Some known facts about Star Trek Nemesis' release in 2002; it was the lowest grossing of any of the Star Trek films; it was released at the same time as Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. So before any discussion of the films merits we can see that it was up against it from the word go, perhaps a spring release might have seen a better return. However, I digress, it has been three years and, aside from some unsubstantiated web rumours, there has been no news on a new Star Trek film. Just as Nemesis plays out as the final film in the franchise, after this amount of time, it actually appears to be so; a shame to end on such a damp squib when the TV series went out with such a bang.
After four years and completed contracts is was with a bit of a shock that the crew of the Enterprise E were reunited for one final trek. After the lukewarm reception of Insurrection it was felt that a new direction was needed, to this end Jonathon Frakes was replaced by Stephen Baird, of Executive Decision fame. Baird, who professes ignorance to all things Trek related, was brought in to give a new style and fresh ideas and not, as I remember, because Frakes was attached to another project and unable to commit to directing, something that Berman insists upon on his commentary. Whatever the reason, Baird's involvement certainly has changed the look of this tenth instalment, but in doing so has also changed the feel and that is probably why most fans regard this as one step above Trek V. However, as a science fiction drama, there are levels of enjoyment to be had, even if the end result is rather lacklustre.
The film starts in open space, then zooms closer to a planet, through the atmosphere to come to rest within the Romulan Senate. There is a furious discussion going on about senate leadership that is finally settled by a pretty green firework that kills everyone in the room by turning them into a shattered stone effect. Cut to the jolly atmosphere aboard the Enterprise, it is mid way through Picard's best man speech at Troi and Riker's wedding; cue much joviality and Data singing. After the festivities the Enterprise is on route to Batazed for the conclusion of the wedding when the sensors pick up a positronic signal known only to emanate from androids like Data. Sensing no danger, even though the signal is extremely close to the Romulan neutral zone, the Enterprise investigates, but because of some techno-babble is unable to use the transporters so a dune buggy is deployed to investigate. After a fierce gun battle and total disregard to the Prime Directive, it appears the signal was emanating from a prototype Data, designated B4, again suspecting nothing suspicious Picard orders it to be reassembled.
Their proximity to Romulan space make them ideal candidates to address a diplomatic situation that has occurred between the Federation and Romulus, so Admiral Janeway informs Picard. So they head off to meet the new leader of the Romulans, the enigmatic Shinzon. When they finally meet face to face, there is a startling resemblance between he and Picard, not surprising really since he is a clone. Shinzon has two agendas, steal Picard's DNA to save his own life and wipe out the heart of the Federation, Earth, with the same green firework that was used at the beginning. To get to this end we must travel through plot holes, space battles, crashing starships and the 'death' of a major cast member, but it's ok because there is still enough scope for another film should the writers want to continue.
Science fiction and in particular Star Trek has always been its best when confronting everyday issues within the context of the show. For this outing, cloning is the subject under debate coupled with the nature versus nurture argument, it is a bit of a shame then that this underpinning plot line wasn't developed to its fullest potential. I can understand the reasons that a clone of Picard was used; the development of a super baddie is hard; how to top the Borg for example, so to pitch Picard against himself sounds like a bold step, allowing the philosophical arguments along the way. Unfortunately Shinzon comes across as a spoilt child having a tantrum; 'my life was crappy, so now yours is gonna be' kind of attitude. The pair only have two scenes alone where they spar with each other, perhaps its Ton Hardy's lack of presence against Stewart, but there was never the depth and feeling there; compare a similar confrontation with Lily and Picard in First Contact.
Of course Baird is primarily an action direction, and there is plenty of action in this film, be it car chases, brawls or bike (scorpion class fighters) chases there is always something to keep the MTV generation happy. But in trying to force a Star Trek persona on an action sci-fi romp the heart somehow gets lost, something I find weird because the series did its own action episodes that worked so well - Starship Mine for example. He did also manage to change to the look, a bit, the Enterprise is now a nice maroon colour and there are plenty of greens and blacks (remember he hasn't seen First Contact) and there was a nice washed out filter during the car chase. The film wisely centres on Picard and Data, the fans favourite characters, though this has the unfortunate side effect of giving precious little for any of the supporting characters even though they are major cast members to do. In some cases they are given unexplained out of place scenes just to set up a contrivance for the ending; consider the Troi rape scene, no explanation is given for how, or why except to aid the shootout at the end.
However, with all this nonsense and bad Trek around I still found much to enjoy in the film. If you can get over the daft plot holes and inconsistencies, which, lets face it, are in most of the Trek films anyway, you can enjoy the battles and the crashes. Finally, I'd have liked to see Data stay dead, rather than be reincarnated as an imbecile, if the writers really wanted to change style and break from the norm then what better way than to end on a downer (its happened before in the series); but this is the last Trek film, so gotta end on a positive note and be able to boldly continue into the future. Live long and prosper, I wonder what the next incarnation will be.
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