Star Trek: Nemesis

Reviewed By Doug Bentin
Posted 01/24/07 13:17:09

"If you're going to boldly go, go now."
3 stars (Just Average)

I’ve never been a Trekite (this coinage is to avoid the “Trekkie” vs. “Trekker” trap—“Trekophile” will work just as well), but I’ve enjoyed my voyages to the stars over the years, and I’ve felt much closer to the first two Trek crews than I ever have to the characters from the Star Wars galaxy.

The last three incarnations of the Trek world, however, have left me pretty chilled and if the only choice is between turning the film franchise over to the Voyager crew or putting the good ship Enterprise away in moth balls, I’ll take the top shelf in the closet, right next to Charlie Chan, any day.

The Next Generation crew still looks to be in good shape. There’s none of the Bones’ age or Shatner gut on display in “Nemesis.” Producer Rick Berman could easily squeeze a couple of movies more out of these guys and gals, if he didn’t wait four years before releasing number 11 in the series.

But if the improbable next one weren’t any better than number 10, I’d advise Berman not to bother.

“Nemesis” is moderately entertaining, but the crossover potential to reach non-Trekistas is thin. It’s not that you need to know the crew’s back-story to appreciate what they do in the new movie. It wouldn’t hurt, of course, to know Riker’s and Deanna’s history, and why another of the characters is so beloved by the others, but you can take some things for granted and go with the action of the picture.

The movie’s greatest flaw is not that it is an outgrowth of a TV show, but that it is still clinging to TV visuals. Director Stuart Baird shoots most of the dialogue scenes—and there are a lot of them—in screen-filling close-up. This will help the movie play well on television, but it overwhelms a theater audience. Most of what the characters have to say doesn’t require the emotional emphasis close-ups force on us. What they do is cut down on the amount of set design that would be necessary in a wider shot. I guess this allows the bulk of the non-actors’ salary budget to be spent on the battle sequence that concludes the film, but it gives the entire enterprise, as it were, a cheap and incomplete feel.

The film begins with a wedding and the promise of a honeymoon. The nuptials will split up the crew. We go into the movie expecting that this cast will not reprise their roles yet again as the picture’s tag line promises that this is “a generation’s final journey.”

But before the newlyweds can leave the ship, the Enterprise is sent to the planet of Romulus. Praetor Shinzon (Tom Hardy) is making peace overtures, but he insists on meeting Capt. Picard (Patrick Stewart) in person. Picard discovers that Shinzon is, in fact, a younger version of himself, cloned without his knowledge or consent.

It’s no mystery to us from the start that Shinzon’s true intent is to force a complete blood transfusion from his older self, and then destroy the Earth. Some little brothers are just like that. Part of the bait used to draw the Enterprise crew into the net is a prototype robot called B-4 that looks just like Data (Brent Spiner) but is seriously lacking in the asimov circuits. This device allows the screenwriters to double up on the double motif.

Once Picard figures out what’s going on, the rest of the film is pursuit and escape, with a grand battle between star ships for a finale. It looks pretty sharp, but once again (and I write this while emitting a huge sigh) we have to tolerate the same old explosions in the vacuum of space and “space acting.” On a talk show long ago, Stewart and the rest of the Next Generation cast gave a display of what they called “space acting,” which meant grabbing the arms of their chairs and shaking themselves to simulate being onboard a ship that was getting laser blasted.

Other reviewers have complained about this aspect of “Nemesis,” that we see the same old tossing around of bodies on the bridge (one of which belongs to “X-Men” director Brian Singer in a cameo), the same old sparks falling from the ceiling, and the same old worries that the shields are down to 10 percent capacity. In this respect, “Nemesis” is more retro than “Far From Heaven.”

I suspect that the faithful in the audience would be sorely disappointed if these elements were omitted. It would be like a James Bond movie without the scene with Q, or a Sherlock Holmes story that was missing the moment when Holmes explains some marvelous deduction to Watson. “Amazing Holmes!” “Not at all, Watson.”

It’s always good to see old friends on the screen, and for many of us one or more of the Enterprise crews are just that. But when old friends grow tired of dropping by, and cease having anything to say when they do, maybe it’s time call it a day.

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