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9
Feb 03
Sun

Star Trek: Nemesis

As much as I tried to like the long-awaited tenth Trek movie, and as large as my bias was, I just could not. Not by a long shot, and the more I thought about it, the more I disliked it. Nemesis always seemed like it was halfway on the way to nowhere. It lacked direction, purpose and involvement. Its array of plotholes were simply too numerous to overlook in the end. Dreadful.

[Warning – spoilers ahead] The movie opens decently with the wedding of Riker and Troi. The wedding reception features many cameos by past TNG actors. Picard gives a rousing speech reminiscing about the past with his faithful right hand man, who has finally attained a Captaincy and is moving to command another vessel… much like a 40 year old finally moving out of his parents’ house. The next thing you know, this “venerable” old captain is gunning around sand dunes in a glorified quad bike, being shot at by aliens who have no relevance to the film whatsoever, after engaging in a scavenger hunt for dismembered android limbs. Someone in the franchise wanted a car chase scene real bad. And it was.

Admiral Janeway makes a cameo, briefing Picard that someone has usurped the Praetor in the Romulan empire, and he should be the one to check it out. (Picard has done a hell of a lot more than Janeway – why on earth is she an Admiral? That’s a travesty. I mean, they made Kirk an admiral, so you can still be an admiral and command the Enterprise.) Picard gets to Romulus and finds out that the new Praetor, Shinzon, is actually a clone of Picard. Picard spends time trying to convince Shinzon not to be so evil. When that fails, they spend the rest of the movie trying to kill each other. Whatever.

The thing about this movie is that it wanders along, never building up to anything in particular. Just when you think the movie is getting somewhere, it doesn’t. Halfway into the movie, Picard is captured by Shinzon’s Big-Ship-Of-Death, but he was expecting this all along. So, Picard makes his escape 5 minutes later (a 60 year old phaser-wielding man holding off 50 Reman soldiers virtually by himself) and poor Shinzon is back to square one. Not only that, but we find out soon after that Shinzon is in fact dying. That’s good. Let’s have a villain that starts off on the back foot. Not only is he made to look incompetent, but the guy is going to cark it in a few hours. pH3ar the dying man who has severe onsets of gastroenteritis every half hour. No, that doesn’t work. The next thing we discover is that Shinzon in fact has a super weapon that can destroy all life on a planet, and he’s heading to earth to wipe out its 9 billion inhabitants so the Remans/Romulans can 0wNz0r the Federation. But oh wait. He’s dying and he needs Picard for a DNA transplant, so his cloaked Big-Ship-Of-Death can’t go anywhere just yet. (Meanwhile, Troi gets mindraped by the Reman Viceroy for no particular reason other than to show Shinzon dancing horizontally on top of Troi.) Anyway, Shinzon throws a tantrum and opens fire on the Enterprise. Being cloaked and bristling with weapons, he has no trouble in 0wN1ng the Enterprise and two pissy Romulan ships that have come along to “help”. Instead of beaming Picard onto his ship, Shinzon instead beams a boarding party of 29 onto the Enterprise, so Riker can have something to do – that is, engage in a fistfight with the Reman Viceroy. Again, this incident has no bearing whatsoever on the plot.

Soon after, the Enterprise is dead in the water, with Shinzon’s Big-Ship-Of-Death staring him in the eye. Picard goes to self-destruct the Enterprise, only to be told that the self-destruct system is offline. No matter. “Prepare for ramming speed!” The Enterprise lumbers forward at a snail’s pace, and yes, it is entirely ludicrous that Shinzon’s ship can’t move away in time, thereby causing a collision between the two vessels which subsequently makes for a dramatic, but otherwise stupid, scene with cool computer generated imagery. Shinzon has another hissy fit and decides to deploy his Weapon of Mass Destruction on the Enterprise. We never even get to see the Weapon of Mass Destruction used. This weapon naturally takes 7 minutes to power up, which is enough time for Picard to beam on board Shinzon’s ship, to implausibly kill Shinzon and his entire bridge crew and to beam back off while Data sacrifices himself in blowing up the Big-Ship-Of-Death. Earth is saved.

Ok, plot holes aside, this movie has attempted to recover the good old days of The Wrath of Khan, where the Captain gets pitted up against a single uber-villain. While this may work for Admiral “Khaaaaaaaaan!” Kirk, it does not for a bald old guy who is known more for his diplomacy than anything else. And where in Wrath of Khan, Spock dies in a sacrifice in a poignant scene with memorable dialog (“the good of the many, outweigh the good of the one”), Data pops in, literally says “goodbye” and shortly afterwards explodes in a blaze of glory. The audience doesn’t even realise he is going to die until 2 seconds before it happens. If you are going to kill a major character, at least give them a good send off! Milk it for all it’s worth.

Next, the major theme of this movie was initially well done – namely, commenting on the issue of cloning. Basically, although DNA is the blueprint for life, it is not the blueprint for humanity. How a person develops is affected by how his neurons are wired up, and not even DNA can dictate the way those brain cells connect to each other during the course of life. However, this perfectly valid theme, represented by the interplay between Picard and Shinzon, is horribly undermined by the interplay between Data and his android brother, B4. It is clear at the start that although B4 has all of Data’s memories and physical capabilities, he lacks the same aspirations and depth that we have come to know Data for. B4 is a dolt, in comparison to Data. However, at the end of the film, after the short and frankly, crap-shallow tribute to Data, there is a scene where Picard is lecturing a clueless B4. B4 does not seem to have any grasp of the goals Data aimed for (self-improvement), and Picard gets frustrated. Now instead of leaving it at that, which would have been a perfectly good scene that reinforced the idea that Data was in fact a unique and irreplaceable individual who is now permanently gone, B4 starts whistling. Judging by Picard’s grin, that little act was meant to show there is hope for B4 yet. A replacement for Data. That was not only an insult to Data’s character, but sends very mixed signals about the show’s theme. You can clone a person, but you can’t clone a personality. Oh wait. I’ll whistle “Blue Skies” and maybe you can. What were the writers thinking?

Sad and disappointing.

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