STAR TREK: NEMESIS
Star Trek: Nemesis distances itself from the series regular voices. Jonathan Frakes was presumably too busy making Clockstoppers (2002) and Thunderbirds (2004) to direct and this time the captains chair has been handed over to Stuart Baird, the first series outsider to direct one of the films since Nicholas Meyer in 1982. British-born Baird, a longtime Ken Russell associate, is best known as an editor and has worked on most of Russells films of the 1970s and most of Richard Donners films since, with credits on the high profile likes of The Omen (1976), Superman (1978), Ladyhawke (1985) and the Lethal Weapon films under his belt, among numerous others. Baird previously ventured out as a director with undistinguished action films such as Executive Decision (1996) and U.S. Marshals (1998). On script is John Logan, a rising new name who has delivered the screenplays for Any Given Sunday (1999), Gladiator (2000), The Time Machine (2002), Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas (2003), The Aviator (2004), Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007), Rango (2011), Hugo (2011), Skyfall (2012). Spectre (2015) and Alien: Covenant (2017), as well as created the tv series Penny Dreadful (2014-6), while interestingly actor Brent Spiner, who plays the role of Data, co-contributes the story.
The more one thinks about it, Star Trek seems to work the least well of all on the medium of the big screen. The classic Star Trek movies started well but soon drowned in cutsie fannish self-congratulation, while the Star Trek: The Next Generation films have remained little more than special effects vehicles in search of stories. None of the Star Trek: The Next Generation films have ever moved with the conceptual dazzle and tight scripting of two-part episodes such as The Best of Both Worlds or All Good Things, or even lesser two-parters like Unification or Chain of Command.
Star Trek: Nemesis offers up a stunningly banal plot concerning the Romulan political machinations and the cardboard nemesis of Captain Picards clone son. There is a remarkable lack of intrigue to the political story and no depth at all to the character of Shinzon. He is just a standard science-fiction villain in a shiny cape threatening the universe and comes with almost nothing in the way of depth or interesting shading. There is a subplot about Data finding an earlier primitive version of himself this is revealed in the films sole twist to be a trap set by Shinzon but the character of B-4 is then almost entirely forgotten about until the end. There is a new race of villains in the Remulans but they are nothing more than standard ugly mug alien faces and moreover have their threat cut out from under them the moment one realises they look exactly like the orcs out of Lord of the Rings. There is a dull action sequence with dune buggies shooting out with aliens, ending on a stunt jump that only takes place in the unreal realm of cartoonish action movies.
Even more so than in the previous Star Trek: The Next Generation films, the supporting principals take a back seat to the action it is almost entirely The Picard and Data Show. This is a film that feels like it could have done with some of the light relief that infected the Classic Star Trek movies where all the regulars would come out like a well-rehearsed comedy troupe and each had their own little piece. There are also a small appearance from Star Trek: Voyagers Kate Mulgrew and cameos from former Star Trek: The Next Generation regulars Wil Wheaton and Whoopi Goldberg, with only she getting a line, and all to astonishingly little purpose. (Director Bryan Singer can also be spotted in a cameo as a crewman who gets blown out the bridge window).
In fact, one realises about halfway through that Star Trek: Nemesis is actually a Next Generation remake of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982). The two films have almost identical plots a genetically engineered villain who is determined to obsessively settle an old score with the Enterprises captain; the villain with his hands on a universe-threatening weapon; the Enterprise captain discovering the long lost son he never knew he had; a climactic hideout/shootout between The Enterprise and the enemy vessel, both badly damaged, in a nebula; and one of the series regular characters sacrificing their life by entering the engine room to stop the bomb from going off. The resemblances are uncanny.
Star Trek: Nemesis almost redeems itself from a dull plot by a decent effects climax. There are some impressive scenes with ships shooting out in the nebula and especially where the Enterprise rams the Scimitar, and a nifty sequence where the bridge viewscreen blows out in an explosive decompression. Good too is also the climactic superhuman jump between the two ships and the moving self-sacrifice. (Although this self-sacrifice annoyingly contradicts the future of the series shown in the final episode All Good Things where we saw that said character was alive and well. At least there is a coda that allows for the characters continuation after a fashion).
The other Star Trek: The Next Generation films are: Star Trek: Generations (1994), Star Trek: First Contact (1996) and Star Trek: Insurrection (1998). The Classic Star Trek films are: Star Trek The Motion Picture (1979), Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982), Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (1984), The Voyage Home: Star Trek IV (1986), Star Trek V: The Final Frontier (1989) and Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (1991). Star Trek (2009), Star Trek: Into Darkness (2013) and Star Trek: Beyond (2016) were reboots of the classic series, which recast the classic roles with new faces.