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Star Trek: Insurrection

Review by Justin Felix

Written by Rick Berman and Michael Piller.
Directed by Jonathan Frakes.
Starring Patrick Stewart, Jonathan Frakes, Brent Spiner, F. Murray Abraham.
Rated PG (contains violence and mild profanity) 102 mins.

Synopsis: Captain Picard and the crew of the starship Enterprise disobey Federation orders and defend a peaceful community of 600, the Ba'ku, from the evil Admiral Dougherty and Ru'afro. The Enterprise crew, in the meantime, experience the rejuvenating qualities of the Ba'ku homeworld: Lt. Worf grows a pimple, Data sings opera pieces, Picard scores with a Ba'ku chick, Riker shaves while sharing a bubblebath with Troi, and the Enterprise women note their firmer breasts.

Comments: "Star Trek: the Next Generation" was a hugely successful sequel TV series to "Star Trek," a science fiction series which developed a devoted fan following in the 1970s. Even though it still enjoyed high ratings, "Star Trek: the Next Generation" ended production after seven years so that the cast could replace the original "Star Trek"'s cast in Paramount's film franchise centering on the voyages of the starship Enterprise.

Star Trek: Insurrection is the ninth "Star Trek" movie and the third to focus on the "Star Trek: The Next Generation" crew. Star Trek: Insurrection qualifies as one of those movies Star Trek fans, such as myself, would rate somewhere between "okay" and "good." After Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, a nearly awful movie almost as bad as the repugnant "Star Trek: Voyager" TV series, "Star Trek" fans could probably swallow anything Paramount throws out in the Trek film franchise. I don't wish to spend this review comparing Insurrection to the eight other Trek movies. Most people reading this probably haven't followed "Star Trek" anyway, so a comparison would seem tedious at best. Let me, thus, make my comparisons briefly so that it's out of my system: Star Trek: Insurrection is not as good as the previous installment, Star Trek: First Contact; Star Trek: Insurrection's comic tone may be best compared to Star Trek IV:The Voyage Home; Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan is still the best Trek movie.

Okay. Let's move to the movie itself. Star Trek: Insurrection infuses a basic science fiction premise, humanity's exploration and colonization of space, with a lot of lowbrow humor and witty oneliners. This combination works well more often than it fails, but when it does fail, the humor really seems cheesy. Much of this film appeals to Trek fans' nostalgic fondness for the starship Enterprise's crew. Audiences unfamiliar with Trek lore may miss the significance of some plot points and may even become confused at times.

Star Trek: Insurrection begins with scenes of the tranquil life on the Ba'ku homeworld. Forget the actors and special effects, the beautiful setting of this movie, with its snowy mountaintops and verdant valleys, steals the show. This tranquility, however, is broken by Data, an android, who reveals to the Ba'ku that they are being secretly monitored by the Federation and their alien allies, the Son'a. It seems that this world is a veritable fountain of youth, sustaining its inhabitants indefinantly in a young, healthy state. The Enterprise crew, led by Captain Picard, investigates Data's actions and uncovers a conspiracy between the Son'a and an Enterprise admiral to relocate the Ba'ku and plunder the planet's youth-restoring properties. Sound pretty heavy? It is, though this plot, anything but unique and groundbreaking, is undermined by the film's constant barrage of humor. When going after Data, for instance, Picard sings an opera piece with him (this is supposed to be cute and humorous). In a much more funny sequence, Work grows a large pimple on the side of his nose as a result of his exposure to the Ba'ku homeworld, a pimple which his crewmates, try as they might, cannot avoid looking at.

The acting in Star Trek: Insurrection is, for the most part, pretty good. Since they've been playing these characters for years, those portraying the Enterprise crew reassume their roles effortlessly enough. The terrific actor Patrick Stewart plays Captain Jean-Luc Picard and delivers a moral speech, Picard's trademark, with his usual aplomb. Brent Spiner, another fine actor, plays the android Data well enough again and provides the best moments of comic relief in the film (though the old android-wishing-to-be-human motif will tire some Trek fans familiar with the routine from the TV series). The supporting cast who appear in this movie alone are also pretty good. Despite many other critics' negative opinions, F. Murray Abraham (the winner of an Academy Award for his performance in Amadeus) plays the major villain Ru'afro well enough. Ru'afro reminds me, somewhat, of the Baron Harkonnen in the 1984 film version of Dune. Like the Baron, Ru'afro continuously has his skin looked after: it is stretched and stapled by servants. In one particularly memorable scene, Ru'afro becomes very agitated, and his facial skin splits open and bleeds. Ru'afro is no Khan from Star Trek II--the best Trek villain ever--but he is much better than the forgettable Dr. Soran from . (Okay, I promise, no more comparisons.) Donna Murphy must also be noted as a Ba'ku woman, Anij, who Picard falls in love with. Murphy is not a young woman with a supermodel body; she is a mature woman with an attractive countenance. This is the type of woman whom Picard, for those who know the character well, would be enchanted with. In fact, the chemistry between Murphy and Stewart works very well here. A particular plot point involving Anij's ability to slow time down, an ability which she shares with Picard, becomes one of the most intriguing parts of the movie.

For as good as the actors and setting were, Star Trek: Insurrection's special effects were surprisingly disappointing. They proved adequate, sometimes barely, for a 1990s mainstream science fiction film, but they fell way short of the standard Trek movie and paled in comparison to those seen in the trailer for Star Wars: The Phantom menace (a trailer which reportedly preceded many showings of Insurrection). The space battles involving the Enterprise and Sona ships, in particular, seemed trite and unsuspenseful, and the final confrontation between Picard and Ru'afro took place on a completely unconvincing interior of a satellite. The new Enterprise itself, only seen in this film and its predecessor, remains largely unexplored, though its exterior doesn't look quite right for a reason I cannot explain.

Despite Star Trek: Insurrection's frequent comic goofiness and occasional substandard special effects, I enjoyed the film. It maintains Roddenberry's largely optimistic view of the future and rejects the gritty violence of its predecessors, particularly (though, don't get me wrong, the dark tones of Trek films like First Contact can work very successfully). I'd recommend Insurrection as a matinee film for a Saturday afternoon, especially for fans of Trek or science fiction in general. Rated PG, I can't see this film being objectionable to the viewing audience, young or old.


(Out of five)

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