Recently, Star Trek Into Darkness was voted by a crowd of Star Trek convention goers as being the worst Star Trek film of all time. This is unconscionable to me. Absolutely astounding. Star Trek Into Darkness had some plot holes, but it wasn’t that bad. It wasn’t Star Trek V The Final Frontier. Did everyone just sleep through Insurrection? Where were you when Nemesis came out? I willingly watched that shit in the theatre and even at the age of 14 I new it was terrible. Star Trek Into Darkness is the worst Star Trek movie ever? I don’t think so.
Let’s take a deeper look at Star Trek Nemesis. Nemesis or Star Trek X: Nemesis as I always refer to it as was the highly publicized final voyage for the Next Generation crew. Nemesis was to be released in 2002 four years after the previous installment, which was the longest gap in Star Trek feature films since 1979 when The Motion Picture was released. Directing the final TNG feature film installment was Stuart Biard, a longtime editor who was responsible for such amazing works as Superman: The Motion Picture and Casino Royale. The film was also written by John Logan, who you probably know currently as the co-writer of Skyfall and the writer of Bond 24 and 25. Well, at the time John Logan was the hottest screenwriter in town. He’d just won an oscar for his work on Gladiator and he basically had his pick of projects. Instead, he opted to work on a Star Trek film, being that he was a massive TNG fan. Going into the release for the movie, both of these facets were considered highly desirable.
Pervious to the release of Nemesis there had been three other TNG cast centric feature films Star Trek VII: Generations, Star Trek VIII: First Contact, and Star Trek IX: Insurrection. Generations was the passing of the torch movie where the OTS cast and the TNG cast teamed up in order to combat an unspeakable evil. Generations was thrown together very quickly and was not a very good film. First Contact was dark, gritty, and a well constructed film. Insurrections… well, it’s a movie about plastic surgery and the fountain of youth. You figure out if it was any good. (hint: it wasn’t) Nemesis was to be the final Next Generation and as such Paramount was attempting to create a narrative in the shape of First Contact instead of the other two shit sandwiches. As such they took major cues from the tone and style of First Contact. Nemesis was dark, gritty, and action oriented. Something that would usually be a good thing, but in this case felt really weird and unnecesary. It’s one thing if you’re setting out to tell a dark story. It’s another if you’ve got a story and then you inject ‘dark and gritty’ things into it.
Due to the fact that Insurrection failed to make boat loads of money at the box office the cast was force to take massive pay cuts in order to get the film produced. The film was also greenlit with a budget of only $60 million, which for an attempted blockbuster is nothing. The lack of funding is apparent everywhere in Nemesis. It’s really a shame.
Ok, so let’s talk about the actual story of Star Trek X: Nemesis. The film opens with Picard delivering a toast to Will Riker and Diana Troi at the wedding reception, which apparently in the distant future happens before the actual wedding. And things pretty much go off the rails within the first five minutes. Picard isn’t Picard. He’s not the stern leader who always makes the right decision, he’s playful, relaxed and funny. Picard is funny? What? All of the Star Fleet officers are sitting at a banquet table listening to Picard deliver a toast and two characters are there without explanation Will Whedon’s Wesley Crusher, who we haven’t seen since the third season of TNG and Worf, who was supposedly an ambassador to the Klingon home world of Cronos, are both sitting at the table in Star Fleet dress uniform, without explication. Work I can get over. Maybe he only served a few years as an ambassador and then decided to rejoin Star Fleet, but the fact that Wesley Crusher gets not explanation is really painful.
From there we move on to the bridge of the Enterprise where the crew are making their way to the Betazoid homeworld, in order to celebrate Riker and Troi’s wedding, when they discover a positronic frequency emanating from a nearby planet. This frequency is only emitted by androids that are similar to Data, so, logically the Enterprise diverts to investigate. What they discover is just that, an android. Who looks exactly like Data but is named B-4.
Next the crew uncover that the Romulan Empire wants to engage in peace talks. Their new leader Shinzon is a clone of Picard. The movie sets up Shinzon, who is played masterfully by Tom Hardy, as this fearsome cunning villain and then doesn’t really do anything with him. Nemesis, like Into Darkness, tries to mine the tropes and visual iconography established by Nicolas Meyer’s classic Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. The film utilizes the ‘let’s pair this down to two Star Fleet characters and a bad guy’ mode of of story telling. It also has the final battle take place in a nebula, it has the villain being trapped in a hellacious prison and then escaping and being hell bent on destroying the captain of the enterprise, it also has the second most important character in Star Trek sacrificing himself for the Captain, and it has the final space battle taking place in a nebula. This movie might as well be called Star Trek X: Shit We’ve Made Ten Of These And We’re Really Out Of Ideas.
I saw Nemesis opening weekend with my dad. I remember sitting in a nearly empty theatre and thinking, “crap, we shouldn’t have got here this early. No one is here’. Star Trek X: Nemesis did not connect well with a wide audience. It simply wasn’t well marketed, and it wasn’t a good movie. The two of those things combined really hurt it. The total theatrical haul for Nemesis was around $67 million. So, I’m sure that the film made some money once they finally got all those VHS ducats.
Ultimately, Star Trek X: Nemesis was touted as the final entry into the TNG feature film franchise and yet it’s one of the most unsuccessful and unsatisfying Star Trek films. It has some good ideas but just really fails to pull of any of them. The narrative ‘homages’ to Wrath of Khan really hurt the film. Nemesis would have been much better if they’d just made the movie about Shinzon attempting to join Star Fleet or maybe being assigned to the Enterprise. You could have still had all the ‘what is the nature of humanity’ dialogue and still had the clone be the center piece of the movie but you could have avoided all the comparisons to THE BEST Star Trek film. Plain and simple.
The part that always kills me about Nemesis is Data. Data’s death at the end of the movie feels like it happens because Spock died. It feels like John Logan and Rick Berman are winking at the audience and saying “hey, remember when that thing happened? This is like that. You should care about this because you cared about that”. To add insult to injury the movie installs a backdoor for how to revive Data. I’ve never been so frustrated in a Star Trek film. Even the Final Frontier is a view into how crazy Shatner’s ego is. There’s nothing personal, nothing intimate, and nothing real about Nemesis. It feels like a movie that was made so everyone could say goodbye and then everyone forgot to say goodbye.
It’s really a shame that this film failed to make any amount of headway, either commercially or critically, if it had maybe we would have got a team up movie with DS9 or Voyager. Instead we had a decade of Star Trekless movie theaters and a really bad taste in all of our mouths.
Into Darkness has made a substantial amount of money, it’s also been derided by the hardcore base. However, regardless of how much you didn’t enjoy Into Darkness it’s not as bad as Final Frontier, Nemesis, The Motion Picture, or Insurrection. It’s just not. Eventually, the Trek franchise will be handed to a new group of people and all the Trekkers will decided that that incarnation of the franchise is the worst and that the JJ Abras,Roberto Orci, and Alex Kurtzman era was really great. You know why? Because that’s what happens with Trek. When Next Gen was on, people initially hated it and wanted the original crew back, when Deep Space Nine was on everyone pined for the days of Next Gen, When Voyager was on everyone lamented the departure of Deep Space Nine, and when Enterprise was one… well, everyone just wanted it to go away.
Star Trek X: Nemesis feels tired. Everything about it feels played out and running on fumes. The sets are poorly constructed, the actors look like they don’t want to be there, there aren’t even enough extras in some scenes, and the whole film feels like it places emphasis on the wrong elements. Sure, action is fun. But without a compelling story and characters that you connect with watching two people punch each other is just Bum Fights. Who cares? It’s masturbatory.
Star Trek X: Nemesis is the whimper of a dying film franchise. It’s the sound that a small animal makes once it’s been gored by a massive predator. Nemesis is such a terrible Star Trek film that it couldn’t even get its characterizations correct. It’s sad and frustrating and the only real emotion you feel once the film has complete is happiness… because it’s over and you can go home.
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Tagged: brent stewart, johnathan frakes, patrick stewart, star trek first contact, star trek insurrection, Star Trek Into Darkness, star trek nemesis, star trek: the next generation, tom hardy
Posted in: Featured (Film), Film, Film Reviews, Sci-Fi Movies