Ossus Library Index Science Fiction Movie Index

STAR TREK: NEMESIS

Directed by Stuart Baird (2002, Paramount Pictures)
Starring Patrick Stewart, Brent Spiner, Jonathan Frakes, and Tom Hardy

Picard faces off against a very personal adversary from the Romulan Empire, who is bent on destroying Earth.

View count: Twice

 

 

2+ stars+

December 15th, 2003 on DVD  
    I found the beginning of this movie to be rather slow. There was a good mix of character interaction, but very little growth. They spent their time talking about... not much. I am not saying that the movie should be all action, like First Contact, but I wish something had been done differently. The movie looked like it was written by fans, which it was, but which also means that it gets to laugh at itself at our expense. It almost feels inbred.

I found myself wondering if it was wrong to show us what was going on between the bad guys, as perhaps that would have led to more of a mystery about their intentions. I think Star Trek movies, or perhaps action movie in general, show too much, so that too much of the plot can be seen way in advance. Here, the characters simply moved in the way that they always do. Picard gets to say things that seem moving, in a very fatherly manner. Data gets to show that he has learned very little in the fifteen years he has been part of the crew: he is still puzzled by human behavior, even things that are routine, that he has seen numerous times before. Riker gets to stand around looking inept, or with a stupid grin on his face... and so on.

Most of the plot holes that bugged me are listed in my first review, below. I must amend one of my complaints, though, as reading through the Star Trek Next Generation Companion, I learned (or re-leaned, perhaps), that Data had three precursors, which validates the use of B-4. It also means that there might be another prototype lurking around somewhere. Still, I have trouble with the fact that they can pick up a trace of a positronic signature from that huge distance. If that is the case, the rest of the fleet should have been able to determine that the Enterprise was stopped in the "rift" by scanning for Data, or anybody should be able to figure out where the ship is at any time!

Apparently, there was a tribute to the TV show Enterprise in here somewhere; I've heard rumor that it is mentioned as U.S.S. Archer, but I didn't hear or see anything of that sort. Maybe on repeat viewings, I'll find it.

Still, I was impressed with the action scenes at the end, even if they followed the typical logic of action scenes. The visual effects during that battle were quite impressive, and I liked the look of the two Romulan warbirds and Enterprise firing upon the unknown position of the enemy. I still can't figure out why Worf doesn't fire the phasers constantly, always waiting for Picard's command. Why can't he triangulate where the enemy shots are coming from instead of where they are hit? Why does everybody stops firing from time to time -even the bad guys? But that's Star Trek.

One part of the music that I neglected to comment on below was the use of the classic Trek theme at the very end. I thought that was a beautiful touch, with the Enterprise in dry-dock undergoing such repairs.

The extras on the DVD don't really show much. What's with the menus, which look like they come from a video game? The interview with the director basically said nothing, through several of the features. He seems pretty high on himself, especially since he made a mediocre movie. The interviews with the cast showed some insight into what they thought of the film, and I can see their points, though they read a little too much into the plot. While the deleted scenes showed more character development, a lot of it was still quite slow, and unnecessary. Strangely enough, I loved the preview for the Deep Space Nine series set of DVDs! Ah, well...

The movie itself looked beautiful, as always. The spacescapes were breathtaking, the ships looked awesome (if a little too CG), and the battles looked "real". That's not quite enough for a great movie, though.

 

 

3 stars

January 1st, 2003 in the Theatre  
    I don't expect much from Star Trek these days, and this movie delivered about what I thought it would. It offered excellent visuals and a mostly a decent story, but left the usual amounts of stupid plot points and unanswered questions in its wake.

This wasn't great Star Trek, by any means. However, the only Trek that I am currently watching is Enterprise, which is barely recognizable as Trek. I don't like it, but hang onto it in the vain hope that it might get better. So Nemesis was a nice change. The characters are competent and not annoying, there is an ensemble cast (even if much of it doesn't get much to do), and they all wear practical uniforms -at least the good guys do.

One thing that has appeared in the movies, which wasn't a big part of the TV series is a turn of humor. Usually it is given to Data, who can often pull it off, and less often to Worf, who does comedy inadvertently, and Picard, who never had a real sense of humor in the series. For the most part, the humor occurs at the beginning of the episode, before things start to get really serious. Some of it works, at other times, it is cringe-worthy.

This is one of my favorite crews, as I can even admire their flaws. Only the crew of Deep Space Nine has grown more, and that includes Worf. But I have to say that time has not given the three leads any benefit: all three look like they've put on weight -especially Data. Wow, his neck was bulging at the collar of his uniform! I am sure that Riker had to let his uniform out for this movie. Picard was looking very old here; I'm sure some of the wrinkles were very intentional, though. It was nice to see Riker grow a beard back, as he looked terrible at the end of Insurrection bare-faced.

Their flaws? Data and Picard were shown most. Data has always felt alone, and so he has constantly sided with those who were most like him, whether it was those sentient computer chips ("ugly bags of mostly water") or his brother, Lore. Though I find it hard to believe that yet another Data-like android exists, it shapes Data's attitudes correctly. I wish we could have spent more time between Data and B4. As it was, all we really got was a reservoir for Data's memories, so that you know they can be reinstated at a later time.

The flaw of Picard's that is exploited in this movie is one that we saw in Generations, long ago. He is still the last of the Picard family. His brother and nephew died in Generations, so when he finds out that a clone of his exists, no wonder he has trouble destroying it when he finds that it is evil.

My main complaint about this film comes early in the movie, when they are recovering B4's parts. The lighting of the film was over-exposed- on purpose, I think. It made for terrible picture quality, and I don't understand why that was necessary! Actually, I could have done without the entire dune-buggy scene. Picard looks like he's having a mid-life crisis.

Although Picard's part of the story was interesting from his point of view, I didn't feel any attachment to Shinzon at all. His Reman allies looked like orcs from The Fellowship of the Ring, and even if one took him under the wing, how in the world did he escape, build a secret construction bay, build a super-sized and super-powerful spaceship, and gain the support of the Romulans? Even if he was brought up on Remus, he is human! Much of his back-story was missing -the important parts. I didn't find the motivation given was strong enough to give him a desire to wipe out Earth -more likely he would have destroyed Romulus in that case.

The movie leaves even more unanswered questions. For example, why did the pre-industrial culture attack the Enterprise away team? Who were they? Why didn't Picard even mention the Prime Directive at some point -they must have screwed up the local religion something huge! Another passing thought is why Picard didn't have any hair when he was younger, in the photo of a young cadet? I really thought the photo was of Shinzon (of course, it was...).

Finally, why did Shinzon psychically rape Deanna? Plot-wise, this is obvious, but a passing interest in a human woman (or half-human) does not give us the whole story, or a satisfying one.

Many, many more unanswered questions exist, but I think that is sufficient to illustrate the point without getting too tiresome. Just as important were the stupid plot points required to get the story to work. Most of the issues, like a lack of security in Starfleet computers, was typical all the way back to Kirk's time, and can be excused with a sigh. However, the plot was not as tight as the best episodes of this series.

The most obvious part was the memory transfer to B4 from Data. As Geordi said, I can't believe the Captain agreed to that, but it was a good thing that he did, afterwards. During the big battle at the end, suddenly everybody stopped shooting. It's bad enough that Picard has an incredibly good aim and the Remans shoot terribly, but after a certain point, so that we can get several conversations going at once, all the action stops, and nobody takes advantage of the lull. Similarly, when Shinzon's ship is seen for the first time, everybody is facing the screen except Picard, and they all stare dumbly at the approaching ship. Finally Data stumbles something out so that Picard turns around! After crashing the Enterprise into the Scimitar, Picard simply sits there. Shouldn't he continue ramming again until he has lost all power? Or perhaps move out of position so that the Scimitar doesn't have a direct line of fire between them? Once again, there are so many little stupid things that happen in this movie, or obvious things that didn't happen, that at times it became frustrating. Still, so many of these things also happen in typical Trek episodes that we enjoy so much.

Besides, there were some wonderful moments, even plot-wise. It was good of Data to stress, more than once, that B4 was not him, so that we could not expect a full recovery after his death. That made the loss something like Spock's in The Wrath of Khan, since it is possible to have full recovery in some years. Although I thought there should have been some talk beforehand of sacrifice, maybe even with Data as the mentor to somebody, his death was still quite striking. I didn't expect the ship to blow up, but simply for Data to be crippled. I especially liked the way he beamed Picard away, so that Picard didn't even get to hear his savior say "goodbye".

A subtle moment that I enjoyed was Deanna's hand on Worf's, while searching for the Reman on the Scimitar. We never get to hear how Worf feels about Deanna and Riker, but it was nice to see her guiding Worf like that. I expect that he was on the Enterprise to attend the wedding, though in that case, he wouldn't have been in charge of security.

I had some trouble accepting Picard's emotional attachment to his clone, especially after he finds out that Shinzon is intent on attacking Earth. However, I did grasp that he was desperate to find out if it was possible for him to become so evil, so filled with vengeance. His clone demonstrated that yes, it was possible, and his actions in First Contact confirm it. The look in his face after he killed Shinzon, a.k.a. himself, was worth all of it. I'm just glad that the pole he grabbed from the wall was made of wood. Imagine his surprise if it had been made of bronze or steel!

Both the visuals and the music in this film were amazing. The visuals were less so, because it was fairly easy to see what was computer generated. The lawns on Romulus looked terrible, for example -a single textured green outside the council chamber. The ships were nicely streamlined, though perhaps too perfect. I prefer the models that they used in the TV series. The nebula was really creepy and cool, and in some ways looked better than the one in Star Trek II, mainly because of the quality of graphics today. Seeing so much firepower between several ships was a really wonderful way to use the big screen.

The crash was not as dramatic as say in The Search for Spock or Generations, and the damage somehow not as painful as at the end of Undiscovered Country. But the effects at that point were amazing. The effects people really took the look of devastation from the World Trade Center and applied it to the front end of the Enterprise. I don't know if we would have believed the damage could be all grey and colorless, with no physical presence, before that.

The looks on the faces of the crew on the remains of the Enterprise bridge was amazing when they realized that they had lost Picard and Data, as was their joy at seeing Picard materialize behind them, and the sudden turn again, when he shook his head that Data didn't make it back. Even if the crew didn't get to do much, at least they got that.

The music was the real high point of the movie. The traditional Next Generation theme was present, but usually either slower or with a different style than we are used to. Mix that together with the ominous music when something bad was about to happen, or in the presence of Shinzon, and the battle music, and it was really enjoyable.

I must agree that the Romulans made their turnaround a little too conveniently. Their sudden attack of conscience about siding with Shinzon was a little forced, but I can accept that they are a race of conquerors, not exterminators. Besides, seeing them join the battle (especially Picard's "please coordinate tactics with the Romulan vessels" was hilarious) was impressive and fun.

Yes, Data's ploy was pretty transparent to viewers, but I didn't expect him to actually change places with B4 to rescue Picard. It was one of those tricks that just makes enough sense that they have to use it.

This movie has a lot in common with The Wrath of Khan, but that is not a bad thing. I don't see why Star Trek movies have to include a bad guy; some of the best episodes are ones of discovery. But if the film has to have a bad guy, he should be courageous and partially insane, obsessed with his goal, a description that fits both Khan and Shinzon. Their similarity doesn't make one a duplicate of the other -they just have similar personality traits.

As a final note, I was disheartened to see Janeway in this movie. I suppose it makes sense, but I would have rather seen an anonymous Admiral. I guess I should be grateful that she isn't out Captaining a ship around the Federation!

There was a lot to like about this movie, and a lot that could distract from it, especially to people who know Trek very well -or don't know it enough. I think this movie is almost comparable with First Contact, because while that one focused mostly on plot at the expense of many characters, this one had a good mix of plot and character moments. The characters grew, at least, and in the end, there is a true shakeup of the crew. Riker and Troi are now married and off to a new ship, where he will be captain. That was a nice send-off scene, though I expected to see Riker's new ship as the credits loomed.

I'll have to see it again to be sure, but I think the movie is better in hindsight. If I can just ignore all the plot holes, I think I could enjoy it. I'll try again later this year on DVD.

 
   

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