The TNG trek comes to an end with Star Trek: Nemesis...
A generation's final review begins
And so here we are: to the last film of what ended up being known as The Prime Timeline. This movie not only works as the last movie of the TNG cast, but also as the last movie of the "first" Star Trek movie franchise and unfortunately, it fails to deliver in both regards. Does that mean it’s a bad movie? No, personally I don’t think so. But it sure isn’t the impressive spectacle you’d expect from what was then the last movie of the series. The movie has about as many good ideas as it has bad ideas. You can feel there was a good movie buried under all the underwhelming material. The film has a rather interesting overarching theme (nature vs. nurture), but it is unfortunately underdeveloped (more on that below), to make way for all the action of the lengthy finale. It is a shame, because the whole concept of dualism with Picard and Shinzon, Data and B-4 and also Romulus and Remus could have led to some fascinating stuff, but was completely wasted. It is interesting to look at the way the characters are developed in this film, because this is representative of many of the problems of not only that film, but the TNG films as a whole. So let’s talk about that, shall we?
This is first and foremost a movie about Picard. Of course, it deals with his relationship with Shinzon, his clone, but also with Riker, Data and the rest of the crew. And this is where we start seeing the problems of the film: none of this is developed in a satisfying way. We have glimpses of Picard reflecting on his life, looking back at the decisions he made and thinking maybe he took some bad ones, etc. This was something that was already partially explored in Generations, which dealt with Picard wanting a family of his own but realizing it was already too late for him. After that, it was completely abandoned for two more movies, and then they went back to it with Nemesis, though unfortunately most of the stuff having to do with that was cut. So we see him think about that a bit during Riker and Troi’s wedding and… That’s more or less it, really. It’s a shame because it seems they explored that further in some of the stuff they shot (the Chateau Picard scene, for example where Picard says to Data he sees the crew as his family. Then, there’s also the scene where Dr. Crusher reveals she is going to leave the Enterprise, which, added to Riker and Troi’s departure, as well as Data’s "death", shows that Picard is starting to lose more and more members of his "family"…). This could all been fine and well if at the very least, they had decided not to develop that in order to have more time to develop Picard’s relationship with Shinzon, but we didn’t even get that. Shinzon ultimately was a character that was completely miscast (Hardy shares no physical similarity or mannerisms with Stewart) and poorly developed, unfortunately.
It is a shame, because there was a lot of potential for something truly great with that character, but the way Shinzon was handled, he just ended up being a pretty poor villain who just happen to be a Picard clone (that particular aspect of the character has little incidence (if any) on the plot). The character has many problems. First, there are the problems relating to the plot: OK, so the Romulans made a clone of Picard using a hair follicle or skin cell… OK, but how did they get that hair follicle or skin cell? This is never explained. Then there is a question regarding how he convinced Remans to follow him to take over Romulus. He’s just a human, and a weak one at that. Why would anyone follow him? It is not explained. Then we later learn he wants Picard’s blood, but first he wants to meet him. So far, so good. But then, after they met, he lets him go back to the Enterprise, only to later beam him up aboard the Scimitar. So what the fuck was the point of letting him go in the first place? Makes no sense. And why didn’t he first try to just ask Picard if he could get some of his blood, instead of abducting him? It is not explained. Then, there are the problems having to do with the character himself. Shinzon is a clone of Picard. Of course, that doesn’t mean he should have the same personality as Picard. I’m fine with that. The problem is that Shinzon shares no similarity whatsoever with Picard apart from the physical appearance (and even that is up to debate…). At no point do we see Shinzon as someone as intelligent as Picard, or noble as he is, or anything like that. No, he’s just a douchebag that wants Picard’s blood to survive. Basically, he’s just your average villain, not a particular villain very different from anything the crew of the Enterprise had to face before. Since the whole clone/mirror aspect is not explored, it ultimately serves no purpose whatsoever. Seriously, you could remove that aspect of the character entirely from the film, and it would play out exactly the same (well, you’d just have to change a few bits of dialogue here and there, but that’s about it. Just say Shinzon needs Picard’s blood, because they share the same very rare blood type, and you’re good to go). The only moment where they make good use of that is when Picard says: "He thinks he knows what I’m going to do" and as a result, does something out of character (smashing the Enterprise on the Scimitar) to surprise Shinzon. The sad thing is that the dynamic between the two characters started off pretty well in their second dialogue scene (the ideals one), which could have led to something interesting. But it was not meant to be…
A lot of these problems are also found in the characters of Data and B-4. But first, before talking about that, I’d like to digress for a moment to talk about Data and his evolution as a character throughout the TNG films. Looking back, Data was badly handled in the TNG flicks. His evolution was all over the place. In Generations, we were introduced to the emotion chip and how it affected him. In this film, we saw he had trouble dealing with emotions, but he decided to keep the emotion chip in his head (so that means the only way for him not to feel anything was to remove the chip). Then, in First Contact, he was still experiencing emotions, and it was revealed he could deactivate the emotion chip whenever he felt like it (WTF?), which was a in contradiction with what was established in Generations. Then the Borg Queen reactivated the chip somehow (WTF?), which caused him to experience new emotions. Then in Insurrection, there was no mention whatsoever about that chip, even though Data talked with the Ba’Ku kid how he’d like to know what it feels like to be human. OK…Which leads us to Nemesis, where again no mention is made of the emotion chip and we don’t see him showing any kind of emotion. It’s a bit of a mess, really. And now we have B-4…
Everything that has to do with this character is either pointless, makes no sense or is just downright stupid. OK, so the crew detects a positronic signal and decides to see what it’s all about. There, they find an android that looks just like Data. They’re not that much surprised, because they have already encountered other androids that look like Data in the show. So far so good. But they still have no fucking clue who that android is, if he’s good or bad, or anything like that. And what do they decided to do? Reassemble it and let it roam freely on the ship. WTF? How stupid can you be? But that’s not the best part: they let Data transfer all his data (pun unintended) into B-4. Hahahaha! How more moronic can you get? Then we later learn that B-4 is "working" for Shinzon, who left him on Kolarus in order for Picard to find him. I’m sorry, what? How exactly did Shinzon know the Enterprise would go near Kolarus and detect the signal? How did he know they would decide to go there to find out what it’s all about, or that they would be the first to arrive there? Doesn’t make sense. And where did Shinzon find B-4 in the first place, anyway? It’s not explained. And who the fuck where those people who attacked Picard and co on Kolarus? Were they natives of the planet? People working for Shinzon? It’s not explained (of course, I know: they’re just here in order for the first half of the film to feature an action sequence)… Basically, the character is there to serve one and only purpose: to replace Data after he dies, in order to "soften the blow" of his death. But the thing is, it sucks all the drama out of Data’s death, because you’re like: "Who cares? They have another android that looks just like Data and who happens to have all his data in his memory engrams". It makes it all pointless. What a useless character…
Finally, we have the secondary characters. Worf, Dr. Crusher and Geordi all unfortunately have little to do in this final TNG film. Apparently, there was a big wasted opportunity, because from what I understand, in the show, Geordi and Data were best buddies, but none of it is visible onscreen. That friendship was clearly ignored in the film, since it doesn’t look like Geordi lost his best friend. And then there are Riker and Troi… These two were, like Data, badly handled throughout the films. In Generations and First Contact, there was nothing that could make you think there were together. So if you’re unfamiliar with the show, it was a bit weird to see them suddenly making out in Insurrection. But OK, you could roll with the fact they were together, even though this was never addressed in the two previous films. Still, in Insurrection, you could assume they were really into each other mainly because of the effects of the Briar Patch. But then, suddenly, in Nemesis, they’re married! WTF? This came out of nowhere. But OK, let’s roll with that, because it serves the story, right? Right? Well, turns out that no, it doesn’t. You can see they were trying to go somewhere with that, with the rape scene, but it ended up having no consequences later in the film. That infamous rape scene… What was the point of that? It serves no purpose whatsoever… You could think: "Oh my god! Shinzon raped Deanna! Riker is going to be so mad, he’ll want to crush him! His marriage with Deanna will also suffer from that! It’s going to be heart-wrenching!" But no. All we get is Deanna being like: "It was a violation" and Picard telling her: "Well, that’s sad. Now, go back to your post, please!". Now, looking at the deleted scenes, it seems this was supposed to go even further, with yet another rape scene and whatnot… But why? Why do all this if it has little to no impact on the characters? That was wasted screentime…
Other than the poorly developed characters, the film also has problems with the story itself and the way the action is handled. The first half of the film features little to no action (only the buggy chase sequence, really), while the last third of the film is non-stop action, which gets tiring after a while. Basically, the first half of the film contains all the plot and character bits, while the second half has none of that and abandons all the threads introduced in the first half. I think that first half was pretty good, minus a few uninteresting/mishandled bits (Riker and Troi’s wedding ultimately feels pointless, and so does the whole Kolarus detour (the buggy chase sequence, while exciting enough, feels forced and not really in the spirit of Star Trek). I also was a bit bothered by the fact that both Picard and Riker go on the Scimitar to meet Shinzon, when they don’t even know if it’s a trap or not. Surely, one of them should have stayed on the Enterprise just in case). The introduction scene for Shinzon has a nice atmosphere to it, as well as pretty good lighting (love the use of shadows there). The first dialogue scene between Picard and Shinzon (the ideals one) is also pretty good and makes you wish they would have developed further the ideas introduced here. The second half offers some nice action setpieces (the one with the Scorpion, for example), but as I said, it goes on for too long. There’s a line halfway through the movie that I find to be hilarious in retrospect: Commander Suran is talking with Shinzon and says "We supported you because you promised action. And yet you delay.", which sounds like he’s speaking on behalf of the audience, lamenting the lack of action in the first half of the film. And then, in the second half of the film, Suran gets exactly what he asked for: non-stop action. The problem is that a lot of it isn’t particularly exciting: the short sequence where the two Bird Of Preys help the Enterprise leads nowhere and feels like just a distraction in the end. The duel between Riker and the Viceroy is rather underwhelming too (it should have been Worf fighting the Viceroy!). Picard crashing the Enterprise on the Scimitar was pretty cool, though.
The film is stronger on the visual side. Indeed, it has some nice visuals to offer, though they are undermined by pretty poor special effects. Once again, the special effects are unimpressive (especially considering the movie was released in 2002, the same year as Attack Of The Clones and The Two Towers, two movies that are way more impressive in that regard). Right from start, with the first shot of the Romulan Imperial Senate, you can see they have more of a TV movie-quality than a theatrical film look. The "box" that releases the radiation at the beginning of the film looks particularly cheap. Other than that, there are relatively decent, but clearly below the standards of the year the film was released. In terms of overall production design, the film look fine, though the "set" for Riker and Troi’s wedding look really cheap and small. What’s the deal with the fake background? Is the wedding supposed to take place outdoors (and thus the fake background unintentionally looks fake), or is it supposed to take place in some room (and thus the fake background is supposed to look fake)? I also had a problem with that weird yellowish filter they used for the sequence on Kolarus: this looked ugly as hell. On the good side, I dug the vampire-like look of the Remans, as well as the design of the dilithium mines on Remus. The Scimitar also had a fine design, if a bit unoriginal. The updated Bird Of Prey was pretty neat, too. Finally, the Bassen Rift, while pretty basic, was another fine visual.
While it seems like I really didn’t like the film (since I basically only talked about the stuff I thought didn’t work or didn’t make sense), in fact, I enjoyed part of it. As I said above, I think the main theme of the film was intriguing (even if poorly developed). I also liked the fact that the film featured the Romulans and Remans, two races that were mentioned throughout the film series, but never showed up in any of them (apart from that Romulan ambassador in The Undiscovered Country). Maybe they should have focused exclusively on those and abandon the whole clone idea... The Viceroy would have made for a great villain (by tweaking the script a bit). The guy looks badass! Another strong aspect of the film was Spiner’s solid performance as both Data and B-4. He really managed to pull off both characters convincingly (while I think B-4 was a useless character, the scene where Data deactivates him was rather touching, in large part thanks to Spiner’s performance). Then, as I said above, the visuals are also well-done for the most part. And finally, at least Nemesis feels like a proper film, and not just a lengthy TV episode like Generations and Insurrection did.
In the end, we’re left with a flawed movie with a wasted potential. The premise is interesting, there is good acting, a good score, nice visuals... But the story is not developed properly and there’s way too much action. There also many threads that lead nowhere (things that you could remove from the film without the main story being affected much by it): Riker and Troi’s wedding, the rape scene, B-4... Had they removed that, and focused on Picard and Shinzon, maybe the film would have been more engaging. As it is, it’s a rather underwhelming send-off for the TNG crew, even if not the worst TNG film (that would probably be Generations or Insurrection). It is a bit of a shame the TNG cast didn’t get one more chance for a proper farewell with another film. The TOS cast got The Undiscovered Country. The TNG cast got Nemesis. Could have been worse, but could also have been better. Much better. Bah!
I'm afraid you won't survive to witness the victory of the echo over the voice.
About deleted scenes: Wow! It looks like it’s the Star Trek movie with the most deleted footage. No less than 50 minutes were cut! Reading about it and watching some videos, it seems not all of it was essential or would have made the film better, but some of it definitely would have. The Wesley Crusher scene would have been a nice scene for the fans of the show I guess (though apparently, it goes against what was established at the end of the show), but otherwise is pointless. The Chateau Picard scene between Picard and Data should have definitely been kept in. As I said above, the other rape scene would have been not only redundant, but completely useless too. The additional material at the end was pretty nice: this should also have been kept in (we even get a nod to The Final Frontier with the captain’s chair!). It’s a shame this film didn’t get a Director’s Cut because of all the first 10 Star Trek films, it’s the one that deserves/needs it the most.
P.S.: Can anyone explain me how transporters are supposed to work in the Star Trek universe? Because, before watching Nemesis, I thought I more or less understood how it all worked, but here it all felt completely random. Now someone can be beamed from anywhere on the ship, they don’t need to go in a transporter room apparently (see Picard at the end when he asks Geordi to beam him up aboard the Scimitar). Whaaaa? And how the hell did Data manage to be the one to be beamed up aboard the Scimitar when they discover B-4 was "working" for Shinzon? I mean: they find out B-4 was the source of the unauthorized computer access. So far so good. Then, they come up with a plan: Data is going to take B-4’s place, and that way he can deliver false information to Shinzon, and also rescue Picard while he’s at it. So far so good. But how the fuck did he get beamed up in lieu of B-4 when Shinzon decided to bring him back to the Scimitar? It is not explained. And when Picard and Data escape from the Scimitar, Riker & co beam them up and you see the scorpion disappearing, which means they beamed up the scorpion aboard the enterprise, which is insane. WTF?
P.P.S: I noticed Brian Singer’s totally random (and really short) cameo. Yay to me!
Here is it: my final ranking of the Star Trek films:
1. Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan (8/10), Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (8/10) and Star Trek: First Contact (8/10)
2. Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (7/10)
3. Star Trek: The Motion Picture (5/10) and Star Trek: Nemesis (5/10)
4. Star Trek: Generations (4/10) and Star Trek: Insurrection (4/10)
5. Star Trek III: The Search For Spock (3/10) and Star Trek V: The Final Frontier (3/10)
In the end, I found myself enjoying the TOS movies much more than the TNG ones, which were average for the most part (the TOS cast had 3 good movies vs. only one for the TNG cast). The TOS cast was also more fun, while I never really got to connect with the TNG members (apart from Data). Riker, Troi, Worf, Geordi and Crusher all feel bland compared to Sulu, McCoy, Chekov, Scotty and Uhura. I’m sure that in the show, they were all likeable, but in the films, they never got the chance to really shine and we never got to know them. That’s a shame. Picard‘s calmer personality was a welcome change after 6 films with the brash captain Kirk, though. The TOS cast also had the best-looking ships.
So in the end, we have (based only on the films, of course):
Best films: the TOS cast
Best ships: the TOS cast
Best crew: the TOS cast
Best captain: a tie