Reappraising Star Trek: Nemesis
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Star Trek: Nemesis is often considered to be one of the weakest films in the series - putting it on a level with the Kirk vs God opus that is Star Trek V: The Final Fronter but I think it's been unfairly maligned for far, far too long.
For fans of the series, the Next Generation crew only had one really good big-screen outing - that of Star Trek: First Contact, sandwiched between two middling efforts in Generations and Insurrection; both of which are more inline with big budget episodes than major film events. Nemesis has often been relegated to being just an afterthought, and one that killed the film series stone dead before JJ's rebooted Star Trek in 2009.
Just looking at Rotten Tomatoes gives a good idea of the critical reaction to the film - a poor 37% meta score. Lack of a decent adversary, believability of the story and blandness seem to be the main complaints from most critics. Where better to start with a reappraisal than to deconstruct these criticisms?
Lack of a decent adversary
Did these people watch the film? A pre-Batman Tom Hardy goes toe-to-toe with Patrick Stewart. Playing Shinzon, a human who turns out to be a CLONE of Jean Luc Picard he turns in a formidable performance and watching the two actors face off against each other in a battle of wits is a joy. While at times the film wants to riff on The Wrath of Khan its one-on-one focus is refreshing.
There are plenty of valid criticisms that could be leveled at the film, but to place a focus on Hardy's big bad really undermines any argument! For our money he's much better than the really bland but thematically similar Nero in the reboot.
It's dull, bland and boring
I guess this is a subjective thing - but to my eyes this is the best looking film in the series before it was completely engulfed in lens flair. Stunning space vistas and even the Enterprise E looks amazing here. Visually it's a treat.
The plot may not gallop along at any great speed, but it really holds the attention. Again returning to the Hardy-Stewart pairing; we want time to be taken developing their relationship - and given this is the bulk of the film, any increased pace would be at a detriment to this. OK, so we're not seeing hundreds of spacecraft going head to head, but when has Star Trek really ever been about that?
It's just SOOOO unbelievable
Really? It's a science fiction film set hundreds of years in the future with thousands of alien races, cyborgs, shapeshifters and countless other unknown creatures. We've seen Spock's brain being remote controlled. We've seen Captain Janeway evolve into a lizard and we've seen Captain Kirk beat up God and win. As far as believability goes, a clone Picard isn't really very far off the scale.
What else is there to like?
Look at it as a character piece that just so happens to use sci-fi tropes and it suddenly becomes a different film. It's about relationships - Picard has no family after his brother and nephew died in a fire and now he finds someone who is actually sharing his DNA - the closest thing to a relative he has; just that he's a little bit evil. Even outside of the complicated Picard family tree we have the parallel and similar story of Data finding a long lost sibling (which just so happens to be a bit of a deus ex machina later on in the film) and we even get to see two long-standing characters tie the knot.
Star Trek: Nemesis isn't perfect, but for ME it's far from being the ugly runt of the series and more a misunderstood, and pretty enjoyable film.