July 21, 2015

Star Trek Nemesis Review

In 2002 I passed this around to my cadre of geek friends back in the day. Reposted by request.

"Waitaminit, we're not even the same height!"
<my humble opinion>

I've seen it twice now, and although Nemesis has many good moments, it just doesn't stand up to any sort of close scrutiny. I can't deny that its best moments leave a distinct emotional and/or visceral impact, but these moments are sabotaged by some downright stupid plot holes, plus the fact that far too many events depend on characters (both good and bad guys) either Overlooking The Obvious or Making Stupid/Unlikely Decisions. Plus, the writers, although they admittedly inject a refreshing perspective into the script, don't pay enough attention to established TNG lore. It's far from the Best. Trek. Ever. It's not even the best TNG-cast movie ever.

Consider... (Comments are generally in movie sequence order )

What would have happened in the opening scene if one Romulan Senator had thought to say "Oh, Senator Tal'aura, you forgot your Big Conspicuous Red Thingy?" She'd be unable to refuse to take it with her; her deceit would have been instantly spotted (given that Romulan regime changes happen so often), and she would have had to take it with her into a broom closet and do the Honorable Thing. Someone could've swept her dust out later. (Oh and none of the deadly Thaloofian radiation escaped out the metal gate of the senate room door? Damn clever technology, that rad bomb.) And what happened to her anyway? She doesn't appear after that scene.

Even though the image of the Senate's demise was gripping, the sequence of events leading up to that could've been handled much more effectively. None of this "Um, excuse me, gentlemen, I have a dentist appointment, gotta go" bush-league stuff. She could have concealed the weapon. She could have sacrificed herself. I could go on, but you get my point.

Technical Note: Couldn't help but notice that in the CGI external shots of the Romulan Capital Complex, the water doesn't lap against the land. It just runs underneath it.

Wesley's off in another dimension with The Traveler. What the fuck is he doing at the wedding? How could Troi and Ryker get the invitation to him? (If he had to appear, they could've at least given Wil Wheaton - who has aged quite well, I must say - the dignity of dialogue, and not leave his lines on the cutting room floor.)

Please, Mr Spiner. We know you're an established Broadway actor with numerous musical theatre credits. We know you've made a solo album. Please. As long as you remain part of the Star Trek Franchise, I implore you to Never. Sing. Again. (in a ST movie, that is.) Thank you, though, for cutting the "Blue Skies" number short.

I applaud the Enterprise's amazingly accurate sensors, being able to pick up a "faint positronic energy pattern" on a planet many light years away (and completely out of their path). Even if you buy that, the fact that it's on a previously unexplored planet veerrrryyy close to the Romulan Neutral Zone should've raised some suspicions. Couldn't they have checked it out on the way back from Betazed? Or just sent a probe?

Worf has next to nothing to do in this movie! His only lines are comic relief. He's drunk, he hates Irving Berlin, he doesn't want to go naked, etc.

I really dig the camera filter used in the Planet Southern California sequence; it gives the scene an entirely refreshing immediacy lacking in most of the other ST movies. However I can't help but notice that nearly everything that happens there is a clear and direct violation of the Prime Directive. They're using their advanced technology to attack and escape from the pre-first-contact inhabitants. And don't get me started on the straight-outta-Dukes-Of-Hazzard dune buggy leap into the Argo. Puh-lease.

Let's see. They find an android that looks exactly like Data. Hmm. Funny that no one thought to say "Lore." And funnier still that nobody, not even Data, noticed that Extra Data Port on the back of B4's neck until after the Data download (no pun intended, I think); especially after Crusher's pronouncement that "structurally, he's exactly the same as you." Side note: The TNG characters are showing their age. I suppose that both Data and B4 have built-in Paunchy Gut Subroutines built into their programming.

Admiral Janeway's cameo: from an acting standpoint, it's trash. It's obvious that her speech and Picard's reactions were recorded separately.

Why do they make Shinzon look like Nosferatu? The vampire metaphor is inconsistent, even if he needs Picard's blood. Or is he supposed to be Ming The Merciless?

How did Shinzon build the Scimitar, a fucking humongous warship filled to the brim with phasers and photon torpedos as well as a huge Thaloofian Radiation generator, without Romulan detection? If the Enterprise's sensors are so sensitive (see above), they could've detected the Scimitar from Earth!

Shame on whoever made the decision that all that's required to clone Picard is to take a young British actor with only a slight physical resemblance to Patrick Stewart (and by slight, I mean none) and shave his head. (And another violation of TNG lore: Young Picard, as portrayed in that Back In My Academy Days episode, had a full head of hair.)

It's never explained why Shinzon initially kidnapped Picard. They take a blood sample that is never referred to again. If they used it to slow Shinzon's cellular degeneration, it is apparently ineffective. Afterwards, Picard states that Shinzon will come for him, and Shinzon orders the boarding party "Get Picard!". For what? His blood? Again???

A stupid move, that demotes Shinzon to the level of the campiest James Bond villain: I'm going to taunt you, state that I intend to kill you, and then leave you alone except for One Stupid Guard. Once Data rescues Picard, Shinzon orders the guard's death instantly. If he wanted Picard dead, he should have likewise killed him when he had the chance (after all, he already had Picard's blood sample). Unless of course he waffled. Which leads straight to my next point.

It is Shinzon waffling about his motivation, or is it the writers? If his target is Earth, why doesn't he just Go And Fucking Do It Already? He can go back for the Enterprise at his will. In fact, he can go through that transfusion process (assuming that his doctors were able to synthesize Picard's blood from the sample) on the way. (more on that later)

My, but those Remans, "a race bred for war," are fucking incompetent marksmen. But then again, all the Bad Guy Armies are like that (Vader's Stormtroopers, Sauron's Uruk Hai, any Cowboys and Indians movie...) You'd think those Evil Geniuses would know better.

The conversation in the ready room between Shinzon and Picard reminds me way too much of Return of the Jedi. "Father, I feel the conflict within you; let go of your hate!" "You do not know the power of the Dark Side, Luke" Interesting, though, that it's the older person (Picard) counseling the younger person (Shinzon), the reverse of Luke and Vader.

Stupid And Completely Out-Of-Character Action With No Other Purpose Than Advancing The Plot: Picard and the Enterprise are fleeing the Scimitar to rendezvous with the Federation force. Meanwhile, they pass through a rift that jams their communications. But it only occurs to Picard just at the point where it's too late. What made Picard and his predecessor Kirk such effective leaders was their ability to recognize potential problems like that in advance. That oversight cost Data (and many others) their lives.

I'm sorry, no. The instant that the bridge's hull is breached, every single person on that bridge is dead. This isn't a 747. People don't survive by hanging on to the armrests, or those suddenly convenient chrome handles along the edges of the consoles. That's a vacuum out there. Nature abhors it. They're all sucked out, they all pop like balloons, they're all meat. (But it's notable for adhering to one aspect of Trek Lore. See Rule #44: Mortality Rates, Lead Characters vs Minor Characters, aka The Red Shirt Rule.)

The ramming. Again, no. I can't help but notice just how much this battle (as well as the Kirk vs Khan showdown in the Mutara Nebula) is constructed like a naval battle. Physics be damned, hull tolerance be damned, full steam ahead! (I suppose it never occurred to Shinzon to, oh, I dunno, FIRE AT THE ENTERPRISE??? or perhaps BACK UP???)

The showdown scene is problematic. Healthy vigorous Picard versus dying, degenerating Shinzon? Hardly fair.

I wonder if it wouldn't have been a much better choice to have Shinzon go through the transfusion process, so that the final showdown would be Picard Versus Picard. A much more fair fight. Or, to take it a step further and dispense with Tom Hardy altogether, and have Patrick Stewart play both parts. (Hell, as a homage to Classic Trek, give Shinzon a goatee! LOL)

Shinzon's death: Excalibur. Mordred: "Come, Father, let us embrace at last." (or again, Ming the Merciless in Flash Gordon '80!)

Overall, Shinzon as a villain comes nowhere near the standard set by Ricardo Montalban. Shinzon's position as Romulan Praetor is very tenuous. He doesn't hold the loyalty of the Romulans, his course of action (destroying Earth) is openly questioned, he's physically deteriorating. Apart from the Extremely Nasty Weapon he has, he possesses very little power.
Khan, on the other hand, had the absolute devotion and loyalty of his crew (and for the rest, there were the Ceti Eels). His physical strength is far above that of the humans. And, unlike Shinzon, He Never Wavers In His Course Of Action.
Shinzon is just a little man with a big toy. (I suppose, though, that he can be seen on some level as a metaphor for George W...)

The Reman Viceroy deserved a better-thought-out fate than falling down a Jeffries Tube. (All too convenient reference to Trek III: "I've... Had... Enough... Of... You!!" as well as Emperor Palpateen's death in Return of the Jedi.)

Data's noble and moving sacrifice is shadowed by one nagging question: he blew up the Scimitar one second before the Thaloofian radiation ray would have been fired at the Enterprise. Are we to assume then that all that radiation was instantly neutralized by the blast? (and I suppose it was out of the question to simply deactivate the device... and I suppose Geordi couldn't have bothered to make two transporter devices... and I suppose, Oh Never Mind.)

What logical reason could there be for B4 to sing "Blue Skies" in the last scene?

And of course, even with Data gone, Brent Spiner still has a job if there's another TNG cast movie (which, given its box office returns thus far, is unlikely)

And Now, The Good Bits:
  • The psychic rape scene. This is one of the darkest and spookiest moments in the history of the Trek franchise.
  • Troi's Revenge, or as my Dad called it, the Betazoid Blowjob.
  • If I recall correctly, the scene between Data and Geordi, as Data prepares to leap into the void, contains no dialogue. All the communication of their past together, their friendship, their final farewell etc is in their eyes. A great directing choice, realized well by Brent and Levar. Hurrah.
  • I swear that during the debate about whether or not they go naked on Betazoid, I saw Riker glancing down at Worf's crotch.
  • The battle sequence, for all its flaws, is still the best balls-out battle sequence since Wrath of Khan.
Best lines:
  • Picard to Riker: "You have the bridge... (devilish grin) Mr. Troi."
  • Worf: "Irving Berlin... ugh."
  • Data: "I must deactivate you." B4: "For how long?" Data: "Indefinitely." B4: "How long is th... [click]"
  • Picard: "We will continue to Betazed, where the ceremony will be performed in accordance with Betazoid tradition! Now if you'll excuse me, I'll be in the gym."
  • Shinzon: "Will you join me in your ready room?"
  • Picard: "On screen." (realizes the bridge screen is gone) "Open a channel."
  • Data: "Goodbye."

</my humble opinion>