12. Star Trek: Nemesis (2002)
Directed by Stuart Baird.
Starring Patrick Stewart, Jonathan Frakes, Brent Spiner, LeVar Burton, Michael Dorn, Gates McFadden, Marina Sirtis, Tom Hardy, and Ron Perlman.
The final Trek movie before 2009’s J.J. Abrams-led reboot is very nearly the weakest of the lot, while its shambolic box office failure resulted in the cancellation of a planned sequel intended to round off The Next Generation cast’s tenure.
Star Trek: Nemesis came to the table with a certain degree of prestige which was sadly not utilised; Oscar-nominated editor-turned-filmmaker Stuart Baird (Executive Decision, U.S. Marshals) directs the film with total anonymity and was later branded an “idiot” by Marina Sirtis, while eventual three-time Oscar nominee John Logan (Gladiator, The Aviator, Hugo) penned the shockingly boring script.
From early on, one suspects Paramount saw the box office receipts of Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace and decided that its cacophony of senatorial nonsense was exactly what Trek needed to spruce itself up. The subsequent political jostling makes most of the film’s first act a stamina-draining bore, broken only when Tom Hardy’s entertainingly slap-headed antagonist Shinzon shows up.
For starters, it’s nice to have a younger villain in the mix, especially one whose predicament is relatable in its existential desperation – no matter the daftness of the whole Picard (Patrick Stewart) clone plot. This results in a number of remarkable individual scenes between Picard and Shinzon as Picard is forced to introspect, even if Logan’s script arguably lets the cat out of the bag a little too early for the twist to land with much impact.
Yet outside of these exchanges there’s little substantial narrative connective tissue worth considering, while the action sequences dare to be genuinely inept rather than merely workmanlike. The relentlessly exhausting shootouts are tiresome to sit through, and for a film directed by a respected editor, it’s shocking how sloppy both the coverage and cutting are.
Throw in a heap of murky, unspectacular CGI, corny use of fake slow-mo during Shinzon’s flashback, and a godawful sequence where he invades Troi’s sex session with Riker (Jonathan Frakes), and you have a recipe for a film that’s paradoxically tedious in all of its absurdity. Even the great Nicholas Meyer himself couldn’t have made that sex scene work, admittedly.
Despite a seemingly reasonable 116-minute runtime, Nemesis‘ third act feels positively unending, aided in no way by myriad groan-worthy moments, worst of all Data (Brent Spiner) Mary Poppins-ing himself through space to reach Shinzon’s ship, and Shinzon’s comically lame impalement death.
The film isn’t without its welcome drops of nostalgia – Riker and Troi’s wedding and the Janeway (Kate Mulgrew) cameo, for instance – yet so much of what it presents seems cynical and desperate rather inspired or imaginative. And let’s not even get started on Bryan Singer’s woefully distracting cameo as a Starfleet officer.
Star Trek: Nemesis is a film that has a lot of ideas about what Trek fans want out of the series as it enters the new millennium, but unfortunately few of them feel sufficiently fleshed out enough to convince in a feature film. A flat farewell to the Next Generation crew, Nemesis is a wheel-spinning brand extension exercise bereft of anything beyond generic space-faring hooey.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★
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