A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Star Trek Insurrection

January 24, 2011

Star Trek Insurrection

I remember being underwhelmed by this movie when I first saw it. This was the first Star Trek movie since Star Trek IV which I had not seen in the theater, so maybe part of the problem is that I’ve only ever seen it on the small screen. As I watched it tonight, however, in the context of having watched all the other Star Trek movies in this past week or so, I couldn’t figure out quite why I was so down on this movie. The truth is that it has some good action, many of the best special effects in any of the Star Trek movies, and some fun comedic moments for all the members of the crew. Perhaps the issue is that after the adventure of First Contact this movie has much smaller stakes – it feels less epic and more intimate.

This movie starts out with a mystery. Why has Data suddenly gone haywire and sabotaged the observation of a pre-warp society? Who are the Son’a – the sinister race that the Federation have allied themselves with and just what is going on with them? Why does everybody have so many parentheses in their names? I have always liked being thrown into a story and having to figure out what’s going on, and this is the only Star Trek movie that really takes that route. In keeping with the mystery theme there are secrets to be revealed as this movie plays out. Nothing is precisely as it seems, and that’s probably my favorite part of this movie.

There are no universe-ending stakes here. This is a story of the Enterprise bridge crew defending six hundred Ba’ku from forced deportation from their planet, which the Son’a and Federation crave for some reason. Against direct orders from a superior officer. It’s pure simple fun, but it doesn’t have the same tension or power as First Contact.

As a result the movie feels smaller, less grand and more intimate. It’s perfect for the small screen. It’s like going back a few years after the TV show ended to see what our old Next Generation friends have been up to since we last saw them. When we catch up with Picard and the rest of the Enterprise crew they are swamped with work, buried in ambassadorial work with hardly a moment between missions (as wonderfully conveyed with a great shot of Picard and crew walking through the corridors of the Enterprise hashing out schedules and preparing for a big reception they’re hosting for a newly inducted race in the Federation.) Worf shows up from nowhere with no real explanation as to why he’s not on DS-9 except that he needs to be in this movie, and Data is off on his mission on the Ba’ku homeworld.

There are a lot of great special effects in this film. More than in most of the other Star Trek movies. Particularly the chase through the nebulous gasses that surround Ba’ku and all the cloaked operatives on their observation mission, who are visible only through monitors in the duck blind where the Son’a and Federation have been watching from. Jonathan Frakes once again shows himself to be a competent action director, and his familiarity with his cast makes for a great collection of performances. There’s nothing as demanding as the powerful emotions in First Contact, but still everybody gets a chance in the spotlight. There’s a nonsensical but fun duet between Picard and Data as they sing a song from HMS Pinafore. There’s fun flirting between Riker and Troi which feels reminiscent of Encounter at Farpoint (even more so when Riker shaves off his beard.) Data forms a bond with a child on the planet’s surface. Picard forms a bond with a woman on the planet’s surface. Worf goes through puberty. Geordie watches a sunrise and Beverly talks about her boobs. (I suppose Gates McFadden has the smallest role here – maybe she had other commitments at the time?)

One problem with the Next Gen movies is that they’re each a sand-alone piece. They have no continuity or mythos that builds from one film to the next. If it were not for the destruction of the Enterprise D in Generations, the change from visor to implants for Geordie, Data’s emotion chip, and the “character death” in Nemesis these films could be watched in pretty much any order. I think they suffer because of that. There’s no evolution for the characters. As a result this movie, while fun to watch and perfectly acceptable is not particularly memorable. At least this one is an odd numbered Star Trek movie that didn’t completely suck. Tomorrow: an even numbered Star Trek that wasn’t particularly overwhelming either.

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January 24, 2011 - Posted by | daily reviews | , ,

1 Comment »

  1. I’m glad that you found something to enjoy in this one. I’ve always thought it was underrated. I’d quibble about there being no continuity, though – albeit minor, the reawakened relationship between Troi and Riker leads into the beginning of Nemesis, and one could argue that the various emotional crises that Data faces in Generations, First Contact and Insurrection build to his decision at the end of Nemesis. But you’re right, of the movies this is the one with the smallest stakes and that feels the most like a TV episode in scope.

    Comment by Jeff | January 25, 2011 | Reply


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