Star Trek: Nemesis (2002, Stuart Baird)


Spoiler warning: these reviews reveal plot twists.

Soon after discovering a disassembled android who looks exactly like Data, the crew of the Enterprise are sent on a diplomatic mission to Romulus, where it’s Captain Picard’s turn to meet his double…

Regulars: The crew are gathered at the beginning for the wedding of Riker and Troi – their rekindled romance in the last film has moved on, it seems. Picard is the best man and gives a heartfelt speech. He’s been itching to use the Enterprise’s new toy, a 4×4 buggy called the Argo, so tries it out when he, Data and Worf have to search a planet. After meeting Shinzon – the new Romulan leader, who was cloned from Picard’s DNA – he’s haunted by doubts and has a nature/nurture debate with himself. After marrying, the plan for Riker and Troi is to join a new crew on the USS Titan; Riker has been promoted to captain. During the film, they have sex – but Troi’s mind is affected by the bad guys and she imagines Shinzon on top of her. She equates what happened to her to rape – but in a terribly tacky moment, Picard simply asks her to endure more assaults for his own benefit. Seeing how Riker’s been reassigned, Data is the Enterprise’s new first officer. He meets android B4, who is essentially Data’s prototype (both characters are played by Brent Spiner). At the film’s end, he sacrifices himself to save the crew. Worf gets a headache at the wedding, thanks to Romulan ale, and doesn’t like the idea of stripping off for the Betazoid half of the marriage ceremony. Geordie tinkers about with B4 and gets lots of technobabble dialogue. Crusher tells Data that he has nicer eyes than B4 (“Doctor, they are identical,” he says) and also does the blood test to confirm who Shinzon is. Her son, Wesley, appears in a Star Trek movie for the first time – he’s at the wedding, but gets neither dialogue nor a close-up. Guinan’s also there and gets one line.

Guests: Alan Dale – on a mission to appear in everything ever made – plays the Romulan president assassinated in the opening scene. Kate Mulgrew has a cameo as Star Trek: Voyager’s Katherine Janeway, who’s now an admiral. The main villain, Shinzon, is played by future movie star Tom Hardy – he’s a clone of Picard, but their physical resemblance seems to boil down to both being bald. (Hardy also plays Picard in a way: we see him in a photo of a young Jean-Luc.) Dina Meyer is Romulan Donatra and an unrecognisable Ron Perlman plays Shinzon’s viceroy.

Best bits:

* The impressive opening shot: a CGI decent from outer space, into a planet’s atmosphere and down towards the Romulan senate building.

* The creepy way the Romulan hierarchy are desiccated.

* Geordie asking Guinan if she’s ever thought of marrying again. “No,” she says. “Twenty-three was my limit.”

* “You have the bridge, Mr Troi.”

* The Argo – an unusually visceral form of transport for Star Trek.

* The washed-out cinematography used for the surface of Kolarus III.

* The hand bursting out of the sand and attaching itself to Worf’s leg. He steps back and pulls a robotic arm out of the ground.

* Picard, Worf and Data finding the robot’s head, which looks just like Data, and it opening its eyes.

* The Argo leaping off a cliff and into the bay of a waiting shuttlecraft.

* There are some very neatly done shots where we see Data and B4 at the same time.

* The twist that Data has been impersonating B4. (“Move, puny human animal,” he says a moment later when he and Picard walk past some bad guys. Picard gives a note on the roleplay: “A little less florid, Data.”)

* The Enterprise’s bridge being damaged and a crewmember being sucked out into space.

* The Enterprise ramming Shinzon’s ship, the Scimitar.

* The nicely underplayed moment of understanding between Data and Geordie just before…

* …Data runs through a hole in the Enterprise’s hull and propel himself across space to the Scimitar.

TV tie-in: The creator of both Data and B4, Noonian Soong, appeared in an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation called Brothers. Brent Spiner played Soong in old-age make-up, and also reprised the role of Data’s brother, Lore. If Soong’s wife had been around, presumably it would have been Spiner in a wig and a dress. It’s entertaining stuff.

Review: Nemesis has a very good ‘cold open’. The first scene sees the Romulan senate being attacked, and it’s well staged and intriguing. But it’s all down hill after that. After the smug wedding scene, we get a confused and leaden plot capped by a large amount of dreary action. For the fourth time in four Next Generation movies, Data plays a significant role, which is fair enough given how popular he was in the TV show. (There’s a ‘story by’ credit for Brent Spiner.) But the fact that many of us often forget that such a key character is killed off in this film is very telling. It’s just not very memorable cinema. A big problem is Tom Hardy’s tiresome bad guy, Shinzon. His introduction into the story should ratchet up the tension, but instead the energy seems to constantly seep out of the film. It’s also difficult to see the emotional connection: aside from being a bit spooked by seeing his doppelgänger, why should Picard treat this man as anything other than a thug? Attempts are made to mirror the two characters, and to contrast them with the film’s other ‘double’ plotline (Data and B4), but it’s all a bit perfunctory. The film was directed by Stuart Baird, who has edited many enjoyable movies (The Omen, Superman, Lethal Weapon, Die Hard 2, The Last Boy Scout, Casino Royale, Skyfall) – but any sense of interesting storytelling abandoned him here.

Four cognitive and communication subroutines out of 10.

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