With the exception of First Contact, the Next Generation films are the ones that Star Trek fans seem to love to hate. Star Trek: Insurrection has certainly taken heat as being one of the weaker films in the series, but is it deserved? Yes and no. It's a very light-weight film, to be sure, but it's hardly a disaster, and it succeeds in serving up a reasonably entertaining viewing experience.
What Insurrection really is, from start to finish, is a decent two-part episode from the Next Generation series. It fits the bill in terms of length (at 103 minutes, it could even have been edited down more tightly) and also in terms of plot. Though there are occasional throwaway comments about the Dominion intended to connect Insurrection to the larger story arc in the Star Trek universe, and the film attempts to set up a tone of impending doom for the Federation, in truth the events unfolding in Insurrection are clearly a little world unto themselves. There's never any real feeling that the Federation is in trouble (or that the events in the film have any effect on it whatsoever), or that Picard is putting anything more on the line for the Ba'ku than he's done for any other alien race threatened by the unscrupulous. The plot itself is reasonably interesting, though more so in the questions it implies about immortality and the pace of life, than in the way it actually develops those issues; this is not a film in which hard choices have to be made, or in which there are many gray areas.
Even in the moment-by-moment unfolding of the film, it feels a lot more like an episode than a feature film. The opening scene shows an establishing shot of an absolutely typical Star Trek small town... the kind that seems to have about two or three buildings and about ten inhabitants; I'd even say that director Jonathan Frakes is having a little fun with us here by deliberately evoking the small-scale offworld sets from the series. (At least the Ba'ku town is marginally bigger and better-populated than its predecessors on the small screen, and the inhabitants don't have funny foreheads.)
The main cast members all get one or two moments in the sun, including Worf (who always seems to get into a lot of trouble whenever he's away from his DS9 station, doesn't he?), and there are some nice nods to the relationships among the ensemble, including a fun byplay between Troi and Riker. But just as there's no sense of real pressure on the large scale in terms of plot, there's also not a lot going on in terms of character development. The hinted-at relationship between Picard and the Ba'ku leader is disappointing not so much in the way it plays out (it's handled reasonably well) but in the way it sweeps even further into the background the potential for a relationship between Dr. Crusher and Picard. That's something that was starting to be developed in the series, and that seems to have been dropped like a hot potato in the feature films. What, is Gates McFadden not glamorous enough?
It's interesting to see F. Murray Abraham as the main villain, though he doesn't really have a whole lot of dramatic things to do in the film, other than snarl about how weak and spineless the Federation is. (He may have a point, but he doesn't seem very effective either.)
It may sound like I found a lot wrong with Insurrection, but that's not really accurate. It's simply that it's a lot easier to find what doesn't work quite right with this film than it is to pin down what works. In the end, Insurrection is entertaining to watch, and it stood up to repeat viewing rather better than I'd expected it to. It's just more accurately considered as a "bonus episode" rather than a feature film. A disaster? Hardly. A missed opportunity? Absolutely. It's still a fun, if fluffy, adventure for fans, though.
As with the other Collector's Editions, Insurrection is a two-disc set packaged in a double-wide plastic keepcase. The first disc has the feature film, and the second disc has the bonus materials.
Star Trek: Insurrection looks excellent here. I did a comparison to the earlier single-disc release, and while the difference isn't enormous, I'd still say that the CE represents an upgrade in image quality. The film, which is presented in its original widescreen theatrical aspect ratio of 2.35:1 and is anamorphically enhanced (as was the earlier release) looks cleaner in the CE, with a generally crisper appearance. While the film isn't extremely colorful in general, the CE looks a bit richer and warmer than the earlier transfer. Overall, it's a very pleasing transfer, with essentially no edge enhancement at all, and a generally clean and attractive appearance.
The big upgrade for the CE is the addition of a DTS track on top of the Dolby 5.1 and Dolby 2.0 options. The 5.1 track is perfectly fine, but the DTS adds an extra level of depth that makes it the best track to select. Surround effects are handled nicely, with an excellent sense of immersion throughout the film. The sound quality for the track as a whole is also excellent, with nicely clear dialogue and a good balance between dialogue, music, and sound effects.
The special features here are moderately interesting. The first disc has a text commentary by Michael Okuda and Denise Okuda, who seem to have made a cottage industry out of text commentaries on Trek films; as with the other text commentaries of theirs that I've seen, it's reasonably interesting, offering tid-bits of Trek trivia and behind-the-scenes information on the making of the film.
The second disc contains the bulk of the special features, divided into several sections. "Production" has the majority of the mini-featurettes. We get "It Takes a Village" (a 16-minute general overview), "Location, Location, Location" (20 minutes), "The Art of Insurrection" (a 15-minute slideshow of concept art), "Anatomy of a Stunt" (a 6-minute look at the making of a stunt that didn't make it into the final cut), "The Story" (17 minutes), "Making Star Trek: Insurrection" (25 minutes; it's a general overview of the making of the film, and is reasonably interesting), and "Director's Notebook" (19 minutes of Frakes' general observations).
"The Star Trek Universe" section contains two miscellaneous featurettes. The more interesting one is "Westmore's Aliens," an 18-minute piece in which the costume/makeup designer talks about his various creations. "Star Trek's Beautiful Alien Women" is rather odd, though; it's a 13-minute look at... well, at various alien women who have appeared in various episodes and films, with Frakes giving his thoughts on them.
Three special-effect scenes are profiled in the "Creating the Illusion" section: the shuttle chase (9 minutes), the drones (5 minutes), and the duck blind (4 minutes).
Of most interest to fans will probably be the "Deleted Scenes" section, which is mysteriously not listed on the back of the DVD case. It's there, though: there are seven different extended or deleted scenes, including an alternate ending, running about 13 minutes. Producer Peter Lauritson gives some brief comments between the scenes, which have a convenient "play all" feature.
The special features wrap up with the "Archives" (a set of storyboards and a photo gallery) and "Advertising," which contains the teaser trailer and theatrical trailer for the film, the original 5-minute promotional featurette, and a trailer for Borg Invasion.
Star Trek: Insurrection wavers on the edge between a rental and a decent purchase. It's an entertaining film, one that held up better than I expected to repeat viewing, but it's still more of an extended episode with a lavish budget than a real feature film. If you're a mild Trek fan, Insurrection will do well as a rental. If you're an acknowledged Trekkie with a streak of completionism (yes, I'd include myself in that category), Insurrection is worth picking up to add to your collection, especially since the CE treats the film well in terms of audio and video quality, with a better transfer and a nice DTS track. Recommended.