Rules are made to be broken, and it seems Star Trek — now one of film’s most lucrative franchises — is no exception. For decades, fans have worked on the “odd ones bad, even ones good” principle, and most of the time it’s been reliable. But Nemesis, the tenth in the series and by all accounts the last to feature the complete Next Generation crew, flies in the face of convention, being a resolutely “middling” entry.
Screenwriter John Logan provides little in the way of innovation, bolting the television series’ familiar characters on to a couple of plot devices that might have been found in the bottom of Gene Roddenberry’s wastepaper basket sometime during the late ’60s.
First there’s the promise of a Romulan peace treaty which — and we’re really not revealing anything here — turns out to be phony. Then there’s a riff on the “split personality” plot perennial with Picard encountering a cloned version of himself (played with admirable lack of restraint by a scenery-masticating Tom Hardy), who has the somewhat predictable ambition of reducing the Earth to “smithereens”.
All of which is all very well if a tad unimaginative, but Nemesis’ real weakness is an unaccountable talkiness which results in the first half of the film moving with all the alacrity of a doped tribble. It’s a flaw that’s exacerbated by what appears to be the contractual demands of the cast to split the big scenes evenly.
Still, things start to pick up in the second half: Stuart Baird (veteran editor of Superman and director of Executive Decision) directs with a sure if uninspired hand, and there’s a ‘shock’ ending that will give anyone who saw Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan a dose of déjà-vu.
Perhaps Trek’s problem is that after ten movies over 23 years, the sense of ‘event’ that once greeted the early entries is now a distant memory. Nevertheless, for fans, Nemesis will be a welcome, if somewhat bittersweet, final return to familiar territory.