Last of the Monster Kids

Last of the Monster Kids
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Thursday, June 18, 2009

Series Report Card: Star Trek (1998-2002)

9. Star Trek: Insurrection
When “Star Trek: Insurrection” came out, it was met with typical disdain from the “odd/even rule” crowd but… I don’t know, I kinda’ like it. It’s far from perfect and, at the end of the day, might seem a little routine, but the movie certainly satisfies.

One of the main purposes behind the idea, I suspect, was to get “Trek” back to its roots with a smaller, more character oriented story. This turns out to be its biggest asset and problem. After the big action of “First Contact,” I honestly don’t mind a slower film. Indeed, one of the main themes revolves around being able to just sit back and experience being. The story of aging being reversed provides the majority of the cast with some interesting things to do. It actually gives Picard an excuse to play action hero, for once, and Stewart has some nice dramatic moments. Riker and Troi’s romance being rekindled is cute and provides Frakes with a more charismatic turn then usual. Data has a very important role and Spiner proves as entertaining to watch as ever. Worf shows up again with his DS9 duties being brush aside with a single line of dialogue while Geordi’s seeing for the first time provides at least one nice moment. (Dr. Crusher gets pushed to the side, as usual.)

One of the main reasons I like this one is because of the humor. Oh sure, some of it is maybe a little too broad (“Floatation device?” Oh brother.) but even some of the goofier stuff appealed to me. I found the entire Gilbert and Hammerstein sequence to be hysterical and there’s sharp, amusing dialogue spread all around. Once the focus shifts from the humor and characters and we get into the action stuff, things get a little less interesting. Though splitting the story worked in “First Contact,” having Riker and the Enterprise go off on a fight scene while Picard and crew stays on the planet was a mistake and schisms the pacing. All of planet sided action is quite successful while the ship battles are significantly more routine. Still, stuff wraps up in a nice fashion and I found the resolution genuinely heart touching. And, again, Jerry Goldsmith throws out another pretty score.

The biggest complaint measured against the film is that it feels like little more then a beefed up episode of the show. Granted, I feel that. Again, this has to due with the smaller story but also with how the story is almost completely removed from the rest of the “Trek” universe. Unlike previous entire, what goes on here hardly affects the universe at large. Of course, this was done to keep the movie accessible but even a casual fan such as myself admits that a Dominion War movie probably would’ve been cooler. (And that’s coming from somebody who barely watched “Deep Space Nine” and “Voyager.”)

It isn’t until later in the film when you find out the personal connection between the Son’a and the Ba’ku that they become legitimately interesting villains. The idea of a race of basically decomposing corpse determined to stay alive is visually captivating but underdeveloped. F. Murray Abraham brings a required amount of skill to his part but overplays it more often then not. The use of the holo-deck in the finale is obvious and I thought it was a little weak how Picard basically talks a bad guy into switching sides. Still, problems aside, “Insurrection” is a solid effort. It doesn’t reinvent the “Trek” wheel but entertains.
[Grade: B]
By the time this movie came around “The Next Generation” had been off the air for nearly a decade. “Deep Space Nine” and “Voyager” were gone. The only viable “Trek” franchise was “Enterprise,” which most everyone seemed to agree was a bad idea right from the get-go. (Or right from the theme song, maybe.) My point is it was easy to be apathetic about the series when “Nemesis” came out. And, if the final movie was any evidence, it was even easy for the studios to be apathetic.

There are a multitude of problems, the main one being just a lack of fresh ideas. Far too much feels recycled. The screenwriter admitted in interviews that he patterned a great deal of the story on “Wrath of Khan,” which is only too evident, especially at the ending. The concept of Data having a double was all ready explored in the TV series, as was Troi being mind-raped. Sadly, the new stuff brought to table isn’t exciting either. The whole idea of the Romulan sister race, the Remians, manages to be fairly wasted. Though their deep sea fish inspired designs are interesting to look at, their sense of subjugation by the Romulians never comes through. For a fact, their relationship to the larger empire is mostly brushed aside, confined to two or three scenes. Shinzon, the evil clone of Picard, could’ve been a good idea, especially if the original idea of having Patrick Stewart play both parts was carried with. Instead, the character was given to some douche named Tom Hardy, who manages to punch up absolutely zero charisma. He’s never menacing, threatening, or even mildly interesting. Not even when he begins to get sick and slowly die does Hardy inspire any real feelings and especially not during the final showdown. If writer John Logan was hoping for another Khan, he really dropped the fucking ball.

The script itself features a lot of pretentious talks of destiny and trust that is totally superficial. B-4, the other new addition to the mythology, comes of as a mildly retarded version of Data, does next to nothing in the course of the story, and is such an obvious set-up for the final death cheat. When Data does go all Spock-sacrificing on us, it is totally devoid of emotion. Director Stuart Baird doesn’t provide any “You have and always will be my friend” moments and seems more focused on the big explosion.

Speaking of that Baird dick, on the DVD special features, he admits to not being a “Trek” fan and, as the esteemed director of “Executive Decision” and fucking “U.S. Marshals,” seems to think he’s above all this sci-fi goofiness. I could ignore him being a prick if his direction wasn’t so incredibly stale. Most of the action is phaser-based and composed of people getting shot and falling down. There’s also some dramatic slow-motion thrown in which, you know, was really fresh in 2002. The ship battles at the end are slightly better but still fairly boring, managing to filled with dramatic moments that carry no weight. Patrick Stewart and Bret Spinner both do their best with what their given, while Jonathan Frakes, with his digitally removed back hair, comes extremely close to embarrassing himself. He was too old to play action hero at this point. None of the other crew members are given much of anything to do.

There’s a handful of okay moments. The opening wedding sequence is sweet and when Data jumps from ship to ship through space is the sole dynamic action beat. Otherwise, “Star Trek: Nemesis” is a big plodding bore, adding next to nothing to the proud series legacy. Is it any surprise that it effectively brought an end to the series’ theater presence for years?
[Grade: C-]

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