With two TV shows dominating the small screen, we now return to the big screen for the ninth entry in the film franchise, Star Trek: Insurrection. After the dark tone of First Contact, a lighter tone was chosen for this entry to keep things fun and familiar. And while some argue that this one just feels like “a big-budget episode” (it really does), alternating between light and dark tones has always been something of a recurring tactic for the Star Trek film franchise. Although maybe a more epic, purely cinematic feel would have helped this entry to stand out a bit more.
On a primitive planet where the Federation is observing the youthful Ba’ku people, Data (Brent Spiner) malfunctions and exposes their presence, violating the Prime Directive. Investigating what went wrong, Captain Picard (Patrick Stewart) discovers secret plans to move the Ba’ku people off their planet, and that a kind of radiation is what keeps the Ba’ku people young and with enhanced mental abilities. Meanwhile, the close-to-death Son’a people, in cohorts with a Starfleet Admiral, decide to carry out the removal, or if need be destruction, of the peaceful Ba’ku people to get their hands on this ability. But not before Captain Picard and his loyal Enterprise crew take up arms to protect and defend the Ba’ku.
After eight movies and over 500 episodes (so far), it can be difficult to come up with fresh ideas, and this movie is a perfect example. With a plot better suited to a two-part episode, it’s nothing more than a fight over the “Fountain of Youth” featuring the beautiful and innocent Ba’ku against the hideously-deformed and constantly-face-lifting-to-prolong-death Son’a. This movie is so run-of-the-mill and free of surprises that it makes it impossible to care about anything that happens. Not that it isn’t entertaining in a leave-your-brain-at-the-door kind of way. There are some funny moments, but they’re fleeting. Watching them make another excuse to get Worf (Michael Dorn) involved (because he was still on Deep Space Nine at the time) is somewhat amusing but also somewhat eye-rolling because you know it’s really just an excuse. But at least he gets a Klingon pimple, which, as expected, is freaking hilarious.
On the plus side, the acting and directing remain top-notch, with high praise especially given to Patrick Stewart’s acting and Jonathan Frakes’ directing (and acting of course). In fact, everyone from The Next Generation gets at least a few moments to shine. In a two-hour movie featuring nearly a dozen central characters, development usually suffers to keep the plot moving forward, which this movie does at a brisk pace. While it is low on action for a good chunk of it, when things heat up, it’s pure Star Trek. Especially the scenes in space with the Enterprise, which this movie could have used a bit more of. But one thing I was especially glad about was seeing Riker and Deanna (Marina Sirtis) finally giving in to their feelings for one another. Watching them flirt back-and-forth through seven seasons of the show was fun but fell very much into the will-they-won’t-they cliché. So it was nice to see that they finally – FINALLY! – got together for realsies.
Insurrection is not a great movie, nor is it a terrible one. It remains distinctly average from beginning to end, and that unfortunately makes it forgettable the second it’s over. It’s a joyful little adventure for the Enterprise-E crew; nothing more. After joining forces with Captain Kirk in Generations, and then facing off against the Borg while being witness to an important historical event in First Contact, Insurrection feels like it’s turning back the clock, reverting to its small screen habits while forgetting that it’s on the big screen now. It’s not that it’s not enjoyable, but it could have and should have been so much more.
3 out of 5