Star Trek: Nemesis Review
By Joe Lozito
I appreciate that even the filmmakers behind the "Star Trek" movies realize that "Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan" is the reigning champion of the series. So much so that they decided to model the 10th film "Star Trek: Nemesis" after "Khan" in a blatant attempt to breathe some life into a series of films that are becoming nothing more than enhanced TV episodes. Now, keep in mind, I have been a "Star Trek" fan since there were "Star Trek" fans - I could recite lines of dialogue with an accuracy that would send you running - which is what makes the ambiguously titled "Nemesis" all the more disappointing.
Since "Khan" is obviously acknowledged as the litmus test for these films, why have the filmmakers learned nothing else since Nicholas Meyer's 1982 classic jumpstarted the series? Amusingly, it would seem that Mr. Meyer was working at a disadvantage, having the original "Trek" cast (William Shatner, et al) to work with rather than the pedigreed "Next Generation" crew, headed up by master thespian Patrick Stewart. Still he made a better film.
Like 1998's similarly average "Star Trek: Insurrection", "Nemesis" lacks the grandeur and human interest that made "Khan" such a cross-audience crowd pleaser. With the exception of high production values and three well-filmed but far too distant action scenes, there is very little to recommend this movie to anyone but Trek aficionados. The plot involves a clone of Picard named Shinzon (Shin-Khan?) who is out to destroy every living thing on Earth for reasons made needlessly complicated by the script. The pacing of the film sags mid-way through in scene after scene of portentous dialogue and the usual "Trek" technobabble which is used for more often here than necessary.
"Gladiator" writer John Logan said he has an affinity to the original Trek episode "Balance of Terror", which introduced the Roman-inspired Romulan race, so he would seem like an ideal candidate to write the film. Unfortunately, let's not forget that Mr. Logan also wrote the remake of "The Time Machine", another messy, missed sci-fi opportunity. I'm not saying Logan is a bad writer, but he definitely needs more help than "Trek" android Brent Spiner and producer Rick Berman as co-writers. He did much better working with David Franzoni and Oliver Stone (on "Gladiator" and "Any Given Sunday", respectively). Here the concept of environment as it relates to human behavior is given a rudimentary examination, but no more so than the equally plodding "Solaris", also currently in theaters.
Director Stuart Baird uses little of the talent for enclosed spaces he showed in "Executive Decision", instead relying on the action chops he developed in "U.S. Marshals". The space battles are well-filmed but they lack any strategy other than "fire at will!"
The cast mostly goes through the same motions it did for seven years on the "Next Generation" series. Patrick Stewart carries the film, as usual, giving every line of dialogue Shakespearian import. Brent Spiner, who could play the android Data in his sleep by now, has a little fun playing the dual role of Data and his prototype B-4 (get it?). As Shinzon, newcomer Tom Hardy bares a different-enough-to-be-distracting resemblance to Mr. Stewart, and he has none of the gravity of the elder actor. Surely, the filmmakers could have found someone more interesting for the plum role of Picard's evil clone.
The fact that "Nemesis" was also used as a working title for "Insurrection" speaks volumes to the lack of inspiration currently plaguing the "Trek" franchise. Like the Bond films, "Trek" needs a breath of fresh air. That may mean jettisoning some of the stodgy Roddenberrian commandments and shaking up the franchise a bit. "Nemesis" is said to be the "Generation's Final Journey". While, as a Trek fan, I'd be sad to see them go, as a moviegoer, I'd hate to see another "Nemesis".