Star Trek Nemesis

While Star Trek Nemesis is not the best of the ten, even considering the very popular observation that even numbered films are best, it is also not the worse

As I began my all important teen age years a television show started up. Star Trek hit TV with mixed reviews but a growing loyal fan base. What started all those years ago is still going with four series spin offs and currently ten films. The last of these is based on the Next Generation series and perhaps it is time now to go quietly into that long good night. While Nemesis is not the best of the ten, even considering the very popular observation that even numbered films are best, it is also not the worse. It just seems to have run out of steam.

The show starts out with the long overdue wedding of First Officer William T. Riker (Jonathan Frakes) and his on again off again paramour Counselor Deanna Troi (Marina Sirtis). While traveling from the first wedding ceremony to another to be held on Troi’s home world the uncountable Star Ship Enterprise is called to investigate a strange electromagnetic disturbance. Isn’t there always a strange disturbance even after almost forty years? During the investigation they find a previously unknown prototype of the android Commander Data (Brent Spiner). Sidetracked from their sidetrack they are then called to the home world of the enemy of the Federation, Romulus. It seems that their new leader wants to negotiate peace. The Romulan leader Shinzon (Tom Hardy) is not only not Romulan, he comes from their sister world of Remus, he happens to be the clone of the Enterprise Captain Picard (Patrick Stewart). At this point you may see the problem with the plot.

For an action-adventure Sci-Fi flick it’s alright to have some complexity to the plot but this one is like a soap opera. The popularity of this franchise has always been letting the audience see what is going on in the lives of their favorite characters while underlying the events with a straight forward story that extends the modern mythology Star Trek has become. Here, there is too much that is new imposed too many twists and turns that ultimately do little to extend the beloved character’s development. To borrow a phrase from the Star Trek lexicon, they dropped out of warp and are on impulse power now. While better than the lamentable Star Trek V, generally considered to be the worse of the lot, this film has venerable actors delegated to hopeless search for a good script. What made Star Trek the multigenerational success it has been was the ability to take on serious topics in a fashion that was entertaining. Here the characters are adrift in space, the lack of focus and the twisted plot will make many of the audience search for the escape pods. It’s like pizza, even when it’s not the best it’s still pizza. There was entertainment value but compared to the heights this series has achieved ultimately does not live up to the potential it could have had.

I had the feeling that the cast, for the most part, took on this project more out of loyalty to the legion of Star Trek fans than for any other reason. Many of the actors have too little screen time to truly extend their characters. In fact, some of the required cameos of other Star Treks have non-speaking walk on parts. Stewart, as usual gives his professional best. This is a consummate actor, capable of everything from light comedy to the best of Shakespeare. No matter what the role he approaches it with character and talent. It is a shame that such ability is for the most part wasted here. Another fine actor that manages to rise above the limitations of the script is Spiner. He has to his credit everything from Sondheim musicals to this, his most famous role as data. Once again he is called upon to do double duty as both the beloved android and his prototype. Considering the best scenes he has are with him self and had to be filmed separately he shows how well he can take on a character from a variety of viewpoints. Hardy may be familiar to fans of Band of Brothers and Black Hawk Down. His presentation of Shinzon was far too one dimensional here. He constitutes almost pure evil. It would have been better to give some redeeming qualities to this character if for no other reason than to provide a better counter point to the multidimensional Picard. The rest of the cast are relegated to little more than window dressing, a shame considering this is a fine ensemble cast that has worked long and hard on the realistic development of their characters.

Director Stuart Baird has two other films to his credit, U.S. Marshals and Executive Decision. While neither reached the heights of film they were entertaining and that is what is delivered here. Baird knows how to keep the action moving while allowing the audience to become emotionally invested in the characters. Once again the case here is what a talented individual has to do when confronted by a less than perfect script. Before he was a director the major career focus of this man was as a film editor. It shows in his directorial style. The action is maintained by the way the film is cut, each scene flowing well and moving to the next scene in a logical fashion. The film is well framed and the lighting is excellent. The integration of the many computer generated graphics is almost seamless.

The disc itself is up to the standards set by the other non special editions releases in the Star Trek family. The Dolby 5.1 audio provides an excellent sound field that enfolds the listener. The anamorphic 2.35:1 video is free of defects and any compression artifacts. As for extras there are more than the usual. The director has a commentary track as well as a little documentary showing what goes in to the direction and production problems inherent with a Sci-Fi flick. There are a few deleted scenes that are little more than some pre-computer graphics shots that are interesting but worth about one viewing. Other featurettes include a look at the Star Trek family’s last journey (hinting that this may be the last Next Generation flick) and an over view of the franchise. For most of us that grew up with Star Trek we have to have this one. For better or for worse it is part of the history of Star Trek and the ‘collect them all’ mentality will affect most of us. It entertains but does little in the way of leaving us wanting more. It is a less than perfect dessert after a long and fine meal.

Review by Doug MacLean of

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