At this point in the Trek film franchise, the makers of Star Trek had obviously given up on trying to appeal to an audience outside of the sci-fi convention attendees (referred to hereafter as “Conners”). It’s too bad because Star Trek‘s strengths were in its storytelling. It used to reflect society and give us morality plays that all could identify with, but they no longer could, no longer tried, or no longer cared to go outside of what they think the Conners want to see when they finally, so we are left with this mess.
Nemesis starts at a Romulan High Council meeting where everyone not in league with Shinzon (Tom Hardy) is killed, allowing a new force to move in and take over. For some reason the Romulan populace either never notices the coup, does nothing about it, or else they’ve all been placed in some sort of Phantom Zone because we don’t see or hear from them. It is odd for a warrior race such as the Romulans to allow a coup to go unchallenged, but it starts off as a nice hook for the movie, so it doesn’t have to make sense. The coup is a result of beings from the planet Remus, Romulus’ twin. These creatures live on the dark side of the planet, which is supposed to explain why they all look like Nosefartu. It also helps to remind us that they are bad.
Then the movie comes to a screeching halt as we attend the wedding of Riker and Troi, which would be a great time for non-fans to use the bathroom or get some refreshments. This scene reveals the problem with a cast this large because having to give everyone screen time when it doesn’t move the main story along makes the moments come off like glorified cameos. For example, Data’s gift to the happy couple is his rendition of Irving Berlin’s “Blue Skies.” Now, I get that writers are lazy so everyone in the future has an interest in 20th Century Earth, but can someone explain how Worf, whose other big scene was about having a hangover from Romulan ale, knows who Irving Berlin is? The producers should feel free to cut some of the dead weight. I know the actors like the paychecks, but is the Dr. Crusher fan club really so overwhelming of a force that she needs screen time to appease the masses storming the Paramount gates?
The plot gets moving again when the Enterprise-E discovers a planet that has something on it with energy signatures similar to Data. The ship races out there so Picard (of course, we get Riker’s “You can’t lead an away team” speech), Data, and Worf can race around on a dune buggy finding pieces of an earlier model Data named “B4,” which seems odd because it suggests that the builder knew there would be later models of this android. Maybe he had gone forward in time and discovered that a future version of himself built later models of Data? Then there is a ridiculous Road Warrior chase scene that ends with the dune buggy making a leap off a cliff into a waiting shuttle that Data maneuvers from the buggy. Don’t be surprised if you groan, “Yeah, right.”
The Enterprise-E is then called to Romulus to meet the new leader of the Romulans at their request. When the crew beams down, Shinzon goes out of his way to frequently hint but never says that he’s (get ready) a clone of Picard. It turns out some earlier Romulan Government was going to use the clone to take down the Federation or something. I’m not clear how because it’s never explained. However, a new government came into power, squashed the plans, and sent the clone to die on the planet Remus. Why he wasn’t killed immediately is never explained, but obviously those government officials hadn’t heard about Oedipus Rex, Snow White, or Krzilak Entropus of Rigel VIII. I was extremely curious to learn how the Romulans got Picard’s DNA in the first place, but this plot point, like many others, was never explained.
Nemesis then becomes a bit reminiscent of Wrath of Khan as the remainder plays out. Shinzon hunts down Picard because Shinzon’s molecular structure is accelerated and breaking down so he needs Picard to replenish himself somehow. B4 is revealed to be under the control of Shinzon, so he assists in the security breaches, which lead to the usual ship-to-ship captures and escapes that we’ve grown accustomed to.
On a positive note, the battle scenes are very well done and are the best parts of the movie. It’s just a shame that you don’t care what happens by the time they occur. My favorite part is seeing the Enterprise-E crash into Shinzon’s ship and seeing Remans running through the hangar trying to get away.
For the climax, Picard slips into Kirk mode again and goes over to Shinzon’s ship alone with a phaser rifle. He shoots things up pretty good, kills Shinzon, and just when he’s about to sacrifice himself to save the universe again, Data appears. He leapt from ship to ship in another of the great action sequences in one of the few smart ideas any of the characters have. Data sends Picard back to the Enterprise-E with a little transporter device and sacrifices himself by destroying the weapon. I guess this would seem heroic under normal circumstances, but Brent Spiner can still play B4 so what was lost? B4 can go back to the way Data appeared in the show’s first season, asking questions like a three-year-old when someone uses a metaphor. It’s an empty sacrifice and a cheat to keep the character/actor around.
My recommendation would be to stumble upon Nemesis about an hour after it started because all the things you felt you missed you wouldn’t know the storytellers missed as well. I’m glad they brought in some fresh talent behind the scenes, but considering Josh Logan won an Oscar by ripping off Braveheart to make Gladiator, it’s not a surprise this movie felt like a retread.
The true nemesis of Star Trek turned out to be producer Rick Berman. As seen in the marketing materials, it had anticipated this could be the final film for TNG crew and the poor box-office results made it so, leading Paramount executives to go in an entirely new direction with the next Trek film.