Site ColumnsBy Antony
February 2, 2003 - 6:46 PM
One thing bemused me about this film, and that's why are they all devoting so much time and worry to this virus-like radiation that Shinzon is preparing to use? I would have thought the Janeway Insanity Virus (JIV) would have been more of a concern for Starfleet. As an example, it only took a brief subspace message from Janeway, and soon enough Picard was trying to set self destruct his ship, and was ramming his vessel into another one. Quite a dangerous one, that is.
But with Nemesis, it was admittedly hard not to go into the cinema without at least some preconceptions. The worst performing film, along with no end of poor reviews... it does weigh on one's mind. However, it didn't affect me. I defy convention, and the fact that a load of reviewers say it's poor means nothing to me. And let's face it, they are reviewers, not Trek fans. They coin all your Star Trek catchphrases — things that Trek fans don't actually use —and fall into the general category of knowing Trek vaguely, but not being a fan. In addition to this, it's often been said 'Nemesis' is better than 'Insurrection' but not as good as 'First Contact'. Well, as I dislike 'First Contact' and love 'Insurrection' it says a lot, as I don't like what is conventionally liked.
'Nemesis' kicks off with the entire Romulan senate stoned. Well, by that I mean Shinzon uses some cool gizmo to turn them all to stone — very well done indeed. We then cut to the more relaxed setting of a wedding between Troi and Riker. It's scenes like this that make the TNG movies for me, and why such movies will work for fans but probably not have so much weight for casual fans or viewers. I can sit quite happily and just see these people interact. Seeing Wesley there, even if it was now a non-speaking role after cuts, and seeing Guinan in one of her hats, is just a major buzz for me. It's a shame that scenes were cut from here, because it gave a great start. I know the impetus was to not spend too much time there, and to dive into the movie... but I don't care. I would have happily spent time in those scenes, then got started on the story whenever.
The peace of the Enterprise crew is soon disrupted by Janeway, delivering her Mutagenic Madness. Again, a buzz for the Trek fans that the reviewers just won't get. Upon arriving at Romulus, we're introduced to Mini Me. I mean, erm Shinzon. At first I didn't gel with him. He came across as too much like Picard's son, rather than Picard himself. But throughout the movie, and on the second run through, I picked up on the subtilties of his performance and, conversely, Patrick Stewart's nuances when acting with Hardy.
I won't review the entire plot, but all in all it was excellent. I really enjoyed it the first time I watched it, and I loved it the second time. There were so many little nuances and nods to Trek fans, and above all else this was a Trek film. It embodied Trek in every way. We had the main stories of who are we, how individual are we, would we be different if we grew up a different way? Then we had a story which was just very Trek, with so many references and nuances. To the Dominion war, seeing Janeway, references back to Encounter at Farpoint, and even — if you look quickly — a reference to the USS Archer.
I do think the director Stuart Baird struggled a bit. Some directors are all about angles, some are more about light. I would said Baird is more the latter. Give him Romulan halls and planets, and he has room to move. But in the confines of the ship, he struggled a bit due to the dictates of continuity. He had to resort to going to dark corridors down below to get some variety. But in terms of pacing, he kept it well.
It was apparent that the writer John Logan knew his Trek, and listened to Trek fans with the various references. But it didn't stop there. How long have people been complained about space battles being too 2D on Star Trek? Logan completely addressed this, with much more realistic space battles. Less emphasis is placed upon "up and down" and more shoot anyway you can. You hear much more about ventral shields and dorsal shields... you see the ships fighting in any way they can... and it's just so much more realistic for it.
The story was, if anything, more intimate. Less on the grand scale of Picard vs The Borg race, and more one vs one. Even though they were in ships, the dog fight between them was more personal. Picard trying to reason with Shinzon was compelling, as he tried to draw out the good side in him. I would like to have seen more of the bad side in Picard however, to really see their similarities. Perhaps a little more evil intent when Picard had the Enterprise ram Shinzon's ship.
But all in all, I have very little I'd change about the film. It was superb.
So I feel sorry mostly for the team behind Star Trek, but in particular John Logan and Rick Berman. In John's case, I feel sorry for him because he's a fan and has remarkable enthusiasm for the subject matter. It must be very disheartening for it to do so badly at the box office, and for the reception to be rather negative. After all, he is one of us.
I feel sorry for Rick because as with everything these days, there's a blame culture. The fact that Rick oversaw the highest grossing film is forgotten to draw attention to the fact that he oversaw the lowest rating one. Big deal. Things happen. Franchises do have hiccups. At the end of the day, it was Rick's job to oversee the movie. He didn't market it and he didn't choose when it was launched. His job was to create a movie of the best quality, which I think he did admirably. Paramount wouldn't have accepted the movie if it was bad. They accepted it, and were extremely happy with it by all accounts, and they ran with it. 'Nemesis' has many people and companies on board, yet one man is blamed for everything, and even when his job was to just deliver the film.
To address the blame culture... why did it fail? I certainly don't think it's to do with quality. Reviews, at the end of the day, don't always affect a movie. 'Die Another Day' and 'Titanic' both got pretty poor reviews. The former went on to gross the highest amount for a Bond film so far, and the latter needs no explanation. Is it because of Trek fatigue? Possibly, and the fact that there's no modern-day Trek series to ground it in may have played a small factor. But I think the problem lies with the timing. It was only a week before, so many people probably waited for 'The Two Towers'. Theatre tickets cost a lot of money, and many people probably held out for one over the over. Similar demos watch the movies, and no one would even dare think that 'Nemesis' could be as popular as 'The Two Towers'. So for many people, it would be one or the other — not both. And let's face it, 'The Two Towers' has more appeal. This I think is also shown in the fact that so-called chick-flicks were doing okay, because they weren't in competition with the genre Two Towers and had a different market. As people had seen 'The Two Towers' they then probably went and saw 'Nemesis'. For a film that debuted on only $18m, don't underestimate the strength on it going up to $46m+. That's some achievement to claw that much in after a dismal start. I think, if timing had been different, then it just could have done better.
All in all, I think it's a shame. Regardless of the box office figures, I feel fan reaction (at least some of what I've seen) is shameful. If I've seen one recurring theme it's calling for fresh blood. Well, we got it: a new director, and a new writer who is a big Trek fan to boot. What we got was a thoughtful and exciting movie, that was geared for Trek fans to get a buzz from, and it had its heart in the right place. It knew its continuity, and all in all very good. Rick Berman was obviously excited by, and genuinely happy with, the movie, and it's annoying that the enthusiasm is thrown back into his face. John is obviously so much a Trek fan, and did a film for the fans. But sadly this just wasn't appreciated by the vast majority.
And even if some people didn't like the story, that's their prerogative of course. But they need to remember that these are human beings in charge. Whatever their opinions on the film, John and Rick put blood, sweat and tears into it and that, at the very least, should be acknowledge and respected.
John and Rick, if you're reading this, thank you for a great film. I really enjoyed it. Not as a writer or reviewer, but as a Trek fan. For the first time in ages, I was excited by Trek again.
Trek BBS Today
Below are some of the topics currently being discussed at the Trek BBS:
- Can the Enterprise-E perform a saucer seper?
- What was the best episode for a DS9 recurring character?
- Who'll get promoted on Enterprise?
More topics can be found at the Trek BBS!
Trek Two Years Ago
These were some of the major news items on February 3 2001:
- Ethan Phillips Q&A
There was a question and answer session with Ethan Phillips (Neelix) at the official site. He spoke about a scene that was cut, which was also his most difficult to play. "The most difficult was probably saying goodbye to Kes. The most difficult was a scene in the Science Lab that was never actually aired. They never really addressed Kes saying goodbye to Neelix. She left and that was it. There was very little reaction from Neelix, no highlighting of his pain. I always thought they should have tied up that arc."
- Inside Trek On Workforce
Journalist Ian Spelling caught up with various Voyager cast members to discuss the seventh season's 'Workforce'. "He's still Tuvok, but it's a slight variation on the Tuvok we're used to seeing," Tim Russ told Spelling about his character. "[They're] spending a lot of time on a quieter, more reflective story."
Thanks for voting in the last poll, and here is a new one for you cast your vote in.
Happy 54th birthday to Brent Spiner (Data).
Yesterday would have been the 61st birthday of the late Bibi Besch (Dr. Carol Marcus).