Star Trek: Insurrection (review)

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Simplify Your Life

It’s a Star Trek movie. Does it even matter if it’s any good? If you’re a Trekkie, you’ll see it — you may hate it in the end, but you’ll pay your eight bucks. If you’re not a Trekkie, you won’t go anywhere near it.

Which is a shame, because Star Trek: Insurrection is pretty decent science fiction, pretty decent Star Trek, and a pretty decent movie that even non-Trekkies would probably enjoy.

Written by Rick Berman and Michael Piller — the two major creative forces behind recent incarnations of the 60’s series — and directed by Jonathan Frakes (aka Cmdr. Riker), Insurrection, like all good Trek and all good science fiction, isn’t about warp drives or phasers or other cool technology but about people: How do we keep track of what’s really important in our fast-paced, modern world?
The Bak’u live peaceful, happy lives on their little planet off in a distant sector of the Federation. The Enterprise arrives to collect an apparently malfunctioning Lt. Cmdr. Data (Brent Spiner), who had been assisting in a project observing the Bak’u, and its crew discovers that the project has a much more nefarious purpose than the mere collecting of information about a new culture. The Bak’u are not the technologically backward people they appear to be, with their hand-tilled gardens and water-powered devices. Actually, they have knowledge of advanced technology, which they eschew in favor of living simple lives. But what the joint Starfleet/Son’a (a new alien race in Trek) project is really interested in is the fact that the Bak’u live hundreds of years, thanks to restorative powers in the atmosphere.

It’s scientific gobbledygook, but it doesn’t matter (it’s fair game in SF to fall back on something a little hokey if it makes for a good story). The magic atmosphere of the Bak’u planet has all the Enterprise crew feeling frisky. Riker and Counselor Troi (Marina Sirtis) playfully rekindle their old love affair. The gruff and serious Lt. Cmdr. Worf (Michael Dorn) reverts to pimply, oversleeping adolescence. Data learns about being a child from a Bak’u boy, who tells him that to be a kid, you’ve got to have fun every day. Capt. Picard (Patrick Stewart) discovers, with the help of the lovely Bak’u Anij (Donna Murphy), how to find an entire universe to explore in a single wonderful moment. In probably the film’s most touching scene (not that this is a sappy Hallmark card, by any means), Lt. Cmdr. Geordi LaForge (LeVar Burton), his formerly blind eyes rejuvenated by the Bak’u world, sees his first sunrise.

The Son’a, on the other hand, are obsessed with maintaining a youthful appearance, even if it makes them just about as hideous looking as Katherine Hellmond in Brazil. If only they’d seen this movie before they launched their evil plan of attack on the Bak’u, they’d know that the appearance of youth isn’t what makes one young. But no — Son’a leader Ru’afo (F. Murray Abraham) is kinda obsessed. He has his reasons, and I won’t spoil it for him by revealing all.

Remember how Terminator II was the most violent antiviolence movie ever made? Now Star Trek: Insurrection is probably the most expensive, most decorated with gorgeously rendered computer-generated special effects, most filled with whiz-bang technology movie ever made to finally end by saying: “What are you doing in a theater? It’s a gorgeous day outside! Go smell some flowers.”

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