Length: 103 minutes
Release Date: December 11, 1998
Directed by: Jonathan Frakes
Genre: Action / Adventure / Science-Fiction
“Star Trek: Insurrection” is the second film exclusively to feature the cast from “Star Trek: The Next Generation” and is directed by Jonathan Frakes, who also plays Riker in the film. It is the ninth “Star Trek” film overall, and it features the Enterprise crew trying to avert the destruction of an alien population when it is discovered that their planet offers the key to immortal life. Captain Picard, played by Patrick Stewart, steps down as captain of the Enterprise to combat the political forces within the Federation that are trying to harvest the planet’s radiation regardless of the cost to its inhabitants. The film stars all the main cast members of “The Next Generation,” including Brent Spiner, LeVar Burton, Michael Dorn and Gates McFadden. F. Murray Abraham also has a major role as the leader of an alien race called the Son’a.
Fans of the television series have a lot to like with “Star Trek: Insurrection.” Frakes knows the show and what audiences expect from it. As a result, he gives the film a moral compass and a sense of humor that long-time fans will embrace. The proceedings are elevated by a superb cast, and Patrick Stewart gets to show new wrinkles in the character of Captain Jean-Luc Picard. The audience gets to see him rebel against the very organizational structure that he’s previously pledged his life to, and Stewart makes that journey fascinating. There’s even the chance that Picard finds love, as he forms a close relationship with an alien life form played by Donna Murphy.
However, fans of the previous “Star Trek” film, “First Contact,” are likely to want more action than this film offers. “Insurrection” has a more deliberate pace than “First Contact” did and is more interested in exploring the moral compasses and relationships among its main cast than it is in showcasing big battle scenes. In addition, “First Contact” benefited from a PG-13 rating that gave it more leeway in showing violence. The PG rating of this film does hamper it during action sequences, because audiences are not allowed to truly see the effects of violence or get a sense of the stakes in the battles.
That’s not to say that “Star Trek: Insurrection” is without battles or special effects. For the first time in franchise history, all the space effects are computer-generated. This gives “Insurrection” a slicker look, and the film has its share of conflicts as the Enterprise comes under attack from the same groups it was supposed to protect. However, “First Contact” was more of a straightforward action film compared to “Insurrection,” and viewers may find some events in the final act a little hard to follow because so much is happening at once.
“Star Trek” has always excelled in the makeup department, and “Insurrection” is no exception. Michael Westmore’s makeup effects are put to very good use when showing the almost mummified Son’a race, especially when they are compared to the eternally youthful Ba’ku people.
Ultimately, the film plays out like an elongated episode of the television series. That is both its greatest strength and most glaring weakness. There’s a familiarity with the pacing and the feel of the film that makes it fit perfectly with the Enterprise’s small-screen adventures. That familiarity also begs the question of if the film is necessary to the “Star Trek” canon. Ultimately, the rich performances and the moral power plays win out, as audiences do get to see beloved characters in situations previously alien to them, such as when Data gets taught how to play. However, some viewers are likely to be frustrated with the film’s refusal to take more risks. Like most episodic television shows, little changes for the Enterprise crew by the time the film reaches its conclusion. The crew is ready for its next adventure, whether that comes in the form of a small screen or a silver one.
“Star Trek: Insurrection” takes the “Next Generation” crew and places them in a scenario that acts as a throwback to the days of Captain Kirk. The lighter tone and PG rating are more in tune with older versions of “Star Trek,” and it is interesting to see Picard and company function in that world. The film is a stark contrast to the darkness of “First Contact,” and the films are best viewed as individuals instead of as siblings. Taken on its own merits, “Insurrection” offers “Star Trek” fans an exciting and visually stunning adventure with the crew of the Enterprise. For many fans of the series or the genre, that should be enough.
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