Star Trek: Insurrection (1998)

Directed by Jonathan Frakes
Written by Rick Berman & Michael Piller

To this point, albeit only two movies into it, I would say that The Next Generation Star Trek movies have been much more consistent in their quality. I didn’t love Generations mostly because its tone was way off, but it explored some intriguing ideas and welcomed in a well-developed and entertaining new cast. First Contact is a film I loved and will easily be among the best of all the Star Trek films when I complete the marathon. So to this point, unlike the original series which saw great fluctuations, there hasn’t been an outright stinker in the series. Well, with Insurrection, that streak may have come to an end. Even then, I would (and will do so through the rest of this review) argue that while Insurrection is a disappointment, it’s low are not nearly as low as the lows of films like The Final Frontier. So I suppose what I’m saying is let’s wait until Nemesis to determine whether I prefer the original series to The Next Generation, but suffice it to say, this film keeps that argument very much alive.

I’ve never actually watched the television series, of this iteration or the previous, but I like to think that they reserve some of the more grand, stunning, and high stakes type storylines for the cinema, seeing as they would be, um, more cinematic. There is an argument to be made that by staying at such a high stress, high stakes level through a series (of movies in this case) that the impact is lessened. Who can take it seriously if installment after installment the world is at stake just to be saved once more by our heroes. So the counter-argument would be that there needs to be some small stories told every once in a while to balance that high wire act. Insurrection works as that smaller story, and yet is the precise reason why it didn’t really work for me, although, as I will try to address, it was less about the stakes of the mission in this film, and more about the characterization.

I hate to rag on a movie for feeling like a TV show, especially when in this case it is a TV show, but man did this feel like a TV show, in a bad way. The production values, the characters, the story line. It all felt like small ball to me and it sunk the film as a result. I think the most damning thing had to be how little it made me care about it. The village and people of Ba’ku is a very cool concept, the type of concept which fits right into the greater good of Star Trek. Very cool concept, love the life lessons they represent. I even liked Donna Murphy as the sultry village leader who woos and falls for Jean-Luc in the process. But how they come up against the Son’a people, and the titular “insurrection”, feels very manufactured, uneventful, and to be honest completely telegraphed.

F. Murray Abraham is an actor I generally like, but he is very underwhelming here as the baddie. I think that was my biggest problem with the film, he didn’t feel overly threatening, and I never really connected with his plight and reasoning for his villainy. He was a bit of a nothing presence here. Along with his Starfleet counterpart, they just felt like TV villains. Add to that the fact that the story very much feels stretched out beyond its logical length in order to fit the theatrical format. This is a 42 minute Star Trek: The Next Generation episode that has some really cool ideas in it, so they decided to try and make it the next movie instead of coming up with anything better, or more cinematic. That’s very disappointing.

In its attempt to be more cinematic, the film crescendos into a finale filled with action. By this point I had unfortunately simply tuned out to some extent, content to let the mediocrity of it all wash over me. There was very little to keep me engaged and thrilled by this finale, so instead I just let it play out until it was over, fulfilling my obligation. As much as some of the ideas in this film are intriguing and interesting, as much as I have come to really appreciate these new characters and their relationships, the greatest indictment against this movie is that last line, that by the end it felt like an obligation. These movies are supposed to be entertaining! They are supposed to be fun, exciting, humorous! I hate to keep harping on this, but I wish I could have enjoyed this as an episode of the series, the type I would have enjoyed, then somewhat forgot about by the time I saw the next week’s episode. Instead, theoretically, I had to wait two years to see this movie, and will have to wait four more years to get the taste out of my mouth. Of course I have the luxury of watching these films in close succession, but what did people have to think back when they were originally released I wonder?

★★ – Didn’t Like It

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