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.

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January 25, 2011 - Posted by | daily reviews | , , ,

2 Comments »

  1. I think with TNG still in active syndication in multiple markets, it was harder for me to say goodbye – after all, I could see these characters on TV still young and vibrant, even if it was in reruns. Star Trek VI had so much distance from the end of the original series that it felt okay to say goodbye;Nemesis was too soon, even at more than ten years, for me to feel comfortable consigning these characters to history (particularly in such a lackluster fashion). Without a transition, as you very correctly point out, I’d prefer that it just end without a swan song so that the characters lived on in the imagination.

    Comment by Jeff | January 26, 2011 | Reply

    • It’s definitely a completely different situation than the original series movies. I also think that the end of TNG as a series made it harder for the movies to follow up. The last episode showed possible futures for the crew already, and personally I feel that the episode was a decent send-off, showing where everyone ended up post-show, but also leaving us with the crew in “present” day, still off to have adventures and seek out new life and new civilizations. First Contact somehow managed to capture the feel of the series and make it grander for a cinematic scale but the rest feel like extended episodes and I already had my farewell episode, so they feel a little off.

      Comment by ajmovies | January 26, 2011 | Reply


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