PG! We went back to PG territory! I can't believe it. Even with face-stretching technology and all the blood and goop that comes out of people's faces, we still get PG. I'm proud of Star Trek. Good for you. Oh, Riker and Troi take a bath together. That probably isn't too PG. Regardless, PG.
DIRECTOR: Jonathan Frakes
I got past the good Star Trek movies. I told myself that I didn't have to watch this one on the nice TV in the living room. I kept delaying watching some of the Star Trek movies until I could watch them on the nice TV. But my wife decided to shop for home decoration stuff and just...disappeared for a while, so I got to watch this one on the nice TV. Star Trek: Insurrection, for die hard Star Trek fans, should be the one that they all talk about. It should be exactly what all the other Star Trek movies aren't. Instead, it kind of just...sucks?
In terms of formula, Star Trek: Insurrection checks all the boxes of things that real Star Trek is all about. There's a line in the movie where Picard remembers that they all used to be explorers. Insurrection is a tale of the Enterprise on a normal day of being Starfleet officers. There's no event going on here. The Borg aren't attacking. Rather, and I'm Texas Sharpshootering here, the Enterprise encounters a planet that has a complex moral structure that needs to be addressed. If ever there was a Next Generation episode, that's it. Star Trek: Insurrection nails the tone of the TV show like I've not seen the movies do. That was always my complaint about the Star Trek films. As watchable as they are, they kind of miss the point about Star Trek. It's about moral situations, not action setpieces. Maybe Insurrection isn't very good because it is too afraid of being what it is, a normal episode. As much as the set and actors look like television carryovers, the film still has an archvillain and Old Man Picard still needs to be the one to fight bad guys. Look at The Next Generation. How many times did Picard have to do stunts? There are times, sure. But his stunts are fairly minor. Between First Contact and Insurrection, he finds himself in the position of manning a rifle and taking down the big bad himself lots of times. Isn't that Worf work? I mean, you go out of your way to bring Worf onto the ship. I'm not even sure what Worf is doing there. Is he part of that weird unnecessary delegation at the beginning of the movie? Worf isn't that guy in the show...ever. The odds that he would find himself on the Enterprise is absolutely silly. But if he's there, he should be used correctly. But as much as fans love Worf, he's not the protagonist. Honestly, making Picard this action hero might completely change his character. Okay, I love being dramatic because I don't think Picard has ever been Picardier than in Insurrection. But it also makes some of his choices silly. Up to this point, he's never been the most hands on in terms of away missions. Kirk was always beaming down to planets and playing slugfest with whatever monster of the week decided to take him on. Picard always let Worf do that. Also, what is the scenario that really plays out when Picard takes the Captain's Yacht down to the planet? Is the Enterprise just supposed to pretend that they accidentally left their captain behind? It's not really a noble gesture if the crew has to claim mutiny or disobedience to save them.
Some of the elements of Insurrection are brilliant. Honestly, if it wasn't for the conspiracy and the bad guy, Star Trek: Insurrection would be an excellent piece of fan service. I have to use "fan service" as a positive term, in this case, because none of Insurrection is really meant for a general audience. It's born and bred Star Trek. You can't just jump in and say "You know what? I get what the Trekkies like about their series." I'm going to gripe about the bad elements pretty soon, so if you can just hold on for a second, I will get there. But there's something really enjoyable about seeing younger versions of these cast members. The movie never really follows through on this concept. I know that there was that one episode where Picard turned into a kid. I'm not talking about that. Picard playing samba is adorable, thinking that adolescent Jean-Luc was into some really dorky stuff under the misinterpretation that kind of music is cool. (Picard never really had edge, did he? I know that he stood up for people and got stabbed in the heart for it, but he was never like Ripper was to Giles, was he?) There are these fun moments like Worf's Klingon puberty that's pretty entertaining. Before I go deeper, Worf's puberty really could have really embraced the concept. I'm thinking of Spock's pon farr and how intense that was. It's weird to think that Klingons had it easier than Vulcans. The movie kept on telling us that Klingons had a pretty intense puberty, but we just got some really minor stuff happening in the movie. This kind of leads to Riker and Troi being "younger." With Frakes behind the director's chair, seeing Riker always get this charming version of himself is odd. Both movies where Frakes is in charge, he never really has to have this gravitas about him. It actually kind of makes him look like a perv in this one. He's very aggressive with Troi, with whom he had a relationship. There's a justification that I can make about his actions which is kind of nonsense. The entire movie is about choices that we would have made when we were younger. It's odd, because intellectually, everyone is still the same. Geordi isn't flying off the handle. Picard just likes his dumb samba music. But Riker is aggressively going after Troi. Troi massages his neck and he just welcomes himself back into her life. I have to believe that the producers of the films knew that Nemesis was going to be the last film and that they wanted to give some kind of resolution to the whole Riker / Troi thing. It's actually weird to think that Worf had a thing with Troi as well. Okay, I need to stop because I'm really dancing around the big moment that I enjoy. I love Geordi's vision. It's a small moment in the film and it probably could have been done better. But the concept of Geordi as blind is such a heavy thing in the show that the story never really tried to fix. (Unless I'm forgetting.) Having this be an unexpected element to this aging story is absolutely perfect. Geordi is the litmus test for what this Federation conspiracy would offer. It is secretly what he has always wanted. (It's odd to think that Geordi is the character that fights for Data's dream, but never really pursues his own.) It's a nice touch.
But then that leaves the rest of the film. I don't hate the Data learning to be a child element. It feels very episodic for Data, like you would see on an episode. But like episodes, there really is no vibe that this is helping him progress as a character. I don't know why the films are obsessed with corrupting the Federation. We first see it in my favorite Star Trek, The Undiscovered Country. It's a small part of that and it really grounds the Federation. But Insurrection points to this mass corruption. It's not individuals who are at fault. It's the Federation as a whole. Also, this isn't something that should be able to be undone. The Federation were violating the Prime Directive. I know that they didn't think of it that way. But this wasn't Admiral Dougherty and his secret cabal. He tells Picard that this is something that all of the higher ups were aware of. The big moment in the story is whether or not to stick with the Federation or mutiny against a greater evil. There has to be a consequence for this action. There should be no more Star Trek after this moment. When that door is opened, there needs to be...something. Instead, the movie really packs it all back into the status quo after this. Picard and the crew of the Enterprise are branded good guys for stopping Dougherty and Ru'afo. That's...not what the film told me. The Federation was going to investigate this? They were going to investigate...themselves? This also kind of leads into a clunky theme / moral of the story. Star Trek, at its best, is a morality tale. Often, the episodes acted as allegories for issues going on at the time. We saw this pretty clearly during the Roddenberry eras of Star Trek. Tackling civil rights was priority one. However, later Star Trek, Insurrection in particular, does some pretty safe moralizing. Instead of saying anything dangerous or controversial, the film moralizes about forced migration. I acknowledge that the message that they are espousing is an important one. What America did to the Native Americans was a crime and one of many stains on our records. But what is this movie encouraging us to do with this information? Are we supposed to fight against a forced migration happening in 1998? It's a feel good piece about how we are better than we used to be. That's not exactly challenging. It's just feel goodery.
I don't really care about the bad guys in this movie. The Baku (I think I got the right group) are really boring aliens. Like, really boring. The Baku and the Sona being the same culture is even worse. It doesn't really change the story that much. If anything, it makes the Sona look kind of bad. They don't really miss their children. They don't recognize them when they get back. It is also really weird that everyone got together and wanted to plan a war against the Sona as revenge. (I really apologize if I got the races wrong. I don't feel like looking it up and I'm writing against the clock.) It's a bizarre choice. The movie really lacks the complexity of a lot of the other Star Trek films, so it almost injects these moments that really no one cares about. But this also brings me to the Sona. The Sona are an intriguing people to Picard. He falls in love with Donna Murphy's Anij, but this also has the "girl-of-the-film" feel to it. Anij, despite potentially being the love of Picard's life, has very little in common with him. I know, Picard once lived a whole other life as a farmer with a recorder and the Sona may call back to that simple lifestyle. But Riker and Troi rekindled their relationships. Why is Crusher so ignored in this film? I honestly feel bad for Gates McFadden. A lot of the Enterprise crew has some kind of subplot that's pretty satisfying. Yeah, Crusher has one of the funnier lines in the movie, but she almost had a relationship with Picard. If the movie went out of their way to fan service Riker and Troi, why not do the same for Picard and Crusher? It's staring them in the face and we're all supposed to ignore it. It's the same thing with Carol Marcus v. Antonia. What it does for Picard is allow him to interact with Anij and bring in these ho-hum pretty visuals. Magic woman is fun to play around with and adds to the mystical aesthetic of this planet. Anij might represent a lot of what is wrong with this movie. This has nothing to do with Donna Murphy. It actually doesn't have a lot to do with her character. But Anij is supposed to be something mystical. She has an insight into reality that intrigues and mystifies Picard. This whole planet is kind of supposed to be Pandora from Avatar. (I hated Avatar...kind of.) It is supposed to be lush and rich and deep with secrets and the OH-MY-GOSH! Insurrection is just another Ferngully / Last Samurai / Dances with Wolves / Avatar. It is supposed to be this rich culture that is being exploited and that the people who were once members of the invading party have to change sides. BOO! Oh, I hate this movie more than ever now. I knew that there was something holding me back from liking this movie.
I would rewrite everything. I can't stand this storyline. It's been done too many times. I can't stand the White Savior rebellion story. It's sooooooo boring. It's been done and it's not even done well this time. Oh man, I take it back. Insurrection is not even slightly okay. I even want to like the Gilbert & Sullivan stuff. The only reason I liked this movie is because it had characters I liked in it. I can't believe that I had an almost therapy experience with this movie. Someone couldn't have told me that it was just Avatar again? Geez Louise. I'm going to watch this movie again next decade or something. But man alive, this movie is undercooked. My entire last paragraph was about how the movie just takes shortcuts and feels cheap, but that's because it is cheap. It is a bad version of a bad movie. What does that say? Man, and now I have to go into Nemesis, my least favorite Star Trek film. Gah...
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.