Tag Archives: Star Trek The Next Generation

Star Trek: Insurrection (1998) Dir. Jonathan Frakes

 

STI1Much like The Search For Spock was to The Wrath of Khan, Star Trek: Insurrection is a tough act to follow after the marvelous First Contact.  I have to say though, I like Insurrection better than Generations, and it’s probably my 2nd favorite of the TNG Trek films.  But it’s not great.  It plays more like an extended episode of the TV show as opposed to owning itself as a feature.  Some interesting ideas play out, and thankfully the storyline of Data’s emotion chip is discontinued in this feature.  But the stakes just aren’t as high as they were in First Contact.

I think part of the problem is that Picard is just plain normal Picard here.  He’s not facing any life altering problems.  The first film he was dealing with the loss of the heir to his family after his young nephew Rene is killed in a fire.  In First Contact he confronts one of the most traumatic events of his life, being assimilated by the Borg and losing his identity.  After that, what’s really left?  I think this film would have been better suited if they took the opportunity to focus on the problems of another character.  Riker is a character that comes to mind.  For so long he’s denied the captains chair, it would be nice to see a film where the cast is supporting him.  It doesn’t have to be Riker though, it could be any one of the Enterprise crew.  The reason it feels like a normal episode of the TV show is that none of the crew members are facing any bigger challenges to themselves.  Even Data is more scaled down.  The film starts off interestingly enough with him sabotaging a covert operation on an alien planet.  Picard and Worf then have to work together to recalibrate his systems, but after that his character just blends in with the rest of the cast.

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I think my other problem with this movie is that it doesn’t feel like they really go anywhere.  The main problem of the movie takes place on a standard Alpha Quadrant planet.  There’s no journey to find this place and no real sense of adventure.  The actual adventuring part takes place on the alien planet below where Picard has to help a race of aliens called the Baku travel safely to hide from So’na who want to conquer their planet for the use of it’s orbiting rings that give eternal youth and longevity to its inhabitants.  But there’s no strange encounters or alien creatures.  They’re just hiding in caves to keep the So’na from transporting them to the bad guys ships.  The story plays out okay, but it’s just not that compelling as we have no deeper connection with the characters, and nobody to root for.  Picard’s love interest, Anij really did nothing for me.  And because this is no longer the TV series, I had no reason to invest in their romance since I knew she wouldn’t be returning after this.  Picard talks about seeing her again, but we’re never going to see that played out again since there’s only one more Star Trek feature after this, and by then she’s out of the picture.  Data’s storyline about learning to play more and be like a child is too much on the cutesy side to be engaging or entertaining.  It’s also a little didactic and not very compelling in its message about seeing the world as children see it.  The only story that seems to be infused with some life is the Riker/ Troi relationship, where after so long the two of them finally rekindle their romance.  But not much time is really spent to engage us more in their relationship.

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The film isn’t bad though, and there’s some decent performances.  F. Murray Abraham is good in just about anything, and he’s somewhat effective as the villain Ru’afo.  There’s a few amusing “lighter” moments, but most of the humor is a little overly silly.  The Riker/Troi flirting scenes are a little obnoxious.  And Klingon zits?  If you say so.  Anything to lower Worfs standards as a warrior.  Though I prefer it when he gets to keep his bad-assary like he did in First Contact.  Thankfully though nobody is made to look to foolish, such as when Data put in his emotion chip in Generations, and he just became grating and unbearable to watch.  Sight gags are all well and good, but humor in service to the story is better than having it arbitrarily placed in there.  It’s forcing something in the story when it may not be needed in certain places.  Some of it is amusing like Data and Picard singing Gilbert and Sullivan, but it plays off as just cute more than an engaging story point.  In other words, its an excuse to have Data, Worf, and Picard sing a silly song. I did however like the Picard/Worf exchange:  Picard:  “Mr. Worf, do you know Gilbert and Sullivan?” Worf: “No sir, I have not yet had a chance to meet the new crew members.”

Like I said, Star Trek: Insurrection is not a great film.  But it’s decent and fairly tolerable.  It lacks focus more than anything, and doesn’t give enough of a reason to make it’s main characters more compelling.  It’s not bad, but it could have definitely been better.

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Star Trek: First Contact (1996) Dir. Jonathan Frakes

STFC1At last we come to my favorite of all the Star Trek films, Star Trek: First Contact.  I think this is an extraordinary movie.  It’s got a great story, great character development (every cast member from the series is given their due), a memorable villain, and something I never expected from a Star Trek movie, moments of tension and horror.  I remember my experience seeing this movie in the theater.  The Borg in this film are truly scary…the stuff of nightmares.  The elements are all interwoven and blended together to create a unique and believable storytelling experience.  From comedy, to drama, suspense, action, and adventure, this movie works on all levels.

STFC3The best element of any movie is when the protagonist has an issue he/she is dealing with and the rest of the movie is there to help support it.  In this case, it’s Jean Luc Picard having to fight with his trauma of being assimilated to the Borg six years prior to the events in the film.  Here, Picard’s trauma reflects the majority of his decisions, including telling his crew men to wipe out any other crew members that have been assimilated by the Borg, saying they will be doing them a favor.  Of course this reflects his true desire, which is to see all of the Borg wiped out, erasing them from his existence like the terminator.  Picard has often been in denial over many things based on his code of Starfleet ethics.  He believes that his sense of humanity has grown past the desire for revenge, but he’s very wrong as pointed out by Lily (Alfre Woodard).  In comparison to Ahab and Moby Dick, his fighting desire to stay and fight off the Borg leads to one of my favorite scenes in the movie, where Picard has the brass to call Worf a coward, and Worf’s retaliation, “If you were any other man I would kill you where you stand!”  You know something is wrong when even Worf knows a mission is suicide, and the Klingon whose blood lives for battle understands when it’s time to walk away.  It’s a great scene.  I even love Picard’s apology scene later.  Picard: “Mr. Worf, I regret some of the things I said to you earlier.”  Worf: (annoyed) SOME.

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Picard’s story about getting through and surviving his trauma is successful for the same reasons that Kirk’s story about his fear of death in Wrath of Khan resonate with us to the day.  We are able to witness in First Contact how the adventure brings out the best (and worst) in Picard and helps him find balance again in his life.  The story never forgets that, and all the other plots of the film come together to support the main arc of Picard’s journey.  This is the first Next Generation film where the cast is finally allowed to come into their own.  Each of them has a memorable moment.  Crusher calling the EMH Doctor to block the door from the Borg.  Troi doing Tequila shots.  Riker and LaForge helping Zephram Cochrine carry out his warp flight.  And my personal favorite is Worf who just kicks ass in this movie.  Data is also much more tolerable in this film, as is his story regarding his emotion chip.  I suppose the only thing I was left wondering by the end is whether or not Data really learned anything about the worthiness of his quest to be more human.  The Borg Queen (while using a manipulation tactic) tries to get him to embrace his machine side by doing the exact opposite…giving him what he wants and making him more human, grafting skin on his body.  While it’s tolorable, it’s still probably the only aspect of the movie I don’t care for because I don’t find anything really interesting about Data’s desire to be human.  I have several problems in this which I talked about in my Star Trek: Generations Review.  The Borg Queen’s tactic is clever, but we know in the end Data isn’t going to force himself to really think about what happened to him, and as a result, nothing really changes about his character by the end of the film.  The android is just too stubborn to really think about what he could be capable of in his machine side.

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One of the lighter comical highlights of the film is James Cromwell’s portrayal of Zephrem Cochrine, the man who invents warp drive.  He’s given a wonderful arc in the story, as a man who doesn’t care about the future or making history, and just wants to find a peaceful place where he can be left alone.  That all changes when the Enterprise crew comes in to convince him to carry out his mission so they can go back to their own future.  One of the sequences that makes me laugh is when Lt. Barclay (Dwight Schultz) can’t contain his fandom at getting to work with their history’s greatest legend.  It’s funny because it makes Cochrine even more resistant to his destiny, when he just wants everyone to leave him alone.

Also shining in this film is Alfre Woodard’s Lilly, who develops a great relationship with Picard.  She is not just the lone outsider, but the one keeping both her men (Picard and Cochrine) grounded.  I have two favorite scenes with her.  The first is when Picard opens the bay door with the view of Earth, showing her that she’s “not in Kansas anymore”.  The second is when she fights with Picard to blow up the ship, telling him he’s become Captain Ahab on a quest to destroy the whale.  The most endearing part of the scene is near the end when Picard quotes Moby Dick.  “Actually”, she says, “I never read it.”

I do have to say that out of all the Star Trek films, Wrath of Khan is the best story.  But this film will always be my personal favorite.  It’s just a wonderful, exciting, and action packed adventure.  I’ve always been more partial to TNG because it’s what I grew up with.  But this is the only feature they made where everyone really gets to shine.  It’s a good, well told story, and it’s too bad that we never got another film like it after this.  STFC4