Friday’s movie: Nemesis

Keeping up a 23 year tradition, I saw the tenth Star Trek movie (“A generation’s final journey”) on Friday night. Since we were on vacation in New York, I was fortunate that Vivian’s best friend, who we were meeting for dinner that night, suggested the movie since her husband is as big into Trek as me. We had a totally non-Atkins, totally delicious all you can eat Sushi dinner beforehand.

Star Trek Nemesis is a very strong movie, probably the series’ best since Generations though my favorite is still number six, The Undiscovered Country. Getting John Logan to follow up such major films as Gladiator and On Any Sunday with a Trek flick was a great choice and possibly a good omen for the future as people like Logan (and myself) who grew up on the Federation stories become adults. Logan’s next scripts are for Tom Cruise and then Martin Scorsese, so for him to say he wants to write Trek XI is yet another coup. After seeing Nemesis, I’m sure every Trekkie, Trekker, and Trekonista out there would love to have him back.

Director Stuart Baird, while not as well known as Logan, was another solid choice. Baird has done more work as an editor than director, specializing in action films, not science fiction, and that shows up on screen in scenes such as the Jeffries tube fight between Riker and Ron Perlman’s Reman Viceroy and the initial face to face confrontation between Picard and Shinzon. TrekWeb has a nice interview with the director.

These two selections, bringing in new creative forces to the Trek franchise, were very important. The men weren’t steeped in ‘how Star Trek is done’ or wrapped in personal relationships with the actors and crew (other than Logan’s frienship with Brent Spiner which got him involved in the first place); I’d actually be very interested, in a good way, to learn how Stuart Baird got the gig. But their situations allowed them to push for the best story and film rather than worry so much about feelings. Worf, Crusher, and even Riker are barely factors in the film but since the story doesn’t particuarly need them this is a good thing.

The story itself revolves around two opposing pairs: Picard and Shinzon, Data and B-4, and the confrontations between them. Patrick Stewart is a masterful, Shakespearean actor who coolly handles the news that the Romulans created Shinzon, a clone of himself, then cast the clone adrift as politics changed the prevailing winds. Tom Hardy is surprisingly strong in his major acting job, easily creating the image of a young Picard, a Picard that might have been given similar circumstances. Meanwhile Spiner plays both androids (B-4 is a not before known prototype from Data’s creater Dr. Soong), with a similar contrast: B-4 does not have the same level of internal complexity as his ‘younger brother’ and therefore cannot quite comprehend Data’s quest to be human, to be more than he is. He does have the same yellow eyes, though. Spiner does well, not needing the sort of goofiness he is made to use in other roles (Master of Disguise, Independence Day); the audience is familiar enough with the Next Generation’s main supporting character that he can add subtle depths even to B-4.

The ending includes several surprises and while you might read these spoilers elsewhere, you won’t here. I think they are reasonable and open possibilities for future films. Should they be made. I thought going in that a good opening weekend (which generally predicts the final box office) would be anything over $14-15 million, and that this would assure another film in less than the four years since Insurrection. So at first I was happy with the nearly $19 million that was taken in. Until I checked the franchise history over at Box Office Mojo and saw that this was the lowest opening weekend since Undiscovered Country. Only time will tell but I would be interested to see another Logan/Baird collaboration, to see how they would push the series forward after all the changes that occur by the end of the film.

Absolutely recommended