"....plays like a greatest hits collection of previous Trek films"

It All Feels Very Tired

(122002) I will confess right off the top; I am a card carrying Star Trek fan. I have enjoyed each of the five television series to varying degrees. I have been going on these voyages to "strange new worlds" since the original series began in 1966 when I was the ripe old age of six. So, reviewing a Star Trek movie becomes a double-edged sword for me. On the one hand, I have to evaluate the film in terms of it being good Star Trek, on the other judging its merits as a work of cinema. You see, for Trek fans, what can make for a good Star Trek movie does not necessarily coincide with the usual perception of quality cinema. Even in the broader sense of science fiction this rule applies. A good Star Trek story and a good science fiction can be mutually exclusive. Star Trek is its own genre.

Using these two criteria: Is Star Trek: Nemesis a quality Trek film? Answer: most of the time. Is it a well-made work of film? Answer: some of the time. The tenth film in the franchise plays like a greatest hits collection of previous Trek films. Mostly notably from The Wrath of Khan. Did you like the standoff of two starships in the nebula scene? Well, you'll love it here in a void ominously called "The Rift." How about the scene where a disabled, limping Enterprise has to slowly escape before the heavy can detonate the ultimate weapon? That's here. You say you liked it in Trek:6 when the Klingons are dealt a devastating blow to there very existence. It happens to the Romulans in this film. The death of a major character continues this déjà vu fest. All we need are a couple of humpback whales to complete the hat trick.

If I seem to be implying that the film is derivative, it is. The reason for this is that the screenplay is written by a Star Trek fan. An Oscar winning (Gladiator) Star Trek fan, but a fan nonetheless. It's clear that Logan loves the series and so he uses the every thing but the kitchen sink approach to sell this story. The problem with this approach is that a sense of been there, done that begins to creep in. We've seen most of this before and done better. This is probably not what Paramount had in mind, considering that the idea of bringing in an outside writer and director was to breath some fresh air into the franchise. Where Logan's screenplay strong points lie is in his grasp of the characters. The sense of camaraderie and friendship has never been stronger then it is portrayed here. These are script traits that a certain Mr. Lucas has seemed to have forgotten in crafting his space saga. During the Riker and Troi wedding scene that opens the film, one senses the cast slipping into these characters as easily as putting on an old comfortable sweater. This goes a long way towards making up for any shortcomings the story and direction may have. These characters are eminently likeable and it is surprisingly good to see them again. During one of the final moments of the film, when Riker (Jonathon Frakes) is saying his farewell to Picard (Patrick Stewart) after finally accepting command of his own vessel, the emotions are real. A rare occurrence in sci-fi action films.

Unfortunately, the direction by Stuart Baird (Executive Decision) is pedestrian at best. I understand the idea of hiring a director who is new to Star Trek, but why hire one who has no discernable style to speak of. The film has the feel of a television movie and that's unfortunate. If this is indeed the final Next Generation film, it could have used a bit more panache.

The performances are by the main cast are what we've come to expect. Patrick Stewart brings a great deal of credibility to the proceedings. Dignity, authority and intelligence are the mainstays of his Picard. Brent Spiner, as always has Data down cold. His unabated desire to be human is still a source of fun. The remaining principles aren't given much to do, but Micheal Dorn's Worf does get the films biggest laugh with his reaction to Data's singing. Tom Hardy as the villain Shinzon is serviceable but the character could have been more charismatic. As such, he is very much Ricardo Montalban-lite.

There has been a great deal of talk about how Star Trek has seen its prime and that it is simply a constant retread of the same material. That it needs to go away or completely reinvent itself. For me, it's about characters. Certainly all the trappings of Star Trek remain the same, but if the characters are strong then I'll follow them anywhere. The James Bond films are all virtually the same. Twenty of them. With a misogynist main character who never changes. Where are the complaints about that series? Maybe what Star Trek needs is Halle Berry in an orange bikini. 

Directed by:    Stuart Baird
Written by:    Screenplay by John Logan. Based on the tv series “Star Trek” by Gene Roddenberry
Starring:    Patrick Stewart, Jonathan Frakes, Brent Spiner
Released:    12/13/02
Length:    116 minutes
Rating:    Rated PG-13 for sci-fi action violence and peril and a scene of sexual content.

STAR TREK: NEMESIS © Paramount Pictures.
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