Star Trek: Nemesis

on December 13, 2002 by Wade Major
Those who buy into the peculiar superstition that only the even-numbered "Star Trek" movies are any good will find their belief system strongly challenged by "Star Trek: Nemesis," the 10th in the series and the fourth to be anchored by the "Next Generation" crew.

That "Nemesis" is such a disappointment is really a pity. Paramount went out of its way to insure A-list credentials, hiring "Gladiator" screenwriter John Logan to pen the script and former editor and action ace Stuart Baird ("Executive Decision") to direct. Neither, however, seems able to escape the burden of expectations, ultimately succumbing to the very same formulaic missteps that have hampered the series in the past.

There's a good bit of intrigue in "Nemesis" as the story first develops. Riker (Jonathan Frakes) and Deanna Troi (Marina Sirtis) have finally tied the knot, but the celebration is cut short when the Starship Enterprise is summoned on a diplomatic mission into hostile Romulan territory. There they encounter a mysterious figure named Shinzon (Tom Hardy) who has managed to almost single-handedly take control of the Romulan Empire--an impressive feat for someone from the lower-caste planet Remus. What's surprising is that Shinzon is neither Romulan nor Reman but human. Not only human, in fact, but a youthful clone of Captain Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart). Just how he came to be and what he has up his sleeve is what Picard and the gang must figure out.

Unfortunately, once Shinzon and Picard meet, most of the mystery is gone. The filmmakers do a good job of pretending otherwise, but anyone who is even vaguely familiar with the "Star Trek" films will immediately recognize Shinzon as less a clone of Picard than every other "Star Trek" movie villain over the past twenty years. And as the film winds toward its climactic space battle--which borrows liberally and shamelessly from "Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan" among others--it's hard to resist the feeling that the franchise, at least in its present form, has run its course.

It's sad to see Gene Roddenberry's creation going the way of Ian Fleming's "James Bond," with each successive effort locked into delivering a thinly-veiled retread of the previous for fear that any deviation from formula will invite fan rebellion. The intelligence that characterized the series' best episodes so many years ago appears to have all but evaporated under the "lowest common denominator" pressures of big budget studio filmmaking. Supporting characters pay the price, too, with most appearing only intermittently to deliver garbled mouthfuls of hyper-technical exposition or dimwitted wisecracks. Aside from Picard, only Data (Brent Spiner) has any substantial role to play (unsurprising since Spiner is credited as a co-author of the story).

Bright spots, though few and far between, are worth noting--Hardy is a compelling presence, though he looks nothing like Patrick Stewart, while the wonderful Ron Perlman makes yet another run at Lon Chaney's reputation by successfully acting through a helmet of heavy makeup as Shinzon's Reman Viceroy.

Nevertheless, it should be a sobering realization for fans that the series has nowhere to go from here. It is, after all, entirely their fault. For years the message from Trekkies and Trekkers to Paramount has been "more of the same." And until the legions of faithful convention-going, episode-watching, trivia-memorizing, collectible-buying drones change their tune, the rest of the public will be cursed with getting just that. Starring Patrick Stewart, Jonathan Frakes, Brent Spiner, Levar Burton, Michael Dorn, Marina Sirtis, Gates McFadden, Tom Hardy, Ron Perlman, Shannon Cochran and Dina Meyer. Directed by Stuart Baird. Written by John Logan. Produced by Rick Berman. A Paramount release. Science Fiction/Action. Rated PG-13 for sci-fi action violence and peril and a scene of sexual content. Running time: 117 min

Tags: Starring Patrick Stewart, Jonathan Frakes, Brent Spiner, Levar Burton, Michael Dorn, Marina Sirtis, Gates McFadden, Tom Hardy, Ron Perlman, Shannon Cochran and Dina Meyer. Directed by Stuart Baird, Written by John Logan, Produced by Rick Berman, Paramount, Science Fiction Action

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