Star Trek: Nemesis

After 22 years and 10 movies, the “Star Trek” movie franchise is dragging. Looking more tired and worn out than a pair of Elizabeth Taylor’s shoes, “Star Trek: Nemesis” limps along like a one-legged dog begging for someone to shoot it.


You know you’re getting old when the “Next Generation” cast starts looking as fatigued and chunky as the original crew did when they leaped to the big screen in “Star Trek” The Motion Picture.” At least the “Star Trek” cast had the good sense (they were probably dragged off kicking and screaming) to bow out after it became impossible to accommodate their collective girth on the bridge.

Now, after four movies, the “Next Generation” crew have overstayed their welcome, and that’s a real shame. I much prefer Patrick Stewart’s noble Captain Picard over William Shatner’s stodgy Captain Kirk. Stewart’s sophomore film turn as Picard in “Star Trek: First Contact” ranks among one of the franchise’s best, right after “The Wrath of Khan” and “The Voyage Home.”

Thanks to a lackluster, by-the-numbers screenplay by John Logan (“The Time Machine”), Picard and crew have nowhere to go. Logan, who claims to be a “Star Trek” fan, fumbles every opportunity. With fans like this, who needs enemies? Logan liberally borrows from the past to patch together a plot that eventually feels longer than the original five year mission.

You know the series is in trouble when it starts cannibalizing itself, and any true “Star Trek” fan will be disappointed that it has come to this. More space opera than a science-fiction adventure, there’s little imagination at work in “Nemesis.” The film needs less talk and more action, and not the uninspired, thoughtless garbage that director Stuart Baird (“Executive Decision”) tosses at the screen when the characters have nothing to say.

Which is quite frequently, even though Logan top loads the film with quasi-philosophical speeches about good versus evil that sound more like filler than engaging dialogue. We’ve heard it all before, and with more conviction.

On the evening of William Riker (Jonathan Fraker) and Deanna Troi’s wedding, the crew of the Enterprise find themselves gallivanting to the ends of the universe to intercept a distress signal. What they discover is a trap masterminded by Shinzon (Tom Hardy), a genetic clone of Picard, who desperately needs a transfusion in order to carry out his plan to disgrace the Romulans and destroy the Earth. Hey, everyone needs a hobby.

Picard becomes a pawn in a deadly game of chess, but as any true “Star Trek” fan is aware, good triumphs over evil every time. That fact relieves any tension that Logan and Baird try to muster up, creating a film that is flat and at times unbearable. Logan constantly tosses logic out the window, making it impossible to take any of this seriously, eventually becoming insulting.

When we first meet the “Next Generation” cast at the wedding, we plainly see former series regular Wesley Crusher (Wil Wheaton) sitting at the main table, yet the filmmakers make no attempt to acknowledge his presence. A perfect opportunity to open the film up is completely wasted. Where has he been? How was the Academy? What’s he up to now?

When the landing party touches down on a planet, what do they use to get around? A souped-up dune buggy. After all of these years, and under a direct order not to interfere with the natural evolution of another planet, they use a dune buggy? Not just them, but the bad guys, who take chase in another embarrassing nod to “The Road Warrior.” What if they were to run over the one plant species that generates life on the planet? Where’s a hovercraft when you need one?

Does every physical skirmish have to include a scene where the weapon is jerked out of someone’s hands, followed by a close-up of it sliding across the floor, out of reach? They use this cheesy cliche so many times I thought I was experiencing Deja Vu. The most audacious moment comes when Logan rehashes “The Search for Spock” plot in order to resurrect a heroic character who gives up his life.

Looking weary, Stewart still manages to command the Enterprise with authority. The rest of the cast, especially Jonathan Frakes, look lost, perhaps wondering how fulfilling this commitment will affect the rest of their careers. Data’s make-up makes Brent Spiner look like Michael Jackson on a good day. Tom Hardy is laughable as Picard-lite, reciting Khan-lite mumbo jumbo as he models left over “Matrix” coats with the Joan Crawford add-on shoulder pads.

It’s time to beam the series up.

DESSERT

If indeed “Nemesis” is the final “Star Trek” feature film, Paramount Home Video has given it a sound sendoff. The film is delivered in it’s original 2.35:1 widescreen format, enhanced at 16:9 for widescreen televisions. The transfer is pitch perfect, without one noticeable trace of artifacts or noise. A lot of care has been taken in recreating the film’s dark and moody atmosphere, all presented with immaculate attention to detail and depth of field. Star fields seem to go on forever, and even in the film’s darkest scenes, detail is remarkable. Colors are sharp and filled with contrast, with excellent saturation. The metallic and earthy tones look realistic, as do flesh tones. Blacks are industrial strength, whites are clean, thanks to a pristine print.

The DVD’s 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround soundtrack kicks intergalactic butt, putting you right in the middle of the action. All sound fields are utilized, including a front sound stage that punches out a strong dialogue mix, stereo splits and ambient noise with authority. Surround effects are well balanced and impressive, while rear speakers are constantly humming with additional data. Basses are thunderous, trebles clean as a whistle, with no obvious flaws. Combined, all sound fields create an expansive experience that is just as vivid as the video transfer. The DVD also features a 2.0 track in English and French.

Director Baird chimes in with a spotty full-length audio commentary, basically a scene-by-scene interpretation of the film, with the occasional moments of silence. Baird isn’t a great orator, but he does offer some insight into the process of making a “Star Trek” movie.

Baird also pops up in two of the DVD’s four featurettes, “New Frontiers” and “A Bold Vision,” which run a combined 18 minutes. Both deal with Baird’s participation in the long running franchise, with various cast members offering their two cents and Baird explaining his approach to taking the franchise in a new direction.

“A Star Trek Family’s Final Journey,” 16 minutes worth of fond remembrances offered by the cast and crew, including all major cast members and the film’s writer John Logan.

“Red Alert! Shooting the Action of Nemesis” is a 10-minute featurette on capturing the film’s explosive and not so explosive action sequences, including the silly dune buggy chase and the final demise of the Enterprise. This featurette, presented in full frame and split screen, is a must for “Star Trek” fans who can’t get enough behind-the-scenes info.

Even better, the DVD includes seven deleted scenes, running almost 20 minutes, that flesh out the story and even include characters totally missing in action. The scenes, with introductions by Stewart, Baird and producer Rick Berman, are really off the cutting room floor, missing key final production elements, but they do offer a hint at what might have been.

A production still gallery, featuring more than 40 concept drawings, complete the package.

STAR TREK: NEMESIS

Paramount Home Video

Rated PG-13

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