Review: “Star Trek: Nemesis”

The old curse theory that only the even-numbered Trek movies are the good ones has been left barren by this – Khan, Undiscovered Country & First Contact are all great dark sci-fi action thrillers, utter masterpieces compared to this schlock. Romulan political intrigue, a deadly super weapon, an enemy of a very personal nature for Picard, so much could’ve been done with these simple but effective elements – what the hell happened?’, ‘Reviews for certain franchise films (eg. Alien, Star Wars) I always preface with the same intro to give you my background in regards to the material and Trek is one of them. Those who read that previous review already know TNG is my big Trek fave and should skip to the next paragraph, for those who haven’t read it: Trek has always been the franchise for me – more than “Star Wars” ever has or likely will be. But even amongst Trek there’s divisions – and I’m not with the majority one.

“Next Generation” was always my big one – the show airing throughout my early teenage years and which I always have the most cherished memories of. I loved TNG for the characters and the stories. Whilst the original crew movies were fun, the original series I couldn’t stand back then and while I get more enjoyment out of it now – I still can’t really embrace it. Much as comparing the “Batman” of the 60’s with the animated series of the 90’s, both have their charm, strong points and different fanbases. Like that franchise I enjoy watching the 60’s show, but I love watching the 90’s one.

The post TNG spin-offs however were watered down clones sadly – DS9 established its own direction and when the ‘Dominion’ storyline eps came along it truly sizzled but a lot of the stand-alone episodes had faults. “Voyager” is a fun time killer but sadly just a TNG clone – as much as Janeway is an enjoyable captain and the Doctor a great character, the rest were – eh. “Enterprise” started with a lot of promise but has since proven just as flat and ordinary as the latter seasons of Voyager, only the surprisingly cool Vulcan T’Pol and comic timings of Trip overcome the dull writing and monotone-awful Scott Bakula (an actor I admired till this performance). As for the TNG films, “Generations” was mediocre, “First Contact” was a great fun actioneer and “Insurrection” was quite awful (I’ve included my ratings for all Trek films at the bottom).

Some may remember I reviewed an early draft of the script for this over a year ago and at that time I said I thought it was OK at best – there’s some good action here (esp. in the last half) but the story needed some major work and was full of holes. Well the end result sadly didn’t get those re-writes – the plot holes and re-hashes are all still there, and dialogue remains cringe-inducing. Certain scenes were thankfully trimmed down or cut away, but for the most part the material is the same and if anything worse than expected.

As a fan who held onto the label of “Star Trek” devotee years longer than most people I know, it pains me to say that “Star Trek” has become worse than bad – its become utterly dull. The producers realised this and so have put in darker themes, a dash of sex, and a bigger focus on simplified action than it used to but the fact of the matter is those are merely window dressing alterations at best – what’s required here are some major structural changes both in terms of content and behind-the-scenes but like any multi-million franchise, until it hits them in the pocketbook they’ll keep drilling it into the ground.

So as a result we have “Nemesis”, a film which admittedly is an improvement on the truly woeful flick that was “Insurrection”, but by practically nothing – in fact short of a more epic concept and some FX-filled action in the last 30 minutes or so, this is equally bad. Every single attempt at a gag failed (even the flotation device one of ST9 gave me one laugh in that flick), whilst characters like Beverly, Worf and Geordi are left with nothing to do. Riker is just the butt of silly gags, whilst Troi proves almost as annoying as in her early first season TV days – you really have to feel sorry for Marina Sirtis who did some truly great work on the show but in all four of the movies her character has been utterly wasted.

That leaves Patrick Stewart & Brent Spiner, two actors who till now I’ve always held in high regard and whilst they have their characters downpat as always – Picard looks and acts like he’s been on the 24th century equivalent of the wacky-tabacky whilst Data is stuck with an almost “disabled child raising TV movie” style B-subplot. Tom Hardy carries a lot of the film on his shoulders and admittedly does well for such a young guy given the hefty burden of appearing in most scenes, whilst Ron Perlman looks effectively creepy in his Reman make-up even if he barely has any lines.

I already went into the many plot holes in my script review so lets move onto the answer to the big question – has the inclusion of non-Trek canon writer John Logan & director Stuart Baird changed the franchise – not at all. “Gladiator” was a great film admittedly but not for its script or heavy-handed dialogue, and so the hiring of perhaps the most public but least talented of its writers was considered a good PR move. Wrong, Logan falls into the same trap the Enterprise writers have – rehashing many elements from older and better episodes and combining them in the hopes of making something new. It never works, and like most Trek films feels more like a TV two-parter than a big screen adventure.

The first hour is tedious at best short of a cool FX attack in the Romulan Senate, whilst the second all builds up to a cliched fight between the Enterprise and a vastly superior ship which seems to be able to reach Earth from Romulus in a matter of hours (if that’s the case, why haven’t the Romulans attacked sooner than they have?). As a director Stuart Baird brought more credibility with him than Logan but not much, Baird’s previous work is mostly known for very straight forward actioneers (ala “Executive Decision”) but that style of editing and pacing doesn’t work in a Trek film and shows here with dull conversation after dull conversation full of so much exposition one has to wonder why if there’s so much talking that there can be so many plot holes or facets left unexplained.

The production design of the Reman ship and the new look Romulan warbirds is quite impressive, but Jerry Goldsmith’s score is one of the more forgettable. FX are quite good as always for Trek movies but there’s no sense of dazzle or life to them – even the famous saucer crash seen in the trailer which is the film’s big action moment never really shocks you in a way that something like the torpedo hit in ST6’s climactic moment did.

That’s what really sucks here – Trek feels like a cold old man going through the motions. James Bond has had twice as many big screen adventures as the Enterprise crew, and whilst the fan reaction to “Die Another Day” wasn’t unanimously positive, even the naysayers indicated that the filmmakers were at least trying. Here it feels like no effort has been made at all, a real shame considering this is widely tipped to be the Next Gen’s final outing. ‘First Contact’ was a film that I saw several times in a theatre, this is one which I’ve seen only once and that was more than enough.

The old curse theory that only the even-numbered Trek movies are the good ones has been left barren by this – Khan, Undiscovered Country & First Contact are all great dark sci-fi action thrillers, utter masterpieces compared to this schlock. Romulan political intrigue, a deadly super weapon, an enemy of a very personal nature for Picard, so much could’ve been done with these simple but effective elements – what the hell happened?