Star Trek: Nemesis
review by Dan Lybarger, 13 December 2002

For a while it seemed that there was a rule of thumb in predicting the quality of the most recent Star Trek movie. You could almost hear the Frankenstein monster moaning, "Even number: Good. Odd number: Bad." The more enjoyable entries in the series always seemed to be the even numbered ones. Star Trek: The Motion Picture proved once and for all that special effects alone can make for a pretty dull movie, but Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kahn was a treat. Similarly, Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home and Star Trek: First Contact were more consistently entertaining than their odd-numbered peers. This may explain why the newer installments don't have a number in title for fear of being outed as an odd-numbered movie. Star Trek: Nemesis breaks this trend. It's even numbered (the tenth), but it's also flat and uneventful. The worlds that the crew of the Enterprise explores in this mission aren't terribly engaging to explore. The setup offers loads of possibilities, but the emphasis on explosions puts a photon torpedo through any real narrative momentum.

"Next Generation" captain Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) and his crew are drawn into one more voyage when the Federation's long-time enemies the Romulans unexpectedly announce they want peace. It sounds a little too good to be true, but the prospect of bringing the end to intergalactic cold war is just too good to pass up.  On their way, the crew finds a robot that's an early version of their own Data (Bent Spiner). When Picard and his shipmates arrive near Romulus, they also discover that the entire Romulan government has been overthrown by a human named Shinzon (Tom Hardy). Not only is his head as hairlessly shiny as Picard's, but he's actually a genetic copy. The Romulans raised him to be a sort of spy and then left him to rot in the mines on the nearby planet Remus (get it?). Understandably, he's more than a little upset. Merely conquering the Romulans isn't enough to satisfy him. Shinzon wants to take out Earth as well. Because he and Picard are the same man with different experiences, the two have to outwit each other in order to succeed.

This premise (by John Logan, producer Rick Berman and Spiner) offers loads of possibilities, but the script by Logan never really lets those ideas develop. It asks an important question: Is a person's character solely shaped by experience or is there an internal quality that supersedes fate's acts of cruelty? The answer would seem more relevant if as audience members we weren't able to guess Picard's or Shinzon's next movies before either of them catches a clue.  Further, while Hardy shares Stewart's bald head and UK accent, he doesn't have that deep, resonant voice that makes Stewart seem born to lead. When both are stuck with the same lackluster dialogue, Stewart sounds so much smarter and commanding that it seems like a mismatch for the beginning. Director Stuart Baird (Executive Decision) winds up killing the film altogether when he shortchanges the psychology and decides to make a movie about spaceship envy.

Logan has written a really good play, Never the Sinner, and a first rate biopic about the making of Citizen Kane titled RKO 281. Both of these projects were clearly labors of love where the enthusiasm ran off the page. Star Trek: Nemesis clearly isn't such a project for him. It's nice that the current Enterprise crew is allowed to step off the bridge before they become as worn out as one of William Shatner's old toupees. Still, when it comes to making a film that stands with the best of the series, Star Trek: Nemesis can't make it so.

Directed by:
Stuart Baird

Starring:
Patrick Stewart
Jonathan Frakes
Brent Spiner
LeVar Burton
Michael Dorn
Gates McFadden
Marina Sirtis
Tom Hardy
Ron Perlman
Dina Meyer

Written by:
Gene Roddenberry
John Logan
Rick Berman
Brent Spiner

Rated:
PG-13 - Parents
Strongly Cautioned.
Some material may
be inappropriate for
children under 13.

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