Star Trek: Nemesis is one of the rare Star Trek films that i remember watching in the theatre. Mostly i remember how sticky the floors were, and how crummy the sound was at the Movies 12 dollar theatre in Edmonton. I love that theatre, i remember the grand opening of the place, and how shiny and new it looked. It only took a few years for it to lose that new feeling completely. But hey, what do you expect for 2.50 a ticket?
Nemesis for a while was in the running to be my favourite Star Trek film. Yes, i liked it more than Wrath of Khan and yes i liked it more than First Contact. But further viewing more or less convinced me that i liked parts or the ideas of this film more than the others, but let us get to…
Any and every scene involving Tom “before i got jacked” Hardy and Patrick Stewart is worth watching. While admittedly Hardy looks almost nothing like Stewart (his profile is a good match, as is the shape of his head) that really doesn’t matter too much to me. This has mostly to do with his performance as Shinzon. Impressively despite Hardy being an absolute nobody, and recovering drug addict at this point in his career, is able to match Stewart’s years of talent scene for scene. Although i was too young to appreciate his talents, had i watched this film now i would have easily have seen a bright future for him (and indeed that is what we are getting now).
The central idea or premise remains an interesting one, and a very good one to close off with. That Blade Runner theme of what makes us individuals is examined, and is always fertile ground for interesting stories. The concept also relates to Picard’s experiences in Generations, as Shinzon more or less acts as Picard’s long-lost brother (or son), and with family being so important to Picard it all adds weight to Shinzon throwing away his humanity and hating Picard via related continuity.
I also quite liked how the film makers decided to take a page from Undiscovered Country’s book, and present the final story of the Enterprise crew with the attempt at making peace with their number one enemy from the series the Romulans. I’ve always liked the Romulans and i do try to gobble up what ever episodes that i can about them, and frankly its about time they showed up in a Star Trek film in a significant way.
The Production design, which includes SFX, Set and costume design, and cinematography are also all quite good. Little details like how Shinzon is frequently lit in the opposite manner as Picard to suggest that he is indeed a shadow is quite nice, as well as the Vampire/Goblin look of the Remans.
And, finally! After waiting for 7 whole movies to see a decent (lengthwise and staging wise) space battle, we’re treated to one that lasts for the better part of a 1/2 hour. It goes into detail about tactics, it’s well paced, well-edited (the whole film is), it’s a showcase for some great special effects, and it features the Enterprise E which is my pick for the best looking Enterprise out of the lot of them.
While i don’t have a problem with the choice of Hardy as Picard’s clone, i do think that the theme of the film would have been better serviced had Stewart had done double duty as Picard and Shinzon. In fact it really wouldn’t have been a problem and the only thing that i can think of is they wanted someone with some bad boy looks and charisma in order to help the bottom line grow.
Much of the criticism levelled at this film is usually that the structure goes from long talky scenes to dumb action then back to long talky scenes. While i don’t have a problem with this in general (many Star Trek movies/episodes can be summarized with this pattern), in Nemesis the problem is that the talk isn’t very interesting. This is the final voyage for the crew of The Next Generation, there’s very little time given to reflection, or humour to be had (apart from the brief wedding scene at the beginning of the film). Riker in particular gets the shaft, as he isn’t given much to do other than beat up the man who helped rape his wife, while the rest of the crew is more or less just along for the ride. This results in making Nemesis a rather unsatisfying ending.
Data’s death also feels a bit cheap. While it does tie into the theme of what makes us human and what gives us our identity, with the irony being that Shinzon despite being human could never have done the same. Also its suiting to Data’s arc as his sacrifice for his friends perhaps provides the final piece of his journey to become human. But despite that all, it somehow feels a bit rushed. It’s really hard to place my finger on why this is the case, it’s just somehow feels like his death is less motivated by story and theme, and more of it being used as a shocking event for the ending.
My final thoughts on Star Trek: Nemesis remain conflicted. The things that i like about it (the core concept, Stewart, Hardy, etc.), i absolutely love. But just like how the thalaron radiation couldn’t just be explained away, the flaws of the film (the missed opportunities, the Star Wars aping complete with corridor shoot outs) can’t be ignored. It’s also frustrating as I truly believe that this film really had a shot at being the best film of the series.
But alas, it is what it is, and what it is i believe is a good if flawed entry into the Star Trek franchise.
*** OUT OF FIVE