Star Trek: Insurrection arrived in theaters 20 years ago this week and despite what you may think, it’s a Star Trek movie worth watching again.
Gather a group of Star Trek fans together and ask them to rank all the various Star Trek films that have come out over the years, and Star Trek: Insurrection will undoubtedly land in the bottom spot on many of them.
Yes, astoundingly many place Insurrection below Star Trek V: the Final Frontier, which gave us the legendary line “What does God need with a starship?” and Star Trek Into Darkness or, as we like to call it “How can we remake Wrath of Khan and totally screw it up?”
Which is unfortunate, because while Insurrection is far from a great Trek movie, it is better than many fans remember. Myself included.
I will readily admit I didn’t see Insurrection in a theater but waited until it hit home video. And once I was finished watching it I was very glad I didn’t. I just seem to remember thinking over and over that after First Contact, arguably the second-best Star Trek film ever made, Insurrection just seemed boring and slow by comparison.
Or to paraphrase the most common gripe with the film, it felt like a watching a very long episode of the television show.
However, I recently sat down and watched Star Trek: Insurrection again and realized that while the movie may seem like a long episode of the show, it’s also a really good episode.
The late Michael Piller, who wrote the screenplay for Insurrection, was often quoted as saying that attempting to make a film that would have topped the spectacle of First Contact was impossible. So why bother to try? Instead they went for a smaller film that focused on characterization and yes, humor.
The result is a movie that, while not on the widescreen epic scale of First Contact or even Wrath of Khan, still works as a smaller, more intimate picture. Thanks to the direction of Jonathan Frakes, each cast member is given a moment to shine and the story feels like classic Star Trek with it’s ideas about aging and what it means to get older.
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And say what you want, but for me F. Murray Abraham’s Ru’afo, while not on the level of the Borg Queen, was a great villain. Abraham played the character over the top and commands every scene he is in. Anthony Zerbe’s Admiral Dougherty is a much less compelling villain, but the actor did the best he could with the material he had.
Which brings me to the one facet of the film that I really wish could have been followed up on, namely the conspiracy within Starfleet and the Federation. The fact there were elements within each that was just fine with forcibly moving the Ba’ku to get their hands on the metaphasic radiation in the rings around the planet was incredibly interesting. Unfortunately, due to the underwhelming box office reception of Insurrection this plot point was never followed up on, which is a real shame.
Is Insurrection perfect? Not by a long shot. A clean shaven Riker is an affront to everything Star Trek. Some of the humor seems forced and a handful of the messages in the script are delivered with the subtly of a sledgehammer. And of course, let’s not forget the giant gaming joystick that Riker uses to fly the Enterprise in the third act.
But overall, Star Trek: Insurrection is a pretty good Star Trek film. Sure, it feels like a really long episode of the television show, but when the show is as good as The Next Generation that isn’t necessarily a bad thing.