U.S. Release Date: December 13, 2002
Distributor: Paramount
Writer: John Logan
Composer: Jerry Goldsmith
Cast: Patrick Stewart, Tom Hardy, Brent Spiner
Running Time: 1 hour and 56 minutes
MPAA Rating: PG-13 (sci-fi action violence and peril and a scene of sexual content)

A Spectacular TV Special
by Larry Salzman

Star Trek: Nemesis is the fourth and purportedly final feature spawned by The Next Generation series. Trek fans will find a movie that delivers solid adventure, overlooking the weak script, conflicted theme and shallow characterization that might put off a more general audience.

This episode brings Captain Jean Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart), Data (Brent Spiner) and crew to the heart of the Romulan Empire. A coup by the mysterious Shinzon (Tom Hardy) has brought down the Federation's archenemy, resulting in an unexpected invitation to diplomacy. Picard sets off to meet the enemy—only to discover that, in a sense, it is himself.

Shinzon is a clone of Picard but 30 years younger. Created by Romulans in a now defunct plot to overthrow the Federataion, he was discarded along with the plan, left to starve as a brutalized slave in Romulus' dilithium mines. Nurtured by cunning Remans and endowed with the gift of Picard's blood, however, he survived. We are led to believe that Shizon's DNA has produced a human in all respects like Picard—his ambition, intensity, courage and passion—but his unspeakable upbringing has left him with abiding hatred which he seeks to express through conquest of the galaxy and the outright destruction of Earth.

Data, too, finds a twin: a less advanced prototype named B4, who we are told is incapable of self-improvement. The two doubles are contrasted, dramatizing the movie's twin themes: that we are the choices we make, and that self-sacrifice is the highest expression of being human.

Shinzon is a tin villain, in no sense the Nemesis promised for Picard. He lacks the purpose, composure and subtlety of the Captain. Shinzon's vice is finding expression in such acts as capriciously shooting henchmen and using telepathic powers as a means of rape. His plot to destroy Earth makes him a caricature—it is more nihilistic than part of any grand design. The justification he offers Picard is adolescent: "You are me," accuses Shinzon, "the same blood runs through our veins. If you had lived my life you'd be doing the same."

Picard defeats this tired fatalism with himself as the example. When Shinzon asks whether all Picards have been "warriors" Picard counters that he "was the first Picard to leave our solar system," noting that he prefers the term explorer. Jean Luc's personal choice broke the pattern of his family: choice is the source of his virtue just as it is the source of Shinzon's vice. "I am a mirror for you," Picard offers. "Embrace change to become better than you are."

The resulting conflict places Picard full square into the role Trekkers have come to know him for: a capable leader, committed to justice and the defense of the Federation. Picard rolls out a plan to save the Federation, making it clear that it must be executed even at the cost of his own life. This begins the series of events meant to dramatize the theme of self-sacrifice as the highest expression of humanity.

It is not the first time that a script writer has traded a creative conflict for an old-hat morality play, but it is a step down for Next Generation fans accustomed to better. The movie is best regarded as a spectacular TV special. It never fully captures the potential of the big screen—sadly none of the Next Generation movies have—but it is more epic than a typical episode.

Flippant lines undermine Picard and company's usual heroism. When Picard becomes exasperated by Data's encyclopedic pronouncements, for instance, he shouts, "Data, shut up!" to the laughter of others. This is not the stylized, dignified dialogue that is the hallmark of the TV series—and which sets the Next Generation apart from the successor series Voyager, Deep Space Nine and Enterprise.

Characterization is light to a fault. Here again, Trekkers will excuse: these old friends have been known for 15 years, and the movie assumes a certain context. Likewise, almost all the action surrounds a handful of characters with almost no scenes that showcase the world outside the Enterprise. A view inside the Romulan Senate is a notable exception. Contrast this to Star Wars or Lord of the Rings, where battlefields staged with thousands of extras or robotic warriors clash. The audience is left with the feeling that we are watching a pumped up TV show rather than a movie. Yet the special effects are the best of any Star Trek picture to date.

At bottom, Nemesis is weak but remains true to the Star Trek legacy and accomplishes its mission: longtime fans find an exciting new adventure for the Next Generation crew—among the most heroic and developed characters on TV. Newcomers will find all the essential features that have made Star Trek an enduring success: plots containing important moral controversy, expressed by heroes involved in intellectual as well as physical conflict. It's a definite recommend for Trekkers and general audiences alike.

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