If you’re a Trekkie, serious or casual, you’ll most likely know about the curse of the odd-numbered Star Trek films. But, for those of you who don’t, here’s a quick rundown of the movies. Number one was overly long. Number two is the best of the films featuring the original crew. Number three, was there a number three? Number four was a light-hearted and fun adventure. Number five, well, what can I say? William Shatner directed it. Number six was exciting. Number seven suffered because of Kirk and a mediocre story. Number eight, First Contact, is the best of the series - there’s no beating the Borg as an enemy. Now, we have number nine - will it suffer the wrath of the odd-number?
Unlike First Contact, Insurrection is more light-hearted. The film reminded me a lot of The Voyage Home (IV) because it doesn’t take itself too seriously. There are quite a few laughs in this film; I would say a few too many. This veers the film from light-hearted to campy.
Insurrection opens with Lt. Commander Data (Brent Spiner) on a field study of the Ba’ku, a Luddite-like culture. Data goes berserk and takes hostages. The Enterprise is called to come get Data before he is put out of commission. When the Enterprise arrives, a series of events thickens the plot. We find out that the Federation has made new partners with the Son’a and are studying the Ba’ku. The Son’a have ulterior motives for the study, though.
It seems that the planet the Ba’ku inhabit is surrounded by rings of a substance that continuously regenerates the cells of living organisms. This substance is of interest to the leader of the Son’a, Ru’afo (F. Murray Abraham), and is seen by Admiral Dougherty (Anthony Zerbe) as a saviour for the Federation. What could be better than the eternal life provided by the rings of the Ba’ku planet?
What Captain Picard (Patrick Stewart) finds is a ring of conspiracy within the Son’a/Federation partnership. He finds that the partnership is in violation of the Prime Directive (the Federation cannot interfere with technologically limited civilizations).
The main theme of Insurrection is so obvious that unless you’re brain dead, it’ll hit you like a two-by-four between the eyes. It’s obvious from the first twenty minutes that the writers are drawing parallels to the Europeans invading North America and ridding the land of the Native Americans.
One fun thing about going to a Star Trek film on opening night is the atmosphere of the crowd. The Star Trek crowd is different than all others. There is a loose Trekkie bond between people who don’t know each other. While waiting, my friend Aaron and I talked to some beer-drinking Trekkies about different cameos in the different films (Christian Slater, Kirstie Alley, Kelsey Grammer, Christopher Lloyd) and in front of us was a guy dressed as Riker. There’s nothing like going to a Star Trek film on opening night.
As for the film itself, I thought it was a bit too campy. It was an entertaining film, but there were a few flaws. First, and foremost, there was too much comedy in the film. I like to laugh, but Insurrection felt more like a comedy than a Star Trek film. From Worf’s puberty to Riker and Troi running around like horny teenagers, this film just felt weird. Second, the special effects were awful - a full step behind those of First Contact. The new Enterprise looked like a cheezy model bought from a discount store - as did most of the ships in the film. I’m not sure if the production ran out of money for special effects or what, but they were not up to par with those presented in First Contact. And last, the plot felt like an overly long version of a TV episode.
The two good things about the film were director Jonathon Frakes and music composer Jerry Goldsmith. Frakes is able to keep the film moving at a brisk pace and Goldsmith is able to integrate the score into the film seamlessly. Goldsmith is one of the hardest working composers in Hollywood and I’m always delighted to hear his work.
The best performer in the film is Stewart. As always Stewart is a joy to see onscreen because he never fails to entertain. Kudos to Stewart for a great performance in Insurrection. Also kudos to Brent Spiner for another funny performance as Lt. Commander Data. Spiner gets some of the best moments of the film and he juices each and every one of them for its full entertainment value. F. Murray Abraham’s Ru’afo is one of the less memorable bad guys in the Star Trek series. He doesn’t even come close to Ricardo Montalban as Kahn in The Wrath of Khan.
All in all, Insurrection is not a bad film, but it still does suffer a little from the curse of being an odd-numbered film. I was fairly entertained by the end of the film, but not as much as I was after seeing First Contact. Though, I admit it is a hard task to follow up a brilliant film like First Contact. Catch Insurrection at matinee or on video.
Edited by Cher Johnson.