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
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.
PG-13 - Parents
Some material may
be inappropriate for
children under 13.