Star Trek: Nemesis

Star-Trek-NemesisWhat took so long? I mean, I don’t care all that much, but … it took four years for Paramount to come up with this? The Star Trek movies, in recent years, have been reliable every-two-years affairs; one expected Star Trek: Nemesis, the Enterprise’s first voyage since 1998, to be something special. Bigger special effects? A complex and compelling script that required months turning into years of rewrites just to get perfectly right? A villain unlike any we’d seen before? A pallid rehash of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan with a side order of cloning borrowed from George Lucas? Bingo.

If you’re bothering to read this, you probably know the players. Captain Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) is preparing to bid farewell to Commander Riker (Jonathan Frakes), who’s assuming command of another ship, and Counselor Deanna Troi (Marina Sirtis), who’s now married to Riker. Data (Brent Spiner) confronts a replica of himself, called B-4. And that’s about it for the character development this time out. Before long, Picard and crew are thrown into the middle of a fight between the Romulans (represented by a nearly unrecognizable Dina Meyer, from Starship Troopers) and the Remans (represented by a totally unrecognizable Ron Perlman, from every film that requires heavy make-up). The instigator? Praetor Shinzon (Tom Hardy), a bitter clone of Picard who suffered at the hands of the Romulans and now seeks revenge.

There’s entirely too much gum-flapping (especially between Picard and Shinzon, as if their animosity were of Shakespearean import) and not nearly enough fun, action, or tension. You need only look toStar Trek II to see how it should be done: with a conflict that counts for something, emotions running high, and Ricardo Montalban flaring his nostrils like a maddened horse as he steals the movie. Montalban’s Khan was sufficiently crazed and blood-lusty to give even the complacent Kirk serious pause. The nemesis of Nemesis looks like a British chemo patient wearing a Christmas tree made of licorice, and if we’re meant to sense blood hostility between him and Picard, we don’t. Shinzon is yet another sneering heavy bent on galactic domination.

Paramount made a grave error in handing the directorial keys to Stuart Baird, a former editor turned director of uninspired action flicks (Executive Decision, U.S. Marshals). Whatever one thought of the previous two Trek adventures (I liked First Contact, yawned at Insurrection), the action sequences — courtesy of Jonathan Frakes, who directed like a lumberjack — had hair on their chests. Frakes (who was apparently busy directing Clockstoppers) brought some red-blooded, meat-eating gusto back to the series, which is what these films need if they’re not to disappear into the ozone of leftover Gene Roddenberry Lofty Ideas. Baird takes the franchise back to the clunky tedium of Generations, staging endless shootouts between one computer-generated ship and another computer-generated ship.

You may have heard two things: one, that a major character dies, and two, that this is reportedly the last big-screen voyage for the Next Generation crew. I can’t speak to the former without indulging in spoilers, though I will say it’s the most boringly reversible sacrifice in recent memory. As to the latter, I certainly hope so. Star Trek has served Paramount long and well for almost four decades. As tough as it may be for the studio to let go of its final big franchise, maybe it’s time. To keep it going any longer serves only to keep Trekkie nostalgia stoked and Paramount’s coffers full.

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