Movie Franchise Rewatch Analysis – Star Trek: Nemesis

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I haven’t finished my Star Trek franchise rewatch yet, but I’m pretty sure this is the worst stinker in the 13 movie run. I was pleasantly surprised by most of The Final Frontier being better than I remembered. And while I need to rewatch Into Darkness to see how it fared over time in comparison, Nemesis is just not a pleasant Trek experience. It’s a poor way to retire the fabulous Next Generation crew.

Plot (Spoilers)
After a joyous wedding between William Riker and Deanna Troi, Captain Picard and the Enterprise crew stumble upon a mysterious signal — a prototype android version of Data. The Enterprise is invited to Romulus to negotiate peace with the Romulans by their new Praetor, Shinzon. Shinzon is revealed to be a clone of Picard, raised on Remus, a slave planet to the Romulans. Picard discovers this peace treaty was nothing more than a set-up — Shinzon needs Picard in order to survive. But little do the Enterprise crew know Shinzon also plans to do away with the Federation, by unleashing a weapon that could destroy a whole planet.

Good moments in Nemesis

It’s too bad a series of good moments does not a good movie make. But I’ll run through them here:

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  • Data finally fully and skillfully integrating the emotion chip. It’s not obvious or referred to, but alert fans can definitely see how Data has emotions now, and they aren’t played for goofy laughs (as in Star Trek: Generations). Nor is the emotion chip left behind or ignored (see: First Contact, Insurrection). Brent Spiner shows us a ‘fully functioning’ individual in little glances, touches, and small facial ticks. I only noticed this on rewatch, since there’s a lot else going onscreen during these scenes, and perhaps they weren’t scripted in. My sense is that Spiner gave thought to the character’s progression and decided Data finally arrived at a long-awaited android version of humanity. If so, kudos to Spiner for giving the audience this bit of closure. Perhaps more was written in a scene that didn’t make it to the actual movie. A final scene with best bud Geordi La Forge would have been immensely satisfying. But Nemesis has no time for Geordi.

The point is that Data’s emotions are there to see if you’re looking for it and you’re a fan, so yay for small favors. I would have cut out some of the endless action in favor of more character development/resolution.

More goodness to look for on your rewatch

  • If you pay attention during the movie titles, you see the ‘twins’ aspect intriguingly handled. Look especially at the RTR and EME depicted forward and backward, morphing to Star Trek and Nemesis, respectively. Then we pan past dark, blasted Remus, and onto green/blue lush Romulus: twin planets. It’s clever, and only really apparent upon rewatch.
  • The early Romulan Senate reference to meeting the Tholians. Good callback to The Original Series. (And the Mirror Episodes of Enterprise.)
  • The entire first act is neat. We get to see the Romulan Imperial Senate city and chambers. If you watch closely, it looks like the Roman Forum, built on top of a Colosseum. Complete with poplar trees and statuary lining the walkways, and even what looks like an aqueduct. Kudos to the CGI rendering peeps for detail.
  • Speaking of the first act, the Riker-Troi wedding reception is lovely, long overdue, and feels right. This kind of emotional connection with beloved characters is why fans came to the movie. Great continuity from Star Trek: Insurrection, and in fact the entire TNG series that began in the very first episode. This is the only scene where it seems the actors were happy to be there.
  • Worf’s Romulan Ale hangover at the wedding. It seems incongruous for a big, strapping Blood Wine drinking Klingon, but when you consider he’s at the wedding of his ex-girlfriend to one of his best friends, it makes sense he’d quietly get drunk.
  • Shinzon has genuine affection for B4. In his subtle bemused smiles and gentle physical touches with the childlike android, we see an echo of the Picard-Data relationship. My one honest laugh in Nemesis is where Shinzon tells him he may leave. It’s in the line delivery.

Cameos and stuff

  • Hi Guinan! Hi Wesley! Nice to see them at the wedding. I assume Wes is taking off time from being a Traveler. Although when you live outside of time, that shouldn’t be an issue. Pity these characters had nothing else to do in the movie, but we had to make way for extended dune buggy scenes. Guinan would have been a great person for Jean-Luc to unload his divided thoughts about himself vs Shinzon, nature vs nurture.
  • Lovely Voyager cameo with Admiral Janeway giving Picard his current assignment. I cheered at this in the theater. You know Janeway has to love being an admiral.
  • Excellent name-drop of the devastating Dominion War in the conference room scene. Any reference to Deep Space 9 is appreciated.
  • The scene between Picard and Data in Stellar Cartography is visually satisfying, and the “who we are” discussion feels like Trek as we know it.
  • SPOT! Always great to see Data’s ginger kitty.
  • The scene where Data turns off B4 is heartfelt. We’re reminded of Data’s OTHER twin Lore, and the tragedy of his daughter Lal in “The Offspring”. (Just thinking about Lal tears me up.)
  • Speaking of Data’s brothers, I’m glad they knew better this time when it came to trusting B4.
  • Now we’ve officially met Data’s brother, father, grandfather, daughter, mother…and this other brother. B4 fits in with continuity. Data’s mother did say there were a few Data/Lore prototypes in the family, if memory serves.
  • One of the Federation fleet’s ships is called the USS Archer. Nice bone to throw at Enterprise fans.
  • Picard offers to buy Romulan Commander Donatra a drink. Romulan ale, of course.
  • Ummm, the dune buggy scene is a nod to Mad Max? Okay. I’m running out of yay things to say.

The Picard and Data Action Show

TNG was initially an ensemble. After the first season, the acting chops of Patrick Stewart made the writers stand up and take notice, and more plots revolved around him. It quickly became less about the Riker character, who was supposed to be the action hero while the captain stayed on the bridge. The burgeoning popularity of Data, paired with Brent Spinder’s seeming ability to have chemistry with anyone, led to more and more shows about either Picard or Data and sometimes both.

By the time the movies kicked off, Picard somehow morphed into an action hero, with Data as his sidekick. The other actors had to make do in the movies with leftovers (or in the case of Dr. Crusher, sometimes nothing at all). Picard is supposed to be the quintessential Rennaisance Man. That’s his whole inspiring and timeless appeal. In the film franshise, it seemed like Patrick Stewart wanted to have fistfights, firefights, and ridiculous dune buggy chases…and less Picard speechifying.

I suppose if you want Stewart in your movies, you do as he asks.

A Clone is a Twin

I feel bad for Tom Hardy (as Shinzon). He really tries to sound and move like Jean-Luc, but it doesn’t work. He doesn’t look like a younger twin — which is what a clone is. They even broke the series continuity by en-baldening Hardy. Sorry, it still doesn’t make him look like Patrick Stewart. They might have done better by re-using James McAvoy, but that might just too much meta to exist. 😉

The Rape Scene

I really don’t want to go into all the worst elements of Star Trek: Nemesis, because this article is long enough and you’ve probably heard it all before. But I’m going to do something for the first time and give you a Peetime for free: run to the loo when you see Counselor Troi brushing her hair in the quarters she shares with new hubby Riker. She’s about to be raped. It’s a miserable scene, even if it does give Marina Sirtis something to do in a Trek film.

We’ve seen Troi mentally assaulted many, many times (‘Violations’, ‘The Survivors’, and ‘Man of the People’ comes immediately to mind), but this one includes an actual physical rape component as well. It’s incomprehensible. Why does a Star Trek movie see fit to put this kind of human ugliness on the large screen?

It also implies Picard himself has a thing for Troi (which I personally believe is the case after a recent rewatch of “The Devil’s Due” — but that’s done in a way that doesn’t demean either character and shows his respect for her more than anything else).

I get it: Shinzon’s never seen a human female before (“May I touch your hair?” he asks — also, again, BALD), and that he’s revulsed when a Romulan female offers herself up (“You’re not a woman…Touch me again and I’ll kill you.”). But Nemesis could have delved further into his trauma and removed some of the endless, pointless action scenes. The kid has never been with a woman. Okay. He’s immediately attracted to Troi, which, sure. Hormones. Why not have more character moments instead of showing an actual rape in ‘glorious’ detail? Was this movie directed by a repressed 12-year-old?

Nemesis, Overall

It’s a serviceable science fiction film, which is why Nemesis just squeaks into the C range. But it’s not good Star Trek. Trek can be — and sometimes is — dark, but it should fill the rest of the screen time with resonance about the human condition. It’s also a bait and switch about the Romulans. It seems to be a plot about the Romulan Star Empire, which is long overdue. Instead, we get a new species, the Remans. (Who, by the way, look like Nosferatu vampires.) We’ve heard about the planet Remus, a twin planet to Romulus, but never saw it. This sort of works as a theme of twins — Romulus and Remus, Shinzon and Picard, Data and B-4 — yet doesn’t really do anything interesting with the concept.

Then, what they do with Data in the end…just, why? The film series ends on such a sour note that Trek had to be rebooted in 2009. We — and this crew — deserved better.

Fortunately, there IS a better farewell.

Watch these Next Generation episodes instead of Nemesis

Want to see Picard wrestle with the road not taken in a superior way? The episode “Tapestry” in Season 6 of The Next Generation is one of the best in Trek.

And a far, far better TNG finale and crew send-off is Season 7’s “All Good Things.” You can take the same amount of time from your day to watch both episodes instead of the movie, but don’t blame me if you get something in your eye by the end. 😉

Grade: C-

About The Peetimes: I have an excellent Peetime for you that also serves as an Alert, pulling double duty.

There are no extra scenes during, or after, the end credits of Star Trek: Nemesis. (What we mean by Anything Extra.)

Movie Released: 2002-12-13

 

Rated:

(PG-13) Sci-Fi Action Peril|Scene of Sexual Content|Sci-Fi Action Violence
Genres: Action,Adventure,Sci-Fi,Thriller
Starring: Patrick Stewart, Jonathan Frakes, Brent Spiner, LeVar Burton
Director: Stuart Baird
Writer(s): Gene Roddenberry (television series Star Trek), John Logan (story), Rick Berman (story), Brent Spiner (story), John Logan (screenplay)
Language: English
Country: USA

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2 thoughts on “Movie Franchise Rewatch Analysis – Star Trek: Nemesis”

  1. I just had a new thought. We have Patrick Stewart in two major franchises playing an older version of himself, with a younger version of himself in the SAME film: X-Men with James McAvoy (Days of Future Past), and Trek with Tom Hardy (Nemesis).

    I can’t think of any other actor who can say this.

    I do think McAvoy did it better. 😉

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