Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Nitpickery: Star Trek Nemesis

Hey y'all.  So I was watching the next available Star Trek, which is unfortunately Star Trek: Nemesis.  This is the worst Star Trek movie there is.  As much as I hate JJ Abrams' stuff, and I do, it's arguable that boring is worse than stupid.  And this movie is quite boring.  Even as a child, when one's cognitive abilities aren't in focus yet, I knew that this movie had doomed all of Trek.  I didn't entirely understand why, but I knew that I didn't like it and didn't want to watch it again.

You know how you watch a movie because you wonder if it's really as bad as you remember?  Yeah...that....sometimes you were right the first go-round.  Like with Rocky V, for example.  Yeesh, Adrian was such a nag.

In any case, Nemesis is the story of when all the Next Generation Enterprise crew got together for Deanna Troi's and Will Riker's wedding (or pre-wedding, as there was going to be some sort of ceremony on Deanna's home world), and they are all traveling back to her world which my brain fart prevents me from remembering the name of, and then they get a weird signal from a planet.  This signal leads them to find a Data-like android in the desert, which is somehow transmitting a signal into space even though his body is all in parts and does not appear to have a power source strong enough to reach space. 

Anyway, after this little diversion, the Enterprise gets called in to deal with the Romulans, as they have a new leader and their slave race, the Remans, have gained power.  And the Federation has to negotiate....something.  I don't know what, they just want the Enterprise to go there and do something.  In any case, it turns out that the new leader of the Romulans is a human clone of Captain Picard, made from a discarded attempt for the Romulans to take advantage of the Federation somehow. 

Ugh...I'm having such a hard time summing up the plot.  Nothing makes sense in this movie, so trying to figure out what means what is just nonsensical.  In any case, Picard's clone, Shinzon, toys around with Picard, using the Data replica to capture him and use him to prolong Shinzon's life, because Shinzon will age rapidly if he doesn't get Picard blood.  All of this is simultaneous with some sort of plan to conquer Earth with special radiation, and some crap like that.  It ends with Data dying and the rest of the crew being criminally depressed, but then Data's replica takes his place.  Yay.

Let's get this over with:

----- Ten Things I'll Say about Star Trek Nemesis, Besides that It Sucks and Don't Watch It -----

10.  Who cares about the Next Gen crew at this stage in their life?

I sure don't.  This is actually a multi-layered problem.  In my opinion, none of the Next Generation movies really worked.  Why?  Because the crew is not as fun as the original series crew.  The only crew that is comparatively interesting as an ensemble is the Deep Space Nine crew, and even they pale in comparison to the archetypes of the first Enterprise guys. 

See, Kirk's crew were all based more or less on archetypes, and archetypes last longer through history than run of the mill characters.  That, and each member of this crew WAS their character.  Kirk represented Shatner's ego, Leonard Nimoy basically invented Vulcans, Uhura was a strong, independant woman just like her actress, McCoy was played by a Southerner, etc. 

If you look at the original series adventures, you notice that a lot of them are scatterbrained and nonsensical.  What, the Enterprise got taken over by the spirit of Jack the Ripper?  Aliens forcing them to have old west shoot outs?  Randomly finding a planet that for some reason echoes Earth culture?  None of this stuff makes any sense, but the fans love it.  Why?  Because the characters are interesting! You could take any of the characters and insert them into any show you want, and it'll be entertaining. 

Contrast this with the Next Gen crew.  Now, granted, you might like them, and that's cool, but they aren't so attached to their characters.  In fact, it took the actors a couple of seasons to really get accustomed to who their characters were and how they reacted to things around them.  It's Gene Roddenberry's fault, really.  His vision was for a world where people overcame their personal problems, and therefore didn't argue and bicker with each other anymore.  While the original Star Trek crew were allowed to have flaws, the Next Gen people had to be rational every moment of the day.  This is one reason why their adventures made more sense.  They couldn't have internal conflict, so all of their shows depended on how clever and interesting their outside circumstances were.  They thus have less depth.  Sure, Riker was kind of fun, and as a Klingon Worf managed a lot of background, but in the end there is no conversation as fun as they had almost every episode of the original series.

What does this mean for Star Trek Nemesis?  It means that the Next Gen crew is disadvantaged when they have to appear in a movie with a stupid plot.  People can say all the crap they want about Spock's Brain being a bad episode, but as bad as it was, it was fun and made me laugh.  This movie, however, has a plot that seems written by a very bored english student in high school.  I'm still not sure why anyone was doing anything, and Shinzon's plans were incoherent and foolish.  The only thing he really did of significance was yell a lot.

And in a plot as stupid as this, the weaker characters can't prop it up. What's more, nobody's in character either.  Picard, the guy so morally strict he couldn't kill a creature a billion times more destructive than a nuke because it was "a living being", is now stunt driving a dune buggy and flying alien aircraft like an action star.  Which is really bizarre considering how old he was when he shot this film.  Deanna Troi went from a stiff Betazoid (ah, that's the word!) to nothing more than just another human who happens to have psychic powers.  Worf literally does nothing besides complain.  Doctor Crusher and Riker are okay, but they do nothing of significance in this film.  Crusher doesn't even get to hold a medical doo-hickey over a fallen comrade.

Data's the worst out of all of them, probably because he gets so much screentime.  He's acting like a goof, though thankfully less so than in previous movies, and he sings.  He sings.  No.  No, no.

But all these guys look so old, and tired, and here they are trying to have fight scenes and stunts and run around like people ten years younger, when really it all feels foolish.  Like they're trying too hard.  Granted, the original series cast was pretty old when they went on their adventure, but all of them had dignity.  Even the fight scene in Star Trek V was short, to the point, and completely unforced.  After all, Kirk did a lot of fighting in his time.  Picard?  He was always very skinny and intellectual, getting excited over things like old pottery and artifacts.  Driving a dune buggy?  What?

When I was watching the first little bit of this movie, I couldn't believe how bored I was.  All I wanted was a scene where the people were together, just enjoying each other's presences and having fun conversation.  I just wanted to enjoy the characters before they run off and go places.  That's how audiences develop emotional connections, you know?

I could blame the characters for this, but it's really all in the writing.  The writers seemed to ignore that fact that you can't make action heroes out of people who spend more time deliberating than actually doing things. This has always been the flaw with the Next Generation movies, and they wanted the money too much to care.

9.  Me, me, me!  Shut up!

Seriously, Captain Picard, if you're going to give a speech about a wedding, how about talking about the two people that are actually getting married, rather than your own problems and your next first officer.  Couldn't you at least say how they met?  And it's weird as crap hearing Picard say "shut up".

Honestly, I never liked Riker and Deanna as a couple.  They don't quite match.  Riker needed someone more exciting than her, and Deanna worked better with Worf, as they both feel things very deeply and respond emotionally to things.  That's not really a problem with this movie in particular, I just wanted to rant about it.

Darn it, Worf, you should have tried harder.  And stop whining and drink your Romulan ale like a man.

8. Why don't they try to communicate with the aliens?

Picard is supposed to be the thinking man's captain.  He's not supposed to be the one that rushes in and does whatever, heck with the consequences.  So why then, when he's recovering the parts to the Data replica B4 (never name your character after a spreadsheet reference), does he shoot at and antagonize several indigenous people who wonder who he is?  Couldn't he at least have tried to talk to them?

Bah, whatever, it's an action film.  Nobody needs to think in an action film, right?

7.  Y'know, it's really a big deal that the Romulans have a slave race.

Now, according to this movie, the Romulans have these people called Remans, whom they force to work in the mines.  The Remans have never been in Star Trek before or since, thank God, but they're conceptually awkward for the Star Trek universe.  After all, one of the themes of Trek is that everyone is a person and doesn't deserve to be subjugated to another.  No matter what size, shape, or color someone is, they all count as people.

So why then is it okay that a bunch of dollar store monsters are forced to work in the mines?  Don't they deserve freedom just as much as every other race?  Oh wait, no, of course they don't, because they're ugly demon critters.  OF COURSE.

It's just weird in concept that someone as cerebral as the Romulans would have a slave race.  It's just odd. Now, the name "romulan" comes from the legend of Romulus and Remus, two brothers who formed the ancient empire of Rome.  Since the Vulcans are related to the Romulans, I always figured that they were the "Remus" of the two.  So wait, they now get replaced by a monster race from nowhere?  Whose idea was that?

What's really creepy about this is that the Remans are portrayed as evil, and the Romulans are sympathetic. The slavekeepers are the good guys here?  That's not very Star Trek.

Sheesh, they should have done a reunification movie.  Picard could have negotiated peace relations between the Romulans and the Vulcans, and it would be nice.  Yay.

6.  Why do all the most interesting parts of this story happen before the movie takes place?

Let's be clear.  I don't like the idea of someone making a Picard clone.  I think it's stupid.  However, it did have plot potential.  That idea that the Romulans would make a clone of him and then age the clone artificially could have worked.  Maybe it wouldn't have been the best movie ever, but it wouldn't have been so terrible.

And then we find out that Shinzon had the support of some Romulans in getting power over the Romulan Empire.  Oh.  Okay.  That might be interesting.  If Shinzon spent most of his life in the mines with the Remans, then he had to have made some crazy promises and alliances to have the Romulans trust him.

Okay, so all of that happens before the movie starts, and we learn most of the details directly through Shinzon telling Picard.  Why?  Everything that happened before was far more interesting than what is in the movie.  There's no reason why we couldn't start off with a Romulan plot against the Federation that somehow doesn't work out, and they shove Shinzon away to hide the evidence.  Then, in the effort to save himself from aging prematurely, Shinzon finds allies and helps them, using them to gain influence over the Romulan Empire and capture Picard so that he can get a transfusion and live.

There you go.  A plot that doesn't suck.  Or is at least tolerable.

5. Shinzon is nothing like Picard, and a moral parallel can't be drawn.

Um.  Yeah.  I don't think that the writers of this movie understood that one's personality is only partially derived from one's genetics.  See, every child is born with a certain personality.  While circumstances alter the child, circumstances can only alter a person in a way that is consistent with their personality.  For example, in an abusive household, one child might recede, and the other tries to fight back.

Now, apparently the makers of this film felt that since Picard and Shinzon are clones of one another, they would act the same way to every circumstance in their lives, as if their genetic background is what gives them their personality.  This is untrue.  Why?  They're clones.  You know who else are clones?  Identical twins.  No, literally.  Twins are clones of one another.

See, identical twins come from when a fertilized egg has converted into developing cells, and then for some reason (nobody's sure why), the clump of cells splits into two.  Then each clump, forgetting the other, develops a whole child.  This is why fetal stem cells will never work: the cells are going to attempt to produce a child no matter where they're located.

Thing is, how many twins have you met with the exact same personality?  Each twin has their own soul, and they're going to make different choices because they're different people.  They're different right from their birth, despite being genetically identical.  Therefore, personality cannot be derived entirely from genetics.  So there's no real reason for Shinzon or Picard to assume that they would have been at all like each other had their circumstances been switched.  Heck, after all, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn made it through prison camp without turning into a creepy, vengeful pervert.

Besides, why would Shinzon want to be like Picard?  Wouldn't he want his own identity and therefore say he's as different as possible from Picard?  Why then is he trying to make Picard think that he's no better than his clone?  What does he get out of hurting Picard?  And why is Picard taking it so seriously?  Surely he realizes that Shinzon is a little moron baby.

Meh, whatever.  I'm done talking about that.


At no point do I want to watch a rape on film.  It cannot be tastefully done, and it's a horrifying way to portray women.  I especially don't want to see this in Star Trek, even when it's really just in Deanna's head.

Okay, so what happens is, for no reason whatsoever, Shinzon decides it's a good idea to enter Deanna's mind and attempt to rape her, even though he's in the middle of negotiations or whatever with Picard.  What makes this even worse is that Shinzon is using his Reman friend's psychic abilities to do this, and he's...um...sharing in the experience.  Yeah.  So um, how did he convince his friend to do that?  Surely that would have been a really awkward conversation.

Wait, what?  She asks to be relieved from duty and Picard tells her not to?  He asks her to "endure more attacks"?  What the crap is wrong with him?  Granted, being relieved of duty probably wouldn't stop future attacks, but I still sincerely hope the writers of this crap have gone home and gotten a job at McDonalds.  They'd be doing a lot more for society that way.

3.  A few nitpicks.

Why doesn't Shinzon just ask Picard for blood?  Picard would give it no problem.

Non-Vulcans can't do nerve pinches.  McCoy proved that in Search for Spock.  Stop being such a Spock knock off, Data.

Why did Data only bring one emergency teleporter when he went to rescue Picard from Shinzon's ship?  Did they only have one on the Enterprise?

The music is trying way too hard to pretend that this movie is better than it is.  It's so awkward when you feel nothing, but the music crescendos anyway.

Does every baddie have to go after earth?  Don't they have other things on their mind?

I do like the one part where the Reman viceroy falls off a bridge and dies.  It's almost a reference to Kirk's really stupid death.  It makes this movie the full circle of stupid.

2. Why did they kill Data off in the last of the Next Generation films?

Granted, it was really cool to see when Data flew from one spaceship to another.  That's like the one bright spot in this movie.  Also, I admit that I don't like Data from a conceptual standpoint, as he seems like a knock off of Spock, yet chooses to worship humans as though humanity deserves it.  We ain't that great.  Look at our movies.

Anyway, other people like Data.  He means a lot to them, and they'd like the idea of Data becoming more and more developed and human-like.  After all, Data's been through a lot of experiences, and they've been along for the ride.  So what do we gain by killing him off?  Seriously, it makes the ending of this movie so dang awkward and depressing.  Sure, there's that B4 guy who can take his place, but B4 isn't Data.  He hasn't done all the things and learned all the lessons that Data has.

Data was designed to be an android that can grow and learn.  He has done both.  It's wearisome that he has to be killed off in favor of someone who has to learn all of those lessons over again.  It's the movie equivalent of replacing a child's dead cat with a new kitten.  It's just not the same.

1. I don't know what's happening, and I don't care.

Thing is, there's a point where a movie gets so bad that I'm unable to nitpick it.  Like the Star Wars prequels, for example.  This movie is the Star Wars prequels of Trek, and producer Rick Berman is our George Lucas.  He's the one that turned a vibrant, thinking man's franchise into a boring shell, paving the way for JJ Abrams to desecrate it even further by turning Trek into a generic action film.  I feel so bad for the Star Wars people.  They didn't get nearly as much good product as we did, and now that they have a chance to be free of Lucas, they get stuck with an Abrams movie too.  Poor guys.

I'm sorry, you guys.  I can't do it.  I just don't care.  People can talk all day about Star Trek V, but it doesn't come anywhere close to this trash.  Laughing at stupid things is much more fun then putting up with things so dark, depressing, and haphazardly written that my brain shuts down to protect itself from the bad writing.  No, I don't understand what Shinzon's plan was, I don't understand what the Romulans were doing, and the ending makes about as much sense to me as a dog balancing on a needle.  See?  That wasn't even a good metaphor.  Look how much it's messing with my brain.

So I'm done now.  I'll get to another Star Trek movie when I get access to it, and we'll go from there.

Best actor: Leonard Nimoy.  Because he wasn't in this movie.

This movie is for:
- film students who are studying what makes movies bad.
- people who make internet parodies.

This movie is not for:
- People who want to have a good time.

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