Judge Eric Profancik revisits the latest entry in the Star Trek film franchise.
Our reviews of Star Trek: Nemesis (published June 2nd, 2003), Star Trek: The Next Generation Motion Picture Collection (published October 19th, 2009), and Star Trek: The Next Generation Motion Picture Collection (Blu-Ray) (published September 28th, 2009) are also available.
"Odds are you don't like this film."
I said that two years ago when I had the opportunity to review the first DVD release of Star Trek: Nemesis. In the interim, that statement still holds true, and my meanderings around the Internet show a great deal of disdain for this tenth film in the franchise. While there is a majority view that Nemesis is nothing more than regurgitated Trek, there exists a minority that finds many things to enjoy in this film. As I've become comfortable with my lot in life, I exist in that minority; and while I can see the duplication and understand the fans' reaction, I find much to relish in what is, in all likelihood, the Next Generation's final journey.
Please note that unlike my prior review, this discussion will reveal several key plot points in the film.
Facts of the Case
Hidden in the depths of the dilithium mines on the dark side of Remus, the sister planet of Romulus, an abandoned project to infiltrate the highest ranks of the Federation lies in wait. This project, a clone of Captain Jean-Luc Picard, has survived a decade of disdain to unleash the greatest assault against the Federation ever imagined. The clone, named Shinzon, has rallied the enslaved Remans and convinced the Romulan military to overthrow the Romulan Senate. With the government destroyed, Shinzon names himself leader and Praetor of both worlds and sends an olive branch to the Federation.
Always wanting peace—but always leery of overtures from the Romulans—Starfleet dispatches the USS Enterprise to begin discussions with the new Praetor. Upon arriving, Picard is stunned to see a younger version of himself as leader of these people. While Shinzon tells Picard of the plot to use a clone to infiltrate Starfleet, he fails to reveal his plans to abduct Picard and annihilate Earth, allowing the Romulans to take over the Federation.
Can Picard stop Shinzon's insane plan of revenge and destruction?
Why do I like Nemesis? Is it just my stubborn insistence that all Trek is good Trek? No, I do not believe that to be the case in this instance. I have recently come to understand that while I am exceptionally forgiving when it comes to anything Trek (which is obvious if you've read any of my many reviews on The Verdict), I've come to see more and more of its failings—most notably in the cancelled series Enterprise. How can I defend a film that grossed less than The Final Frontier? How can I recommend a film that is not only ridiculed by most fans, but also derided by most of the stars of the film? Just this month, nearly three years since the film came out, Jonathan Frakes said at a convention that Nemesis failed because it "didn't focus strongly enough on the TNG characters." According to additional reporting, that comment garnered much applause. And while it's true that only Picard and Data have a substantial role in this movie, how different is that from any of the other nine?
Allow me to check off a few things that work for me in Nemesis; why I don't see it as the worst film in the franchise:
• The Crew is Back
• Shinzon versus Picard
• The Space Battles
I realize that those four points don't sound like much. They appear to be a rather weak justification for my rose-colored glasses, but I don't believe that to be the case. I believe that the one-on-one battle between our hero and villain has much to offer. One just needs to accept the film is not perfect and realize the gem inside the rock.
But Nemesis is a flawed film. Not only that, but it obviously borrows huge pieces of The Wrath of Khan as inspiration. But is that wrong? Is it a bad thing for Trek to use successful elements from its past to create a successful bridge to the future? While many believe it's too blatant a rip-off of itself, I see Nemesis as a successful reinterpretation and expansion of many of the ideas from the second film.
Still, there are those flaws, with none being more egregious than the death of Data. As with Leonard Nimoy's, Brent Spiner stated he would only come back for this film if he died. And there you have it—the simplest reason for one of the most bone-headed moves in franchise history. Killing Data was not necessary to the story, and there were many ways to write themselves out of the corner—like embedding a personal transporter device within Data, allowing him to return safely to the Enterprise with Picard. Yet even if we ignore the easy escape offered by my suggestion and allow Data to die, the character is humiliated and belittled with the introduction of B-4. By creating beta Data, you remove the sense of loss at vaporizing one of the most popular characters in the series. When Spock died, you were shocked, you were sad, and you may have even shed a real tear. Spock was, as far as you knew, dead. But a few minutes after we see the crew shocked from this unexpected loss of Data, we're slapped in the face with B-4. Any grief you may have felt is instantly wiped away. You're not even given a chance to mourn, thanks to this instant reminder that, in the land of Trek, characters never die (unless you're Captain Kirk and hated by two specific individuals). Data did not need to die, and his death lost all its poignancy because of B-4.
The excision of B-4 and the death of Data would have greatly improved Nemesis. It would eliminate extraneous characters and situations, and it would also eliminate a huge connection to Khan—and, therefore, an opportunity for belittlement.
It's now time to move on and discuss the (hopefully) last double-dip from Paramount, and what's new and exciting compared to the original release.
Reiterating and reinforcing my original assessment, "quite simply, Nemesis is the best-looking and best-sounding of all the Trek movies." Surprisingly, Paramount did themselves one better, and Nemesis looks and sounds even better this time around. Probably because they bumped most of the bonus items to a second disc, the anamorphic print is cleaner, clearer, brighter, and crisper. Colors are amazing, blacks are deep and rich, and details pop off the screen. That quick spot of haloing as we descend down to Romulus in the opening segment is still there, and we still get a quick spot of shimmering during a beauty pass of the Enterprise, but those are the only defects in an otherwise incredible presentation. On the audio front, all of the mixes from the first release made the jump. The Dolby Digital 5.1 was and is an impressive mix, with crisp dialogue, excellent use of the surrounds, thrumming bass, and no distortions. Yet again, making it all the better, a new DTS track was included that easily trumps the original mix. This new DTS track is reference quality and will knock your socks off. This is the newest disc to use to blow your friends away with your system.
Mirroring all the other nine double-dips, this Collector's Edition is jam-packed with extras. Complicating things a smidge is that the original release of Nemesis was a nicely loaded single-disc affair. To help you sort through all of the following bonus items, anything marked with a bullet (• ) is a carryover from the prior release; items marked with a plus sign (+) are new features.
On the first disc you will find:
• Audio Commentary by Director Stuart Baird: This is the same dull track, so no need to listen again.
+ Audio Commentary by Rick Berman: Good old sedate Mr. Berman, how nice of you to share your few thoughts with us about Nemesis. Why is it, however, that you, like Mr. Baird, failed to make any mention of the abysmal failure of this film? Don't you believe it deserves some small mention? While Berman avoids these big issues, for the first half of the movie he shares some moderately interesting information. But by the second half, there are massive spans of silence, rendering this commentary mostly useless.
+ Text Commentary by Michael and Denise Okuda: Using a Romulan-themed pop-up, this is a great track from the Okudas. But mirroring Berman's commentary, while I'd rate the first half as "excellent," the second half is a bit repetitive and rates only as "good." It's still worth putting on.
You'll find the bulk of the special features on the second disc, grouped together for your viewing pleasure. I will not comment on the items carried over:
+ "Nemesis Revisited" (25 minutes): Comprised of old interviews, this light piece steers clear of the two-ton elephant hovering overhead: Why was Nemesis a failure? If you're going to "revisit" the movie, you need to tackle the tough topics.
• "New Frontiers: Stuart Baird on Directing Nemesis" (8 minutes)
+ "Storyboarding the Action" (2.5 minutes): A quick look at one storyboard sequence and how it came to life on screen.
• "Red Alert: Shooting the Action of Nemesis" (9.5 minutes)
+ "Build and Rebuild" (6.75 minutes): One of my favorite pieces, this shows how the sets were built from scratch and from "old parts." I enjoyed seeing everything in various stages of completion. This is what we needed more of: true behind-the-scenes action.
+ "Four-Wheeling in the Final Frontier" (9.25 minutes): Another thing hated by fan, though wildly embraced by the studio, is the infamous four-wheeling scene, and this featurette shows us how quickly it came together. It's one of the few fun and in-depth shorts you'll find on this disc.
+ Shinzon Screen Test (6 minutes): See Thomas Hardy and Patrick Stewart face off, and see how much Hardy improved by the time of the final product.
The Star Trek Universe
• "A Star Trek Family's Final Journey" (16 minutes)
• "A Bold Vision of the Final Frontier" (10 minutes)
+ "The Enterprise-E" (10.5 minutes): This one highlights the little tweaks made to the ship design for the film, but it spends a bit too much time on the Argo.
The Romulan Empire
+ "Romulan Lore" (11 minutes): With new interviews from the Reeves-Stevens and Manny Coto, this one is a great encapsulation of the Romulans over the course of the entire franchise.
+ "Shinzon and the Viceroy" (9 minutes): The creation of Trek's latest villain, with some nice interview footage with Ron Perlman (the Viceroy).
+ "Romulan Design" (8 minutes): A good look at the designs, makeup, and details used in the various Romulan sets.
+ "Romulan Senate" (8 minutes): Special attention is given to this beautiful set, and how it evolved and was built.
+ "The Scimitar" (12 minutes): Even more special attention is given to the creation of the Reman Warbird Scimitar and its Scorpion-class shuttles.
Before I list all of the deleted scenes, I would like to remind you that the first cut of Nemesis ran close to three hours. I believe that many, if not most, of the deleted scenes below would have made fine inclusions back into the film. They give the characters a few more moments to shine, and they also help connect abandoned lines of dialogue—like Picard's "The Opal Sea will have to wait" or Worf's "The Romulans fought with honor."
• Chateau Picard, 2267 (6 minutes, with a 1 minute introduction by Patrick Stewart)
+ Wesley's New Mission (1 minute): What's Wesley up to? He's off to serve with Riker on the Titan, if his hormones don't get the best of him.
• The Time of Conquest (4.25 minutes, with a 1 minute introduction by Stuart Baird)
+ Data and B-4 (2 minutes): Data takes B-4 out of the lab and to the mess hall.
• Federation Protocols (1 minute)
+ The Chance for Peace (0.5 minutes): Shinzon's surprise invitation offers the two powers an opportunity to end their hostilities.
• A Loss of Self (1 minute)
+ Remember Him? (1.75 minutes): An expansion of the scene where Picard and Beverly look at his Academy photo and reminisce about those old days.
• Turbolift Violation (2.5 minutes, with a 1 minute introduction by Stuart Baird)
• Sickbay Prepares for Battle (1 minute)
+ Cleaning out Data's Quarters (1.75 minutes): Worf and Geordi pack up Data's belongings, and someone inherits Spot.
+ Crusher at Starfleet Medical (0.5 minutes): A throwaway scene informing us the Beverly is now in charge of Starfleet Medical.
• Advice for the New First Officer (3.75 minutes)
Included in this section are four storyboards, a production photo gallery, and a props photo gallery; most of this is new material. I am also very happy to see the teaser and theatrical trailers included on this release. I absolutely loved these trailers, and was appalled by their exclusion on the original release. Now I can enjoy them both, in widescreen and 5.1 surround sound. (Also included is the tired Borg: Invasion trailer.) Rounding it all out are some Easter Eggs. Worthy of note is the beautiful menu interface design. Romulus almost looks like a great place to visit. Once again, this is a grand improvement over the original release, making it worth your time and money. I will mention, Paramount, that you do not need to include so many clips from the movie in the bonus materials. It gets very old very quickly.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
Let's add it up:
I think it's safe to say Nemesis is a thoroughly unoriginal, unappealing, insulting piece of work, and a fitting final nail in the coffin for the now-cancelled franchise.
Nemesis has recently been in heavy rotation on cable, and I usually find myself stopping and watching a bit of the movie. While watching it again for this review, I truly found myself enjoying the story. I actually liked the 4x4 scene. Who says it was out of character for Picard to get excited to go driving? Captains thrive on adventure. Kirk can climb rocks but Picard can only study them? Let's give the man a manly hobby! Engage! [Ed. Note: Can't he just bang hot chicks like Kirk? If you want adventure, leave the prophylactics at Starfleet HQ! Do we really need to invoke the X-Games? That's so Battlestar Galactica…] Yes, it has its weaknesses, and yes, it isn't the most original concept to come up the ranks. Still, I don't believe the story has ever received the fair shake it deserves. In this case, I find it difficult to understand why there's so much hatred and disdain for this movie. Maybe it borrowed too many ideas, and maybe too many of the characters were given short shrift. But honestly, that's true of just about every Trek movie out there. So why is this one different? What did the fans want from this adventure? Maybe some of you can shed some light on this dilemma for me. Knowing my stance, I give this Collector's Edition of Star Trek: Nemesis a definite recommendation. Not only is the story not as vile as everyone paints it, but the transfer is spectacular and the bonus materials are varied and impressive. You can't do wrong in adding this one to your collection.
Star Trek: Nemesis is found guilty of unbalancing the matter/antimatter stream. It is hereby ordered to go on hiatus for a few years until things can be repaired and restarted.
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Scales of Justice
• Audio Commentary by Director Stuart Baird
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