THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan


The theory goes that the even numbered Star Trek movies are good and the odd numbered ones are bad. Think about it: the evens include The Wrath of Khan, The Voyage Home, and First Contact. The odds include The Final Frontier (you know, the one Shatner directed) and the last entry, Star Trek: Insurrection. Giving lie to this theory is Star Trek: Nemesis, the tenth picture in the series, and also one of the most bland.

Capt. Picard (Patrick Stewart) takes on a clone of himself in Star Trek: Nemesis
Once again, we find the Next Generation crew of the Enterprise going where only other installments of Star Trek have boldly gone before. The opening features the wedding of Riker (Jonathan Frakes) and Troi (Marina Sirtis). Just for nostalgia value, some past Trek alumni make brief appearances (including Wil Wheaton and Whoopi Goldberg). The happy day doesn't last long because the Enterprise crew is summoned by their enemies, the Romulans. Specifically, a new Romulan-in-charge called Shinzon (Tom Hardy) requests a meeting with captain Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart). Shinzon reveals that he is a clone of Picard, although he reminded me more of Dr. Evil. Shinzon makes an offer of peace between the Federation and the Romulans, but the real Picard is skeptical because there's some kind of radiation gizmo aboard the guy's ship...or something like that. I will admit that I got bored trying to follow the plot.

In a related thread, the crew discovers another android who looks just like Data (Brent Spiner). Although programmed to gather damaging evidence against the Enterprise, the android finds a friend in his "brother." If you are a serious Star Trek fan, you may have heard some rumors about a somewhat shocking turn of events in Nemesis. Put two and two together and you will see how the movie has its cake and eats it too.

I have never been a Trekkie. In fact, I've always kind of disliked the Star Trek phenomenon. Here's my gripe: at one time, it was an important piece of science-fiction, showing a future that is racially integrated. The significance of African-American and Asian-American characters like Uhura, Sulu, and LaForge constituted an important milestone in the genre. Then the heavy-duty fandom took over. Suddenly, Star Trek started to be about itself - a continual examination of its own minutia designed to please hardcore fans and few others. This is why Nemesis is so deadly dull. There's so much yippity-yapping about the politics between the Federation and the Romulans that, unless you are seriously into the whole Trek universe, not much here is likely to entertain you.

I hope Trekkies (or Trekkers, as some of you prefer) won't take my remarks personally. I don't mean to dis the loyal fans. In the past, I have been open-minded enough to give these movies a chance, and some of them have been quite accessible to the non-fan (I especially liked The Voyage Home and First Contact). However, by catering strictly to the faithful, Star Trek: Nemesis proves that this series has run its course. Everything here feels like a rehash of what this series has been doing since 1979. There's no ambition, no attempt to take the franchise in a new direction.

I can't really say this is a bad film. Technically it's well made and the cast remains likable. What I can say is that Nemesis is uninspired. It's more of the same-old same-old. Perhaps it is time for the Enterprise to dock for good. Or perhaps it simply needs a reinvention - a cutting edge filmmaker to pump new life into it. Director Stuart Baird has, to this point, specialized in utterly mediocre movies like Executive Decision and U.S. Marshals. If there's going to be a Star Trek 11, then maybe it needs to be made by someone who knows where this series has already been and has some ideas about where it needs to go.

( out of four)

Star Trek: Nemesis is rated PG-13 for sci-fi action violence and peril and a scene of sexual content. The running time is 1 hour and 57 minutes.

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