Posted on 12/29/12 01:17 PM
This is everything I ever wanted in a "Star Trek: The Next Generation" movie, and I love it.
In STAR TREK: INSURRECTION (Jonathan Frakes, 1998), Commander Data (Brent Spiner) runs amok while on a mission on a planet of pacifists, forcing the crew of the star ship Enterprise (Patrick Stewart, Jonathan Frakes, Marina Sirtis, Levar Burton, and Michael Dorn) to capture him and figure out why. This leads to a mystery, and a series of mounting reveals that I don't want to give away, because they're part of the fun of the movie. And it's a lot of fun, and as a result, as I write this, this is my second favorite "Star Trek" movie. Suffice it to say, the Enterprise's crew must solve this mystery, and in doing so, they discover a threat to these pacifists that questions the basic ethical principles of the "Prime Directive" that they are all sworn to uphold. Will Captain Picard (Stewart) figure out a way to resolve this dilemma and help these people? That, as always, is the film.
And as I said, it's a very good one. First of all, unlike FIRST CONTACT (Jonathan Frakes, 1996), it's not disjointed - it really tells an actual, linear, NextGen-styled story, complete with, as I said, a series of reveals, and an ethical dilemma. The story itself also plays into Rodenberry's original "Star Trek" tradition of commenting on modern day events by creating a fictional situation that's similar. The stakes are very high here, as (spoiler) humanity seems to be on the brink of discovering the Fountain of Youth, making this big enough to be a feature film, and not a one hour episode of the series. As a result, it has enough action to sustain that, without becoming the "premise and violence" that FIRST CONTACT was. Most importantly, the characters are true to how we have known them from seven seasons of the series - as I said, this is exactly the NextGen movie that I wanted, the type that I myself would make. And I love it. The gambit they do at the end, creatively using the holodeck in a way that sticks it to the bad guys is classic, and gives you the "yeah" moment you always want in an action film, especially one involving characters you know and love. It has humor, it has heart, it has romance - all in all a nearly flawless film.
So why no perfect score? My major pet peeve with NextGen as a whole has been that the writers seem unsure of how to handle Marina Sirtis's beauty. Because it's modern show, and has always striven to be so, there is a conscious effort not to be sexist, but still acknowledge the fact that Marina Sirtis is a beautiful woman, a tendency that they're so tentative in doing that Sirtis herself has been annoyed by it at times. So while in this movie she wears a less revealing uniform, which is good, what bothers me is that again, we find a NextGen film where her primary role in the story is just doing "girlie" things. She serves as Riker (Frakes)'s love interest and little else. While there are bits of business in the beginning where she uses her empathic abilities and behaves like the counselor of the ship that she is, that soon goes away. As the television series went on, the writers did a lot more with her character, creating whole episodes that either revolved around her or where she was the primary agent for resolving the plot. Not so much here. While it's true that these films have to be primarily about Picard, and the other characters just play their roles as crew members, her role never seems to be all that substantial. In real life, as in later episodes of the series, she would serve roughly the same role the Secretary of State does in the modern U.S. government, being an essential figure in diplomacy. She never seems to do that very much in these movies, which heavily involve interactions with foreign cultures, so I don't quite understand why that is. And as you can see, it does bother me.
All that said, everything else about this movie hits dead on. Had all of the NextGen movies followed this simple guidelines, to just be really good episodes of the series, with more special effects, action, and more elaborate plots, I would have found them much more satisfying as a whole. I still have one more yet to see, but so far, this is my favorite. A.