STAR TREK NEMESIS - DVD (2002)
List price: $29.99
Street date: May 20, 2003
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Written by Steve Krutzler
If NEMESIS destroyed the STAR TREK feature film
franchise, I'm still trying to figure out why. After
watching the film twice on its new DVD release--hitting U.S.
shelves Tuesday--I remain firmly committed to my in-depth review of the film last December
and the declaration that NEMESIS is the best of the
four NEXT GENERATION features. There is no need to
repeat the analysis presented there, but this movie
stands up well and is innocent of the atrocious crimes
many critics and fans, not to mention the dismal box
office, have laid at its doorstep.
Indeed, NEMESIS has everything of a hallmark STAR TREK
adventure and is the only TNG film to capture the true
cinematic scope of a big screen production. From the
serious lighting to Jerry Goldsmith's subdued
and nostalgic musical cues, the tenth TREK really has
it all. An uber-villain with multiple dimensions, a
moral dilemma that takes more than a few brain cells
to wrap your head around, impressive and lengthy space
battles, the first glimpse of the Romulan Senate, some
new Enterprise sets, a healthy dose of Deanna Troi,
comedy that works, surprising sacrifices, closure, and
Many say screenwriter John Logan copied STAR
TREK II too completely, even down to Shinzon's
super-weapon reminiscent of the Genesis Device, and
Data's death copped from Spock's
stunning sacrifice. Others say the uber-villain vs. good
guys structure has grown tiresome, a fact that did
little to diminish popular interest in STAR TREK:
FIRST CONTACT, let alone DIE ANOTHER DAY, SPIDER-MAN
or STAR WARS EPISODE II more recently. In the final
analysis, STAR TREK NEMESIS sticks to the formula that
worked for the best of the series and considering fan reaction to
films that don’t follow this formula, you can't really blame them. Among ten
pictures, NEMESIS is easily above the sleep-inducing
(albeit enlightening) MOTION PICTURE, the pilgrimage
for God that was STAR TREK V, or the good-intentioned INSURRECTION
that hardly reached 1:40. GENERATIONS can make
no claim to breaking the formula with its
silver-haired baddie, and FIRST CONTACT must pull some
impressive magic to convince anyone that the slithery
Borg Queen had more complexity than a hormonal slug.
If truth be told, only half the STAR TREK movies are
really any good in the annals of film history and
NEMESIS is hardly the worst of the series. With its
parallel plotlines concerning self-identity and
familial connection, NEMESIS easily paints the most
intricate tapestry of any TNG pic, even if its full
potential is never entirely realized. The overarching
criticism in my original review was that the film
seemed over-edited, with scenes like Picard and Data
talking about the future sucked out in favor of action
segments like the chase sequence on Kolarus III (a
portion that many seem intent on sucking any enjoyment
from by insisting that it was a violation of the Prime
Directive, even though the Kolaruns fired first).
Upon re-watching the film, however, the final cut is
probably as close to the best one that could have been
managed. There remain several long dialogue exchanges
that, while full of wonderful STAR TREK-ism like the
debate that Picard undertakes with Shinzon,
would've severely jeopardized the pace of the movie if
they had been any longer. After watching several of
these moments in the DVD's deleted scene gallery, I've
come to the conclusion that many of the problems were
rooted in the script and couldn't have been remedied
through editing without significant rewrites.
All in all, NEMESIS is guilty of little more than some
questionable costume design and insensitivity to
the fact that what the fans say they want may not really be
what they want. But then again, there's really no
evidence to suggest that the fans let NEMESIS down so
much as it was scheduled among a plethora of broader-appealing event pictures a mere
five days before the Oscar-contending film of the moment. The critics, however, would have us believe NEMESIS bombed because it was the worst film since WATERWORLD or some other colossal misfire. Unfortunately for STAR TREK, it's a myth more easily debunked in the calm of hindsight and six months too late.
The NEMESIS DVD comes with something of a first in the world of STAR TREK: never before seen deleted scenes from the movie. Seven of them, in fact. This is the first TREK movie to release this type of material so soon after theatrical release and certainly the only TNG film to do so. GENERATIONS and INSURRECTION both had a lot of footage excised, none of which has surfaced officially from Paramount. With NEMESIS it was almost a given there would be some on the disc, considering 45 minutes of footage was cut from the final version of the movie. Thankfully, the folks at Paramount Home Entertainment were successful in coaxing Rick Berman from his anti-lost footage stance for this release. Surprisingly, he had little to fear.
Much was made of the missing scenes by fans (myself included) surrounding the movie’s release, proclaiming that the film could’ve been a masterpiece if not for some overly anxious scissor hands. What we see in these seven clips, however, is a collection of scenes best left out of the picture. Probably the most infamous is that of Picard and Data sipping Chateau Picard in the captain’s quarters after the wedding in what would’ve been a foreshadowing of the film’s emotional conclusion. Amazingly, this scene was right to be left out. At about three minutes, the scene is mostly a vacuous soliloquy by Stewart and Logan’s writing is just too on the nose. There is no doubt about the function of a scene like this (cf McCoy in Kirk’s apartment in ST2, but without any of the energizing conflict between the two), but this one would’ve just added to an already long-winded feature and needed reworking in the script phase. Some of the material, about Picard losing his family, could’ve been easily added to the end of the wedding sequence but in this scene it seems as though Picard says twice as much as he needs to get his point across and worse yet, it probably would’ve been too obvious a setup for film’s conclusion.
The other big scene much talked about was the original ending of the script, involving the new first officer calling Picard by his first name and the captain trying out a new captain’s chair outfitted with a seatbelt. Thankfully the filmmakers found a much more poignant way to end the movie than with this silliness, and the scene isn’t really all that fun to watch as it is cringe-inducing. Scenes with Troi analyzing Picard’s dilemma after the discovery of the clone and Picard arriving in Sickbay to observe battle preparations and comment to Beverly on the sorrow of sailing into battle instead of exploration could’ve remained and would’ve given the female characters a few more lines to chew on. Worf warning “extreme caution” from the film’s teaser trailer is virtually worthless, while the first telepathic “rape” of Troi could’ve gone either way, possibly enhancing the Shinzon/Troi/Riker plotline, but providing nothing if the Riker/Viceroy angle was to remain as toned down as it ultimately was.
This leaves two adjoining scenes with Shinzon revealing his plan to the Romulan Senate before we see him on the Scimitar. Count this as probably the smartest thing Stuart Baird did and his explanation for the edit is sound, even if the prologue with Commanders Surak and Donatra and the Viceroy’s “in darkness, there is strength” moment could’ve been preserved without spoiling Shinzon’s eventual unveiling. All the scenes are preceded by an introduction from Rick Berman about the pain of cutting them and some of the scenes are introduced by Baird or Stewart, though none of their remarks will come as new if you followed the film’s interviews and release hype six months ago. The scenes are also very rough and unfinished, making them almost painful to the eyes. I can understand not filling in some green-screen work, but many of these scenes were glimpsed in finished form in the movie’s trailers so why they’re presented so shabbily here is anyone’s guess.
These deleted scenes are bittersweet, however. It’s nice to finally have such material included on a first-disc release, but there are many scenes known to have been shot that are simply left out. Data teaching B4 how to use motor skills in the all-new crew lounge set would’ve added some humor (and another locale) to the middle of the film, and it seems only fair that we should be able to glimpse the scene with Geordi and Worf visiting Data’s quarters after his death, if at least in unfinished form.
Perhaps the least engaging director’s commentary on any STAR TREK DVD awaits you in Stuart Baird’s energy-sapping session. Do yourself a favor and enjoy the movie without his fairly uninteresting and wholly unenthusiastic commentary track. He doesn’t even bother to introduce himself, spends most of the time talking about how just about every scene is shorter than originally written (info you get elsewhere), and offering very little in the way of artistic choices other than to mention a few carefully planned motion control shots. Considering the gravity of this film for the feature franchise, commentary with Berman, Logan and some of the cast would’ve been in order.
Four brand new production documentaries await you on this release, totaling in at about 45 minutes. So soon after the film hit theaters, none of these segments have any of the sort of reflection that might come with several years more to think about it, probably the biggest drawback to the slate. There are remarks from mostly Stuart Baird, Patrick Stewart and Brent Spiner, with some interview footage with the rest of the cast. Most of the segments are about 10 minutes and all are culled from this same interview footage with the occasional bit of between-takes conversation interspersed with plenty of production video and of course clips from the film. NEW FRONTIERS: Stuart Baird on Directing NEMESIS consists mostly of the director talking about how he has absolutely no clue about STAR TREK and that this was an asset to the picture. Other personalities chime in to appropriately praise him—no mention of reported set tensions or mistakenly referring to LeVar Burton’s character as an alien in here. Just good, clean, company fun. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, it’s just not as salacious as Nimoy’s recollections of fighting with Michael Eisner over STAR TREK III.
A BOLD VISION OF THE FINAL FRONTIER is the best of bunch and contains mostly Baird talking about various production techniques for certain scenes. Particularly intriguing is the split screen technique the featurette producer uses several times to play a sequence from the movie in one part of the screen while simultaneously showing the behind the scenes video of that sequence being filmed. For instance, you’ll see a finished scene of the Enterprise being rocked by weapons fire and the bridge coming apart at the seams, while at the same time in another corner you see the actual set being shook with hydraulics at the corresponding moment. This is something not seen before on a TREK disc and clearly NEMESIS had the benefit of being produced in the age of the ever-curious DVD.
A STAR TREK FAMILY’S FINAL JOURNEY has most of the cast talking about how good the movie is, what the theme of the movie is, why Gene Roddenberry would like the movie, etc. etc. RED ALERT! SHOOTING THE ACTION OF NEMESIS has an extended segment of shooting the much-maligned Kolarun car chase sequence, as well as some photography of the model and CGI work that went into the Enterprise collision sequence. Both are competent and interesting even if not astounding. If you immersed yourself in all the interviews leading up to the film’s release, much of what people have to say won’t come as a surprise to you. However, for everyone else, and for posterity, all this discussion is sure to enlighten.
A photo gallery rounds out the set with over 40 stills of production, many of which are artwork sketches. The disc starts with a handy option to view trailers for the DS9 DVD sets, the STAR TREK EXPERIENCE in Vegas and THE HOURS or proceed right to the NEMESIS goodies. The menus are pretty impressive, featuring the film’s trademark Bassin Rift standoff. Notably absent are trailers for the film.
The Final Blow
The NEMESIS DVD is certainly a product of contradictions. Considering the film’s poor box office, it’s obvious they weren’t going to invest in a massive two-disc set and it’s probably just as well. A few years to absorb the film’s impact on STAR TREK may provide for some much more engaging interviews from all the major players. Even so, this product sets some impressive new precedents for STAR TREK DVDs. It’s a pretty full set with a really fun and visually-stunning film, a feature-length commentary, several behind the scenes programs and a thick group of deleted scenes, the inclusion of which probably marks some sort of personal growth for Rick Berman. There is more footage to be seen, but had they tried to squeeze everything on here it would’ve just compromised the quality of the film’s transfer. With all this in mind, it’s hard to complain about the relatively innocuous special features and after discovering that NEMESIS, indeed, does not suck, you’ll probably agree this is a great buy.
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