Sunday, January 5, 2014

Nitpickery -- Star Trek: Insurrection

Hey y'all.

Ugh.  Just ugh.  I have to do Star Trek Insurrection now, don't I?  I don't really want to.  The trouble with this movie is that it's just...well, boring.  The other three movies for Next Gen were all crap too, and technically Generations and Nemesis are worse, but Insurrection just has no appeal whatsoever.  Sure, Generations is technically a movie for no one, but it has William Shatner in it, as well as some nice Walter Koenig moments. First Contact had literally the most implausible plot ever, but it appealed to some fans, and the actress who played Lily actually acted like a real human rather than a plastic Trek trope.  Nemesis has no redeeming qualities, but it's at least highly nitpickable and a good example of several bad movie-making choices.

Insurrection, on the other's like they picked the plot out of a big batch of Star Trek cliches and went for it.  Sure, at this point the Star Trek franchise wasn't doing so hot.  The writers didn't know how to branch out and create new Trek things, except for the DS9 side, who went so far they ended up not being entirely Trek.  The true Trek feeling was fading, and Hollywood didn't seem to want to give out much money to it.

Ugh.  I was not looking forward to watching this movie.  I didn't want to do it.  But I'm supposed to be doing these blog posts on it, or something.  So yeah.  Have I mentioned how much I really hate fanciful DVD intros?  Y'know, those really fake looking gimmicky intros that think it's "cool" to pretend that clicking an option in the DVD menu is like doing some function on a spaceship (or other movie reference).  Maybe that's just a pet peeve, but yeah.  It annoys me.

Nitpickery is spoilers.

So plot summary.  Data, involved with some project away from the rest of the crew, goes buggy and reveals a cloaked base to a pre-industrial society of Baku.  The Enterprise is called in to deal with it, and it turns out that an admiral in Starfleet is working with some guys called Sonas who want to harvest the life-generating radiation of the planet which keeps the Baku alive forever.  Picard leads an "insurrection" to keep the admiral and the baddies from doing so, and it turns out that the Sonas are Baku, only looking different because they used too much plastic surgery and stuff to keep themselves young.  Picard destroys the collector and kills Ruafu, the leader of the Sonas.  Moo.

----- Ten Things to Say About Star Trek: Insurrection -----

10.  Holy crap, this movie is boring.

It was every bit as bad as I anticipated.  So uninspired.  The basic plot revolves around the morality of taking someone's property for the benefit of others in the universe, and if it's morally correct even when you simply relocate than destroy the native population.  Basically, if immortality exists in harvestable form, do the natives get it all to themselves?

I'm making it sound more interesting than it is.  If they had dealt with that question, it may have been fun or intelligent.  As it was, they basically just focused on the admiral, Admiral Baby as I'll call him, is a bad guy who is compromising Starfleet principles by working with the Sonas in the effort to forcibly remove people.  The argument is one-sided.  It's not that I'm looking for a non-biased movie, as the Enterprise crew might naturally lean mostly one specific direction.  It's just the movie needed a character or a situation to support the other side of the debate, so as to not only involve real discussion, but to add tension to an otherwise dull movie.  Half of the stuff McCoy did on original series was disagree with Kirk and Spock just to add an alternate voice to the mix, even when clearly McCoy hadn't thought things through.  Bickering means drama, people.

What makes this movie worse is that apparently this same theme of Native American parallel was already done before on Next Generation, where Picard supported Starfleet over a native population.  Star Trek has already done it before there, and one could argue that the situation with the Macqui in Deep Space Nine is similar in tone.  Why did they think it would be a good idea in a movie?

Actually, the episode this most reminds me of is Plato's Stepchildren, an original series episode where another group lived in a world that kept them alive for time immemorial.

9. The Baku are not thought out.

There's a lot of problems with the Baku as a race.  We'll start with their immortality.  It's a trope in science fiction and especially in Star Trek that immortality is boring.  That when a creature is long-lived (or in some contexts, a human artificially extended) they turn into someone who doesn't want to live anymore, as life is boring and uninteresting, and they'd just rather end it all.  Kind of creepy, no?

While I've always found this trope to be a kind of sour grapes, it would at least have been fun to reference it. After all, if the Baku live forever, how do they keep from being bored?  Especially since they live in a rural farmland where everyone has to make their own entertainment.  So what do they live for?  Just to live in an agricultural way isn't that important of a thing.  Why is this idea never explored?

Also, I find it weird that a group of them are referenced as having greater awareness and abilities and then this is never brought up again.

Also, it's never explained why the Baku are techno-phobes.  Why are they so opposed to technology and weapons?  Thing is, if you live on a planet with immortality, you're bound to attract the attention of people who want this immortality.  Klingons, Romulans, and all sorts of people would either try to politically manipulate or invade.  If you don't have technology or weapons, you're dead.  Sure, maybe the prime directive applies, but it only applies to Federation planets.  It won't stop people from trying to take advantage.

Honestly, it was dumb for the Sonas to bring in the Federation to solve their problems at all.  That just ensures that the rest of the universe knows that they exist, bringing all kinds of trouble that they are not equipped to solve.

8.  According to the Star Trek timeline, the Dominion War is going on.  Why is Picard uninvolved?

Seriously.  There are a bunch of shapeshifters fighting with all their supersoldiers and stuff.  Maybe the best captain in Starfleet (in terms of ability to do the job; Kirk is still more entertaining) should be fighting somebody relevant.  After all, they mention that Worf is supposed to be on Deep Space Nine.  Why not do something related to the storyline?  Wars are pretty exciting.  Why can't they work something up with that, maybe?  It'd be better than watching this nonsense.

7. I like the intro scene where they're showing everyone busy.

Yeah, this is for the effort of saying something positive.  This was a nice, well-acted scene where lots of lines were going lots of places.  It didn't really re-introduce us to the characters, but it set the scene pretty well.

This is going to be a short point.

6.  The humor still fails.

It really does.  Especially since most of it is directed towards Worf, following the cheap stereotype of making fun of the strongest of the characters.  Really, Worf would get up late to his shift?  Since when is he so irresponsible?  Was that a set up for anything?  No?  Um, okay.  Let's all just make fun of the mighty Klingon as he gets a pimple, just like middle schoolers.  Way to point out your friend's insecurities, Riker.  Besides, who cares if he has a pimple?  You see grosser looking aliens every day.

Ugh.  The joke were Data is a flotation device is just insultingly bad.  Why quote the airplane safety manual here?  Has what was once the prime science fiction franchise devolved into Jerry Seinfeld level humor?  What makes it worse is that Data doesn't even use his floating ability for anything useful.  He just makes a stupid joke and bobs up and down.  Cut to next thing.

5.  I hate Data more than ever.

Data is at his worst.  For one thing, they have him lose his mind after seeing the plans Admiral Baby and Ruafu Monsterface.  Why would Data do that?  He's seen way worse things than a holographic environment meant to stash away a population.  How would this damage him?  And why did they send him back to the same spot without knowing the source of the problem?  If it was Ruafu's men that did it, how could they damage Data enough to mess up his circuits, but not enough to deactivate him?  Seems a fairly unlikely balance.

If one line had been removed from the movie, Data's performance at least would have made sense.  But no, they just had to add that Data didn't have his emotions chip.  Nobody told Brent Spiner, from the looks of things, as Data frequently shows emotions and mannerisms that are clearly not his typical behavior.  He acts like a clown.  If they hadn't said he didn't have his emotions chip, then it would have been annoying, but logical.  Heck, they should have said that Ruafu's men accidentally triggered an error with Data's brain.  The chip is removed, and then Data can act like his usual self again.

Again, who cares that he pals around with a child?  Data's never shown much interest in being like a child.  Why does he express it now?

Wait, what?  You have Data singing some cheesy song?  In a movie that's supposed to be exciting, and right in the middle of a chase?

Pssht.  I don't care about this anymore.  No really, I don't.  Ugh.  I'm supposed to write a list of ten things to say about this movie, but I don't want to.  It's just so boring.  You can't make me.  ...Can I at least fill the rest of them up with "this movie is boring" over and over?  No?  Dang it...

4. The Riker/Deanna romance just didn't work for me.

For one thing, why doesn't Riker have his own ship yet?  It's so creepy for a man his age to tag along second string and spend the Next Gen movies doing virtually nothing.  But more on point, he's acting like a doofus. Sure, the planet is supposed to be having an effect on everyone, making them act like they're younger.  Thing is, this is never properly explored.  We never have a moment where the irrational behavior becomes interesting either as a detriment or aid to the Enterprise crew.  And why don't the Baku men act like horny idiots from the radiation?

Instead of the idea becoming an important plot point, we have to watch a scene where the first officer of a space ship is interrupting the counselor of the ship while she's on duty so he can flirt with her and try to get her to come to his quarters.  For some reason, Troi kisses the weirdo Riker and comments "I've never kissed you with a beard before."  Well, hon, he's had that beard for years.  And if he's making..."seductive" comments to your face, then clearly you've either set up a relationship with him, or the first officer is suddenly a huge perv that you have decided to kiss for no reason.  Troi, I'd defend you (a little) on the show, but your movie version is meh and a half.

I honestly liked the Troi/Worf angle they were going for at the end of the Next Generation show.  They're both very emotional people, and Troi is close to Worf's son.  But I guess that relationship is too "controversial" for the movies, or they didn't want to imply continuity that could extend to Worf on Deep Space Nine.  Still...I like them.  Riker without his beard is just funny looking.

3.  Why didn't any negotiation happen?

Everything in this movie could have been avoided if Starfleet had just negotiated with the Baku.  The Baku give their magical...whatever the crap it is that makes 'em immortal, and the Federation protects them.  Done and done.  Does the prime directive apply?  Who cares?  Soon enough some mofo will come and plunder the Baku, and they won't care about the prime directive.

Okay, so the movie begins as is.  Why doesn't Admiral Baby just make up some lie about his intentions for the Baku people?  I mean crap, what did he tell the Enterprise he needed Data for when Data was originally brought to the planet?  "Hey, I need to borrow Data but I can't tell you why"?  Of course not.  Actually, it would have been better if they'd never brought in Data at all.   Seriously, make up some lie so that Picard can leave.  Of course, Ruafu screws that up by having people shoot at Picard.  Obviously he won't leave then.

Seriously.  Nobody thinks anything through in this movie, and there's not enough flash-bang to fool the non-fans in to liking it.

2. For a movie dependent on visuals, this one really didn't perform.

There was nothing to look at.  Half of visual affects is all about camera angles on interesting things -- and not necessarily digital things at all.  For example, Star Trek: Generations succeeded at this during the scene where Data and Picard are in the stellar cartography room.  The star-charts were cool and blue, and they were very tall, like having a huge space poster on a museum wall.

In Star Trek: Insurrection, they've stopped trying so much.  Oh sure, they tried a little.  There were these scenes where Ruafu would have his skin stretched over his face, and that was sort of gross.  The not so good visual was when Ruafu murdered Admiral Baby by putting him in the skin-stretching machine.  Not only did it look really fake, but it's not the sort of thing that belongs in a Star Trek film.  Trek is supposed to be at least mildly intellectual, not a show for gruesome deaths.

There was also an odd scene where Picard is watching a slow motion hummingbird near a slow motion waterfall.  I have no idea what part this scene plays in the story.  Does the planet randomly have slow-motion bits for some reason?  Why are these never explored or used for the plot?  Why don't the Baku create slow-motion spas for the foreigners?  Anyway, besides this scene having no point, the waterfall looks terrible.  It looks like silvery digital goo floating downwards.

I'm not really an HD sort of person, but the fact remains that nothing in this movie really caught my eye.  No particularly fun camera angles, no interesting props or setpieces, and no digital stunt that the kiddies like.  It's just plain countryside and typical spaceship sets.  There are no bright colors or unique design.  It's just stuff that's there.  Kind of like the plot.

1.  The trouble with this movie is that it's too far based on the television show without pulling itself into the movie realm.

I'm sorry, you guys.  This has not been my best nitpickery.  The truth of the matter is that this movie is too dull to really get into.  Things just happen because they're supposed to happen.  Why?  Because it's Star Trek.  The crew of the Enterprise is always there for justice and truth and whatever, and the new cool thing to do is to be a rebel, so they have to rebel against Starfleet, of course.  Except not really, because we have no clue how much Admiral Baby has actually told to the Federation.  The dialogue doesn't make it clear.

This episode is based on a plot that has already happened before, and been better told as well.  It has the Enterprise coming in and saving the day as though they're the A-Team visiting.  They re-use the Star Trek V "Klingon" bit of music again.  There's a child in danger, of course, as well as lots of laser fire.  Oh wow, and they re-used shots from the previous movie for this film's trailer.  Just brilliant.

I have now come up with the strangest sounding advice ever: don't be yourself.  Don't try so hard to follow the image of yourself that you can't grow and change into something better.  Don't let other people's perceptions of you influence you into thinking "I'm supposed to be this way" and then you end up boxing yourself in, letting yourself become the cartoon your antagonists thought you were in the first place.

This movie is for insomniacs, and no one else.  The best actor is Celine Dion, who does her best to put life into a really tired retread.

I'm sorry for being so negative in this one, you guys.  It's the movie's fault.  For the next film, I'll take a break from Trek and do a movie that I love, and does indeed deserve love.

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