By Christopher Null
Star Trek: Nemesis, the tenth (and God help us, the last) movie in the unstoppable Trek series, offers the thinnest story since Star Trek V took the previous crew to the center of the galaxy in search of God. But at least this one isn't saddled by metaphysical nonsense. All of that's out the shuttle bay doors in favor of good, old-fashioned idiocy, ripped from yesterday's headlines.
This time out, the bad guys aren't the Klingons (really old hat), cool outcasts like Khan, the Borg (all but done away with in movie #8), or mystery technology sent from afar (dispensed with in #1 and #4). It's not really even the Romulans, perhaps the last major remaining enemy in the Trek universe. In fact, this time the baddies are ourselves! Or rather, it's Picard, who comes face to face with -- wait for it -- his own clone!
That's not the Enterprise (now the sixth version of the ship) creaking, that's the audience groaning at the sheer stupidity of the plot. In the past, Picard (Patrick Stewart) was cloned with stolen DNA, but the clone was abandoned on the Romulan mining planet of Remus when the plan to have the clone take over Picard's life fizzled out. Years later, the clone Shinzon (Tom Hardy) escapes his slavery, engineers a coup on Romulus, and becomes the first human Praetor of the empire! (Note to non-Trek geeks: This would be the equivalent of Yasser Arafat becoming the U.S. President.)
Naturally, not only does Shinzon want Picard personally, he's planning to destroy the earth with a made-up doomsday radiation weapon. (When was the last time in a Trek movie the entire earth was not in danger? That's a joke. Don't write me with the answer.) The crew must go all the way to Romulus to stop the madness!
It takes forever to actually get there, of course. It's been four years since the last movie, so we need to catch up with our beloved crew. At the film's beginning, it's the eve of the wedding between Riker (Jonathan Frakes) and Troi (Marina Sirtis). Everyone's there, even old cast members Whoopi Goldberg and Wil Wheaton (in what was reduced to a silent cameo). Unfortunately, this is no longer the cast we used to love from the TV series. La Forge (LeVar Burton) has his eyes. Troi has her hair straightened. Once-humorless robot Data (Brent Spiner) can now sing, for God's sake. Even Kate Mulgrew, from the Voyager series, makes a cameo as a Starfleet Admiral.
Once we get the crew to Romulus, things start to pick up, but barely. The few action scenes are uninspired with the sole exception of Picard's ultimate gambit against a far-superior Romulan ship. His intermittent duel with Shinzon is laughable, and unfortunately the remaining cast members are given nothing to do. Poor Riker is dispatched to fight hand to hand with some alien or another. Worf (Michael Dorn) is reduced to providing cover for Picard in one of the sequences. That's about the extent of it. And you've seen it all in the trailers already.
Speaking of the trailers, the promised death of one character does occur, but everyone knows you can never really kill a Star Trek character. This one is particularly open-ended, and should they decide to make another movie (though it's long been rumored this is the last), I have no doubt he'll be back to dutifully collect his paycheck.
Why have the Star Trek movies become such junk? For starters, with 10 movies and 500 or so TV episodes in various Trek series, it's safe to say all the good ideas are long since tapped out. Just watch the cast and tell me they don't look bored to tears. One of the reasons I still enjoy the Star Wars movies (even though they're admittedly weaker these days) is that they've been exploring its mythology and fleshing it out. Star Trek has long since exhausted that and is just taking its crew on a series of adventures, each more absurd than the last. Now it's just embarassing.
Those absurdities take place not just within Nemesis's dumb plot but with the endless contrivances required to keep it going. When Picard beams aboard the enemy ship, the transporters promptly break, ensuring no one can follow him. For the ship to deploy its super-weapon, it takes seven minutes... just enough time to -- well, you get the picture.
Star Trek wouldn't be Star Trek without some kind of "message" for us, and in this case it's a watery something about self-improvement making us human. Too bad that for everyone involved with this film, including director Stuart Baird (U.S. Marshals) and screenwriter John Logan (The Time Machine), that seems to have gone right over their heads.
Now on DVD, you will unfortunately find no apology for the movie anywhere on the disc. Stuart Baird's oblivious commentary track talks on and on about the shot setups and special effects. Interviews with producer Rick Berman and the cast talk cagily about how impressed they are with the story or how much "the work" spoke to them (or their wallets, I imagine). Twenty of the 45 minutes trimmed from the film are restored as deleted scenes, nearly all of them dialogue and exposition (meaning: they cut everything out of the movie but the action sequences). Unlike Chateau Picard's Bordeaux, I just don't see this one improving with age.
Naturally there's also a "collector's edition" DVD, which adds a second disc, featuring commentary from Berman, a text commentary track, and tons of production shorts.
Prepare to beam the script into the black hole.
Genre: Sci fi/Fantasy
Run time: 116 mins
In Theaters: Friday 13th December 2002
Box Office USA: $43.1M
Box Office Worldwide: $67.3M
Distributed by: Paramount Pictures
Production compaines: Paramount Pictures
Contactmusic.com: 1.5 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 37%
Fresh: 59 Rotten: 99
IMDB: 6.4 / 10
Director: Stuart Baird
Producer: Rick Berman
Screenwriter: John Logan
Starring: Patrick Stewart as Captain Jean-Luc Picard, Jonathan Frakes as Captain William T. Riker, LeVar Burton as Lt. Commander Geordi La Forge, Brent Spiner as Lt. Commander Data, Gates McFadden as Dr. Beverly Crusher, Marina Sirtis as Counselor Deanna Troi-Riker, Tom Hardy as Praetor Shinzon, Ron Perlman as The Reman Viceroy, Shannon Cochran as Senator Tal'aura, Dina Meyer as Commander Donatra, Michael Dorn as Lt. Commander Worf, Kate Mulgrew as Admiral Janeway, Wil Wheaton as Wesley Crusher, Whoopi Goldberg as Guinan, Stuart Baird as Scimitar Computer (voice), Alan Dale as Praetor Hiren
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