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With: Patrick Stewart, Jonathan Frakes, Brent Spiner, LeVar Burton, Michael Dorn, Marina Sirtis, Gates McFadden, Tom Hardy, Ron Perlman
Written by: John Logan, from a story by Logan, Rick Berman and Brent Spiner
Directed by: Stuart Baird
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sci-fi action violence and peril and a scene of sexual content
Running Time: 116
Date: 09/12/2002

Star Trek: Nemesis (2002)

2 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

'Trek' Is in the Mail

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Star Trek fans know the secret code: even-numbered movies are good and odd-numbered movies are bad. Some fans will argue that Star Trek: The Motion Picture holds up extremely well as a surprisingly thoughtful and imaginative film, or that Star Trek III: The Search for Spock is inseparable from the beloved Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. But overall, the code holds true. Indeed, the new film and number 10 in the series, Star Trek: Nemesis, far surpasses its predecessor, the incredibly stupid Star Trek: Insurrection. On the other hand, the new film also bucks the code with its oddly unengaging presentation.

After 15 years together, the crew of the "Next Generation" Enterprise gathers for the wedding of Commander Will Riker (Jonathan Frakes) and Counselor Deanna Troi (Marina Sirtis). Captain Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) makes a moving speech and Data (Brent Spiner) sings, while Worf (Michael Dorn) consumes too much Romulan ale and buries his head in a tablecloth. Riker is just about to begin command on a new ship, but Picard has the pleasure of escorting the happy couple to Troi's homeworld for a second, all-naked, ceremony. Along the way, they receive a strange signal from a nearby planet and discover the pieces of an android that looks just like Data. During this sequence, the movie manages a spectacular escape involving a remote-piloted shuttlecraft and a kind of space-age dune buggy.

At the same time, the crew receives an invitation from one Praetor Shinzon (Tom Hardy), a young, bald, British fellow who travels with a scary-looking alien viceroy (Ron Perlman). Apparently, Shinzon has taken control of a Romulan army and proposes a peace treaty with the Federation. Oh, and Shinzon also volunteers the information that he's Picard's clone. In a bit of dialogue, Shinzon tries to explain why they don't look much alike, but we get the impression that Hardy was cast more for his bad-boy bravado and his thick lips than he was for his resemblance to Stewart. Still, despite their common DNA, Picard isn't quite sure he can trust this guy, who sneers a lot, dresses like a leather vulture and carries hidden knives all throughout his clothes.

From there, Star Trek: Nemesis divides its time between long, talky scenes and pointless action scenes. Most of the action seems lifted directly from Star Wars: characters shoot at each other down long hallways while other characters frantically decode the locked escape hatch. In another scene, characters escape by diving down a hole located conveniently near the floor, just like the famous "garbage chute" scene. Most ridiculous of all, during a space shootout between ships, one alien manages to get aboard the Enterprise just so that Riker can run off and fight him hand-to-hand. The scene even finishes by having the loser fall down a long, useless-looking shaft located somewhere in the ship's bowels.

Credit director Stuart Baird (Executive Decision, U.S. Marshals) for handling the film with grace. He bathes most of the images in frigid blues or traffic light greens, giving the film a unified, thoughtful feel; it almost plays like Solaris but with guns and jokes. Baird nearly makes up for John Logan's wisp of a script. (Logan was also responsible for such stinkers as Bats, Gladiator and The Time Machine.) Still, not even Baird can stop the groaning inspired by an awkward love scene between Riker and Troi.

Watching 1998's Insurrection made one long for the quality of the 1987-94 TV series, while Nemesis simply reminds one of some of the series' lesser entries. It's an improvement, but not an overwhelming one. Neither film stands up to the warmth and energy of Star Trek: First Contact (1996), which boasted heavyweights like James Cromwell and Alfre Woodard to help loosen things up. But the lack of vigor is most clearly felt when Nemesis tries to crib a trick or two from some of the earlier films with the intention of wrenching a few hearts. Even this device (which I won't reveal) comes across as strangely cold and rushed.

What hurts most of all is that this past four years has been the longest period ever between Star Trek sequels, and the momentum feels all but squelched. Nemesis doesn't leave us with enough confidence that an eleventh movie will be worth anyone's time. Not to mention that it will be an odd.

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