A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Move 331 – Star Trek: Nemesis

Star Trek: Nemesis – January 25th, 2011

I had not seen this movie before tonight. I feel bad. I feel like a failed Trek fan. I should have seen this earlier. I mean, it’s been a little over eight years since it was released and this is the first time I’m putting it in to watch it. Andy’s seen it before, but I just never got around to it. I missed it in the theaters and then I heard things and I was never quite in the mood for the things I’d heard. But there’s no putting it off any longer. It’s time to face the last of the TNG movies.

I was spoiled for this movie. I was spoiled well before I started following Brent Spiner on twitter (he’s not for the faint of heart or the faint of humor, so beware), but if I hadn’t been before that, it wouldn’t have taken long. And if you haven’t been spoiled for this movie, I apologize for hinting at it there without a warning, but it’s been, as I mentioned, eight years. If you’re still holding out and want to avoid spoilers, best to hit that back button now.

This movie is, much like last night’s Insurrection, an episode trying to be a film. There’s something off about the scale of it and the tone of it. Something feels reduced and I don’t just mean the budget. But the budget does come into it. It rather feels like the crew’s been moved onto a runabout from the Enterprise and then been told to go have the same sort of adventures they always had. It’s just not big enough or grand enough. There are even moments during the big space battle where I thought it felt far smaller than some of the episodes did. Which is a pity, because the concept is an interesting one that makes me wish that there’d been more done with the Romulans in the movies to lead up to here.

The plot revolves around a mysterious figure, Shinzon, and his takeover of the Romulan senate and eventual plans for the destruction of Earth. Shinzon’s one of those baddies who has some meat to him. He’s not bad just for the sake of being bad. He’s got backstory and motivation, so that’s something, at least. Unfortunately, it’s not as though there’s any groundwork laid for this particular baddie. I mean, yes, we know the Romulans and they’ve been a constant since the original series, but while they showed up in episodes like Gambit and The Chase, they weren’t really a focal point after mid-season 6. Which is a shame, as I quite like the Romulans and always found them to be interesting adversaries for the Federation. But with so many other baddies to deal with and stories to tell, they seem to have rather fallen by the wayside for TNG. So encountering them here seems a bit out of the blue.

If there’d been some more groundwork laid for the Romulans, and for Shinzon, perhaps this movie wouldn’t fall as flat as it does. I mean, there’s some good potential here, with a Romulan plot to replace Picard with a clone, and the uprising of the oppressed Remans in the Romulan Empire. That’s solid stuff there and I love the scenes in the Romulan Senate and I love the politics and insight. But it’s coming out of nowhere. It doesn’t even have a recent plot near the end of the series to point back to. And it could have! There was a lot done earlier in the series, with Spock and reunification and so on and so forth. But then the Romulans sort of seem to have been ignored to make room for the Cardassians. And then here comes a movie – the final TNG movie – with a plot about Romulan plots and schemes and if this had been an episode towards the end of season 7 I would have been thrilled. As a movie it just misses the mark a bit.

Going in, I think I was biased against this movie. I love the show so much, and knowing that this was regarded as one of the rather lackluster additions to the Trek films made me worry that it would feel like a disservice to the series. And in a way it is. If it hadn’t been the last TNG film, or there’d been another film to transition from TNG to something else, maybe it would be so disappointing. But then, what would TNG be transitioning to? By the time this movie was released Deep Space Nine and Voyager had finished their runs and Enterprise was the only show in town, not that it would be something to transition to, given the time periods involved. No, this movie couldn’t be a transition. It had to be a send-off. And in that, it fails, largely because in order to focus on the Romulan plot, with the space battle and Picard clone and politics and all, it loses a lot of character moments. Granted, what’s left grossly slow down the movie, making it move at a snail’s pace at times. But they would have been something more than the clipped and awkward moments that remain. Really, the best of what’s left is between Data and Picard and Data and his never-before-mentioned ‘brother’.

If I’d been captaining this movie, I know I’d have ditched the telepathic Reman and the disgusting and thoroughly unnecessary psychic assault on Troi (the only purpose of which seems to have been to allow her to be a Betazoid Ouija board later on) and kept in more of the character moments. Yes, it would have slowed things down, but it would have given it more of the feel it was clearly going for. Better yet, I’d have tried to find a way to better marry the Romulan plot, with Shinzon’s insistence that Picard is old news, and his fascination with the past and family, with the side plot of the crew we knew breaking up and going their separate ways. I’d have tried to tie Shinzon’s taunts about Picard doing what he wants to do back to Picard’s battle with the Borg and First Contact. But no. Too bad. Because there could have been so much more here. And it does have some moments that genuinely made me tear up.

In the trivia for this movie it mentions that filming for one scene near the end had to be halted due to Patrick Stewart involuntarily beginning to cry. I remember reading an article in TV Guide that mentioned the emotional toll the end of Voyager took on its cast and crying myself just at the description. I remember watching All Good Things… and feeling like a friend had just told me they were moving to Mars and we’d never see each other again. I didn’t get the same feeling from the original series since it was a closed canon by the time I started watching and well, there’s Generations to pass the torch, however sloppily it was done. But this? This is like saying goodbye again, only it’s just a wave and a nod and no matter how much potential was there, it just isn’t the farewell I want it to be.

January 25, 2011 Posted by | daily reviews | , , , | 2 Comments

Star Trek Nemesis

January 25, 2011

Star Trek Nemesis

For a long time it seemed this was to have been the last Star Trek movie. It’s also the tenth Star Trek movie which means that in accordance with the supposed curse it should have been one of the better films. Sadly this is not the case. This is actually a pretty disappointing send off for the Enterprise E and the Next Generation crew. In many ways it is a blatant rip-off of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan – from its obsessed enemy bent on the defeat of the Enterprises captain to the selfless sacrifice of a crew member at the end. The problem is that it doesn’t do too good a job of it. It has all the tropes and cliches of an action sci-fi movie but its as if somebody collected them in one place but didn’t quite know how to make a movie out of them.

The basic plot here is that a group of Reman rebels (from the shadowy slave mines on Romulus’ sister planet Remus) have overthrown the Romulan senate. They send overtures to the Federation claiming to desire peace – and naturally Jean-Luc Picard and his crew are sent as envoys. Imagine their shock when it transpires that the leader of the rebels is not only human, but is a clone of Picard himself. This is a pretty cool idea, but the movie doesn’t seem to know what to do with it. At first there’s a lot of noise about how if Picard had lived his life as a Reman slave he would have turned out like Shinzon, but ultimately that thread is dropped in favor of using Shinzon’s origin as an excuse for him to hunt Picard to the ends of the galaxy. Shinzon is dying, you see, and he needs Picard’s blood to stay alive. Or something like that. Oh, and Shinzon’s ship, the Scimitar, has an unstable ultimate weapon that could be used to wipe out all life on an entire planet. For no discernible reason, except that he wants to be a bastard I suppose, Shinzon wants to wipe out the entire population of Earth with this doomsday device. The Enterprise must stop him at any cost.

There are a whole bunch of other threads woven into the film as well, but they are supposed to support the primary plot. Although at times they seem slapped on and wedged in. There’s a whole plot about a Soong-type android prototype called B-4 which the crew discover on a desert planet before the main plot gets started. B-4 looks like Data but is simple-minded and childish.

Then there is Ron Pearlman as one of the bat-faced Remans (they evolved in darkness on the side of Remus that faces away from their sun you see.) Not content to have the bad-guys here be a bunch of caricatures that look like monster-movie rejects the film makers felt the need to imbue the chief Reman, Vkruk, with mental powers which he uses to help Shinzon mind-rape Councillor Troi. Why? Because they’re EVIL dammit! The movie tries to make this into some kind of macho thing between Vkruk and Troi’s new husband Will (nee Riker.) Why do they get into a one-on-one hand-to-hand battle in the bowls of the Enterprise during a space battle? Because you need a macho hand-to-hand fight, right?

That’s what I mean about this movie going through the motions of being an action movie. It has Riker and Vkruk dangling over a bottomless pit net because it makes any sense to have a bottomless pit inside the Enterprise but because that’s the sort of thing that happens to a macho hero. Why at the start of the film do Picard, Data and Worf land so very far away from the positronic readings they’re investigating? So they can tool around in a Worthog from the Halo series and have a Mad Max inspired chase (the end of which apparently Joss Whedon stole for Serenity two years later.) Why are the corridors on the Scimitar so oddly spacious? So that Picard can fly a captured fighter craft through them (in a scene which was unintentionaly hilarious to me because it looked like the opening credits to a Naked Gun movie.)

Furthermore, after having watched nothing but Star Trek movies for more than a week before this one there’s a distinct feeling of having seen a lot of this movie before. The ship that can fire on the Enterprise while still cloaked? Star Trek VI. The character death at the end of the movie? Star Trek II. The enemy bent on the destruction of Earth? Star Trek I, IV, and First Contact. A spectacular and lengthy scene of the Enterprise crashing? Star Trek Generations. I really didn’t feel like this movie had anything new to contribute. Unless you count the kind of cute wedding scene at the beginning of the movie – but if I want to see Enterprise crew members pairing off I’ll just read some fanfic. I don’t need a movie for that.

The odd thing is that there is clear groundwork laid for a Search for Spock style sequel to this movie but nothing ever came of it. The entire franchise had run out of steam it seems and for eight long years after this movie there were no new Star Treks in theaters. There had been one every two or three years since 1979 and then… silence. It’s like a loved one taken off of life support – you can’t bear to see them go but they were only a pale shadow of what they once were. Then, suddenly, in 2010 – the resurrection. But that’s tomorrow’s review.

January 25, 2011 Posted by | daily reviews | , , | 1 Comment