insurrection1Welcome to Reel Rewind, a semi-monthly column in which I’ll take a look back at some of my favorite films, bringing along artists that I can’t get enough of. We’ll team up for some fun collaborations and bridge the gap between film appreciation and art. Because we can’t get enough Trek, Matt Ferguson and I are looking back at the Next Generation films. Make it so!

Year: 1998
Director: Jonathan Frakes
Writer(s): Rick Berman, Michael Piller
Region of Origin: U.S.
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
Rating: PG
35mm, Color, 103 mins

After a darker turn in Star Trek: First Contact, the powers that be understandably wanted to revisit the franchise with something lighter and looser. Hoping to capture the same type of magic that occurred with Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, Star Trek: Insurrection is as far away as possible from the previous installment, filled instead with goofy humor and a much more accessible story. But while taking the franchise in this direction was a reasonable decision, it never quite gels, falling curse to feeling like a long, drawn-out episode. Even with the “lesser” original cast films, there was always an operatic scope and scale to the events, along with a cast that could elevate the material, but no such luck here. Though the film may have it’s moments and an excellent premise, it’s wonky execution drags it down.

The story centers around a peaceful civilization called the Ba’Ku, who live on a planet located in an anomalous nebula called The Briar Patch. After secretly surveying their planet, a rogue Federation Admiral named Dougherty and a mysterious race called the Son’a device a scandalous plot to mine the planet’s rings of it’s rejuvenating qualities while secretly moving the Ba’ku to another planet. Naturally, when Picard and crew learn of this plot, one which goes against everything that the Federation and Starfleet stand for, it’s up to the Enterprise to make things right — or die trying.

First things first, I’ve got to admit that in concept, I absolutely love the premise of the film; it feels closer in line with the original series, anchored on big, socially relevant ideas, while making the Enterprise and her crew stand up for what they believe is right. In a way, the film’s story has the characters fighting for the fountain of youth, battling against Starfleet to preserve the utopia of a peaceful civilization who has shunned violence and technology for comprehensible reasons. When the villainous Son’a’s true motivation for uprooting the Ba’ku is finally revealed, there’s an extra element of surprise that makes for some tragic mythology, resulting in a resolution that deals with forgiveness in a powerful way. Even Data’s moral standards are called in to play, blurring the line between his programming and his humanity in ways that are a standout from the rest of the film.

insurrection2Still, despite all of these great ideas, the film never really falls into place completely. While the first act of the film plays up the mystery and is very action oriented, everything soon slows down in ways that the film can never recover from. While the characters are all challenged in interesting ways, they never really gel with the humor they’re supposed to convey, making most of it fall flat or feel oddly out of place. The film also mostly never feels like a slightly bigger episode of the show, missing a lot of the wonder, spectacle and grandeur we’ve come to expect from the film series.

Character-wise, the plot is pretty well balanced, with most every character of the Enterprise getting their own little subplots this time around. Naturally, Picard proves his mettle as a leader as he refuses to silently obey orders which he knows to be wrong. Riker and Troi get to rekindle a past love, with the former getting a pretty rad sequence in which he lures some enemy Son’a ships into the volatile Briar Patch for a dangerous game of cat and mouse. I think this is the first film where Riker gets to really shine and do something exciting. Worf’s plot is probably the most cringe inducing, with him going through the Klingon equivalent of puberty, growing longer hair and a giant, pink zit. As no surprise, Brent Spiner’s Data comes out the most favorable again, with him setting the entire film to motion and confronting a culture that has shunned everything that he stands for. He has a nice relationship with a kid and handles his moral obligations in the most satisfying way. As a villain, F. Murray Abraham is a nice addition to Trek’s long list of theatrical performers; but while he certainly looks cool with his mummified, grotesque appearance, he’s not much a threat for most of the film.

When all is said and done, I don’t completely hate Star Trek: Insurrection, but I have no real desire to rewatch it anytime soon. It’s still founded on some forward-thinking ideas and moral quandaries, even if it’s execution feels a little off.

Crome Rating: 2.5/5

And here’s Matt’s poster! He’s gone and created more of a landscape this time out, illustrating the Ba’ku’s planet and their powerfully rejuvenating rings! Beautiful color scheme here, nicely textured and full of nuance! Don’t forget to check out Matt’s website for more art or follow him on Twitter! You can click on the art below to see it huge as well!

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Also check out our original Trek films retrospective, Star Trek Generations, Star Trek: First Contact and come back next Friday, August 30, for Stark Trek: Nemesis!

SG