trek_nemesis2Welcome to Reel Rewind, a semi-monthly column in which I’ll take a look back at some of my favorite films, bringing along artists that I can’t get enough of. We’ll team up for some fun collaborations and bridge the gap between film appreciation and art. Because we can’t get enough Trek, Matt Ferguson and I are looking back at the Next Generation films. Make it so!

Year: 2002
Director: Stuart Baird
Writer(s): John Logan, Rick Berman, Brent Spiner
Region of Origin: U.S.
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
Rating: PG-13
35mm, Color, 116 mins

And here we are again, another swan song, another goodbye! Star Trek: Nemesis returns the franchise to darker territory, pitting the Enterprise-E’s Captain Picard up against his greatest enemy: himself. While this concept is nothing new in the universe, it makes for some great philosophical quandaries while the story pays tribute to the crew’s uneven run and gives them one hell of a last stand. Like First Contact, you can feel that this is a new Trek for a new generation; bleaker, meaner and more action packed, yet still full of high concepts and the promise of hope we look for in the best Trek. Sure, Nemesis far from perfect, but after it gets past it’s disjointed, laborious first act, kicks into high gear. Not to mention it pays off most of it’s characters in a great way, delving deeper into Romulan mythology and delivering lots of big, fun action.

For the Enterprise, the story begins with the much anticipated wedding of Commander Riker and Counselor Troi, putting Picard in the tough position of having to soon find replacements for two of his most beloved crew members. Before celebrations can be final however, some bizarre events lead to the discovery of a primitive Data-type android and the Enterprise being summoned for a diplomatic mission to Romulus. As it turns out, there’s been a recent military coup on Romulus, initiated by their twin planet Remus and it’s mysterious leader Shinzon. After seizing control of Romulus, Shinzon claims to want peace with the Federation, but the crew is shocked to find out that he’s actually a young clone of their very own Captain Picard, twisted and power hungry, with a shady origin story and even more insidious motives. It’ll all lead to one last, desperate stand for the Enterprise-E and her crew; sacrifices will be made and the crew will never be the same.

The best recipe for Trek has always been its mixture of socially relevant metaphor along with character drama which humanizes its ideals of tolerance and hope — Nemesis more or less has all of this in a very satisfactory way. Despite all of its explosions, gunfire and vengeance, Nemesis keeps focus on its characters and their predicaments to hold up an ideal of unity and sacrifice amidst terror and misunderstanding. The crux of the story is a beautiful dichotomy between opposite ideas, contrasting life and death with a wedding and funeral, doppelgangers who’ve been shaped to drastically different paths through their surroundings, two civilizations who’ve been torn apart and bred to hate each other, and a team of heroes on the brink of dissemination and renewal. It all amounts to a bittersweet ending for the Next Gen crew and a tragic metaphor of injustice and twisted vengeance for its villains. Though the film has an extremely staggered and contrived opening act, getting it’s pawns together in totally clumsy and contrived ways, when everything starts to click, it turns into a thrilling, emotional ride.

trek_nemesis1Making the entire thing palatable is the story’s return to big, action spectacle that feels right for the characters and gives them the right amount of struggle to make you want to cheer in the end. As mentioned, the film feels very modern in it’s approach to action, with director Stuart Baird offering some wild chase scenes (including one involving a small ship racing through the enemy vessel’s cramped corridors) and a final showdown involving the Enterprise-E and Shinzon’s devastatingly overmatched warbird, the Scimitar. Yes, the latter idea would later be recycled for J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek Into Darkness for the duel between Kirk’s Enterprise and (SPOILER: Khan’s Vengeance). Data even has a space jump of his own here, which I thought was pretty rad for the character, in the context of why he does it and what it results to, instead of just being really cool to watch. So in essence, the film may thrill with spectacle, but still enough ideas to make it amount to more than fluff, unlike its more trivial, albeit entertaining modern counterparts.

For this final film, many of more auxiliary Next Gen characters finally get their time to shine and the Enterprise gets a balanced crew dynamic. Troi’s telepathic abilities are finally touched upon for the first time in the films, Riker gets to take down a baddie in a pivotal side mission, while Worf and Geordi have their own standout moments as well. Of course, Picard and Data are still the focus here, and for good reason. Together with their contrasting/evil doppelgangers, the film does a great job of exploring humanity’s best and worst traits. As Picard, Patrick Stewart is a great stoic leader, always able to handle the craziest situations with objectivity and reason, while Brent Spiner plays Data with a calculated yet endearing and well-meaning persona. The crux of humanity’s greatest responsibility and one of Trek’s oldest themes is featured best in Data’s his quest to better himself. Like Nimoy’s Spock, Spiner is great at evoking inner conflict, honor and duty. He probably gets the most satisfying character arc out of the entire crew and his heroism in this film is well earned — oh, and he gets to sing again! As the evil Shinzon, Tom Hardy plays a pretty mean inverse of Patrick Stewart’s Picard. He never feels like a facsimile but a fleshed out character in terms of the way Hardy owns the role and elevates it beyond it’s limitations. It’s also pretty neat to see Ron Perlman as one of the grotesque Remans and Shinzon’s Viceroy.

In terms of endings, this one may not be perfect, but it’s pretty darn good. It at least upholds the best of Trek’s ideas and concepts, almost making the Enterprise-E’s swan song feel a bit premature. You’ll almost wish that they had more time together with more consistent stories, but it’s probably better they ended here as opposed to outstaying their welcome. Ultimately, Star Trek: Nemesis is a great message on how we are our biggest enemies; we’ll also always have a choice on whether we let our circumstances control and define us for better or worse.

Crome Rating: 3/5

And I can’t believe this is the last Star Trek film that I get to review! I honestly never thought we’d do every single one, but I’m glad we did! Watching Matt push himself artistically to evolve his style and aesthetic has been amazing, and I’m extremely honored that he let me take part in this journey, which has been pretty wild to say the least! I’m really going to miss watching these films and seeing what Matt has up his sleeve, but this ain’t the end for us yet! Check out Matt’s website, follow him on Twitter and click on the art below to see it bigger! Oh, and his original series Trek art is now officially licensed and on sale right now through Bye Bye Robot!

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From Matt: Working with Crome Yellow on the Star Trek: Reel Rewind project has been one of the most rewarding experiences I have ever had working on poster art. I want to thank Sal for everything he has done to help promote my art and also thank him for his awesome reviews which have been so wonderfully written and insightful. I also want to thank everybody who has shared the art and blogged about it online. I hope this is only the beginning and that we can work together again soon on new and exciting projects!

Also check out our original Trek films retrospective, Star Trek Generations, Star Trek: First Contact & Star Trek Insurrection! ‘Til the next time!

SG