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STAR TREK: INSURRECTION
Collector's Edition

Review by Michael Jacobson

Stars:  Patrick Stewart, Jonathan Frakes, Brent Spiner, LeVar Burton, Michael Dorn, Marina Sirtis, Gates McFadden, F. Murray Abraham, Donna Murphy, Anthony Zerbe
Director:  Jonathan Frakes
Audio:  Dolby Digital 5.1, DTS 5.1, Dolby Surround
Video:  Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1
Studio:  Paramount
Features:  See Review
Length:  103 Minutes
Release Date:  June 7, 2005

"You think it's possible for two people to go back in time, undo a mistake they've made?"

"On this ship?  Anything's possible."

Film **

Star Trek: Insurrection had all the makings for a classic Trek film, but buckles under the weight of an extremely flawed premise.  The characters, both old and new, are solid and earn our emotional involvement, but when your mind keeps going back to what they're fighting for, it leaves you scratching your head.

That premise is this:  a planet exists with an extraordinary renewing and healing radiation that can be harvested and used to aid billions across the universe.  However, a race of explorers landed on that planet centuries ago, meaning that about 600 non-indigenous life forms enjoying an unnatural immortality would have to be moved in order to accomplish the goal, the result being that they would once again become mortals.  Should the Federation do it?

The answer is an unequivocal YES...an indigenous life form would raise serious moral questions, but a small group of people who didn't belong to that world any more than the rest of us?  No second thought required.  I can even look at my WWSD bracelet (What Would Spock Do?) to confirm that the choice is logical and morally sound...you move the 600 and help the billions.

But oddly enough, Captain Jean-Luc Picard (Stewart) and the crew of the Enterprise E see it as a violation of their Prime Directive, the sacred instruction to never interfere with the development of other cultures.  Excuse me?  If these people were part of the planet's natural life cycle, then yes, there's a problem.  But they're not.  And when Picard leads his crew in rebellion against the Federation, it seems like a battle of seriously misplaced ideals.

The story introduces two races to the Star Trek vernacular.  The Ba'ku are the explorers currently living on said planet...they've been there for some three hundred years, and thanks to the planet's healing radiation, haven't aged a day in all that time...in fact, Anij (Murphy) is easily the most beautiful centurion I've ever seen.

The other race is the Son'a, led by Ru'afo (Abraham).  They are dying, and have entered into an agreement with the Federation to relocate the Ba'ku and harvest the needed energy.  The film seems to know that the moral quandary it presents is shaky, so it takes the easy way out by making the Son'a a deceptive and double dealing race, and pads it even more by revealing an unlikely ulterior motive at the end.  If people walk away from this film siding with Picard's point of view, it's not likely to be from the soundness of the reasoning as much as the continual story manipulations.

Jonathan Frakes, who plays Lt. Commander William Riker, returned to the director's chair for this movie, and does an impeccable job.  His talent for big action scenes and involving character dramas shines through, giving the film entertainment value through its flaws.  I might even go so far as to say that Insurrection is the best directed of all the Star Trek movies.

But it's really hard to believe that he and his castmates were really in on the message the picture tries clumsily to convey.  The best the writers could come up with was a speech by Picard on how relocating small groups of people throughout history always led to terrible outcomes (the founding of America being one of them, I suppose).  Or perhaps Data's (Spiner) mishap at the beginning, when damage to his positronic brain reverts him to acting only on what's right and wrong.  If his idea of right is keeping 600 alien beings on their adopted planet and letting the rest of the universe go to hell, someone needs to call Dr. Soong.

The acting is solid, the script has moments of wit, humor and drama, the special effects are first rate, the action sequences are bold and lively, and as mentioned, the directing is second to none.  But much like the crew of the Enterprise, the crew of Star Trek: Insurrection seems to be battling for a faulty cause from frame one.

BONUS TRIVIA:  This film marked the first time the Enterprise was crafted entirely by CGI.

Video ****

These Star Trek Collector's Edition discs grow more impressive with each offering, and Insurrection makes for an extraordinary looking DVD.  The wide frame is always filled with information, and every minute detail shines through with rich looking colors and textures.  I noticed no undue grain or compression.  The outdoor sequences, both the daylit ones and the night battle scenes, are almost three dimensional in quality.

Audio ****

With both Dolby Digital and DTS soundtracks afoot, the sound of this movie is explosive and dynamic.  Whether it's the big shootouts or just the sounds of the starships humming along, the front and rear channels play against each other for an enveloping listening experience.  Jerry Goldsmith's terrific score is impressive, and his powerful music balances nicely against the clear sounding dialogue and multiple audio effects.

Features ***1/2

The first disc contains a text commentary track by Star Trek Encyclopedia authors Michael and Denise Okuda.  Curiously absent is an audio commentary, particularly when Jonathan Frakes offered one for First Contact.

The second disc is filled with bonuses, including a making-of featurette and five separate one for production.  There is also a director's notebook extra (in which Frakes admits the story left something to be desired), three looks at the film's special effects, Westmore's alien designs and the lovely alien women, storyboard and photo gallery, plus two trailers and the original production featurette.  Not listed on the box, but also included, are 7 deleted scenes and a Borg Invasion trailer.

Summary:

There were so many ways Insurrection could have been one of the great Star Trek films.  If it had only found a more logical moral position to fight for, or if it had shown the courage to really debate a complex issue rather than padding it.  But this is clearly a case of the needs of the many outweighing the needs of the few.  Mr. Spock must be rolling over in his grave...and he isn't even dead yet.

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