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'Star Trek: Nemesis'

Saved by the battle

Friday, December 13, 2002

By Ron Weiskind, Post-Gazette Movie Editor

In "Star Trek: Nemesis," Captain Jean-Luc Picard meets the enemy and it is him. Sort of.

Captain Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart), left, and his evil clone, Shinzon (Tom Hardy). (Sam Emerson, Paramount Pictures)

Longtime "Trek" fans will find nothing unusual in this scenario. Over the 36 years since the original series debuted on television, Gene Roddenberry's science-fiction saga has featured more split personalities than Shirley MacLaine.

Mr. Spock was part Vulcan (all logic) and part human (rampant emotion). The Pinocchio-like android Mr. Data aspires to experience or understand human feelings. Ship's counselor Deanna Troi is part human, part Betazed -- she can feel another person's emotions but, unlike full Betazeds, she can't read minds.

'Star Trek: Nemesis'

RATING: PG-13 for sci-fi action violence and peril and a scene of sexual content.

STARRING: Patrick Stewart, Brent Spiner, Tom Hardy, Ron Perlman.

DIRECTOR: Stuart Baird.

WEB SITE: nemesis.startrek.com


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Captain James T. Kirk was divided into his male and female halves in one episode. In another, he and his crew had to battle their evil twins from a mirror universe. Captain Picard once met a version of himself from 30 minutes in the future.

The prime directive for writers and producers of every "Star Trek" adaptation is (or should be) to explore what it means to be human, to seek out those often conflicting qualities that make us what we are, to boldly go into the final frontier of the human psyche. It doesn't hurt if the fate of the universe is at stake and the Enterprise has to fight a last-ditch kick-ass space battle.

"Nemesis," the 10th film in the "Star Trek" film series, manages well enough on both counts but in that more thoughtful, less flamboyant style of the Picard era. I always preferred "Star Trek: The Next Generation" to its television predecessor but the sweep of the big screen has proven more suited to Kirk's swashbuckling.

Still, this one has some throwback qualities. Director Stuart Baird, a newcomer to the "Trek" universe, has Picard and company outracing bad guys in a glorified dune buggy on a desert planet and shows the Enterprise crew doling out phaser rifles on red alert. Screenwriter John Logan ("Gladiator"), a self-described "Trek" fanatic, throws in deliberate echoes of earlier adventures, especially "The Wrath of Khan."

The nemesis of the title is Shinzon (Tom Hardy), the new praetor of the scheming Romulans. He reminds Picard of his younger self -- impetuous, arrogant but obviously intelligent and skillful -- and for good reason.

Data (Brent Spiner) meets the discontinued model. (Sam Emerson, Paramount Pictures)

Data also meets his match, so to speak -- an earlier model of himself discarded by the scientist who invented him (this one is not to be confused with Lore, Data's evil twin, who was destroyed in a previous story).

Hardy imbues Shinzon with an air of sinuous malignancy. He has spent his entire life as a casualty of fate, a scheme hatched and discarded. But with the help of his diabolical viceroy (Ron Perlman), he has defeated his oppressors and now targets humanity and Picard, trying to restore himself by breaking the last link in the chain that binds him.

For all of its efforts, I don't know that the movie actually finds the psychological link between the two characters. There is more at stake personally for Shinzon. The TV show told us of Picard's youthful indiscretions. What does he risk now? His life?

Lieutenant Commander Worf (Michael Dorn) and Commander William T. Riker (Jonathan Frakes) charge through a battle scene in 'Star Trek: Nemesis.' (Sam Emerson, Paramount Pictures)

It means little compared to the billions threatened by Shinzon's plans.

It is the Data subplot that redeems the story in the end, along with the aforementioned space battle, which ultimately becomes less of a shootout and more like two vicious, exhausted creatures clawing each other to death.

Only heavy-duty "Trek" fans are likely to feel the full emotional range of "Nemesis." Much of it has to do with what lies next in the final frontier. The movie's tagline states: "A generation's final journey begins," and "Nemesis" does leave you with a sense of valedictory -- but also of new possibilities.

As many an Enterprise captain has said, let's see what's out there.

Ron Weiskind can be reached at rweiskind@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1581.

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