REVIEW: Insurrection: Trek slips to a new low

Warning: This review contains major plot spoilers.

For a brief moment at the beginning of Star Trek: Insurrection, I thought the movie was going to be magical. It seemed so different than previous Star Trek movies. Even the opening theme by Jerry Goldsmith was not yet another recycled track from his work on Star Trek: The Motion Picture. Unfortunately, the soundtrack would turn out be one of the film’s only real virtues.

We see the Ba’ku, a seemingly primitive race of 600 who live an idyllic life and are being secretly observed by the Federation. Secretly, that is, until Data—and the film—begin to malfunction. The android (Brent Spiner) rips off his personal cloaking device and slowly becomes visible to the shocked Ba’ku.

The audience is shocked, too, as they watch some of the worst blue screen effects since Star Trek V: The Final Frontier in the form of Data’s head bobbing around in mid-air until the rest of his body is de-cloaked.

It turns out that the Federation, for some reason never adequately explained beyond a misguided attempt to recruit more members, has teamed up with an evil race known as the So’na. The So’na have developed a way to harness the youth-giving properties of the Ba’ku’s planet, located in Federation space. Since harnessing those properties will make the planet uninhabitable, the Federation and the So’na decide to move the Ba’ku elsewhere. Prime Directive? What’s that?

Fortunately, Picard (Patrick Stewart) discovers all of this and intervenes on behalf of the Ba’ku. Picard’s morals versus an apparently corrupt Federation could have made for a very intriguing story. Instead of using that concept to its fullest extent, Insurrection makes the fatal error of relying on lame joke after lame joke at the expense of the characters.

One of the lessons of Star Trek V was that the main characters should never sing in a Star Trek movie, but the makers of Insurrection apparently did not learn from history. In one of the movie’s many horrible scenes, Picard and Worf (Michael Dorn) sing a duet on a shuttle—including a bouncing karaoke ball over the lyrics so that Worf can follow along. Then, the still malfunctioning Data joins in on the little sing-along aboard his stolen ship. Yes, this movie is that bad.

Oh yeah, and then Worf grows a zit. A really big one. Isn’t that funny? Isn’t that what you were always hoping to see in a new Star Trek movie?

It is a close race against Picard, but Data probably gets the worst treatment in this movie—including one of his worst moments ever: “In the event of a water landing, I have been designed to serve as a flotation device,” he says, and then inflates himself. Must’ve been all those marshmellons?

Worf is also sacrificed for the sake of so-called comedy. Not only does he get the zit jokes, but he also oversleeps and gets to bump his head on his bunk when Picard calls him from the bridge to tease him for running late.

Doctor Crusher (Gates McFadden) gets a fair amount of screen time, but she is usually just…there. Kind of like the last two movies. She does prove to be a pretty good shot with a phaser rifle, though.

As if the television series’ dress uniforms weren’t bad enough, the crew gets new ones this time out that make them look like waiters dressed all in white. Or perhaps they are auditioning to be the new crew of Love Boat: The Next Generation in case this Star Trek stuff doesn’t work out.

The scene gets even “better” when a member of the alien race they are greeting places a strange headdress on Picard’s head. I suppose this was for laughs, too. Picard certainly looks funny with someone’s dreadlocks draped over his head.

The audience is later subjected to Picard dancing to a salsa in his quarters. In the entire history of watching Star Trek and other other science fiction movies, this was the first time I actually considered leaving in the middle of one. I stayed with the old hope they were saving the good stuff for the end.

This is the first Trek film since 1989’s Star Trek V not to use George Lucas’ Industrial Light & Magic (ILM) for the special effects. In fact, as of 1998, Star Trek V and Star Trek: The Motion Picture are the only two Trek movies besides this one not to use ILM. The reasoning this time out was that ILM’s “A” team was busy working on Star Wars: Episode I, so rather than use ILM’s “B” team, the decision was made to go with another company. Bad idea.

In any event, sometimes Insurrection‘s effects are adequate. Other times they are painfully bad. I miss the mix of using both computer generated and physical models from First Contact and Generations.

Insurrection‘s CGI-only version of the Enterprise-E leaves much to be desired. ILM’s Enterprise-E also contained far more surface detail than the often cartoon-like version used in Insurrection.

Even the worst Trek movies have some redeeming value and Insurrection is no exception. The romantic Imzadi moments between Will (Jonathan Frakes) and Deanna (Marina Sirtis) are handled perfectly. Surprisingly, Worf even offers keen insight on Will’s feelings about Deanna. If only those Imzadi moments could have been in another film rather than being wasted in this one.

Another nice moment is Geordi (Levar Burton) getting real sight, due to the effects of the planet. Tears are brought to his eyes as he watches his first real sunrise. It is in brief moments like these that Insurrection works.

To his credit, Patrick Stewart actually does a great job of handling such a weak script. Picard, like Kirk, is a captain who will not back down on his principles to anyone, including the Federation Council. Through Stewart’s performance, one can see how this movie could have been terrific if only a better script had been penned (for starters). Instead, we get zits, flotation devices, and singing.

Riker takes command of the Enterprise once again in this movie, while Picard is busy leading his rebellion against the Federation on the planet. There is an odd battle scene where the Enterprise is fired upon and retreats into a nebula, never really bothering to fire back.

Riker apparently has forgotten that the Enterprise is armed with phasers, photon torpedoes, and quantum torpedoes. I had a lot of respect for Riker on the television series, but his battle strategies in Generations and now Insurrection against inferior enemies leave much to be desired.

Anyway, after ejecting the warp core and unspectacularly defeating one of its pursuers, the Enterprise limps back to the planet just in time to save Picard. A happy ending for all.
I was just happy the movie was finally over.

Story: 1 (out of 10)
Performances: 2
Visual Style: 0
Effects: 0
Music: 9
Overall: 2