Star Trek: Nemesis

(2002) ** 1/2 Pg-13
116 min. Paramount. Director: Stuart Baird. Cast: Patrick Stewart, Jonathan Frakes, Brent Spiner, Levar Burton, Michael Dorn.

The tenth Star Trek film has been greeted by many as some sort of last straw for the enduring franchise, but in point of fact, it's merely a sheepishly derivative science fiction actioner kicking the dirt around the corner from popular cousins Harry Potter, Frodo, and Yoda. Opening with a shot of an exotic urban cityscape that wouldn't look out of place in Star Wars: Episode II—Attack of the Clones, Star Trek: Nemesis attempts to appear as an upscale, fresh entry in the canon. But outside of a random "away team" action scene transparently designed to vent a ship-bound story, Nemesis feels chintzy and slapdash.

Producer Rick Berman enlisted two Trek newcomers: screenwriter John Logan and director Stuart Baird. Logan, still dining out on his Gladiator co-writing credit, tinkers around with an intriguing premise but with little creative facility for dialogue or structure. Baird--a major Hollywood editor turned director of second-tier action films--ironically fails to bring a suitable rhythm to the story, though his sometimes muddled action occasionally locates a certain testosterone-fueled clarity.

This time around, the Enterprise crew's celebration of a "family function" is interupted by a crisis involving the Romulans, old villains of Enterprises over the years. The Romulans, as it turns out, have a brother race in the shadow-dwelling Remans, and their champion, Shinzon (Tom Hardy), has staged a coup d'etat in the Romulan senate. Sent to investigate, Captain Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) and company awkwardly pause to investigate another surprise: a doppleganger of android crewmember Data (Brent Spiner, who co-authored the story). Shinzon, likewise, turns out to be Picard's Jungian shadow, setting up an intriguing challenge for the de facto leading men of the series.

Unfortunately, Logan and Baird don't know where to take this story. Self-professed fan Logan settles for perfunctory rips from earlier Trek shows and movies (Nemesis overtly calls up not only Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, but the sixth film--The Undiscovered Country--and the much-maligned ninth film, Insurrection). Worse, Logan loses touch with the real consequences of his own plot (the Romulans, whose fate hangs in the balance, fade to the background). Suffering under a questionable story, cast-member-turned-director Jonathan Frakes at least kept Insurrection lively, but Nemesis gets the better of Baird, who indulges talky (and too often vapid) stretches that kill the time between action scenes.

The production team's "new" direction seems likely to split the difference between fans and neophytes, impressing neither. Plot holes abound (including both internal logic and shady continuity to the both the television and film series), and the Enterprise crew--outside of the reliable and well-salaried Stewart and Spiner--must take what they get and like it, not unlike the fans. The dark, poorly designed special effects pale in comparison to the scrappy but rousing effects of earlier Trek films: Baird's CGI space battles mostly bleed into an overwrought sea of composition, color, and movement which defy blinking eyes to focus (the design of Shinzon's ship is intimidating but otherwise impractical).

If Nemesis lacks in sense and charm, it compensates with performance and calculatedly memorable, even emotional moments. No fan will be able to fully resist the epochal series of climaxes, beginning with an overdue use of Data's form as function in outer space. Logan teases the evergreen maritime imagery of the series with more submariner theatrics and the starship equivalent of "ramming speed." As in the Bond series, the supervillain waltzes around his best opportunity at success, then waits for his plans to go up in fireballs.

The ending--which all but ignores the likely environmental consequence of the final Starfleet solution--has serious consequences for a cast member. But with bets firmly hedged, the film blunts the impact of the loss with a seemingly open condescension to the audience. Star Trek: Nemesis appears to be the end of the road for the Next Generation cast. With the possible exceptions of Stewart and Spiner, the cast's exit is unfortunately inglorious.

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Aspect ratios: 2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen

Number of discs: 2

Audio: Dolby Digital 5., 2.0 Surround

Street date: 10/4/2005

Distributor: Paramount Home Video

Star Trek: Nemesis—Special Collector's Edition gives the expected deluxe treatment to the most recent Star Trek feature. Fully supplanting the previous 1-disc special edition, the Special Collector's Edition offers just about everything a fan could hope for in a Nemesis DVD, short of an extended cut of the film. The serviceable transfer of the film includes potent soundtracks as well as two audio-commentary options, one with director Stuart Baird, the other with producer Rick Berman.

The awe-inspiring wealth of bonus materials continues in three sections crammed with well-produced featurettes. Production includes Nemesis Revisited (25:44), New Frontiers: Stuart Baird on Directing Nemesis (8:42), Storyboarding the Action (3:37), Red Alert! Shooting the Action of Nemesis (10:08), Build and Rebuild (7:44), Four-Wheeling in the Final Frontier (10:14), The Shinzon Screen Test (6:29). The Star Trek Universe covers A Star Trek Family's Final Journey (16:16), A Bold Vision of the Final Frontier (10:16), and The Enterprise E (11:36). The Romulan Empire, Romulan Lore (11:51), Shinzon and the Viceroy (10:00), Romulan Design (9:05), The Romulan Senate (8:57), and The Scimitar (13:14).

The self-explanatory featurettes delve into all aspects of the making of the film. They also provide cast and crew reflections on what appears to be the last Next Generation film, as well as glimpses behind the scenes as the friendly cast enjoys another on-set reunion (any tensions between the cast and director Stuart Baird, who showed up unschooled in Trek, remain offscreen). The screen test of Tom Hardy is an especially interesting bit of footage, showing an unedited live-to-video performance that shows the actors' theatrical chops.

The new special edition also nearly doubles the Deleted Scenes from the previous edition. Totalling 19:53 and preceded by a Rick Berman introduction, the deleted scenes include "Chateau Picard 2267," "The Time Of Conquest," "Federation Protocols," "A Loss Of Self," "Turbolift Violation," "Sickbay Prepares For Battle," "Advice For The New First Officer," "Wesley's New Mission," "Data And B-4," "The Chance For Peace," "Remember Him?," "Cleaning Out Data's Quarters," and "Crusher At Starfleet Medical." All are worth a look, and in particular, "Chateau Picard 2267" nicely deepens the Picard-Data friendship explored in the film.

Finally, the Archives section of the disc lays out three stills galleries ("Storyboards," "Production," and "Props") and trailers including a Teaser Trailer (1:36), Theatrical Trailer (2:06), and "Borg Invasion" Trailer (:32). Despite the film's flaws, no self-respecting Trekker can live without this stellar collector's edition.
Review gear:
Panasonic Viera TC-P55VT30 55" Plasma 1080p 3D HDTV
Oppo BDP-93 Universal Network 3D Blu-ray Disc Player
Denon AVR2112CI Integrated Network A/V Surround Receiver
Pioneer SP-BS41-LR Bookshelf Speaker (2)
Pioneer SP-C21 Center Speaker
Pioneer SW-8 Subwoofer

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