Sunday, January 21, 2007

Movie Review: Star Trek: Insurrection 3 Stars

The ninth installment in the Star Trek feature film series, and the third to feature the ST:TNG cast, Star Trek: Insurrection has a decidedly lighter tone than First Contact—a sense of humor and playfulness akin to that of The Voyage Home. While the spin may be toward fun, the film’s message is deceptively heavy. Like all great Star Trek episodes, Insurrection is an allegory for the moral and ethical quandaries we face in the 20th Century. (Unfortunately, Insurrection is just like a great Star Trek episode: the only thing that distinguishes this from a season finale episode of the TV series is a bigger budget and a shorter running time.)

Drafted by a Federation science mission, Data (Brent Spiner)—that annoying emotion chip from Generations and First Contact now gone—is studying the Ba'ku, six hundred intergalactic hicks inhabiting an idyllic planet. Inexplicably, Data mutinies, turning on Admiral Dougherty (Anthony Zerbe) and his team of Federation officers and members of the Son'a race. Dougherty threatens to destroy Data if Picard (Patrick Stewart) does not retrieve the droid within 12 hours.

The Enterprise crew stumbles upon a vast conspiracy, at the center of which is the Federation High Council, Dougherty, the Son'a leader, Ru'afo (F. Murray Abraham). Their nefarious plot: to forcibly relocate the Ba'ku and strip-mine the planet of its restorative fountain-of-youth elements in the name of the "greater good." This, of course, is in direct violation the Prime Directive, the first rule of the Federation, which states that nothing the Federation or its representatives do should, in any way, interfere with the natural development of other civilizations. (Compare the Prime Directive with Manifest Destiny.)

If Picard chooses to defend the Prime Directive and the Ba’ku, he risks his career, the Enterprise as well as his life and the lives of his crew. Picard is forced to decide between the direct orders of Dougherty and his duty to obey the code intrinsic to being an officer of the Federation.

Jonathan Frakes, who also directed First Contact, returns to helm the production, focusing, rather effectively, on storytelling and humor rather than action and space battles this time out. Frakes, of course, also returns as First Officer Riker joining the other ST:TNG characters rounding out the cast: Geordi LaForge (LeVar Burton), Dr. Crusher (Gates McFadden), Worf (Michael Dorn) and Counselor Troi (Marina Sirtis). Spiner is hilarious as Data, who like Spock in The Voyage Home, is afforded all the juiciest lines. Stewart’s Picard even gets to follow in Kirk’s footsteps, playing the romantic lead opposite the gorgeous Ba’ku woman Anij (Donna Murphy).

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