I am a huge fan of Star Trek. From The Original Series to Deep Space Nine and even bits of Enterprise. As for the films, Wrath of Khan and First Contact are both genuine classics but I have an unquenchable hatred for the Star Trek films of JJ Abrams – to paraphrase Captain Picard quoting Moby Dick “And he piled upon JJ Abram’s Star Trek films, a sum of all the rage and hate felt by his own fandom”.
There is an old cliche that every odd-numbered Star Trek film is bad, so 1. The Motion Picture – bad, 3. The Search For Spock – bad, 5. The Final Frontier-bad 7. Generations – bad, 9. Insurrection – bad, which brings us to the topic of this article – 10. Nemesis. You will notice the even number – but it is still bad. It broke a pattern that had endured for decades.
What’s Going On?
One of the main antagonists to the Federation is the Romulan Empire and the film starts with the annihilation of their government by the Remans, a slave race the Romulans use for their most dangerous and arduous work. The leader of the Remans, Shinzon, assumes control of the Romulan Empire and after professing a desire for peace the Enterprise is sent to meet him. Then things get weird. It is revealed that Shinzon is a clone of Picard, created years ago by the Romulans so they could replace Picard with a spy, but apparently dropped the plan and left Shinzon to die with the Remans. Because of the cloning process, Shinzon is ageing rapidly and so needs a transfusion of blood from Picard and kidnaps him so he can get what he needs and continue his villainous plans.
When you have these decades-long franchises where numerous films are made, new directors brought in, and the times have changed since the original was created things can go off the rails a bit. Star Trek had already done this with Insurrection and it was hoped Nemesis would change course. It did not. It got worse. The best example I can think of is the decline of the Bond films that ended with Die Another Day and took a complete retooling to make the great Casino Royale. Nemesis is what happens if they’d stuck with the Die Another Day style.
In Front of the Camera
There is the usual The Next Generation cast Patrick Stewart as Jean-Luc Picard, Brent Spiner as Data etc, but really all I want to talk about is Shinzon…who is played by a young Tom Hardy. These days Hardy has a tendency to play gruff, bearded, tough characters but back in the day Hardy was a male model who had a very different look and style. In this film, Hardy has shaved off his hair but also he has a more slender and wiry appearance. Normally I am okay with the slight incongruity that can come from a younger/older version of a character being played by different actors and just accepting that as the truth of the film. But imagining that Patrick Stewart and Tom Hardy share even a slither of commonality is too much.
Hardy also verges on pantomime levels of villainy and can monologue with the best of them. He makes entrances so dramatic as to how the actors and characters manage to keep a straight face is beyond me. This is not so much to criticise Hardy, who I consider to be a great actor, but just how muddled this film is. Sci-fi is of particular risk of these over-the-top performances and it’s very important that they be reined in.
Behind the Scenes
The film is directed by Stuart Baird who only directed a few films but as an editor has worked on everything from Demolition Man to The Omen to Skyfall.
Is It Any Good?
No. It is not. It’s often said that the worst thing to be is not bad, but forgettable. People at least remember the weird premise of Star Trek: The Final Frontier. And they remember the bizarre badness of Star Trek: The Motion Picture but I struggle to remember Nemesis. Most people who see Star Trek films will go in with a lot of goodwill, these are characters they’ve known for years, so it’s not a simple thing to mess that up. I do feel like when you’re getting into younger clones of existing characters (as well as another part of the plot where there are essentially two Datas) you may be heading into absurd territory. There is even a car chase.
The film also does something that I have to come to hate, especially in franchises, the fake death. We are led to believe one character has died only to find out that no, they haven’t, and while the sci-fi elements of Star Trek can make this more feasible than other films it still feels like cheating. This is especially true as maybe their death makes sense in the story but the franchise doesn’t want to remove a key character.
With the critical and commercial failure of Nemesis (even amongst Star Trek fans) the franchise considered its options and elected to give Star Trek to someone who clearly wanted to make Star Wars.
Rating: (1.5 / 5)
Also Read: The Best Performances of Tom Hardy