Revisiting Star Trek Nemesis

I recently rewatched ST: Nemesis, which I went to see at the movies, so around 20 years ago.

(sorry, there will be some spoilers, I’ll assume that you’ve seen the movie)

My impression back then was that it was not great and broke the “even/odd Star Trek movies rule”. This rule states that the odd Star Trek movies are bad and the even ones are good, so after Star Trek Generations (I’m starting at The Next Generation movies to not overcomplicate this: number 7 and therefore bad), it was Star Trek First Contact (number 8 and good), then Star Trek Insurrection (number 9 and bad) and then Star Trek Nemesis, which should be good, but it wasn’t.

The movie back then was not very successful on the box office, and more or less ended the run of Star Trek on cinemas, which had been quite long up to that point, and required a reboot years later. While franchises never truly end, I think we can agree that there was a significant pivot around this era, to the point that never series and movies are sometimes referred as “NuTrek”.

So, I just rewatched it with low expectations.

And I quite like a lot about it!

It’s probably not a “good movie” by any standards, and probably not even a “good Star Trek movie”, and it has a bunch of problems, but I think it has several good points that I actually liked

  • First of all, if feels like a “premium TNG episode”, but in the good way. The production designs are in line to the things we have seen. The Romulan Senate, for example, totally belongs to the aesthetic of the series, but obviously the budget of a movie helps in making it bigger and bolder.
  • The space battle in particular is quite well done, feeling bigger and better, but following somehow the parameters of “Star Trek space battles” of the era.
  • The chemistry between the actors is truly something. One of the high points of TNG was the fact that the whole cast were good friend. They really enjoyed working together, and that shows on screen.
  • It’s quite interesting to see a young Tom Hardy! He doesn’t look anything like Patrick Stewart, though…
  • There are some truly great illumination. It also differs from the “TV series” look. I liked in particular this scene where they focus on Troi’s eyes (the scene can be watched in YouTube)

Sure it’s a bit cheesy, but I think that these kind of “dramatic illumination” has disappeared, and I find the current photography quite bland in general, so going back to some older movies I get actually quite excited on times where they are overly dramatic. I think it adds a lot of character.

  • The ending with Data’s sacrifice felt like a good ending for the character. It is not oversold, but it was done totally on character. I also liked the previous scene where Data jumps from one ship to the other.
  • I liked the avoidance of destroying the Enterprise, instead leaving it severely damaged. Destroying the Enterprise in the movies has become a trope on itself, and you can see them here that they were close to cross the line.

At the same time, I also think that it has some problems:

  • The script try to do too many things at the same time, and the plot gets confusing because of that. The movie also appears to have been cut quite aggressively. While there are some themes in regards of copies and “what makes each one unique” in the characters of B4 and Shinzon, but I don’t think are well developed. I don’t think there’s anything interesting about the fact that the antagonist is a clone of Picard or it’s used in any meaningful way.
  • The “mental invasion of privacy” (to not use worse words) is particularly strange, and appears to be totally out of place in the Star Trek universe.
  • The CGI shows its age. It’s not particularly terrible given that it’s a 20 years old film, but it’s curious how old digital effects are so noticeable, and lack the warmth of old practical effects, even when not great.
  • Too many actors that are not properly used. In a TNG movie is unavoidable that some of the cast is going to have minimal screen time, like Gates McFadden or LeVar Burton here. There’s simply no space in a motion picture for such a big TV cast. But I think that Ron Perlman and Dina Meyer are massively underused here. The Viceroy character in particular appears to be the equivalent of a James Bond henchman, but lacking something that would make him memorable.

In summary, I enjoyed watching it, and I think that it improved from my memory of it, which is always a nice effect.

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