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Steve Likes to Curse
Writing, comics and random thoughts from really a rather vulgar man
The Shittiest Films Ever Made, No. 8: Star Trek: Nemesis 
Monday, April 30th, 2007 | 10:37 am [film, review, shittiest films, star trek]
Steve
The Shittiest Films Ever Made
No. 8: Star Trek: Nemesis
 
There’s a misconception about the Star Trek films that tells us the odd-numbered ones will be a waste of fucking time and the even-numbered ones will at least be worth the price of a ticket or a rental. The notion falls to shit almost immediately:  it holds true for Star Trek: The Motion Picture, a portentous piece of nerd-porn that’s 90% slow-tracking beauty shots of the Enterprise; and for the first sequel, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, still the obvious pick for best Star Trek movie; but after that the movies stop cooperating.
 
Star Trek III has gotten a bum rap from Trek fans for years, I think because they were so put-out by the destruction of the Enterprise; it’s actually a pretty good movie, written and acted with wit and skill — not a masterpiece, but definitely superior to the next two episodes in the franchise. Star Trek IV is the most overrated of the series, with its “Greenpeace in Space” premise, and its endless and lame fish-out-of-water jokes as the crew cavorts and capers across 20th century San Francisco. Then there’s the infamous Star Trek V — written by Shatner, directed by Shatner, starring none other than the most obscenely talented polymath in all of Hollywood — nay, the universe — William Shatner. This one gets a bad rap too.  Yeah, it’s a shitty movie any way you slice it, but it has its charms. Rarely is the camaraderie among the crew more apparent, and it’s easily the most (unintentionally) hilarious film in the franchise.
 
The odd/even rule works again for the next three, as Star Treks VI, Generations, and First Contact are terrific, god-awful, and outstanding, as predicted. Star Trek: Insurrection then bucks the imaginary trend by being a likable, competently made romp in the same mold as Star Trek III — nothing you’ll remember fondly on your deathbed, but a good (and underrated) piece of work. Finally there’s Star Trek: Nemesis, the tenth and apparently final film of the current franchise, and by far the shittiest. The “odds bad, evens good” principle is, like Nemesis, pretty much useless.
 
Nemesis is the worst Trek movie not just because it’s bad, but because it’s so glumly bad. Other Trek films have sucked ass, but at least the casts seemed to be having fun occasionally while doing it. In Nemesis, the crew of the Enterprise seems old and cranky. Part of that is probably from the actors merely growing older — as Brent Spiner has aged, his supposedly immortal Commander Data has developed bags beneath his eyes and gained a suspicious amount of weight — and part of it could be the actors struggling to adapt to how poorly written their parts are this time around.
 
The script for this piece of shit was written by John Logan. If that name sounds familiar, it’s because he won an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay a few years after this for writing The Aviator. Logan’s turnaround from scripter of a shitty fantasy film to Oscar winner was even quicker than Akiva Goldsman’s. Unlike Akiva, that cocksucker, Logan is capable of being a decent writer. Just not here; Nemesis plays like the most expensive fan-film ever made. Logan got the job because he was a fan of the series, and he was an outsider who was supposed to bring a fresh voice and perspective to the film.
 
He wrote an undisciplined, juvenile piece of fan fiction. Virtually every established character is out of character; new characters, like the villain Shinzon, are vague and dull. Characters are thrown into situations seemingly for no other reason than Logan thought it would be cool. You catch a whiff of Logan’s nerdy “wouldn’t it be awesome?” reek in scenes like: Worf getting hammered at Riker and Troi’s wedding, Picard taunting Riker afterwards by calling him “Mr. Troi,” Picard bogging across the desert in a dune buggy, Data meeting his mentally retarded identical twin, Picard and Data flying a Romulan shuttlecraft through the corridors of Shinzon’s warbird, and oh, I could go on. Logan’s method of freshening up the franchise is to write everyone contrary to their long-established characters — Picard is now a wisecracking, adventure-seeking smartass, but only when Logan needs him to be — and throw them more or less randomly into underwhelming action sequences.
 
The director is Stuart Baird. He used to be an editor, which is unfortunate since the film suffers from noticeably poor editing in a few places, Picard and Data’s shuttlecraft flight through the Romulan ship being the most glaring example.  Supposedly their thrilling escape from the clutches of the enemy, the sequence is so awkward and boring it’s like watching two Trekkies trying to fuck for the first time. Baird was an editor on Superman: The Movie; this movie would have been better served had he taken up the editing duties here and left the director’s chair open for someone who knew what the fuck they were doing. Was Jonathan Frakes, who plays Commander Riker and did a fine job directing the previous two films, too expensive? I doubt that.
 
Nemesis aspires to be like other respected entries in the Star Trek film canon — and by “aspires to be like” I mean “blatantly rips-off.” It wants to give Picard an archenemy, as Kirk had Khan in Star Trek II; it wants to move the audience by sacrificing a beloved character — Data here, Spock in Star Trek II; it wants to be a closing chapter, a bookend to the adventures of Picard and crew, just as Star Trek VI was for Kirk and the crew of the original series. It fails miserably in all these respects — Shinzon is a laughably ineffectual villain, Data’s death seems contrived and arbitrary, and any sense of closure is negated by the crushing mediocrity of the rest of the film. This is a horrible note to go out on, and it’s a real shame the producers couldn’t do better for the final adventure of Captain Picard and company.
 
There is some closure. The best scene in the film is right at the end, when Riker, who has finally accepted promotion to Captain and been given command of his own ship, says goodbye to Picard. Seeing the characters part ways after fifteen years of television and film is the closest we get to a moving and meaningful scene, and it only works to the degree it does if you’ve been a Star Trek fan for awhile and had a pre-existing interest in Picard and Riker; there’s nothing in the film itself to make you give half a fuck about anyone.
 
Data gets blown up, Riker and Troi get married and move to another ship, Dr. Crusher takes a post at Starfleet Medical (which seems a step back for her — wasn’t that supposedly where she was during the second season of The Next Generation, when Gates McFadden left the show for a year and Diana Muldaur came on as Dr. Pulaski?), and Geordi and Worf seem to just keep on keeping on. The DVD has a deleted scene where Picard’s new first officer is introduced, a coma-inducingly generic young commander we’ve never seen before. If Logan wanted to give Picard a new first officer, what’s the matter with Worf? He’s apparently just there hanging around, with nothing specific to do, no actual position in the crew. One of the most entertaining and satisfying aspects of Worf’s time on Deep Space Nine was his evolution from a thick-headed, short-tempered security guard to a thoughtful and capable command officer. Promoting Worf to Riker’s old post at the end of the film would have at least given the character some closure, instead of just planting him behind a random console on the bridge.
 
Watching the Trek films again a few months ago, I was annoyed when I noticed for the first time how similar Nemesis was in several key ways to another earlier Trek film, its immediate predecessor, Insurrection. So much of the bonus material on the Nemesis DVD is devoted to interviews with cast and crew where they explain how much they wanted Nemesis to be fresh, to be different, to have fun with their characters and show other sides than had been seen before. It strikes me that so much of what Nemesis tries and fails to do, Insurrection attempts and succeeds. Insurrection has some humor and goofy moments (Picard, Worf and Data singing “A British Tar” while in the midst of a shuttlecraft chase; Data’s flotation device gag) which are actually funny, allows Picard to lighten up a bit without acting like a completely different character, and shows us an interesting corner of the Trek mythos (the Briar patch, home to the Son’a and the Bak’u) we’ve never seen before.

Insurrection
was written by Michael Piller, who as a producer and writer on The Next Generation and co-creator of Deep Space Nine was certainly not the outsider Logan was. Piller’s film is sharper, wittier, fresher, and superior to Logan’s in every way. It’s a shame they didn’t just let Piller write Nemesis, since I’m sure he could have crafted a much more satisfying farewell than Logan did. Or better yet, they could have made Insurrection the final installment and quit while they were ahead.
Comments 
Monday, April 30th, 2007 | 09:03 pm (UTC)
This is completely off-topic, but ammunition nonetheless:
OHNOES
Monday, April 30th, 2007 | 09:05 pm (UTC)
what I neglected to mention is that I got this from some 911 Truther blog (via Fark)
Tuesday, September 2nd, 2014 | 01:17 pm (UTC)
"If Logan wanted to give Picard a new first officer, what’s the matter with Worf? He’s apparently just there hanging around, with nothing specific to do, no actual position in the crew. One of the most entertaining and satisfying aspects of Worf’s time on Deep Space Nine was his evolution from a thick-headed, short-tempered security guard to a thoughtful and capable command officer."

I can answer this! Indeed, Worf did evolve a lot in DS9, including that episode where Worf and Jadzia were trying to help a Dominion informant escape from pursuit, and Worf chose to save the wounded Jadzia rather than complete the mission. Worf and Sisko at the end of the episode:

---

W: "...I had to go back... and it did not matter what Starfleet thought or what the consequences were. She was my wife and I could not leave her."

S: "As your captain, it is my duty to inform you that you made the wrong choice. I don't think Starfleet will file any formal charges -- even a secret court-martial would run the risk of revealing too much about their intelligence operations. But this will go in to your service record... and to be completely honest, you probably won't be offered a command on your own after this."

W: "I understand."

S: "I have also issued new orders -- you and Jadzia are not to be assigned to a mission on your own ever again... and one last thing: as a man who had a wife... if Jennifer had been lying in that clearing... I wouldn't have left her either."

---

Yes, Picard is a "second chances" kind of guy; but Worf doesn't feel that he made a mistake and would do better the next time.
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