Star Trek : Nemesis
My brother is always getting on my case about this. I love going to the movie theater. The joy of the experience has been known to blind my good taste. I loved the fourth Indiana Jones movie after seeing it in the theater. When I saw this one, I was convinced I had just seen the greatest of all Star Trek movies.
Now it’s on the bottom of my list.
The overblown action scene at the beginning, with Picard driving a dune buggy, is wrong. Wrong wrong wrong. It’s dopey, and pointless, and out of character, and indulgent on a Shatner-level.
The Romulan stuff is also wrong. First of all, what’s with the Remans? A whole side of the Romulans that we’ve never seen before just pops up in the final adventure of the D crew? You’d expect that kind of thing from Voyager, but the Next Generation is made of sturdier stuff. They don’t need to rely on creepy Romulan monsters. Thanks to the invention of the Remans, we have a confusing Romulan-vs-Romulan plot. I think it’s meant to mirror the political upheaval of Star Trek VI, but it does not work here. Part of the failure is to due to the newness of this whole situation. The peace with the Klingons achieved in Star Trek VI had been building since the very first appearance of the Klingons in “Errand of Mercy.” The Romulans played a minor part on TNG, popping up once or so every season. But they never dominated the attention of TNG the way the Klingons did. So the selection of the Romulans and the invention of a new Romulan subspecies is a weird choice for the final movie. It creates an unruly world, which is nearly impossible for a non-fan to understand.
Then there’s Shinzon. He is a problematic character. Tom Hardy does an okay job. Neither he, nor anyone working on the movie, nor the story itself seem to know what he is though. What is he for? Were they trying to give Picard a send-off by forcing him to face … what? What he might have been? What his career as a famous captain has earned him? I mean, having an evil cloned son would be strange as an episode of the show, but it is even stranger in this movie. This is the last movie with the TNG crew, so everything in it is watched through that lens.
Star Trek VI is a perfect finale. The crew are given versions of their best-known actions. So we get the delight of seeing them do this or that one last time. But it’s not just a nostalgia trip. There is a real story where those phrases and actions have a point. (I’m thinking of McCoy’s “He’s dead, Jim,” moment on the Klingon ship and Spock asking McCoy’s assistance with the torpedo, to which McCoy should say, “I’m a doctor, not a torpedist,” but he instead relents and says Spock’s catchphrase.) Star Trek VI is also a story of a world on the verge of not needing these heroes.
Nemesis offers no such conclusions. The final adventure of the crew is just another dumb mission. It doesn’t really build on anything we’ve seen these characters go through before. A more appropriate final adventure might have had the Q facing destruction by some alien force and Picard has to confront his old tormentor one last time, maybe sacrificing himself or his ship or something to stop some super-Q. I don’t know. Anything that built on what came before and gave the crew a proper send-off would have been preferable to what we got.
This movie seems reluctant to reference the past. They were probably afraid of alienating non-fans if they mentioned the shocking similarities between the Lore and B4 situations. That’s a constant, and annoying, fear among producers of Star Trek. If continuity is so terrifying to new viewers, don’t introduce a Romulan subspecies. New viewers weren’t treated to a one-off adventure, like Star Trek IV. They weren’t given a quick summary of what went on in the TV show, like in Star Trek: First Contact. This movie seems to think it’s being welcoming to new viewers by not referencing their characters’ histories. But instead, it’s introducing new aliens, a tantalizing new villain, and a hollow conclusion to one of the more recognizable characters. In other words, the makers of this movie are saying, “If you new viewers liked what you saw, just buy the DVD when it comes out, because you’re not going to find anything like this in Star Trek’s vast history.”
Riker and Troi finally married. That was fine. The idea for that had been planted in the first episode. It hadn’t been revisited too often, but it was still nice to see it wrapped up.
That’s the only wrap-up we get though. Data’s death is meant to be a powerful moment. But it’s just a pale reference to Spock’s death. This whole movie was built on pale references to the past. It’s a lot like Star Trek Into Darkness in that way. Both have their own stories, but both punctuate every significant action with a reference to a better movie. And again, if avoiding continuity is meant to attract new viewers, what function do these references serve? Are these just scraps thrown to the faithful Trek fans?
This might be what bugs me about this movie. The Next Generation stopped being a pale imitation of the original. It started out being that but it grew into its own show and produced some of the best hours ever seen on TV. But they never found their footing in the movies. This last movie sent them back to their origins: riffing on the original show. A whole big chunk of the audience is made up of people who watched the first few episodes of TNG, didn’t like it, but go to see the new Star Trek movie, whoever might be in it. For all those people, TNG was nothing but a lame version of TOS.
And it is so not! This movie could have been action-packed and thoughtful and a great farewell to those specific characters. Is that asking too much? It would be if this were any other franchise.
This movie fails in another way. It reflects the time in which it was produced. This can be a powerful tool, if it’s used to satirize, or criticize our culture’s thoughts on this or that. But to just take the mood of the times and patch that over Star Trek is not only lazy, but probably the reason Star Trek died in the movies after this. Those were dark days. 9/11 happened the year before and all international politics were thrown into shadows. People were nervous and they were right to be. The US entered into war with Iraq just a few months after this movie came out. Instead of surrendering to the dark feelings of the time, Star Trek should have shined brighter.
Again, is that too much to ask?