In Star Trek: Nemesis, the tenth feature film of the long running sci-fi classic, Captain Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) and the crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise-E must stop a vengeful madman (Tom Hardy) from annihilating the earth with an outlawed weapon. This fourth movie to star the cast of TV's Star Trek: The Next Generation boasts explosive action and a decent story, but a slow start and a badly botched ending keep it from being remarkable.
Individuality is a recurring theme in Nemesis. Picard's main adversary, a young clone of himself named Shinzon, raises a personal dilemma for the good captain: not only does Picard have to prevent his "mirror image" from destroying the earth, but he must also wrestle with the possibility that he might have been just as evil had he lived Shinzon's harsh life. Meanwhile, the discovery of a prototype artificial lifeform that looks just like Data (Brent Spiner), the Enterprise's renowned android officer, gives rise to another identity crisis amongst the crew.
While not on par with previous villains like Khan or the Borg, Shinzon is definitely one of the more formidable opponents of the Trek films. His origins as a clone and his personal hatred of Captain Picard give him a certain interesting depth that was missing from past foes like F. Murray Abraham's mummified whiner in Star Trek: Insurrection and Malcolm McDowell's boring mad scientist in Star Trek: Generations. Shinzon's posse is also sufficiently menacing: a freaky bunch of warrior aliens known as the Remans, who all look like Nosferatu with diseased skin.
Nemesis has an abundance of inside jokes and references, making it more easily accessible to regular viewers of the various Trek television shows than to casual moviegoers. The film is slow to get the party started, spending a lot of time on drab alien politics and the personal lives of the crew. Fans will be pleased by a few cameos, an overdue wedding, a more overdue promotion, and various nostalgic remarks, but non-Trekkers may have already drifted off into indifference by the time the fireworks begin.
Once the real action kicks off, though, the pyrotechnics are striking. Shinzon's ship, the Scimitar, is a true beast of war, loaded with an array of weaponry that puts the Enterprise to shame. With its ability to wipe out all life on a planet, it's a lean, mean, Death Star machine. This makes the showdown between the rarely-outgunned Enterprise and the Scimitar a great fight to behold, with the good guys struggling with major underdog status. The threat of destruction is constant and tense, making for an overwhelming situation not often seen by Picard and Company.
With most of its scenes ranging from competent to good, it is only an inept ending that really screws Nemesis in the final count. One of the crew--a longtime favorite who has been with the cast since their TV beginnings in 1987--dies in the line of duty while saving the Enterprise and the earth. But the sacrifice is an utter waste, eliciting no emotion in the wake of a half-assed funeral and some bad editing (the hero's final moments are overshadowed by a giant explosion seen from a distance). More distressing is how a sci-fi loophole of sorts makes the character "maybe not completely dead." This cheesy twist completely guts what should have been one of Trekdom's most poignant moments.
Star Trek: Nemesis can't snag the award for best Next Generation film--that honor continues to rest firmly with Star Trek: First Contact. Still, it is solid science fiction, offering an entertaining storyline and cool space battles to those with the patience to endure its slower scenes.
Rating: 8 out of 10 (0=Abysmal, 5=Average, 10=Excellent)
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