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Star Trek: Nemesis (PG-13)
Official Site
Director: Stuart Baird
Producer: Rick Berman
Written by: John Logan
Cast: Patrick Stewart, Brent Spiner, LeVar Burton, Michael Dorn, Jonathan Frakes, Marina Sirtis, Gates McFadden, Tom Hardy, Ron Perlman, Whoopi Goldberg, Diana Muldaur, Kate Mulgrew, Bryan Singer

Rating: out of 5

Ask any fan about the Star Trek curse. Even the most rabid of Trekkers admits that the feature film series based on the 1960s ratings bomb cum cult favorite television series has yielded unambiguously mixed results. After nine movies, the formula has become quite clear: Even-numbered entries in the series (most notably The Wrath Of Khan, singled out even on “Seinfeld” as the best of the lot) are tight, well-scripted ventures that successfully combine meaningful character interaction, some middlebrow philosophizing, and a good action sequence or two; odd ones are directionless, dull, and either unnecessarily ponderous (The Motion Picture, The Final Frontier) or episodically trivial (The Search For Spock, Insurrection).

Thus the premiere of Star Trek: Nemesis, the 10th entry in the film series, leaves the curse-conscious decidedly nervous. It’s supposed to be good, but a disappointment could negatively tip the scales of the whole franchise. Paramount’s powers-that-be seem to share these concerns, as they have signed on some new blood for this outing: First-time Star Trek director Stuart Baird (U.S. Marshals), and Oscar-winning screenwriter John Logan (Gladiator). The faces onscreen, however, are comfortingly familiar: Captain Jean-Luc Picard (Stewart) leads the crew of the Enterprise, including the android Data (Spiner) and Klingon security officer Mr. Worf (Dorn). But things are changing for the crew, signaling that this film may be the last. First officer Will Riker (Frakes) and ship’s counselor Deanna Troi (Sirtis) are getting married and taking assignments on another ship.

Against the backdrop of toasts and cornball wedding jokes, the movie’s action begins. On the planet Kolarus III, the crew inexplicably finds an android prototype of Data, and Picard, Worf, and Data are inexplicably chased around in a space-age humvee by some bad aliens. New android safely in hand, Picard receives his next assignment. He’s to serve as diplomatic envoy to the Romulan Empire, a familiar Star Trek enemy that’s undergoing some sort of internal political coup.

When Picard arrives at the scene he’s surprised to see that the newly installed leader of the Romulans is in fact a human. Shinzon (British newcomer Hardy, looking not a little like a young, sleek Dr. Evil) is a clone of Picard himself. Conceived as part of a diabolical plan to replace Picard with a captain who will do the bidding of the Empire, Shinzon was dispatched to labor in the mines of Remus after the plan was dropped. The human had managed to become leader of the downtrodden Remans, whereupon this motley crew of slave-laborers somehow developed a super weapon with which they took over the Romulan Empire and now plan to destroy Earth.

In yet another confusing plot development, Shinzon also wishes to use Picard’s body for some kind of medical treatment. Thus despite several overwrought and unenlightening conversations about whether or not Picard would have turned out as evil as Shinzon, had he lived the latter’s difficult life, the movie plays out as a series of captures, narrow escapes, clever decisions, technological wizardry, and CGI effects. Beyond the mere presence of familiar characters and settings, there is little here to engage either the Star Trek fan or the casual viewer. Screenwriter Logan has explicitly stated the extent to which Nemesis consciously refers to The Wrath Of Khan. For those familiar with the latter film, the similarities will be obvious, but they are only skin-deep. The 10th Star Trek movie has none of the drama, suspense, or depth of relationships that characterized the second one. The Star Trek curse has indeed been broken, but not in the way fans might have hoped.

—Michael O’Connor


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