|Star Trek - Nemesis|
|Written by Tara O'Shea|
|Tuesday, 20 May 2003|
When Paramount saddled "Star Trek: Nemesis" with the tagline "A Generation's Final Journey," I don't think they realized quite how prophetic they were--or how it would forever alter the "even numbered movies rock/odd numbered movies suck" rule that has guided Trek fans for two decades. "Nemesis" performed spectacularly badly at the box office in comparison to its nine predecessors, and unfortunately sends the "Star Trek: The Next Generation" cast out on a whimper rather than the bang they no doubt intended with this action-packed final installment of the popular SF series of films.
The film opens with the Alaskan wedding of Enterprise’s First Officer William Riker (Jonathan Frakes) and his "imzadi" Deanna Troi (Marina Sirtis), who spent seven years dancing around each other on the televisions series before finally resuming their youthful affair in "Star Trek: Insurrection." Enterprise is to transport the happy couple to Betazed, Deanna's homeworld, for a second clothing-optional ceremony. However, Picard is diverted by Adm. Janeway (Kate Mulgrew) to the Romulan Neutral Zone at the request of the new Romulan Praetor, Shinzon (Tom Hardy). Along the way, Picard picks up yet another Soong android, "B4" (who, unlike Data's evil twin Lore, is a prototype with the personality of a five-year-old, albeit, like Data and Lore, he is played by Brent Spiner), who was abandoned in pieces on a desolate pre-warp world. However, the crew is thrown into deadly peril once they arrive on Romulus and meet Shinzon, who shockingly is neither Romulan, nor Reman (a new, Nosferatu-like race) but human -- and a clone at that, with a chip on his shoulder and an axe to grind with Picard, the Federation, the Romulans, and just about everyone he's ever met except Counselor Troi, whom he sort of fancies in a creepy stalkerish sort of way.
Working on the theory that "Star Trek II: Wrath of Khan" succeeded because director Nicholas Meyer was completely unfamiliar with Trek before taking the job, director Stuart Baird was hired to helm this installment. However, while Meyer did a superlative job bringing both genuine humanity to the aging 1701-A crew, as well as drama and thrills along the lines of the great submarine movies of the past, Baird seems interested only in Shinzon himself, and mounting action sequences for the sake of action sequences.
Stewart rises far above the material, co-star Hardy acquits himself well, and Spiner is charming and funny as the loveable Pinocchio-like android Data--who provides the film's second link to "Khan" in the explosive final battle. Unfortunately, the remainder of the cast are relegated to mere footnotes, and aside from the "Troi gets mind-raped by the villain" subplot which was misused so often on the series itself, get little to do. Riker's climactic battle with Shinzon's Viceroy (Ron Perlman) is unfortunately somewhat laughable, and seems to be t]here merely to up the ante. Beverly Crusher (Gates McFadden) in particular is woefully underused. However, LeVar Burton's scenes with both Data and B-4 are a lovely reminder of their friendship.
Visually, the DVD is flawless. Paramount's transfer is free of any major defects, and the wide color palette of the film is presented in beautiful color and depth, showing off the fantastic sets and production design. The flashbacks to the Romulan mines on Remus look particularly good, as does the final battle between the Enterprise and Shinzon's warship. Fleshtones are consistent and lifelike throughout, and although much of the film is set in the shadows, the level of detail is extraordinary.
In terms of sound, the 5.1 surround mix uses the entire range of speakers very effectively, particularly during the climactic space battle and ramming sequence. Weapons fire zooms around the room, and the dialogue is always crisp, clear, and easy to understand. The mix uses ambient sound particularly well. From the wedding banquet to Riker and the Viceroy's battle inside the Jefferies tubes, it is easily one of the most robust sound mixes to date on a Trek release, far surpassing “First Contact” and “Insurrection” in most cases.
In terms of extras, while the disc offers a decent amount, anyone who is used to the two-disc director's editions may be disappointed by the array on this release. Baird's commentary track is a bit lackluster, filled with long pauses, and the director has a peculiar habit of narrating the scenes rather than giving insights into production or characterization. It's particularly frustrating to hear him discuss cut scenes which are not included on the disc itself, especially given the fact that many of the cut scenes would have contributed to the overall character arcs of the film. Perhaps much would have been gained with pairing the director with either screenwriter John Logan, or actors Spiner or Stewart. However, though at times dry, it is an informative commentary, if not the most entertaining. A cast commentary track would have been more effective and a special treat for the fans -- one can hope that, should the film be given a deluxe DVD release treatment in the future, such an option might be available.
The deleted scenes include both a post-wedding scene with Picard and Data, and a coda with Picard and B-4 that provide a great deal of insight into the relationship between the captain and his science officer, as well as a ray of hope a la Spock's katra in "Search for Spock." Romulan siren Commander Donatra (Dina Meyer) also is a victim of the cutting room floor, and her role in the finished film amounts to little more than an extended cameo. However, the scene where Shinzon is revealed to the Romulan Senate prior to Picard’s arrival was wisely cut, as Baird's commentary illustrates. Wil Wheaton fans, however, will be left in the lurch, as all of Wesley Crusher's scenes were excised from the movie except for a brief glimpse in the wedding scene, and none of the Crusher subplot made its way into the extras.
The featurettes could have been edited together more coherently into a single making-of special, rather than grouped by subject. However, that curious choice notwithstanding, the cast interviews are quite insightful and at times delightful, although they are limited to Stewart, Frakes, and Spiner, so that the supporting cast aren't given a chance to reflect on their roles in this landmark franchise, which may be a disappointment to long-time fans. The featurettes on behind-the-scenes special effects, stunt coordination and production footage are entertaining, if brief, and no doubt SFX and action junkies will get a kick out of the desert sequence involving an all-terrain vehicle, as well as the ramming sequence. Rounding out the extras are a photo gallery, and advertisements for the DVD release of "Deep Space Nine" and the Las Vegas "Star Trek: The Experience" attraction.
Because the plot of the film is so derivative -- and derived from the most popular of all Trek films--it is unfortunate that this only serves to highlight the film's flaws for fans of the entire Trek oeuvre. While mainstream audiences may enjoy the film as a popcorn sci-fi adventure, it has none of the lingering impact of its forerunners.