Movie Review: Star Trek: Nemesis

I saw Star Trek: Nemesis opening weekend after friends dragged me to the movies. I hadn’t planned on seeing it so soon, as I found Star Trek IX: Insurrection to be a bit weak. I’d seen some lukewarm reviews of Nemesis and figured I’d catch it on video or at the dollar theater.

I’m glad my friends talked me into seeing it, because Nemesis was all around a good movie. The script was well-written and the story was put together carefully. Stuart Baird’s direction is good, as is the acting, and the pace is gripping. One does have to ignore a few instances of bogus skiffy physics, but that’s par for the course.

In short: if you are a fan of Star Trek and didn’t catch Nemesis when it was in theaters, it’s a worthwhile rental (and you might like it enough to buy it). You’ll have a good time watching it; there are some nice comic moments early on before the movie gets serious, and you’ll see some of the best action sequences of any of the Star Trek series. One of my friends thought this was the best of the recent batch of Trek movies. I liked First Contact quite a lot, and would have to see it again before I’d rank Nemesis as being better. At any rate, Nemesis is much better than Insurrection.

Spoilers follow ….

The story opens with Commander Riker and Counselor Troi’s wedding (Wesley Crusher is in this part, but he is only seen at a table; presumably he had scenes that may end up on the DVD as outtakes). They plan to travel on the Enterprise to her homeworld to have a second wedding and honeymoon. Meanwhile, the entire Romulan senate is assassinated with the aid of a device that releases a type of radiation that destroys all life it touches.

En route to the wedding, the Enterprise detects positronic emissions on a planet near the Neutral Zone. They investigate, and discover a dismembered android that looks just like Data. This android is B4, a prototype for Data. The crew takes the confused, childlike B4 onboard, not realizing that B4 is an unwitting pawn of Shinzon, the Reman who has used the bloody coup to set himself up as Praetor of Romulus. B4 is both bait to make sure that the Enterprise is the closest ship to Romulus and a naive spy to gather information for Shinzon.

The Enterprise is contacted by Admiral Janeway, who instructs them to travel to Romulus. Praetor Shinzon claims he wants peace between the Romulan Empire and the Federation and freedom for his fellow Remans, but he is secretly planning to unleash a doomsday device and kill all life on Earth, thus crippling the Federation and leaving it ripe for Romulan takeover. Shinzon, who is a genetically-modified clone of Captain Picard, is also dying, and needs a full transfusion of Picard’s blood to cure him of his sickness. Thus, his reasons for bringing the Enterprise to Romulus are twofold.

Tom Hardy does very well as Shinzon. Hardy’s clone is an intense, angry, desperate, arrogant young man with Picard’s tactical talents and intelligence and a black streak of violence bred by his brutal youth. Whereas Picard had a bucolic childhood at his family’s vineyards and a cultured education at Starfleet, Shinzon was created to become Picard’s replacement doppelganger. Taught to be a spy as a child, his project was abandoned and he was cast into slavery in the dilithium mines of Remus and raised by a Reman warrior (played by Ron Perlman). He is curious about Picard, but has a complex hatred for him as well. Shinzon envies Picard’s life and feels that as long as Picard lives, he will be nothing more than a shadow, a copy.

Patrick Stewart does a wonderful job as always as Captain Jean-Luc Picard. When he discovers who Shinzon really is, he wants to believe the young man’s story of wanting peace, but he wisely distrusts him. Picard feels sorry for the young man, and wants to try to save him. But when Shinzon’s evil nature is revealed, Picard is shaken by Shinzon’s accusation that Picard would do as the young man has done, were he in his position.

In many ways, though, this is Brent Spiner’s movie. In addition to being one of the co-writers of the story, he plays both Data and B4. Data has a crucial role in this movie, and in the end saves his crewmates and stops Shinzon at a terrible cost to himself.

My only quibble with the movie, aside from a very minor issue of the film portraying Picard as having been bald in his 20s, is the portrayal of Romulan Commander Donatra (played by Dina Meyer). Donatra was a minor character, but an important one, and considering the role she played in the outcome, her character needed a bit more development/clarification and screen time.

And, on a final note, the geek in me wished they’d gone a bit more into the nature of the Remans. It seems unlikely that their species could have evolved on a hostile planet like Remus. If so, how? If not, were they the original inhabitants of Romulus? I also wished they’d gone a bit more into the Viceroy’s character. Ron Perlman didn’t have enough to do in this role.

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