The movies utilizing the cast of Star Trek: The Next Generation exited the stage not with a bang but with a crashing bore and forever destroyed the myth that even-numbered Star Trek films were the good ones.
The tenth film of Paramount’s cash cow franchise recycles the basic plot of the vastly superior Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, only without the depth of feeling or the memorable villain. Tom Hardy cuts an impressive and charismatic figure as the human who has seized power of the Romulan Empire, but his character lacks the resonance that Khan brought to Star Trek II.
During the extra features on the new DVD edition of this movie, cast and crew waxed euphoric that screenwriter John Logan was a lifelong Trekkie and brought a fan’s love for Star Trek to the project. To me, that is exactly the problem. The story of Nemesis reads like a piece of fan fiction and anyone who has read enough of that deathless prose knows why, on average, this is not a good thing.
The film opens with a promising scene of the Romulan Senate being overthrown in a coup, then cuts the first fanboy wet dream scene, the wedding of Will Riker (Jonathan Frakes) and Deanna Troi (Marina Sirtis). It’s not a bad scene and reflects touchingly on the long friendship between the characters as well as the actors who play them. I should say it’s not a bad scene until Data (Brent Spiner) starts singing. Spiner is an accomplished singer, but that doesn’t make this scene any less cringe-worthy.
After the wedding, and back on the Enterprise, the crew picks up a signal that matches the brain in Data’s head, from somewhere near the Romulan Neutral Zone. They fly off to investigate and discover a disassembled android identical to Data. Suddenly, for no apparent reason and to the great detriment of the movie, they are chased across the planet in a pointless action sequence that does nothing but consume several minutes of screen time.
Once they have escaped the planet and we have escaped from the inane chase scene, Captain Picard (Patrick Stewart) gets a call from Admiral Janeway (Kate Mulgrew) informing him that Romulans are looking to open peace negotiations and he is to travel to Romulus meet with Shinzon, the new Romulan leader. They arrive to discover that the Remans, formerly a subjugated race within the Romulan Empire who closely resemble Max Shreck in F.W. Marnau’s Nosferatu, have seized power. More surprisingly, their leader Shinzon (Hardy) is human and bears a striking resemblance to a young Picard (unless, of course, you ever watched the series and remember what the younger Picard looked like in the flashbacks). It also appears that Shinzon has been raiding Laurence Fishburne’s wardrobe from The Matrix.
It turns out that Shinzon was a clone created by the Romulans to replace Picard as a spy, but banished to the Spice Mines of Kessel, er, the dilithium mines of Remus when the government that hatched the plan fell out of favor. Now harboring a monster grudge, he has constructed a warship with the power to wipe out Earth, but first needs to eliminate Picard for reasons that are never made clear. There’s some pyscho-babble about Shinzon needing Picard out of the way to become a complete person, but this is another part where Nemesis begins to sound like junior-high-level fan fiction.
While the film’s story is a mess, it contains kernels of what could have been a superior Trek outing. The issues of identity, that we are what we do, are worth exploring far more deeply than they do here. The theme of a family moving on to new stages in their lives, which dominate the beginning and end of this movie, are about the only thing that works. The actors play their roles with a comfort and confidence earned with 15 years of familiarity and there are scenes here that make this film worthy of a rental viewing for loyal Next Generation fans. Too bad they didn’t fashion a story worthy of hanging them on.