Star Trek: Nemesis Movie Review
"Star Trek" films have always faced considerable scrutiny from their detail-oriented fans, so one would think by the 10th big screen outing the shepherds of the series would know better than to make a movie full of flubs.
Yet while "Star Trek: Nemesis" is a formidable, dignified sci-fi adventure when sticking to the substance of its story -- about a baneful young clone of Capt. Picard leading enemy aliens in battle against the starship Enterprise -- the picture grows decidedly flimsier with its many out-sized, out of character and logically porous action set pieces.
Take, for example, the silly dune buggy sequence in which Picard (Patrick Stewart), android Lt. Commander Data (Brent Spiner) and Klingon Lt. Commander Worf (Michael Dorn) go conspicuously gallivanting around the planet of a pre-warp civilization (a violation of Star Fleet's Prime Directive that goes completely unaddressed), being shot at by locals and staging daredevil stunts, a la "XXX."
Does anyone go to "Star Trek" movies to see an off-road vehicle jump from a cliff into the cargo compartment of a hovering shuttlecraft? Patrick Stewart may be bald, but that's no excuse for trying to turn him into Vin Diesel.
After this early episode, in which the away team discovers a disassembled, dumber double of Commander Data (who comes into play later), "Nemesis" hunkers down in good drama for a while as the Enterprise is dispatched to the home planet of the Federation's cold war rivals, the pointy-eared, heavy-browed Romulans. There has been a vicious coup d'état on Romulus in which the "Nosferatu"-looking slave class species from twin planet Remus have taken power, lead by a malicious human named Shinzon (Tom Hardy, "Band of Brothers").
This new Praetor says he desires peace with the Federation and equality for the Remans. But Shinzon's seemingly altruistic motives are a front. A clone grown by the intelligence branch of a previous Romulan government, he's a younger replica of Picard, originally designed to age rapidly and be substituted for the captain in an espionage plot that was later abandoned. Now a Reman by fraternity and vile temperament, he's hell bent on ruling the Romulan Empire, irradiating Earth with a powerful doomsday weapon and capturing Picard for a life-saving DNA transfusion.
This character-driven storyline is quite engrossing as the yin and yang minds of Shinzon and Picard come to blows. Hardy gives a cunning, zealous performance, skillfully combining some of Stewart's physical traits with an intelligent malevolence and a contradictory, childlike desire to learn more about the man he was meant to be. He's so good it makes you feel even sorrier for the loyal "Trek" cast members regulated to cartoonish or cardboard-prop supporting roles. (Worf groans through a hangover at the opening-scene wedding of Commander Riker and Counselor Troi.)
"Nemesis" also scores on the special effects front, with alien cityscapes and space-faring visuals so seamless and crisp (much crisper than the CGI in, say, "Attack of the Clones") that it may simply never occur to you to question their reality.
But when "Nemesis" reaches its ship-wrecking showdown between the Enterprise and Shinzon's enormous, spider-like, cloaking-capable battle cruiser, more holes are blown in the plot than in the hulls of the two ships combined.
Commander Data literally dives out a gash in the side of the Enterprise and floats over to Shinzon's ship -- which would be absurd enough without his landing conveniently near a convenient button that opens a convenient hatch he can use to get inside. Picard escapes Shinzon's captivity on two separate occasions, once by flying a small Reman fighter through the corridors of the enemy ship in a videogame-like sequence and once through an awfully convenient emergency transporter prototype, which returns the captain straight to the Enterprise bridge just in time to witness an important climactic moment.
The Remans professed aversion to light seems to be conveniently forgotten when they invade the better-illuminated Enterprise during the fight. Later one of them dives down an access tube into the bowels of the Star Fleet ship for no apparent reason except to give Riker (Jonathan Frakes) a chance to follow and get in his own gratuitous mano-a-mano scene that feels like nothing but an ego-based contractual obligation.
I could go on and on. I have a long list of rational gripes and a shorter one about the producers' assumption of "Next Generation" idolatry among Trekkers that leads to superficial personality moments, as when Commander Data sings at the wedding. But that would make for a boring, protracted review.
It would be much simpler just to sum up by saying "Star Trek: Nemesis" had the potential to rival to franchise high water marks like "The Wrath of Khan," "The Undiscovered Country" and "First Contact," but that potential is squandered by the infusion of overwrought, uninspired action that takes precedence over the palpable drama inherent in the plot.