Coming off the high of First Contact, the Next Generation crew stumbles hard with the unfortunately uneventful Star Trek: Insurrection. What might have passed as a semi-interesting one-off episode of the series is stretched thinner than F. Murray Abraham’s face with undercooked plot machinations and cringe-inducing stabs at humor. But it makes for a fine 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray with a quite lovely Dolby Vision transfer, great audio, and another fine package of bonus features. Worth A Look
Tasked with introducing a new race into the Federation, Captain Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) and the crew of the Enterprise-E are due for some low-stakes missions after their recent victory over the Borg. Only nothing stays low-stakes in the service of the Federation for very long. Commander Data (Brent Spinner) has been assigned to assist Admiral Dougherty (Anthony Zerbe) and the skin-stretched Ru’afo (F. Murray Abraham) and the Son’a to peacefully and strategically observe the primitive Ba’ku peoples inside the mysterious Briar Patch. When Data malfunctions and endangers that mission, Picard, Riker (Jonathan Frakes), and the rest of the Enterprise-E crew come to rescue their android comrade only to discover a far more sinister plot is afoot.
Star Trek has always been a show and film franchise about big ideas. From the first episode of the original series to Star Trek: The Motion Picture, big thoughtful ideas, and themes are what separate the various series and films from other “pew-pew laser blast” science fiction franchises. Even with the most action-packed entries like Star Trek II, Star Trek: VI, or Star Trek: First Contact - themes of mortality, legacy, revenge, and forgiveness have been explored in meaningful ways. It helps, but constant action isn’t always necessary for a good Trek film. But a lack of exciting action and undercooked mildly thoughtful ideas are what inevitably doom the franchise’s ninth film, Star Trek: Insurrection.
Much like the maligned Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, this is a film that thinks it has big ideas and themes to explore, but only enough plot and interesting action to sustain your average series episode. Insurrection has some thoughts about mortality and humanity’s use and abuse of natural resources without consequence, but its plot doesn’t justly service these notions. Like the people in The Village, the Ba’ku are too simple and primitive to be interesting while the Son’a are too cartoonish to be menacing or threatening. After the thrilling pulse-pounding First Contact, this film feels like it chugged down a Valium with a whiskey chaser and settled in for the night.
Action sequences are relatively sparse and when the film could use a kick in the pants, it frustratingly falls back on humor - which isn’t this Crew’s strong point. Data’s singing show tunes, Worf’s gorch, Picard dancing the Mombo, discussions about breasticalboobical firmness between Crusher and Troi… all gags meant to give a chuckle just make you want to squint, curl up in your seat and pretend it didn’t happen. Even classic bad-guy actors like F. Murray Abraham and Anthony Zerbe stumble leaving their meaty scenery-chewing steaks untouched.
That isn’t to say the whole film is without merit, there are some strong emotional pieces that show that meaningful attempts were made. LeVar Burton scores one of the most poignant moments of the film as the rejuvenating elements on the planet allow him to see the sunrise with his actual eyes for the first time. That’s the kind of thoughtful meaningful content I love to see in a Star Trek film or series episode. There are a few other fine moments, but not enough to completely salvage this operation.
I remember getting excited when the plot for this film was announced and billed as Picard essentially going to war against the Federation with Frakes returning to direct. I expected to see the Enterprise-E flying solo against a fleet of starships to protect a peaceful race from being exploited. I didn't expect to see Riker using a PC joystick to steer the Enterprise into gathering what was essentially a giant space fart and blowing it into the bad guys' ships for them to light on fire. Star Trek has always been its most exciting whenever whichever Captain at the helm of whatever starship stands on principal and motivates the action. That sadly doesn’t really happen here. Sure, Picard holds firm in his beliefs, but any reprocutions for his actions would be minimal. There's no immediate urgency to this languidly-paced outing.
Ultimately Star Trek: Insurrection is a film with a couple of ideas worth exploring but the script just meanders around. It’s been said many times and I echo the sentiment that this probably would have been a better series episode instead of a feature film. The stakes are too low, the villains too simple to be threatening, and the film is just too silly for its own good. There’s lighthearted fun entertainment and then there’s lightweight. Simply put, this film stacks as one of the worst Trek films alongside the inept Star Trek V: The Final Frontier and the woeful Star Trek: Into Darkness.
Vital Disc Stats: The 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray
The third cinematic adventure of the Next Generation crew, Star Trek: Insurrection, beams down to 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray with a two-disc 4K UHD + Blu-ray + Digital set from Paramount. Housed in a standard sturdy case, the 4K is pressed on a BD-66 with a BD-50 saved for the remastered 1080p presentation and bonus features. Both discs load to static-image main menus.
With the want for a lighter cheerier adventure, Star Trek: Insurrection manages to deliver an often beautiful 2160p HDR (Dolby Vision and HDR10) transfer. Much of this film is brightly lit with lovely exterior locations and it’s quite often stunning to look at. Details for the Ba’ku homes and village, the Son’a’s stretched faces, and your average human, android, or Klingon look terrific. Fine film grain is apparent throughout and looks appropriately cinematic without appearing smoothed over or modulated like some other Paramount catalog titles.
Dolby Vision aids this film’s visual appeal allowing for a better range of colors, better black levels, with bright bold whites. The outdoor scenes generally look the best with a great sense of depth to the image. Night sequences look better this outing than past discs with nice inky black levels and much-improved shadows - especially when Picard is leading the Ba'ku through the caves. Whites are nice and crisp without blooming issues. This film had a bit more CGI effects to it but there are still plenty of practical effects working to give the bigger action sequences some weight. A couple of the effects shots can look a bit dated, Data pealing off his Invisibility Cloak early in the film is an example, but for the most part, there aren’t any serious offenders. All around another worthwhile upgrade.
Continuing the trend, Star Trek: Insurrection beams down with an active and often impressive Dolby TrueHD 7.1 track. While not as active as First Contact, there’s plenty of surround immersion to enjoy. The last half of the film picks up offering a nice soundstage to play in with plenty of front/center, side, and rear activity. The assault on the Ba’ku with the teleporting drones and laser blasts is a solid sequence giving the mix a full range to play with while rumbling the low end. Given the number of quiet conversational moments, there’s not a lot of big explosive material to highlight, but even the simple activity of the Ba’ku village is enough to keep the channels working. Dialog is clean and clear without issue. Once again Goldsmith’s score gets ample opportunity to shine with another all-around solid audio mix. Maybe not the best of these latest Trek releases, but certainly an improvement over the old TrueHD 5.1 tracks
Once again, Paramount doesn’t add anything new to the mix for this release of Star Trek: Insurrection but instead sits on a nice archive of content. The Commentary track with Sirtis and Frakes isn’t the most informative listen, but it’s entertaining with Frakes now that he's been given someone to work with versus his solo commentary for First Contact. There are some interesting tidbits, but the Text Commentary is much more informative if that’s what you’re after. After that, we get a similar assortment of production and behind-the-scenes featurettes we’ve enjoyed with previous releases. All interesting stuff if you’ve never picked through it before.
4K UHD Disc
After a high note, it’s difficult for any franchise to follow up a great success so a small stumble or misstep is to be expected, if even forgivable. Star Trek: Insurrection was just a blunder. After the big stage of First Contact, this ninth franchise film falls back on small-screen ideas for a plot that would only feel at home as a one-off episode of the series and not a major multi-million dollar feature film production. As great as it is to see our Next Generation cast back in action, this is easily the weakest entry of their films and one of the weakest in the cinematic franchise as a whole. But for fans looking to upgrade their old Blu-ray, Paramount delivers another excellent Dolby Vision transfer with another strong Dolby TrueHD 7.1 audio mix and a nice archive of bonus features to pick through. The disc is great but the movie itself is just difficult to recommend so on its own I'm calling it Worth A Look