The chain has been broken. The sequencing of Star Trek films, that has been firmly established since Star Trek III came out has ended. No longer is every other Star Trek film really good. One was eh. Two was amazing. Three was filler. Four was refreshing. Five was... hmm... what a really polite word for crap? Six was epic. Generations was transitional. First Contact was delightfully dark. Insurrection was ham-fisted. So, by this logic, Nemesis should have been some word one usually associates with a positive emotion. But the only word I can use to describe Star Trek Nemesis adequately is gutless.
The story centers around the Romulans, usually very cool, sneaky villains, who this time fall prey to internal squabbles and a slave rebellion. In the aftermath, a new Praetor (leader, for those of you for whom that word is a bit odd) leads the Imperial Senate, named Shinzon. He is human, and as it turns out, is of the same lineage as Picard. The Enterprise is sent to Romulus after Shinzon opens diplomatic relations with the Federation, and the hope for peace between these two bitter rivals fills the air. But, as all good stories go, it is not to be. The Remans, of whom Shinzon is the appointed leader, the former slave race, begin a plan that is so heinous that even the normally recalcitrant Romulans must step forward to help stop. And, as always, Captain Picard and the crew of the Enterprise are called upon to make the ultimate sacrifice to save the galaxy, and do so with varying degrees of success.
That's the synopsis of the story. The synopsis of the effect of the story reads somewhat differently. This is a Picard/Data story, so much so that the writers of this piece of glitzy drivel have forgotten that Star Trek is an ensemble-cast-drive program, and decided to showcase two characters to the expense of everyone else. The amount of lines of the rest of the crew of the Enterprise compared to the lines of Picard & Data looks like a scale with an elephant on one side and a baby chicken on the other. The rest of the crew are essentially left to be bit supporting players. There is an unnamed ensign who has more lines than Worf does, if that tells you anything. And the "ultimate sacrifice" at the end is where the movie truly gets its gutlessness. The writers did kill off a main character except... they didn't at all. Within seconds of the death, I went from sad and impressed to angry and disappointed as the truth of the situation, revealed in bits and pieces throughout the rest of the film, came rushing back to me. This wasn't a death, this was a hiccup, and they've already left themselves a nice whole to bring back the dead through. Nemesis lacks any teeth whatsoever, be it in story, in unsympathetic and underwritten characters or even in its "noble sacrificial death scene" which isn't in any way, shape or form.
Patrick Stewart does the best that he can with a script that feels like it was written for another character and then had the name "Picard" slapped onto it. Gone is the bearing and inner nobility we've come to expect from Captain Picard. He's more like he was in First Contact, except that he's gone all casual. Laid back works for Riker, it doesn't work for Picard. Even when he's in his quarters, or on vacation, he's still always had that sense of... captain-ness about him. This is totally lacking in this film, as he mainly just seems tired.
The rest of the crew seem tired too. A more lackluster performance I've not seen from this group of talented actors. But based on the treatment the supporting cast received in this film, it's easy to understand that, perhaps, their hearts really weren't in it. Tom Hardy, as Shinzon, is the most engaging character in the entire piece, and he's the bad guy. This says something about why "Maid in Manhattan" beat Nemesis at the box office opening weekend. This movie just isn't really any good.
Don't get me wrong, there are some decent moments, but they're disconnected, singular instances that allow you a momentary respite from the drizzle of talent that is the rest of the film. The new Romulan "predator" (as Picard so aptly names it in the film) is an amazing thing, deadly, shiny, not at all what we think of when we picture Romulan vessels. But then again, it is a Reman vessel, with a human captain, so it's bound to look a bit different. There are a couple cameo's, with Guinan and Admiral Catherine Janeway, but they come and go far too quickly, and are unfulfilling in their abrupt brevity.
And what happened to Jerry Goldsmith? The composer of such fine scores as "The Thirteenth Warrior", and "Star Trek: First Contact" must have seen this film too many times and was affected by its listless sedentary nature. This score limps, then leaps in the wrong direction, then shuffles, then lurches... it feels like watching something wounded crawl off to die.
I give this film a D+. All in all, wait for the DVD. No, on second thought, wait for it to come on a cable movie channel. No wait, you pay for that too. Wait for the network television premiere. Here's hoping they go to Deep Space Nine movies next, since only the darker post-original-series films seem to be worth their weight in dilithium.