Star Trek: Nemesis (2002)
Written by John Logan, Rick Berman, and Brent Spiner
Directed by Stuart Baird
You might notice the absence of one film from the Next Generation film franchise in my reviews, Star Tre: Insurrection. My reason for skipping over this film starts first with my disdain for it. It’s an extremely poorly written and executed film. It doesn’t do anything that the other films don’t also do and better. This isn’t saying the other three films are masterpieces because they are riddled with flaws. I’m also looking at the use of time and which movies are most relevant for the upcoming Picard series. Insurrection doesn’t bring anything to the table that will ever be brought up again, or I could be surprised.
So Nemesis, the nail in the coffin for TNG films. This picture is a strange animal, the script had only one series writer onboard with the significant changes coming from John Logan (writer of Gladiator, writer-director of The Time Machine) and Brent Spiner (Data himself). It’s no surprise that Data once again is the main supporting character to Picard’s lead. Data also gets to sing multiple times and has the big hero moment of the movie. In interviews, Spiner said he was tired of playing Data and didn’t see anywhere else the character could go, so they needed to send him off.
Nemesis begins with a coup in the Romulan senate, a move to seemingly push for peace with the Federation. The Enterprise arrives at Romulus to find a sub-caste of people, the Remans have taken the Praetorship with the hereto unknown Shinzon. Picard meets Shinzon and sees he’s a perfect double for him as a young man leading to all sorts of questions. There is an important link between the men, just as Data discovers a prototype made by his creator named B4 (get it?). The film is about these two people facing their other-selves to come to terms with what it is that makes them who they are.
The primary blame for this picture may come down to director Stuart Baird. Baird had only made to previous films (Executive Decision, US Marshalls) and has never directed a movie since Nemesis. He’s primarily known as an editor (The Omen, Demolition Man, Superman, etc.), and surprisingly pacing is the biggest problem in this film. There are several action sequences, but they don’t create a smooth flow to the story, jostling you out of whatever narrative is being built here. Marina Sirtis (Troi) has called Baird “an idiot” in interviews, and other cast members have pointed out he didn’t view any episodes of the television series in preparation, to understand character relationships.
Outside of Picard and Data, everyone else takes a backseat, and for most of the picture, it is focused on Picard versus Shinzon. It’s clear Baird was drawing influence from Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. There’s a near thirty-minute space battle sequence in the third act that wants to reach that level of epic drama. It fails because the antagonism between Picard and Shinzon isn’t that good. B4 is also a weak, underdeveloped addition that is there so that Brent Spiner can have dual roles. It’s a recurring theme that when Spiner tries to do any acting outside of Commander Data, he reveals the limited nature of his talent. He’s just so damn cheesy it’s embarrassing.
The Rotten Tomatoes rating of Nemesis puts it as the second-least liked Star Trek film, just above the dismal Final Frontier. It was clear that the current creative direction of the series was lost, they weren’t connecting with the audience, and fans were going simply out of obligation. It would be seven years later that the JJ Abrams-helmed Star Trek reboot would take a drastically different more crowd-pleasing approach. That film and Nemesis both set up some essential things for Picard, mainly the state of affairs in the Romulan Empire. Things are bad, and I’m suspecting the surviving Romulans are attempting to weaponize the Borg to make a strike at the Federation so they can “even the playing field.” We’ll find out next month when Picard debuts.