Star Trek: Insurrection (1998)
October 5, 2014 3:14 AM - Subscribe

When the crew of the Enterprise learn of a Federation conspiracy against the inhabitants of a unique planet, Captain Picard begins an open rebellion.

It is sometimes said of Star Trek: Insurrection that the more times you watch it, the more you appreciate it. I disagree. I watched it again last night, and repeated viewing have seen it diminish in my eyes from "this would have been a decent episode of the TV series" to "So. Many. Plot holes."

The best Star Trek movies have had something to say. Take Star Trek IV, which dealt with environmental issues. Or Star Trek VI, which told a poignant Cold War allegory. Star Trek: Insurrection tries valiantly to say something... but what it's trying to say takes so many sentences. It's a comment on ageing. It's a comment on plastic surgery. It's a comment on technology vs a 'natural' life. It's a comment on Star Trek and its ideals itself. All interesting concepts. But they ultimately muddy the waters and make it lose focus.

And there's so many plot holes that it stretches disbelief sometimes. Like;

How could Starfleet have conducted a covert mission in partnership with the Son'a for so long without once even realising that they were related to the Baku?

How did Data, Worf et al manage to program a perfect holo-recreation of the Sona'a ship during the climax (we know from other Trek series that it takes A LOT of time to program a simulation). Especially given they hadn't even seen what it looked like before?

The Baku planet is in Federation space, except the Federation thought the Baku were pre-warp, so unless the Federation is in the business of claiming dominion over pre-warp planet space, which is very chilling, this makes zero sense.

And little things like a Lieutenant thinking she can order Lt.Commander Data to do anything. Troi saying she never kissed Riker with a beard before (except she did in a TNG episode called Meange A Troi). The Federation partnering with the Son'a despite the fact they're producing Ketracel White for the Dominion. All of it adds up to annoy the crap out of you the more times you watch it.

The TNG crew turn in predictably good performances; Sir Patrick Stewart especially. And F.Murray Abraham manages to do a decent job as the bad guy. But the movie is a mess. A damn shame.
posted by Effigy2000 (19 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Definitely the movie that holds truest to the spirit of the series, and also a great example of why that's maybe not the best idea.
posted by yellowbinder at 1:56 PM on October 5, 2014 [3 favorites]

tl;dr this movie sucked.

(I am not disagreeing with you at all.)

It felt more like a bad two-parter with a bigger budget than a movie. Wait. That's all the TNG movies. This isn't some rose-coloured glasses about TOS, though; IV-VI were contemporaneous to TNG. (I think IV was right around TNG came out. Close enough for jazz.) We'll pretend V never happened, but IV (mostly) and VI (very very much so) were good summer popcorn flicks. VI, especially, was damn near perfect. And an ideal swan song for the original crew; "second star to the left, and straight on til morning," indeed.

All the TNG movies suffered from the same problems: terrible, awful scripts that more or less completely ignored the reality established in the show--and the reality established in DS9 and Voyager, both of which were ongoing during the first couple of TNG movies, I think. Serviceable acting that, barring a couple of standouts, more or less threw into stark relief that much of the cast was fine for telly but came up rather short on the big screen. On top of that fetid mess, Brent Spiner rapidly aging out of being able to play Data, and the sudden big budgets meaning LET'S HAVE MORE KABOOMS and so on. Blech.

This is terrifying to realize, but I would actually rather watch the Abrams shit-tastic reboots (Star Trek: Into Lensflare) than any of the TNG movies ever again. Course, I'd rather be the starring attraction in Klingon gangbang than watch the Abrams films.

In summary:

TNG movies < Abrams movies < Klingon gangbang.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 2:34 PM on October 5, 2014 [3 favorites]

fffm can be seen starring in "Qanadian Qapla'!" on any good fucked up geek porn channel.
posted by biffa at 3:45 PM on October 5, 2014 [3 favorites]

Nemesis is about enslaved captives trapped inside a planet who somehow build themselves a Galaxy-class starship outfitted with next-generation ordnance. After that, literally nothing about Star Trek can bother me. As far as I'm concerned Insurrection is a paragon of logic and continuity.

I did like it better when it starred Paul Sorvino and was shorter.
posted by cribcage at 5:04 PM on October 5, 2014 [3 favorites]

tl;dr this movie sucked.
posted by Drinky Die at 8:45 PM on October 5, 2014 [1 favorite]

Wait, I confused this with Nemesis. This movie is just mediocre and boring.
posted by Drinky Die at 8:58 PM on October 5, 2014 [1 favorite]

It pains me that I do have to stop and think which one was Insurrection and which one was Nemesis. I never have to do that with any of the TOS movies, alas. (Although now that Tom Hardy is a much better-known quantity I may need to revisit the latter.) Both just felt like going through the motions, really. With the TOS movies you had this great nostalgia/reunion vibe that lifted even the lesser entries to at least the level of warm fuzzy affection. With TNG it just seemed like working late on Friday night.

It's a shame because there are some neat ideas and visual effects. The town reminds one very uncomfortably, at least today, of every Civ clone game you've ever played, especially the weak ones on the web. I wish that angle had been understood/explored a little better, as it could have connected with the geek audience. (Consider that when videogames are usually the focus of movies the presentation is being inside, rather than overlooking.) But the hidden viewing chamber was a retread of "Who Watches the Watchers" , and the holodeck stuff from, yes, "Homeward". There were also long stretches such as of unconvincing and really chill refugees leisurely fleeing that sapped tension.

One could argue that the resource exploitation/colonialist plotline was too earnest, but only a few years later Avatar would score with a broadly similar narrative. The guest cast was solid enough -- F. Murray Abraham! Anthony Zerbe! (Both known for respecting genre projects, so in theory not slumming.) Donna Murphy was an unknown, but accomplished stage actress, but I'm not sure the ethereal accent was a great idea. She never seemed to lose her airiness when it might have been better had she done. Perhaps the serviceable but lackluster direction, which had worked for First Contact with a better script, could be laid at Frakes's feet. It just seems like the parts were there but it all failed to gel somehow.

I get very tired of the Federation/Starfleet being corrupt or incompetent, simply for lack of a better foil for Our Heroes™. It really seems like what was happening was so far outside the norms to which we've been accustomed that "insurrection" was the wrong approach and perhaps "ranty report to headquarters" should have been expected to bring about the exposure/embarrassment necessary. And of course after taking action like this, even when compared to stuff Kirk & Co. pulled, would seem career-ending, but wasn't -- not to mention how do you accept the officers involved, Our Heroes, sticking with an organization/mission they know to be institutionally flawed and so forth. It is, therefore, especially in the context of the TV show's universe, very problematic as a story.
posted by dhartung at 12:31 AM on October 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

I was thinking today about how to make the story work, and I gave up and just decided a movie about what the Enterprise crew did during the Dominion War (which was happening concurrently in Deep Space Nine would have been cooler. Just sayin'...
posted by Effigy2000 at 12:35 AM on October 6, 2014 [2 favorites]

Although now that Tom Hardy is a much better-known quantity I may need to revisit the latter.

Save yourself the time. It still sucks. Get Locke instead if you fancy a bit of Hardy.
posted by biffa at 1:27 AM on October 6, 2014

Good point about the Dominion War and wackiness of not involving the Federation's elite ship and crew in it was one of those things that continually bothered me (especially since there wasn't a good in-show reason for it).

Insurrection was also a bit of a let down because it followed First Contact, which was perhaps the best TNG movie that was produced. Incredibly, the original inspiration for the story was Heart of Darkness, and well, that successfully was imprinted on the show...[/sarcasm]

The perspective that this would have made a fine two parter for the show I think is pretty spot on.
posted by Atreides at 7:01 AM on October 6, 2014

it stretches disbelief

I see what you did there.
posted by entropicamericana at 10:52 AM on October 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

This was indeed a terrible film, as is Nemesis. It marks the clear embracing of producing terrible sci-fi by mainstream producers, that all the Star Wars films after The Empire Strikes Back made popular and what Doctor Who continues to do presently.
posted by juiceCake at 5:07 PM on October 6, 2014

Get Locke instead

It's coming right up on my queue, as it happens!

clear embracing of producing terrible sci-fi

I don't know. I think it represents the clear milking of a branded property well past the point of diminishing returns for everyone involved, though. I think TNG had plenty of promise and it was instead in two-parters like "The Best of Both Worlds" that this was most effectively developed.

Perhaps if there had been less pressure to monetize and more encouragement of working creatively until something gelled before greenlighting the project we wouldn't be having this conversation. In any case, I would categorize ST:I as a misfire, but you and I may have different ideas of where the "terrible" threshold is.
posted by dhartung at 6:55 PM on October 7, 2014

I don't know if this is actually the case, but I've always thought it looked like their effects budget ran dry and they just left all the blue screen "windows" in the collector unaltered.

If the set was actually supposed to look like that it was an unfortunate choice of color.
posted by brundlefly at 9:09 PM on October 8, 2014 [3 favorites]

Well, for technical reasons, SFX are usually done using a green screen these days, but that may not have been the case for ST:I.

This is about ST:N, but it's too good not to share, from Dissolve today about Patrick Stewart being cast as a white supremacist in a Jeremy Saulnier thriller:
I mean, Star Trek: Nemesis felt like some kind of hate crime, I'm just not sure what ethnic group it was aimed at.
posted by dhartung at 2:05 PM on October 21, 2014 [2 favorites]

Well, for technical reasons, SFX are usually done using a green screen these days, but that may not have been the case for ST:I.

I think green is more common these days but blue is still used. There are benefits to both, depending on circumstances.
posted by brundlefly at 9:02 PM on October 21, 2014

Here's blue being used on 2012.
posted by brundlefly at 9:05 PM on October 21, 2014

Not sure why I didn't comment on this at the time (I think that it was a little before I became a regular on the purple), but it might also be that Insurrection was solidly mediocre--not as fun as First Contact, not as desperately derivative of TWOK as Nemesis. It did have its moments, most of them in the beginning, when Data kind of goes apeshit; we find out that Starfleet has personal cloaking garments (a beta canon story would explain that as Section 31 reverse-engineering the Romulan cloaking device from the Defiant, which tracks) and a holodeck ship, which is kind of interesting, and then there's the dogfight/Gilbert & Sullivan sing-along, which is just bonkers but in a fun sort of way. I also liked the scout ship that Data took; if I were going to steal a Starfleet vessel, I'd want to take one of those, rather than a runabout, which would be like stealing a station wagon.

But then it just becomes boring and dumb. The Son'a have exactly one interesting detail about them, their addiction to plastic surgery; the scenes of their skin being stretched out (and the later shot of the designated Badmiral meeting a gruesome end) is reminiscent of the scene from the movie Brazil. But the rest of it makes slim to nil sense; why the Son'a and the Badmiral's faction in Starfleet are bent on removing the Ba'ku from the planet, when they could simply build spas on the bulk of the planet's surface (the Ba'ku consisting of one small village), is never explained. I mean, yes, it's supposed to be a metaphor for burning down the rain forests or whatever, but it just makes no sense on the surface. (At least in something like Avatar, the bad guys are an evil corporation that doesn't canonically have a policy of non-interference.) You have the new Enterprise being controlled by a joystick, you have Riker shaving off the beard (bad idea), you have Worf getting a zit. Seeing the captain's gig, that was nice. Ultimately, not much of a much, a few fun bits grafted on to a middle-of-the-road TNG episode.

One interesting thing that resulted, though, was Michael Piller's unpublished Fade In, his story/apology of how someone who was a big deal in Trek in the TNG era came to write something like this. I've found it interesting not so much for that as for the explanation, early on, of what Piller called "Roddenberry's Box", which was his term for the restrictive and somewhat arbitrary rules that Gene Roddenberry came up with in the early seasons of TNG, before his hands were pried off the controls, and how Piller learned how to work around them and rephrase a story idea to fit inside the box so that Gene wouldn't shoot it down.
posted by Halloween Jack at 1:32 PM on May 18, 2022

Maybe because I knew nothing about Insurrection except for generally negative opinions about it, I was pleasantly surprised watching it tonight. It's fine. There were enjoyable things, the cast seemed to be able to enjoy themselves in ways that the show wouldn't really allow for, F. Murray Abraham was a solid Trek Villain, etc. It's a long damn way from being a vital piece of Trek canon, but I enjoyed it for what it was, which was basically somewhere between a movie and a two-part episode.

Except for Riker shaving. Nothing can excuse that.

Serviceable acting that, barring a couple of standouts, more or less threw into stark relief that much of the cast was fine for telly but came up rather short on the big screen.

Weirdly, I think the movies do the opposite for Marina Sirtis, who seems much more loose, natural and at-home in the movies than she ever did on the show (First Contact is a much better demonstration of this, but it's true here as well.) And LeVar Burton's performance when he's watching the sunrise is a pretty excellent display of showing overwhelming emotion without actually overdoing it.
posted by Navelgazer at 10:20 PM on August 5

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