Star Trek: Insurrection

SPOILER WARNING: I will keep the first half of this review spoiler-free, then discuss the spoilers afterwards.

Picard: "Do you remember when we used to be explorers?"

By nature I love brevity: It has its moments, and the story wasn't too terrible, but I think I liked it better when it was called 'Journey's End'.

Star Trek: Insurrection is a film much maligned by fans of Star Trek. Typically, First Contact and parts of Generations are considered the good of the TNG films, and Insurrection and Nemesis are the bad. I am here to report that Insurrection is... exactly what everyone has said. Star Trek V: The Final Frontier is widely regarded as the worst of the TOS films because it makes a mockery of the original characters in an attempt to create humor. This film makes the same mistake with the TNG crew.

Insurrection has a fair story. The action is fine, if a bit dry. The direction is great - it is Frakes, after all. But the biggest problem with the film is that the way it tries to be funny makes the characters ridiculous and mocks them relentlessly. Take, for instance, the introduction of Data. He's acting differently than he normally would, and the crew has to go after him. But rather than having this feel like the momentous, important development it had every right to be, Picard and Worf's method for defeating him is silly and played entirely for laughs. Worf, too, gets ridiculed time and time again. He's late for duty. Why? It sure isn't because it makes any difference to the plot of the film; it's just so that we can laugh at him. Worf's only role in the film is to go around being silly, and it's such a terrible waste of a good character.

The other main gripe I have with this film is that I don't feel the story's 'innocent victims' are doing the right thing. They're being selfish by withholding their special gift from the rest of the galaxy. The crew of the Enterprise, by the way, are right to defend them. At least, that's the way I'm leaning. They're being selfish, but they have the right to decide to be selfish with their own planet. But I can't sympathize quite so much with a group of people who have a gift that can help countless people and save the lives of still countless more, and choose not to give it up. I'll be less vague in the spoiler section.

I should make brief reference here to the acting. The main TNG cast is, of course, great, with particular props to LeVar Burton; there's a scene in this film where he almost made me cry. But aside from that, the performances were passable but not exceptional. Donna Murphy as Anij and Anthony Zerbe as Admiral Dougherty made decent but forgettable efforts. The big exception to this was F. Murray Abraham's Ru'afo, who was terrible. He had many moments where his character's reactions felt forced and unnatural, and still more where something just felt off.

So, in conclusion to my spoiler-free review, Insurrection is a well-directed, well-acted (from the main TNG cast, anyway), well-produced mess that takes beloved and complex characters and reduces them to cheap comedy bits. Nothing in it  is any better than other Trek films. If you want a good, exciting action film, watch First Contact, or better yet, The Wrath of Khan. If you're looking for a film where the characters rebel to do what they think is right, watch The Search for Spock. This film does nothing that better Trek films don't do better. Still, if you are a completionist or a die-hard Trekkie, I suppose you'll have to get to this one eventually. Kind of like at least half of Voyager. *ducks out before the tomatoes fly*

2 out of 6 cheap comedy bits

--SPOILER TAG--YOU'VE BEEN WARNED--IF YOU HAVEN'T SEEN THE FILM, DON'T CONTINUE--UNLESS YOU WON'T EVER SEE IT OR DON'T CARE, IN WHICH CASE, GO AHEAD--THIS IS OFFICIALLY THE LONGEST SPOILER TAG EVER---BUT WHAT YOU DON'T REALIZE IS THAT I'M EXTENDING IT INTENTIONALLY FOR THE PEOPLE THAT ARE CONTINUING TO SCROLL EVEN THOUGH THEY'VE SEEN THE WARNING, TO GIVE THEM ANOTHER CHANCE-

Ahem. Anyway, for those of you who are alive and remain...

And now it's time for Recycled Plots with CoramDeo, the part of the show where CoramDeo comes out and reveals... a Recycled Plot. This time around, the plot being recycled is that of the TNG episode 'Journey's End,' in which Wesley Crusher takes about the same stance as Picard in this film, and Picard takes the stance of the Admiral in this one...

Let that sink in for a moment. Not only did they recycle an old TNG plot, they recycled a plot in which Picard was on the other side of the argument. The point here is the lack of forethought regarding this. I don't believe they really knew they were rehashing 'Journey's End,' and so they didn't have any idea Picard believed something different in that episode. And that's part of the reason why this film's characters fall flat. It's not just because the script mocks them relentlessly. It's also because it doesn't understand them.

The opening quote I used for this review is more resonant than I think the filmmakers intended. The thing is, the viewers DO remember when they used to be explorers. Because that's who the characters were in the show. In general, they weren't primarily activists or warriors or even action heroes. They were explorers, and this film has forgotten that. Are they still interested in new things and new ideas? Sure. But is that their goal any longer? No. Truthfully, that's not their goal in any of the other TNG films, either, including First Contact. And that's a problem. TNG was about exploration. Its films weren't.

There's a few other things I want to highlight in more detail. The first is that involving a kid is almost never a good idea. See also: Star Wars: Episode I. The second and somewhat more important is the nonsensical nature of the story itself. Many little and big things just don't quite make sense. Take, for instance, the scene where Picard tries to go down to the planet, and his crew comes to give him their support. Picard's orders are the following: Geordi and Riker are to stay aboard the Enterprise, while the rest of the crew will come with him to the planet. That seems like a sensible thing. But then you notice that Riker and Geordi came into that scene wearing their uniforms, while the others were in civilian clothing. What if Picard had Data stay aboard with Riker, and Geordi came down to the planet? Would he have to say, "Oh wait, sir, I need to go change?" Come to think of it, why didn't he have Geordi come with them? He's the one member of the crew who will benefit most from prolonged exposure to the planet. It doesn't make sense. Or what about the end of the climax? The Enterprise shows up and beams Picard out of the exploding weapon, leaving Ru'afo there to die. You might say this is all well and good, since he's evil, but all the Enterprise knew at that point was that Picard might need a lift in a minute. They must've detected Ru'afo's life signs. But the Son'a and the Ba'ku are the same species, and they probably couldn't detect any difference between the two with their sensors. So for all the Enterprise knew, Picard could've been blowing up the weapon with his girlfriend, and therefore they should probably beam that other life sign up. And even if they knew it was Ru'afo, how do they know Picard didn't convince him to change his ways, and they were blowing up the weapon together? There's no reason why they should leave him there with the little information they had.

This film had to follow the remarkable success of First Contact, which was a really engaging action film. They tried to do this by capitalizing on moral issues and a less action-oriented story, but their failures lay mostly in these areas. That and the script's tendency to ridicule the beloved characters it involved. Plus, it's really boring. Kind of like a little less than half of Voyager. *locks self in the basement to escape the angry mob*

Pensees:

-I mentioned it earlier, but I really, really loved that sunrise scene with Geordi. Most of it was LeVar Burton's remarkable performance.

-My mom was around while I was watching this film, and she commented that Riker looked so young. She was surprised to learn that this came after the rest of TNG. Perhaps not the single greatest decision the filmmakers ever made.

-So if the Ba'ku allegedly don't age on this planet, how old is Artim (Michael Welch) really? *mind blown*

-To follow up on that, why hasn't their population exploded in the three hundred years they've lived on this planet?

-Incidentally, the rebellion in 'Journey's End' was a precursor to the Maquis. So... are Picard and co. basically like the Maquis now? 'Cause that's clearly not where they wanted to go with this.

-I have serious questions about this holoship. Like, what the actual heck was the original purpose for this thing? And how does the Federation cloak it, or the researchers at the beginning, for that matter? I hate to break it to you, writers of Insurrection, but the Federation doesn't have cloaking technology.

-The reasons for Worf's presence were really flimsy. Essentially, they amounted to 'He just is, that's why, and you're going to accept it.' For those who aren't aware, his presence must be explained because he joined the cast of Deep Space Nine after Generations.

Quotes:

There are many funny lines in this film, but I hate them all because they make fun of the characters I love. So I'll just reproduce the only amusing line in the film that I enjoyed. And I don't think they meant for it to be funny.

Ru'afo: "AAAAAAAUUAUAUUAAAAAAAAEEEAUUUAGGGGHH!"*

*Approximation

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CoramDeo is fruity as a nutcake.

2 comments:

Billie Doux said...

CoramDeo, you have quite effectively reminded me why I kept putting off reviewing this movie. Thank you so much for doing it for me. :)

CoramDeo said...

I enjoy writing reviews of stuff I don't like every once in a while. It can be fun. The downside, of course, is that I had to watch this film in order to accomplish that. Oh well. At least it isn't Nemesis, which I'm looking forward to even less.