Star Trek: Nemesis (2002)

Directed by Stuart Baird
Written by John Logan

Coming to the end of The Next Generation movies doesn’t feel nearly as bittersweet as it was to come to the close of the original series, which is a bit of a wonder because I feel as though I have connected a little more with this cast of character than I had with the original. Perhaps the aura of Kirk and Spock still casts a shadow over the likes of Picard, Data, Worf, et al. I can’t place my finger on it, but from top to bottom I found this eclectic group more interesting, and yet their tales less so. Perhaps having two fewer films in the catalog counts against TNG, as it still follows the even/odd popularity theory (to some extent). Perhaps as I got so excited for fresh faces, what truly revealed itself was the simple fact that I do prefer the original series to TNG. I don’t know the answer to these quandaries, but I’m still not disappointed by this journey, even 10 movies deep at this point. I’m a fan of the Star Trek brand, and these films have been a joy to watch, even if they don’t leave a lasting impression.

Nemesis is no different for a variety of reasons. I know it often gets a bad rap by some as a lesser entry into the Star Trek universe, and more specifically The Next Generation universe. First Contact perhaps did more harm than good for The Next Generation, as it was so good that it ultimately overshadows the other films in the series, making them look not quite as good as perhaps they are. Or that’s just my blindness which stems from coming to love and enjoy this group. Insurrection is bad, that much I know. With Nemesis, there is plenty to talk about that could have been better, but it’s not all that bad, is it? I mean it features a young Tom Hardy as the villain! And Ron Perlman as his henchman! And quite honestly, it features a rather unique and very interesting premise which is prime for a fascinating character study and denouement to this chapter of the series.

As the crew of the Enterprise are called to Romulus with the hope of a possible peace, we discover that a coup has taken place, led by none other than Shinzon (Hardy), a Picard clone who is hoping to replace Picard, steal away on the Enterprise and attack Earth. But here, the fascination is less with the plotting of Shinzon and more with the dynamic between he and Picard, as they have much in common. One of the bad things about exploring these films as I have is that I have no experience with the series and the backstories of the characters. I am certain there is much that could be colored in with regard to all the characters if I simply watched the series. But coming to the films fresh, I don’t have that luxury. So as Shinzon and Picard interact, I feel I learned a great deal more about Jean-Luc than I had known to that point. That was the most interesting aspect of this film to me, not the end-of-the-world plot we’ve seen time and again. It’s simply more intriguing this time because it essentially Picard (Shinzon) who is motivated to end the world, even if his experiences are far different than Jean-Luc’s and therefore inform his motives in ways Jean-Luc would never reach.

Where the film once again goes off the rails and loses a great deal of steam is in the finale, which features once more extended sequences of fighting. While the visual effects have come a long way, especially since we were spending time with Kirk and Spock, it doesn’t make these mindless space fights any more palatable as a result, even if they are beautiful (in addition to simply getting to see the beauty of space even when it isn’t serving as the backdrop for battle). Once the film reached this point where the cards were on the table and all that was left for both sides to duke it out, I lost almost complete interest. There was nothing more interesting to figure out, especially since the ending was already known (the good guys aren’t going to lose). The sacrifice of Data came as a shock, but even that wasn’t handled particularly delicately. I wish there had been a more fitting tribute for the character after such heroic actions. It falls flat after such a noble action.

Overall, Star Trek: Nemesis really doesn’t feel like the right film to call a close to The Next Generation series of films. I wanted something more. Something a little better. Not to compare, but The Undiscovered Country felt like the perfect close to the original film series. In fact, First Contact would have been a perfect candidate, but then the film would have had to whimper to that fantastic close. With Nemesis, it feels like just another film in the series, with no foresight for the close to the series. It’s not the worst film, but it just doesn’t quite fit that bill to be the closer either.

As we move on to the reboot series, which includes the only two films I had seen previous to this marathon, I put a bow on TNG, which I would overall classify as a disappointment, though not entire failure. There was enough here I liked, and even if I didn’t love Nemesis or Generations, they weren’t complete trainwrecks, and the whole series contained plenty to like. When all is said and done, First Contact will be the only notable release of the four films, but I will never regret spending time with this crew. I may have even been interested enough to seek out the television series with the hope that spending more time with them might pay dividends greater than the film series.

★★★ – Liked It

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