benevolent.

Now I have a number of issues with this movie that will eventually explain my final rating, so let's go through the list.

First, the story was really hokey. For most of the movie the little "insurrection" of the Enterprise crew ends up being a silly little effort to run across the planet with 600 refugees. It's like one big political ploy where the Enterprise team will do whatever they can to ensure at least one Ba'ku remains on the planet in order to maintain their claim. Thus it's like a weird protest action that just drags on.

Then we have the antagonists in the form of the Son'a, another race with an apostrophe in their name. Now on the surface the concept of a race that uses desperate medical techniques to extend their lifespans including horrible facelifts that make them look like melting people, this is not exactly a new concept. By the time this movie had come out, Star Trek: Voyager had already introduced the Vidiians, a race being ravaged by an incurable disease that forced them to harvest healthy organs from unwilling donors. Both ended up with a slightly disturbing and often disgusting appearance but at least the Vidiians made a bit more sense. They were more like zombies while the Son'a are just, well, weird.

Another low point is how much time we ended up investing in watching everyone run way as opposed to utilizing screen time for actual combat. The only rather kick-ass space battle sequence that we get is towards the very, very end and it doesn't last all that long.

In addition, a lot of the humor in this movie felt rather forced and often fell flat. Just reflect upon the entire series of uncomfortable jokes centered around Worf (Michael Dorn) and of course the will-it-ever-die romance between Counselor Troi (Marina Sirtis) and Commander Riker (Jonathan Frakes).

Star Trek: The Next Generation
Star Trek: The Next Generation (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Oh, and don't forget the need to throw in a bit of romance for Picard. I don't think that I was the only one who picked up on the rather distinct attempt to make Picard a bit more Kirk-like in this movie. He defies orders, romances an alien and dives into dangerous situations himself.

The movie ended up feeling more like one of those random filler episodes in the middle of a Star Trek TV season. You know what I mean - the kind of episodes that do not connect to major political events in the rest of the established universe and that have no consequence on any subsequent episodes. The problem and its eventual solution remain contained within this single story. That's what the movie feels like.

Star Trek Insurrection is not the worst Star Trek movie, nor is it at least a good one. There are so many ways that this movie could have been done better but the easier alternative might have been not to have made it at all. Thus the movie is rated 1.5 annoying Son'a face lifts out of a possible 5.

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