By Mike Robinson | December 17, 2002

PREFACE: This review was written by a Trek fan-not a Trekkie. Fans enjoy the franchise when it’s good and criticize it when its bad-Trekkies trust Berman’s and Braga’s intentions, accept “ST: Voyager” as quality entertainment and wear Starfleet uniforms to jury duty.
With the notable exceptions of Star Wars and The Matrix films, no film franchise comes with as much collective baggage than the “Star Trek” series. And now in 2002 (with Trek excitement at its lowest ebb since the years before the first motion picture) comes “Star Trek: Nemesis.” Written by Gladiator scribe John Logan (an overwhelmingly professed Trek fan) and directed by Stuart Baird (industry vet and Trek virgin), the film chronicles the confrontation of Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) with a Romulan-created clone of himself named Shinzon (Tom Hardy) and also presents several TNG characters at their own personal crossroads, leading to events that will affect the future of the film series. “Nemesis” is an obvious attempt to mix the high-drama of “The Wrath of Khan” with the mainstream appeal (read: box office) of “Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home,” and for the most part it succeeds. How well it succeeds depends on whether you are a Trek fan or not…
For non-fans, this could easily be their favorite Trek film ever. “Nemesis” has a more epic scope than the usually penny-pinching Paramount allows and Jerry Goldsmith comes out of his Insurrection coma to produce what may be his best and most ominous score since the first Star Trek film. Tom Hardy as Shinzon (while no Ricardo Montalban) does a promising job of playing a twenty-something Picard with an intergalactic chip on his shoulder, but the real menace of the film comes from Ron Perlman as Shinzon’s Viceroy (emoting under pounds of latex, proving once again that he may be one of the best makeup actors ever). The techno babble is mercifully kept to a minimum (a true sign of appealing to a mainstream audience) and the climactic battle is for once not anti-climactic. The only problem the regular audience may have is the fact that, although marketed as a hard-core action film, “Nemesis” is much more drama centered and has only one action set piece in its first 80 minutes.
For Trek fans, the film is actually a little more problematic: most of us know that the film lost 40 minutes of footage before reaching release length and it has the feeling of being rushed (here’s hoping for a DVD director’s cut). The appearance of yet another unstable android proves that Dr. Soong was a dangerous madman that got lucky when he made Data (who once again has lost his emotion chip, apparently). But it’s two simple words that may be enough to keep some fans away: Admiral Janeway. The humor is not as hackneyed as in previous films, but the life-altering moments that occur to the crew for some reason don’t carry the emotional resonance that one may expect. Logan does pepper the script with asides that only the fans will get and Baird does bring a new visual sensibility that Trek hasn’t had before in the way of action sequences, but ultimately this may be a Trek film the non-fans enjoy more than the hardcore (like “Generations”). I do believe the film’s marketing may have given an inaccurate impression of what to expect, so perhaps on second viewing (with no preconceived notions), the film will resonate better…and any film that requires a second viewing for you to decide whether you thought it was effective or not can’t be all that bad.

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