Star Trek: Nemesis Review
It's not uncommon for a film, based on a successful TV franchise, to split the fans into two camps - those that enjoyed it and those that didn't. As far as Star Trek is concerned, this is pretty much the norm and Star Trek: Nemesis is no different.
According to the 'powers that be', Nemesis marks the final outing of the cast of Star Trek: The Next Generation. However, the ending certainly makes way for another instalment if they decide to change their mind. Nemesis is very much a film where attempts have been made to provide emotional resonance, while at the same time play it reasonably safe. As has become the nadir of the film and TV series' (with the exception of Deep Space Nine) the writers have made sure that there's still the option for the film series to continue with the FULL Next Generation cast with the minimum of fuss.
Star Trek has always been about tackling current-day issues in a futuristic setting. The Original Series was far more open about this than subsequent spin-offs, but Nemesis continues this trend with the central plot focussing on cloning - something that has been in the media and on the cinema screen almost every day for the last few years.
The action opens with one of those cringe-worthy Star Trek moments, Riker's (Frakes) marriage to Troi (Sirtis), which gives Picard (Stewart) the chance to crack a few wince-inducing jokes and then to top it all Data (Spiner) bursts in to song. Not a cracking start to the film and on a par with the campfire scene in Star Trek V.
Once the celebrations are complete, the Enterprise leaves Earth on a course for Betazed for the second half of the wedding, but en-route they pick up a positronic signal. Now as fans of the series will know, these can only emanate from androids such as Data (or Lore, or Lal or Data's 'mother') so the Enterprise changes course to investigate. On their arrival at the planet, they discover a prototype for Data, aptly named B4, whom they oddly appear to trust without any hesitation. This is despite the fact that Lore, the only other known android of the type apart from Data, was in fact evil.
The Enterprise is then sent on another detour to Romulus to meet with the planet's new ruler - Shinzon (Tom Hardy). Unbeknownst to Starfleet, Shinzon is actually a clone of Picard created by the Romulans as part of a daring plan to replace the captain of the fleet's flagship. However, a change of government put paid to this plan and Shinzon was sent to the mines of Remus. As a result of a peculiarity in the cloning process, Shinzon is dying and the only way for him to survive is for Picard to die.
Plot-wise it would be so easy to pull the film to shreds - why do they trust B4? Why does Shinzon have some sort of beef with Earth? How did Shinzon manage to build a star ship more powerful than anything in Starfleet without anyone knowing? I would give some more examples, but they'd probably be major spoilers. However, you get the idea.
The problem with Nemesis is that it's very much a big screen representation of what modern TV Trek has become. The 'reset button' ending, the lifeless plot and the pedestrian direction by Stuart Baird all add up to a lacklustre outing for the Next Generation cast and as a result the film isn't a fitting send off. Nemesis borrows far to heavily from other films, including it's predecessors, and as a result offers little new for fans to chew on.
However, despite all of this, the film is still watchable and the performances turned in by Steward, Hardy and Spiner all prove that there is still plenty of life left in the series - it's up to the makers to uncover it. The other major cast members are hardly given anything to work with - some of them only appear for a few lines of dialogue. Riker's hand to hand fight with the Reman Viceroy (Ron Perlman) seems to be an attempt to find him something to do and offers very little to the overall story other than to provide a little action for the Enterprise's First Officer on his final mission.
The effects work is good and, the battle between Shinzon's ship, the Enterprise and two Romulan ships is probably the best big-screen Trek battle to date (just pipping the Borg attack in First Contact at the post). Nemesis is probably the most cinematic Trek film so far in the respect that a few more liberties are taken with the camera shots and lighting, but it all goes to waste when the script (written by Gladiator's John Logan) is as slapdash and disappointing as the one on offer here. Shinzon could have been a formidable enemy for Picard if handled well, but obviously it was not to be.
There has been a lot of talk of Nemesis bombing at the box-office, and it's pretty much all true. The box-office take was lower than any previous Star Trek movie but what many people fail to take into account is the bizarre scheduling for the release of the film - who in their right mind would put something like Nemesis up against the heavyweights that were The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, Die Another Day and Harry Potter? If Paramount had waited just a couple of months they probably could have expected to make a massive improvement on the films fortunes.
Nemesis isn't a bad film. As far as the Trek franchise concerned, it's more on the level of Generations and Insurrection, rather than First Contact and The Wrath of Khan and it's nowhere near as bad as The Final Frontier. It just comes as a major disappointment for the final film featuring the Next Generation cast - which of course begs the question of who will take over the big screen mantle? Please Paramount take note, we DO NOT want Voyager or Enterprise on the big screen - that would be just about the final nail in the coffin.
For other opinions, you can read Kevin O'Reilly's and Raphael Pour-Hashemi's reviews of the theatrical release of the film.
Paramount have done a good, but not perfect transfer of the film. We have a nice sharp anamorphic picture in the correct aspect ratio, and the print is in good shape. However, to my eyes the colours seem very lifeless - while the interior shots aren't the most vibrant you could expect at the best of times, they do seem a little more dull than usual. In addition, there are plenty of shimmers in the picture - maybe a little too much digital jiggery-pokery has taken place, but after the first ten minutes or so you begin not to notice.
Other than that, the picture is reasonable - just nothing to shout about and there are far better examples of what the DVD format is capable of out there.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack is excellent with good channel separation providing a rewarding experience while watching the film. Effect placement is good and all speakers are put to good use both by the on-screen action and by Jerry Goldsmith's score. Check out the battle between the Enterprise, Scimitar and two Romulan ships to get a good idea of what multi-channel surround sound is all about!
Commentary with Stuart Baird
Baird unfortunately doesn't come across as a good choice for providing a commentary track. He's very slow - taking considerable time to relay what he's thinking to the listener. Thankfully, he's reasonably amusing and engaging once you get past this! The commentary is relatively uninvolving and doesn't cover any real new ground but is probably worth a listen to fans of the series. It would have been nice to hear a little on how Baird felt the film fits into the Star Trek universe, and maybe even a little on how he felt the film was received both in terms of the box-office and critically - but he doesn't even go anywhere near the subject.
There are four featurettes on the disc. Two of these form an interview with Baird and a couple of the major cast members with a focus on the fact that Baird was a newcomer to the franchise. The other two featurettes are more along the lines of your standard back-slapping press kits and are therefore very little more than extended adverts for the film. Not a lot here at all to grab anyone's attention.
There was plenty of gossip before the film's theatrical release that Nemesis had to have major cuts to get it down to a reasonable running time. Some reports suggest that the first cut of the film ran to 160 minutes - around 45 minutes longer than the final theatrical cut. There has been speculation that a DVD release of the film will feature a directors cut, but this time around we'll have to make do with a selection of deleted scenes. These are pretty rough cuts and focus mainly on character development rather than any additional action.
A key scene to watch is what is basically an alternative ending which introduces the Enterprise's new first officer - Martin Madden. He was cut from the theatrical release of the film. The deleted scenes are all presented with an introductions from Baird, Rick Berman and Patrick Stewart whom all take it in turns to comment on the scenes and reasons why it was cut.
The total running time of the deleted scenes here is around 20 minutes, so there is still quite a lot of material missing from the disc that may turn up on the almost guaranteed two-disc special edition that'll appear in the next year or two - maybe we will get a director's cut after all!
In addition to the above, we also have a stills gallery featuring plenty of production art and a number of trailers (none for Nemesis unforuntately).
Nemesis has come under fire quite a lot since its release - much of it justified. However, it's not as bad a film as has been made out and even I feel I may have been a little harsh in my review above. Nemesis certainly has its shortcomings both as a film and as an addition to the Star Trek cannon - but it's still watchable and fans will get plenty of enjoyment. The DVD is quite good in comparison to the barebones releases that have graced First Contact and the other Next Generation Star Trek films, but given that the whole series is getting a special edition makeover, it's almost a cert that Nemesis will get another release in the next couple of years. As it stands, the presentation is reasonable but nothing to shout about and the extras are lacking, but it'll do for now.