Picard on someone your own size: Stewart
The real nemesis faced by the crew of the Enterprise in Star Trek Nemesis is not the angry young clone of Captain Jean-Luc Picard. The real nemesis is producer Rick Berman, at the helm of the now creaky franchise for far too long. The film, while less of a cluttered mess than Star Trek: Insurrection, doesn’t hold a phaser to First Contact, the best work starring the Next Generation crew.
But even without a direct comparison to prior films, Nemesis would have problems. It’s a plodding, tepid space drama, one that spends its first hour laboriously setting up a special effects-driven starship battle that provides little more an excuse to pile drive the Enterprise, in glorious slow-motion, into an enemy ship. Essentially, it all comes down to a game of chicken in space.
Nemesis follows such a basic Star Trek formula that fans can virtually pick out the segments lifted from other cinema Treks, including The Wrath of Kahn and Generations. Lucky for us, there are no whales (and that includes William Shatner). The movie is a starfield of wasted opportunities and of narrative short-shrifts, of consequences that have no real impact because everything in this world, no matter how bad things get, can be returned to exactly how they were at the start. In one climactic moment — one which I cannot, unfortunately, reveal — the movie insults the fan base who have so faithfully supported the franchise through ten movies and five television series.
En route to Betazed for the nuptials of Commander Riker (Jonathan Frakes, who looks more and more like a lumberjack with each passing film) and Counselor Deanna Troy (moist-eyed Marina Sirtis), the Enterprise is distracted by a rather unusual find on a passing planet: a dismantled android that turns out to be an early version of their own beloved android Data (Brent Spiner). But this Data is corrupt — or should we say, has been programmed for a corrupt cause involving the Romulans, the Remans, and a snarling and nasty little clone of Captain Picard (Patrick Stewart) named Shinzon.
Shinzon (played with malevolent flair by Tom Hardy) has at his disposal a devastating weapon (ain’t it always the case?). And he plans to use it against the Federation in a mission that might be aptly called “Kill All Humans. ”
Why does Shinzon hate humans so? Because he’s not quite human himself, and he’s really, truly bitter about it. You see, he was cloned by the Romulans years ago to secretly replace Picard. But after a political upheaval (apparently a routine occurrence on Romulus), he was cast aside, banished to neighboring Remus, a planet of (for lack of a better term) warrior slaves who all bear a striking resemblance to the vampire Nosferatu. Now Shinzon is dying — and the only thing that will save him is — are you ready? — the blood of Jean-Luc.
Like all Trek films, an attempt is made to get introspective about some aspect of the human condition — in this case individuality and identity. But it’s executed on such a neophyte level by screenwriter John Logan and directed with such a snooze-inducing hand by Stuart Baird, that we might as well be watching Star Trek: Playskool.
The movie centers on Data and Picard, the two most popular character, while struggling to give a line or two of dialogue to Gates McFadden’s Dr. Crusher, Levar Burton’s Geordi, and Michael Dorn’s Worf, who gets my sympathy simply because the poor guy had to endure six hours of makeup a day just to show up on the set and stand there like a big, Klingon log.
Rumor has it that this is the Next Generation’s final voyage. Indeed, certain narrative elements, including a rather sudden and remarkably hollow tragedy, point to this conclusion. But I don’t think so. I think the crew will be back for one more swansong. They need to go out with a bang, not an asthmatic whimper. And should they reconvene, I proffer only one suggestion:
Bring back the Borg.