dir: Stuart Baird
[img_assist|nid=1036|title=Which shine-head is which? Seeing double means seeing four Jean-Lucs!|desc=|link=none|align=right|width=400|height=300]
There is a law in economics referred to as the law of diminishing returns, or alternately known as the law of variable proportions. Essentially it states that if one factor of production is increased while the others remain constant, the overall returns will relatively decrease passed a certain point.
Accept for a moment that the number of Trek fans and other obese obsessives is relatively constant, if not decreasing over time. Establish that the amount of merchandising and truly quality television shows pumped out continues over time, with more and more money being poured into this formerly profitable venture. The law of diminishing returns states that past a certain point you cannot get back what you put in.
With 5 television series, ten films of variable quality and millions of dollars worth of merchandise, the Trek franchise has long been the big brother to the prodigy that is the Star Wars empire. Being an elder sibling, it claimed some intellectual superiority and acting credibility which some may have been grateful for in times passed, but now seems to be a dull vintage of sour grapes. The franchise, under the current benevolent leadership of Rick Berman has been run into the ground, well and truly, to the point where Trek is less of a pop culture phenomenon and more of a relentlessly embarrassing joke.
With the bland recycling and laughable pandering of the current television flagship Enterprise, which consistently ranks in the hundreds (as in each week it is about the hundredth most watched show in the States), and the viciously painful last outing at the cinemas, being Insurrection (which still makes me want to perform random acts of senseless violence on innocent bystanders every time I think about it), you'd think that it's time to retire this old veteran. Not so, the geniuses at Franchise Central believe. People do want to keep watching the same shit again and again. We don't need to come up with anything significantly interesting or even compelling. All we need to do is do everything we've ever done before, and have the same people in the room when we're doing it. Surely no-one can be unhappy with that.
Are these people aging icons, legends whose mere presence compels attention, acting giants whom audiences clamour to see every opportunity they get? Fuck no. With the exception of prime shinehead
Patrick Stewart these other actors barely get any other work apart from appearing at conventions where their pointy eared stalkers can openly masturbate in their presence.
The modus operandi of the people who constructed this film seems to have been, "Well, let's get all the same people in the same room together, we give all the speeches to Stewart because he can overact
so nicely, give the other people practically fuck all to do, focus on Data as well and rehash the same shit we did in seven seasons of Next Generation about the inherent wonderfulness of humanity, have a few
explosions, a few silly fist fights, throw in a few references to delight the nerds, and voila!"
You didn't fool anyone this time. Rick Berman and Sherry Lansing, bigwig at Paramount could recently be read moaning in interviews about how mystified they were at the film's box office failure, it being in real terms the worst result for any of the Trek films thus far. Yes, even worse than the fifth film. You know, the one where they sang 'Row, Row, Row your Boat' and searched for God with their space ship.
What's the real reason? Well, they blame the falling number of Trek obsessives otherwise referred to as fans for the decline in sales and presumably merchandise. In other words, people aren't buying the shit
they're peddling any more. We can only hope that sales of soap and other hygiene related products has risen as well, but that's very unlikely. I'm sure all that fan geek money which was previously going into the Trek franchise's coffers is probably being spent on more fizzy drinks and snack foods, and probably Dr Who box sets or The Prisoner Franklin Mint commemorative plates.
It's easy to blame Rick Berman, reigning overlord since Gene Roddenberry's death, but it would be inaccurate. There are rooms full of people to blame for Trek's decline, especially since the concept of
quality control was thrown screaming from a 40th floor window. But mostly it's the Trek idea itself that people are getting bored with. And it was a pretty limited idea in the first place, which resulted in
some occasionally brilliant, but more often than not banal or downright unwatchable viewing.
Sure there are franchises that are still kicking it years after their inception (the Bond franchise and Lucas' juggernaut come readily to mind), but Trek has certainly run its course, at least for the foreseeable future. I can't see another Trek film getting the green light any time soon. And the actors are getting old enough for any proposed future film to have already earned the classic Simpsons parody title of "Old and So Very, Very Tired".
In my anything but humble opinion they need to let it go. The ninth ST film Insurrection destroyed whatever goodwill still existed towards the franchise despite the previous success of First Contact. And the
Gilligan's Island pointless shenanigans of Voyager and the dull as dishwater Enterprise on television have killed off what little interest remained. Pull the plug on this comatose geriatric please.
All that being said... the film's not that bad. It starts in a fashion which terrified me unspeakably where I thought it was going to try to match the comedic highlights of the last film, trying to be all light hearted, comical and very gay (with Data singing some Irving Berlin showtunes). Luckily for me that shit ended real quick.
Essentially the makers of this film decided to be all current and zeitgeisty by jumping on the "Cloning is Bad, Mmkay?" bandwagon. The central story, in fact really the only story deals with Picard and his conflict with a clone of himself called Shinzon, who has a similarly shiny head and a cool Ming the Merciless type super villain's outfit. This guy Shinzon (played by Tom Hardy) looks nothing like Picard, and his evil wardrobe looks way too tight and uncomfortable, but he is a decent enough actor. He puts in a decent performance in the first half of the film, at least. He becomes a prop in the latter half of the film, but so does everyone else. That is, those that weren't already there just to stand around in order to pick up a pay check (hello Dr Crusher, Geordi, Troi, Guinan, Wesley and Worf).
Not only is there a clone of Picard, but there is conveniently enough a clone of Data as well, a discovered android called B4, who also looks 74, fortunately. Hey, complex dualities, weighty themes, chunky food for thought? Think again, bozo.
Even if I hadn't known that John Logan scripted this I would have guessed it from the dialogue, which actually makes Shinzon sound like Commodus from Gladiator in certain bits, which is quite surreal. Fortunately they give up on dialogue later on in the film and rely on shaking the camera around and having lots of explosions.
The plot as such relates to a bloodless coup on the planet of Romulus, an empire which has always been something of a cold war superpower vying with the Federation for dominance in their unimportant part of
the galaxy. The Romulans are nasty people who all have the same bowl haircuts, men and women, but in this film they've been conquered by a shaven headed guy with an attitude. How he manages to conquer an entire empire by killing a room full of people is a mystery.
Romulus, the planet where these bowlhead haircut people come from, has a sister planet called Remus. The people on Remus are very ugly, and are slaves in dilithium mines. Shinzon becomes their leader and
somehow takes over Romulus and extends the hand of friendship and peace to the Federation. Captain Jean Luc Picard and the crew of the Enterprise are sent to the Neutral Zone in order to signal the dawn of
a new era of enlightenment and little puppies and flowers and other
Of course nothing's that simple. See director Stuart Baird and Rick Berman decided that they had to broaden the potential audience interest for their film, which has a very narrow appeal in and of itself, by including dune buggy races. Surely the same audience that went and saw Fast and the Furious and XXX will want to see a Star Trek film if it tries to have similar elements? Surely? That demographic
wouldn't be screaming "NERDS!" at the top of its collective lungs, looking for some geeks to beat up after sitting through this film?
Essentially, no-one outside of Trek fans would or should even be interested in this film. We are expected to know all the characters, no time is spent establishing anything to do with them, references are minimal and not explained for the lay person non-fan. People who never watched Next Generation or any Trek ironically enough would probably get more out of it than someone that knew about it, because they
wouldn't have seen this shit before and might find it amazing.
All the same, the film aims fairly low and it hits the mark. The villain has no greater plan or ambition than to initially kill Picard and then destroy Earth. His henchman, Ron Perlman, is utterly wasted in a pointless role. Whilst Ron Perlman has defined himself as a cross genre legend, having starred in an array of films as bizarrely different as The City of Lost Children, Cronos, Alien Resurrection, Blade II and The Name of the Rose, here he is not allowed to shine. Perlman has an amazing face in real life, possibly even uglier than the mask he has to wear in this film. They waste him completely. His purpose seems to be simply to irritate Counsellor Troi and to die pointlessly in order to show that Riker is still The Man. A note to
Counsellor Troi: she should leave Will Riker if he's upsetting her this much. I say this because Marina Sirtis goes through the entire film looking as if someone stole her lunch money and smacked her around a bit.
This is one of the darkest films I've ever seen. I don't mean in terms of its content or themes. It's literally a very dark film, perhaps to hide the lower budget that Paramount (wisely) devoted to this extravaganza. Everything from the ship battles to most of the internal scenes are so dark you'll need one of those coalminer's helmets to work out what's going on.
The primary positive element that I can think of that this film has is that it will be the last, the gods willing. The ship battles in space are well done. Shinzon's flagship the Scimitar looks okay, what little
I could see of it. Patrick Stewart doesn't get to quote Shakespeare, Oscar Wilde or Melville once in the entire film, although he does get to quote from the Bible, unfortunately for us. Gates McFadden still looks great as Dr Crusher, but sadly has fuck-all screen time and even less to do. There is a collision between two ships towards the end of the film which looks amazing, but makes no sense from the point of view of elementary physics. Also, where one of the ships tries to disengage from the other by backing up reveals to me that the
scriptwriter is an idiot who's never heard of inertia.
Riker doesn't really do too much, but thankfully Frakes has grown back his beard which he shaved in the last film, much to the horror of children everywhere since he looked freakier than Michael Jackson. Picard is good, reliably good, and doesn't overact. Data is too old, and Spiner in the duel role looks downright exhausted. I did chuckle at how he played the other android as if he's just had a stroke which left him retarded.
In the scheme of things, it was better than Generations and Insurrection, and substantially below First Contact in terms of quality or overall enjoyability. That doesn't make for masterpiece theatre by any stretch of the imagination, but at least it doesn't make you want to blind yourself and kill your pets in a rage.
Ultimately, the film ends, the credits role, you walk out of the cinema, and you ask yourself "Was that the best use of those two hours possible at that point in time?" If your answer is "Uh, kinda?" then maybe it was worth it. If you've forgotten it minutes after leaving the cinema, then your time is better spent elsewhere. Because life is certainly too short to be worth obsessing over shit like this.
At this point I would just like to make two points: the best Star Trek film ever is Galaxy Quest, which isn't even a Star Trek film, and finally, to finish, I would just like to scream out "NERDS!"
4 bald headed studly men out of 10
"My life is meaningless as long as you're still alive." Star Trek X: Nemesis