Until Star Trek Into Darkness came out, this was the Star Trek movie most reviled by fans. It was also the movie that signaled the end of Star Trek as a viable film franchise. It came out the same year as Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets and Die Another Day. It pretty much failed to attract an audience in that crowded year. Is the movie as bad as history suggests, or is this a sci-fi gem that is dire need of rediscovery?
Get your Sunday best ready, because Will Riker (Jonathan Frakes) and Deanna Troi (Marina Sirtis) are finally getting hitched. It is nonstop shenanigans as Captain Picard (Patrick Stewart) delivers his best man toast, and Data (Brent Spiner) sings Blue Skies. Geordi (LeVar Burton) sees what is inside one of the wedding gifts and cant figure out of Dr. Crusher (Gates McFadden) is a big ol’ perv or knows something about Riker that he doesn’t. As for Worf (Michael Dorn) he spends the whole reception staring down Wesley (Wil Wheaton) over a slight that that occurred over a decade ago but a Klingon never forgets.
What? That doesn’t sound like a great finale to the adventures of The Next Generation crew? Well how about a mysterious signal entices the Enterprise to stop by a world on the edge of the Romulan neutral zone. There they find a prototype of Data named B4 (also Brent Spiner). He isn’t quite as advanced as Data. This causes him to act like a five year old and make faces. Before (see what I did there) anyone can smack B4 too many times, the Romulans want to meet with Picard in person. Turns out their new leader, Shinzon (Tom Hardy) is eager to pursue peace. Picard is wary because the Romulans are tricksy folk. But he is an optimist. Shinzon turns out to be the leader of the Remans, a slave race that revolted against the cruel Romulans. But Shinzon himself appears to be human and even more disturbing – he is a young clone of Captain Picard. Before you know it Shinzon’s master plan to destroy Picard and the Federation is unveiled. Can our heroes defeat Shinzon and his massive new starship the Scimitar? And will one of our beloved heroes make the ultimate sacrifice to save the Federation?
- Some of the best visual effects in the franchises history
- Works an interesting theme of duality into the story
- Patrick Stewart and Tom Hardy play off each other well
- The script is a mess
- The movie can’t decide what it wants to be
- Lacks the overall impact it should have
As far as series finales go Star Trek: Nemesis tries so hard to deliver. On the surface a lot of things seem to work. The movie has great production elements and the cast seems on board and does a good job. But the script tries to do too many things at once and does none of them very well. It delivers some good action set pieces and fine character moments. But anyone looking for a fitting sendoff for these characters should stick with the television series finale.
Scores (out of 5)
In Depth Review
|Oh pointy ship, oh pointy pointy.|
Quite frankly this film came out around this time Star Trek was feeling long in the tooth for a lot of folks. While some Trek fans were completely engaged in The Next Generation era of adventures, the general public still clung to the original series and its cast as the definition of Star Trek. First Contact was a success and got excellent critical marks, but it didn’t make as much of an impact as Paramount wanted it too. Insurrection fared worse, and many critics and fans calling it an expanded television episode that relied too much on knowledge of the series to pull in new viewers.
The studio wanted Star Trek: Nemesis to avoid those pitfalls. They wanted a big adventure movie that would pull in the viewers with action and edginess. It was also intended as the final hurrah for The Next Generation cast. The film would need to be some kind of celebration of these characters and all the adventures viewers had shared with them. In addition to all that, Paramount wanted a fresh perspective to the film. This worked well for them when they pulled in Nicholas Meyer in for Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. They turned to director Stuart Baird who had never directed a science fiction film or Star Trek episode before.
|Captain Picard is raring for off roading excitement!|
It is tempting to call this script impossible. But lets just call it a supreme challenge. Sadly it was one that wasn’t conquered. The result is an unfocused script that harms a film with so much potential.
Let’s focus on some of the good points of Star Trek: Nemesis, because no matter how much it is hated, the movie does have some good elements. Visually, this is one of the best-looking Star Trek films. The visual effects hold up really well today and they looked spectacular when the film first came out. The starship battles are executed with skill and bring a lot of tension to the film. The Scimitar is one wicked looking ship, and is one of the coolest looking starships in the series.
|Shinzon knows how to make an entrance.|
One oddity is the decision to give this film a very dark look. Once the crew meets Shinzon most of the movie is a palate of grey, black and shadows. Even the Enterprise interiors are dimly lit. It is a stark contrast to the way the sets were lit in Insurrection and First Contact. It just feels like they were going for an obviously edgy feel, instead of working interesting lighting in as part of the story. That is something Star Trek: Generations did extremely well, and why it is probably the most visually dynamic of The Next Generation films.
|"No seriously, that hair cut doesn't suit you."|
The sound effects retain all the traditional sounds of The Next Generation television series, but given a bit more power behind them. Since this movie features a lot of space battles, you get more weapon and explosion sound effects. Most of the new sound material revolves around the Scimitar and its weapons. All in all it is a solid mix of the familiar and new, just what you expect from a Star Trek sequel.
When it came to music, there was really no one else to go to. Jerry Goldsmith had provided scores to The Motion Picture, The Final Frontier, First Contact and Insurrection. He composed the main title theme for Star Trek: Voyager as well. In many ways Goldsmith was the musical sound of The Next Generation (along with Dennis McCarthy and Jay Chattaway who provided the bulk of the music for all the television series taking place in The Next Generation timeline). It was only fitting that Goldsmith compose the score to Nemesis.
|That outfit... just... wow.|
Beyond that Goldsmith creates some exciting action music, using Shinzon’s theme, but also giving us a heroic version of his Star Trek theme from The Motion Picture. There is also a four-note motif that he uses quite a bit for the camaraderie of the Enterprise crew that he established in The Final Frontier and used in all his Star Trek scores since. He also reintroduces what some folks call the Federation motif that he used quite a bit in The Motion Picture whenever the crew was bustling around preparing for action.
This was one of the last scores Jerry Goldsmith composed for films. He was already very ill at the time of the composition. It was great to have him write music for one of the franchises he was best known for, and give us all one more spin around his musical galaxy.
|"So, you seen Lore lately?"|
A couple of other new faces appear in Nemesis. Ron Pearlman plays the creepy Viceroy that hangs around Shinzon and looks sinister. Kind of a shame they don’t use Pearlman to better advantage, but he does a good job glowering at everyone. Dina Meyer as the Romulan commander Donatra gets a bit more meat to her role. She provides the Enterprise with some much needed information and aid. There is even a fun cameo by Kate Mulgrew as Admiral Janeway where she delivers some exposition, but it was nice to see her on the big screen.
The rest of the cast gets to have their moments to shine and all of them do a fine job. Frakes and Sirtis probably get the most interesting moments in the film, but they also seem like the most shoehorned into the plot – just to give them something to do.
|Some of the best action in the franchise.|
But the rest of the cast has some minor moments to work on. Dr. Crusher helps analyze Shinzon’s blood and determine the medical issues the antagonist is facing. She helps Geordi with B4. Speaking of Geordi, he is pretty much around to be Data’s friend so when the big death scene happens he can look depressed. But Geordi and Data had formed a bond in the show and that does get played into a bit here. Worf gets to glower and say some ironic lines. But mostly he is around to shoot from the back of a dune buggy.
|Some of the goofiest action in the franchise.|
Then you have the whole Viceroy/Troi/Riker thing. In an attempt to give Troi something to do, the writers say that she can use her empathic abilities to find the Viceroy in the cloaked ship? How is this possible? Because the Viceroy and Shinzon try to mind rape her at one point in the film. Um… yeah. It is never explained why they attempt to mind rape her. Shinzon thinks she’s hot? I don’t know. Anyway it happens when Riker and Troi are getting steamy and it kind of kills the mood. Riker doesn’t like anyone killing his mood. So when the Viceroy leads an attack on the Enterprise Riker and the Viceroy engage in a pretty uninvolving and extended fight scene. Yeah Riker was always the man of action, but I’m sorry it just doesn’t work in Nemesis.
|Now there's a Romulan!|
In the case of Nemesis I think they actually got the antagonist correct. He does have a real reason for wanting to destroy Picard. The mirror can’t keep seeing itself. There has to be a “real” person. For Shinzon, Picard is the reflection that must be destroyed. Because of the medical issue of his cloning, he must kill Picard to save his life. Those are high stakes and they make perfect sense. But adding the destruction of the Federation to the mix is pointless and clutters the story in a way that is never delivered.
The sacrifice fails because of how it is resolved. I was invested when Data makes his final move. It feels right that he should attempt to save his friends and his father figure: Picard. It completes his journey to become human. Likke his human companions, Data is no longer immortal. He can die, and he chooses to die out of compassion – an emotion that he has developed over the journey of the story.
So far, so good.
|"Is that seriously the last episode of Enterprise?|
What the hell was that?"
|Even at a wedding you can keep Picard from speechifying.|
Sadly Star Trek: Nemesis falls apart. All the seams in the script become painfully obvious. The manufactured feeling of the film further undermines the final experience. Insurrection has its flaws, but in many ways it feels like a better script more realized and grounded in the world of The Next Generation. Nemesis feels like a franchise flailing for relevance. It didn’t need to flail. It needed to trust its characters and the world it created to deliver an excellent, exciting and relevant story. At its core Nemesis has those kernels, but they never quite sprout. By the end of the film, you’ve had an entertaining time with the crew, but it feels like a missed opportunity.
|The fine crew on their last voyage.|