Star Trek – Nemesis
Sound: B+ Extras: B Film: B+
In what is the tenth theatrical film of the franchise, Star
Trek - Nemesis (2002) is supposed to be the final of four installments
involving the cast of The Next Generation TV series, which was the first
of several belated spin-offs of the original show that eventually was a hit in
later years. It would seem that this
franchise should be played-out by now, and it is not as hot as it used to be,
but Paramount keeps hanging in there to support it one way or another because
of its fan base and the bottom line. It
is ironic, then, that this film did not do much better, because it is easily
the best “serious” Trek film since the best of all: The Wrath of Khan.
Past films with the new cast were either a choppy mess (Generations),
an all-out wreck (Insurrection) or a passable transfer of the show onto
the big screen that had more punch than most of that series’ actual shows (First
Contact). Of course, this is a
universe to vast, that it lost it continuity in the late 1990s. Either way, this film was a major surprise
when first seen theatrically and holds up surprisingly well on second viewing.
The situation has Captain Picard (Patrick Stewart)
marrying off two of his crew, when yet another crisis develops to disturb their
peace. A strange attack has occurred on
a Romulan senate with a bizarre “absolute zero” device. The Romulans announce they want peace, but
the disturbing of the wedding ceremony bodes as well as it did in The Deer
Hunter, and a trap has been set.
Picard is once again the main target.
It turns out he has a fan in Preator Shinzon (Tom Hardy),
who has many things in common with Picard, too many in fact for a man who has
had to already endure assimilation by the Borg menace in previous
adventures. That was the case in First
Contact, which begs the question, why are these stories most effective when
focusing on Picard? Part of the reason
is that, despite a likable and talented cast, the characters of this version of
the franchise were never developed like the original, and that can be said more
so for the other series. The franchise
may know its fan base and how much development is just enough, but without Gene
Roddenberry, all of Star Trek has been downhill one way or another. The commercial success is beside the point.
The thing that makes Picard stand out is that his
integrity is real, and Stewart is one of those Classical actors like
Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, or Michael Gough that are so much a part of
genre filmmaking, they never get the credit they deserve. The fact that a Stewart is even around to
continue this tradition is remarkable in an era of such broad, bad filmmaking,
so when his subtlety is disturbed, it makes for some of Stewart’s best
work. It also distinguishes it from his
equally interesting, sudden ownership of the Professor Xavier character in the X-Men
Credit should also be given to the support of the cast,
doing their best with roles they have had for years, a surprise screenplay by John
Logan, producer Rick Berman, and the underrated “Data” of the franchise, Brent
Spiner. When he is Data, the robot
jokes wear thin, but fans love it.
Spiner is very smart and not to be underestimated, which is why the
non-comic moments ring truer. His
subtle chemistry with Stewart saves any problems with the character
development. Then there is director
Stuart Baird, who does the most underrated job of all. He manages to bring the film back into the
higher velocity Harve Bennett managed with the early sequels. The result of all this is a solid, smart
action film that actually gets better as it goes along, like these films used
to before they (i.e., all action and Science Fiction films) got formulaic and
test marketed to death.
The best twist here is the introduction of Horror elements
that go where no film in the series went, more explicit than First Contact
informed by Invasion of the Body Snatchers. German Expressionism and the 1922 Nosferatu inform this
film in particular, which will be covered in a separate essay elsewhere on this
site by this critic.
The anamorphically enhanced 2.35 X 1 image is one of
Paramount’s best to date. Though not as
rich or detailed as a SuperBit offering from Sony, this is still on detailed
and colorful. I recall the digital
effects in the film being a rare case of exceptionally good-looking on a large
theatrical screen, and they do not disappoint here either. It still looks digital and is not as good as
the better model work done early on this series, but, the CG designs have
character. They need it to match the
Gothic sets and ambitious look of the film.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 AC-3 sound is decent, though not as full as it was
theatrically. Too bad Paramount does
not support DTS enough, because this would have been phenomenal with such
tracks. It is better than the Dolby Pro
Logic English or French 2.0 surround tracks, though.
Extras include seven interesting deleted scenes that fans
will appreciate most, the option of previews before going to the main menu, a
good photo gallery, four featurettes, and a well-done (if not non-stop)
commentary by Baird that respects the listener. He probably should have had another person to talk with, because
he likely had more to say, but that is nothing as compared to the cheap, analog
openings to each featurette. They look
like they were made for the early years of 12” LaserDisc, a sad misstep for an
otherwise fine single-disc presentation.
- Nicholas Sheffo