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Star Trek: Nemesis is the tenth installment in the hit-and-miss sci-fi film franchise. [Warning: Plot spoilers ahead] Featuring the stars of Star Trek: The Next Generation, Nemesis follows Captain Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) in a confrontation with a particularly devious doppelganger. Shinzon, a villainous representative of the planet Romulus, turns out to be a young clone of Picard. A parallel plot about androids mirrors the dilemma—Data (Brent Spiner) encounters an early prototype version of himself: B-4. [End of spoilers] The film teases us with ethical and philosophical questions: Is it merely our DNA that determines who we are? What effects do the conditions of our upbringing and our choices have on our identity?
I admit, I've never been much of a Star Trek fan. Perhaps Tolkien and Lucas have spoiled me—compared to their sagas, these Treks have seemed shallow, formulaic, and unambitious. But like most Trekkies, I have enjoyed the even-numbered films in the series, especially Wrath of Khan and First Contact. Nemesis reaches for the same magic by presenting a complex and hot-tempered villain who provokes a high-stakes space battle. But alas, this episode is merely redundant, full of contradictions and seemingly arbitrary tangents that exist only to give each regular character screen time. And I wonder, why does Picard spend so much time talking about duty and responsibility when he continues to play fast and loose with his own safety and the security of his crew?
Michael Elliott says the series seems to be in decline. "Director Stuart Baird is treading on familiar ground. Although some of the special effects are grand spectacles, the overall production has the feel of a made for TV movie, a quality which all the best Trekkie films have in common." He highlights the film's focus on identity, and observes, "What the film never contemplates is the one element which makes a man or woman truly unique in all the world. That element is none other than the spirit of God which dwells within a believer."
Bob Smithouser (Focus on the Family) says, "Nemesis raises questions about destiny and free moral will, while valuing our desire for self-improvement. As always, friendship, loyalty and duty rule — leading one beloved character to make the ultimate sacrifice. When Picard urges a galactic terrorist to set aside hate and realize his potential, it sounds like the civilized world appealing to the humanity of Saddam. As science fiction uses that cultural mirror effectively, the genre will live long and prosper."
Jim Akin (Decent Films) says, "Star Trek: Nemesis is about to divide Star Trek fandom. At issue will be whether it is the best of the 'Next Gen' movies." He promptly takes a stand: "It is. Go see it." Likewise, Dan Singleton (Phantom Tollbooth) claims, "The even-numbered Star Trek film dominance continues! The tenth installment in Trek filmdom is easily the best since Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. Not because there is anything especially original in Star Trek X: Nemesis, but because they picked the right films to borrow from. They've found the formula."
Dale Wilker (Catholic News Service) calls it "another satisfyingly familiar, if predictable, sci-fi adventure for the crew of the Starship Enterprise. Baird sticks to the tried and true formulas of the Star Trek franchise to deliver a film that goes where every Star Trek fan has gone before, but hardly explores any new frontiers."
Blaine Butcher (Preview) praises Patrick Stewart, and says the movie "exalts the themes of self-sacrifice, personal moral responsibility, and racial harmony. It delves into the nature-versus-nurture debate, what it means to be human, and medical ethics in cloning."
Mainstream critics were either mildly amused or else bored with the familiarity of it all. Roger Ebert writes, "I'm sitting there during Star Trek: Nemesis … and I'm smiling like a good sport … and gradually it occurs to me that Star Trek is over for me. I've been looking at these stories for half a lifetime, and, let's face it, they're out of gas."
from Film Forum, 01/02/03
Star Trek: Nemesis also drew more attention this week. Denny Wayman and Hal Conklin find a lot of stimulating questions raised by the film, and they explore those in a new review at Cinema in Focus. But Phil Boatwright (Movie Reporter) says, "Both crew and series seem to be running out of steam. It's an okay action adventure, but doesn't have the spark of earlier installments."