Hach =)One of my favorite scenes :D
[5.4/10] What I remembered about Star Trek: Insurrection from watching it as a kid was that it felt like an oversized episode of the T.V. show. And I was right! The stakes are minimal. The visuals are a gussied up version of the kind you’d find on any garden variety Star Trek series. And everything about the movie, from the disposable romance to corruptible admiral, carries the trappings of a standard, planet of the week adventure.
But what I don’t think I appreciated while still in elementary school is how actively dumb this movie is. The villains do everything but twirl their mustaches with their over the top evilness. Picard in particular guesses or announces important pieces of exposition like he read the script before beaming down. And the third act is one big yawn-inducing jumble of weightless developments, stacked on top of a nonsensical, bargain basement moral dilemma.
The gist of Insurrection is a “How could we corrupt paradise?” story. When Data runs amok as part of an observation mission, the Enterprise goes to investigate and discovers an ethically dubious Federation plot. They find that Starfleet is partnering with a reprehensible species called the Son’a to displace to local population of six-hundred people called the Ba’ku, who live on an isolated planet. The planet has a rejuvenating effect on its inhabitants, which the Federation-Son’a alliance wants to bottle and export. Picard, who takes a shine to one local in particular, won’t stand for it and helps stage the titular rebellion to keep these people, and their idyllic way of life, safe from the mercenary impulses of their hidden adversaries and his own superiors.
The problem is that the moral bind the movie wants to establish is nonsense. As another, Star Trek movie once put it, the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few. Picard does a whole heap of grandstanding about how it’s never okay to displace people no matter the reason, and the methods the Federation and the Son’a use are assuredly questionable. But the other side of the coin is that the movie depicts the magic radiation on this planet as literally allowing the blind to see, granting people massive extensions of their lives, if not outright eternal youth. Denying those life-saving benefits to the rest of the universe -- to the sick, the aged, and the dying -- to protect a few hundred people’s territorial rights, is the real moral failing.
Granted, this isn’t the first time Star Trek has fallen on the side of individual rights superseding the greater good. And what’s more, there’s an argument that there may be a less invasive way to export this miracle cure, but that an impatient Son’a and a diminished Federation are rushing ahead for selfish reasons. But Insurrection anchors itself so firmly on the notion six-hundred people’s right to their idyllic homes outweighs the prospect of billions of people receiving life-saving treatments that it makes it hard to take our heroes’ crusade seriously or feel like they’re truly on the side of justice.
Insurrection tries to make its audience forget about that by framing the Son’a as the evilest evildoers to ever evil, and by casting the Ba’ku as the most decent, innocent people in the galaxy, to the point of utter kitsch. The Son’a undergo disturbing plastic surgery routines to the point of looking grotesque. Counselor Troi reads on the Starfleet equivalent of the Son’a’s Wikipedia page that they conquered other species and turned them into a “labor class.” They use “subspace weapons” that were banned under other treaties. And in general, they snarl and shout and have dialogue that practically phaser-blasts the audience in the face with the point that they’re the bad guys.
By contrast, the Ba’ku are gentle space hippies living in paradise. They were once highly-sophisticated interstellar explorers themselves, but have since forsworn technology to live a pastoral life. Despite an unassuming luddite streak in the franchise that runs all the way back to the 1960s series, it’s an odd thing to have an aspirational futurist series like Star Trek depict so fawningly.
But apart from the take-it-or-leave-it values at play, there’s something so cheesy about their depiction of wanting a “slowed down” life on their remote planet. At best, it comes off like the platitudes of writers in Southern California who just got back from their first Wellness Retreat, and at worst, there’s a whiff of uncomfortable “noble native” tropes at play. Some of this wouldn’t be so bad, however, if the film didn’t bend over backwards to position the Ba’ku as flaxen-haired peaceniks living out Walden and their adversaries as disgusting-looking dastards corrupted by the desire for more and more.
It’s a shame, because despite the hokey “heroes vs. villains” dichotomy, Insurrection grazes a handful of intriguing ideas and motivations in this stand-off. The film actually builds on the continuity of the franchise in a meaningful way, suggesting that after punishing altercations with the Borg, the Cardassians, and the Dominion, the Federation is depleted and a little more desperate, and a little more willing to sacrifice is principles to maintain its status. The notion of a high-minded society making partners with governments that don’t share its values because of a mutual need for resources is one still as potent today as it was in 1998.
And while the film’s metaphors feel either too on the nose or too muddled, there’s resonance in notions of vanity or anxiety of diminished power leading supposedly enlightened peoples to make deals with the devil, regardless of the harms. The force of those ideas is just lost in a contrived, miscalibrated conflict and profoundly stupid movie.
Say what you will about the movie’s eye-roll of an ethical dilemma, but it’s at least the part of the film that seems true to Star Trek’s philosophical ethos. The rest of Insurrection offers nothing more but cheap, unappealing action, the weakest attempts at humor this side of a fifth grade talent show, and a version of Captain Picard who’s all but unrecognizable.
To be clear, I think the “movie Picard” vs. “T.V. show Picard” disgruntlement among the fandom is overblown. But if you lined up for Insurrection in the hopes of seeing the sharp, dignified, problem-solving officer from The Next Generation, you were instead subject to a generic freedom fighter, a tepid romantic lead, and a campy action star. Rest assured, however much Patrick Stewart himself may have lobbied for those changes, the results are a waste of his considerable talents.
The worst facet of that is how much time Picard, and by extension the movie, wastes on a warmed over romance. Picard ends up falling in love with Anij, one of the Ba’ku, for no apparent reason beyond that the script needs them to. There’s the hint of Picard being attracted to someone who is versed in the ways of the world and its technological advances, but who has set them aside in pursuit of a “slower” life. But setting aside the half-baked manic pixie dream girl shtick that implies, their scenes together do nothing but try the audience’s patience. The flirty dialogue the pair are saddles with is utterly execrable; their chemistry is nonexistent, and the film’s effort to underscore a connection based on a “live in this moment” philosophy comes off as more “I just read a pamphlet on Wellness” hokum.
It’s a cornball approach that infects everything else in the rest of the film. The regular cast, outside of Stewart, is mainly reduced to accessories or comic relief. Data is the only one among them who can be said to have an arc -- another overwritten interlude about him learning the joys of childhood -- while the rest, at best, get moments.
Geordi damn near steals the show with an emotional reaction to seeing a sunset with his own eyes for the first time. Worf is reduced to a series of lame gags about Klingon puberty. Riker and Troi rekindle their romance in a series of pointless scenes with only the faintest connection to the themes of the movie. And Dr. Crusher...uh...shoots a few drones? I guess?
There’s not space to do any more with these characters with so much time given to mild action and lame attempts at comedy. While there was a wry humor often at play on the TNG television show, in Insurrection, the comic bits devolve into the broadest routines where Data turns himself into a floatation device, or Picard needles his 300-year-old love interest by telling her that he has a thing for “older women”, or Data mistakenly tries to imitate his human crewmates by telling Worf that the planet makes his “boobs firm up.” Whether it’s studio interference or writer and former showrunner Michael Piller just having lost a step, the jokes in Insurrection scrape the very bottom of the barrel.
Most of the humor is cast aside when the third act hits, and Insurrection morphs into a paint-by-numbers, substandard actioner. The 1998 release is the first Star Trek movie to feature near-exclusively CGI ships and effects, and the results are dull and not ready for primetime. While the “briar patch” and ringed planet that create the magical healing energy have a cool look to them, most of the fireworks in the film are utterly pedestrian. That’s a puzzling development given how Insurrection brings back the same director/cinematographer duo from the visually arresting First Contact.
But even if the visuals were better, it would only be in service of a desultory final reel where Picard has to blow up this and that, or shoot at this other thing, or heroically save his love interest from an uninteresting big bad. The script does have a touch of cleverness, when Picard’s solution in the third act builds on his method for wrangling Data in the first act, and simulations and deceptions the audience saw in action in the second. But from there it’s the usual flavorless explosions and fisticuffs, unsuited to the tone of the show from whence this movie came, and managing to render F. Murray Abraham dramatically inert, an unfortunate feat in and of itself.
A late-breaking reveal that the Son’a and the Ba’ku are the same species does nothing but weaken the film’s already thudding points. Insurrection does end on a laudable “You can go home” note. But the twist that these dastardly villains were once members of the Ba’ku hippie commune who simply wanted to go see what the rest of the galaxy had to offer rather than stay in paradise, contributes to the same odd sense that the film’s themes run contrary to the explorer-admiring, hope-in-the-stars ethos of the franchise.
To some degree, Insurrection is about aging (as, apparently, all Trek films must be after a while). It features decaying villains desperate to be rejuvenated and a depleted federation that, as explicated in the dialogue, does not want to become “old.” But it’s also about an aging franchise, running out of cinematic tricks, with a nearly sixty-year-old star still poised to have sappy teenage romances and dangle perilously from ledges. The film means to point to its own methods to stay fresh and vital, with an “in-the-moment” theme as shallow as it is trite. But as Insurrection and the next film in the franchise would prove, if your franchise can’t grow old gracefully, maybe it’s better to just go away.
Best Star Trek movie. Seeing it after horrible First Contact felt like a blessing.
Let's hope that TNG is better than TOS. I only watched "Encounter at Farpoint" and yeah it's good so far.
Seems like Hollywood was evolving in the late 90s. This one is faaar more actiony, especially in the second half (Worf with a 24th century Bazooka, I mean WTF!!). But what can I say.. I like it, a lot. The crew acting as rebels to defend their belief – I wouldn't have expected this. They ignored commands in the past too, but this is a few stages above what we were used to.
I liked the eighth movie the most until now but this one is also superb, in its own way.
This movie boring asf I can't believe they made this and not a DS9 movie
This one has a terrible script/plot. What a shame.
A good story, great FX and no embarrassing dialogs. If that annoyed you in the 80s star trek movies, this one is for you...
Despite the fact that this has some rather embarrassing scenes (Data floating, manual control column f.e.) this is my personal favorite TNG movie. The story, or should I say the underlying message, is absolutely Star Trek. The scenery looks amazing, sets too. I think it could have benefitted from more running time to get a little bit more out of it.
As the last two "Star Trek" movies, this is a good and entertaining watch.