Review: Star Trek: Insurrection (1998)

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Star Trek: Insurrection

Star Trek: Insurrection

Rating

Director

Jonathan Frakes

Screenplay

Rick Berman, Michael Piller

Length

1h 43m

Starring

Patrick Stewart, Jonathan Frakes, Brent Spiner, Levar Burton, Michael Dorn, Gates McFadden, Marina Sirtis, F. Murray Abraham, Donna Murphy, Anthony Zerbe, Gregg Henry, Daniel Hugh Kelly

MPAA Rating

PG

Basic Plot

The crew of the USS Enterprise E seek to preserve the lives of an unwilling civilization.

Review

Space. The final frontier. The starship Enterprise has been on many missions in its six incarnations. This time they find adventure that is reminiscent of the old days of Star Trek.

Conceived in 1966 by Gene Roddenberry, “Star Trek” began its long trek into pop culture and fandom. With more fans around the world than almost any other television series, Star Trek is a force to be reckoned with when it comes to space adventure stories.

“Star Trek: The Next Generation” was the second in a line of spin-off series that have generated enormous amounts of fans and praise alike. Back in 1994, the series went off the air in pursuit of the motion picture franchise that old series regulars Kirk and Spock had made waves with. It left behind a struggling, yet terrific series called “Deep Space Nine” and an even less-popular and lower-quality series titles “Voyager.”

Star Trek may not be popular again on the small screen for awhile. “Deep Space Nine” is in its final season and “Voyager” is losing steam as the flagship of the foundering UPN Network. There have been discussions of new series, but none have come about as yet. All Paramount has left at the moment is its motion picture franchise. “Insurrection,” the third next generation installment and second solo gig for the cast, carries on the tradition with action, adventure and a touch of comedy reminiscent of the original series and the older movies.

Before I go any further with this review, I must set straight the fact that I AM a Trekker. I have been since the fifth season of the series and the first series of my favorite series “Deep Space Nine.” What follows is a Trekker’s approach to the film, its flaws and its perfections.

When I first heard that test screenings of the film yielded angry Trekkers who demanded more action and Paramount went into re-edit it, I thought the final product would be highly underwhelming. In some aspects, it is. The romance, which was moved from the forefront to the back burner, should have received more attention than it got. The action scenes while intense for the most part, cast no new light on the aging franchise.

The film does have its high points. A terrific plot that develops slowly through the film instead of being thrust at us from the start is a formidable treat. It explores the human condition better than many other films this year (including Spielberg’s pseudo-epic “Saving Private Ryan”). The visual effects, while nothing new, are nonetheless exciting and well tailored.

The most beautiful aspects of the film, however, are the cinematography and art direction. The series always had a way of bringing the most unique worlds into existence and the films continue in that tradition. The Bak’u village is magnificently designed and the opening sequence showing an ideal world is magnificent in its grandeur. The vast landscapes and vistas are absolutely beautiful and help add to the visual pace of the film.

The plot is simple, yet complex. A mysterious race called the Son’a have banded secretly with the Federation to relocate the inhabitants of the Bak’u planet so they can collect the proverbial water from the fountain of youth. The Bak’u, who had sought and found this utopian planet 300 years ago, have been genetically restored over time by certain particles in the planet’s rings. The plot also weaves around the Son’a have a hidden agenda (old plot device used effectively).

Capt. Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) and company come in search of their android crewman, Lt. Cmdr. Data (Brent Spiner), who has short-circuited and attacked the outpost and the Son’a ship watching over the planet. The reasons for his short circuit become apparent early in the film and Picard and company go against orders and attempt to rescue the planet and cease the forced relocation.

“Star Trek: Insurrection” is ninth the best of the odd-numbered films that I have seen (I still have not seen V: The Final Frontier or VI: The Undiscovered Country). It is also better than IV (the one where Kirk and company return to 20th-Century Earth to retrieve a whale), but fails in comparison to both II and “First Contact” (VIII). “First Contact” is arguably the best in the Star Trek series easily blending visuals, terrific acting and a terrific plot into a wonderfully intense motion picture.

“Insurrection” is an extremely enjoyable film that looks as good as it is written. There is clunky dialogue at times such as comedic interludes between the crew and Data’s traditional one-liner “Saddle Up. Lock and Load.” (yet another attempt at saying “hey, Picard is doing something noble or worthwhile. Let’s shirk our traditions and follow him into the fray”) The device, used in all three “Next Generation” films, has become tired and clichéd after “Generations” used it for the first time.

“Insurrection” will be a treat for most Trekkers and might attract a broad audience, but it can’t capture the essence of “First Contact,” nor as much box-office (if the non-Trekker population won’t embrace it). It stands well in the pantheon of Star Trek features and bodes well for the tenth episode due in 2000 (if their current pattern stays intact). After all, it is the even-numbered films that turn out the best in the end.

Awards Prospects

Cinematography, Art Direction, Costume Design, Makeup, Sound, Sound Effects and Visual Effects are all possibilities with Cinematography, Makeup and Sound Effects being the most likely followed by Visual Effects and Art Direction.

Review Written

December 12, 1998

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