Star Trek: Nemesis is not a good movie. Turgid and derivative and kinda junky, it was so ill-received by Trek fans when it arrived in theaters on Dec. 13, 2002 that it ranks as the lowest-grossing Trek movie by far, with a pitiful $43 million take in the U.S. and $67 million worldwide. The film effectively killed Trek as a feature film franchise until J.J. Abrams’ heralded resurrection seven years later. Basically, the Star Trek: The Next Generation cast deserved much, much better.
Thanks to a screen test for the film that’s going viral today on the Web, however, I was reminded that Nemesis does at least have one unequivocal good to its name: It introduced Tom Hardy and Tom Hardy’s lips to a worldwide audience. Hardy starred as the film’s Big Bad, a genetic clone of Capt. Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) named Shinzon for no discernable reason, and turned evil after a lifetime spent among the Romulan slave caste known as the Remans. That’s a strong (if convoluted) premise, but the promise of the character was never realized — he was all creepy make-up and silly costumes, and no real substance. In his B- review, EW’s Owen Gleiberman called Shinzon a “hissy-fit fascist,” and that’s just about right.
That is, until you watch Hardy’s screen test for the role with Stewart, matched against the final scene as it appeared in the feature film. Without the prosthetics to make his face look more like Picard’s — and a costume that appears to have inspired the makers of DreamWorks Animation’s Megamind — Hardy brings some fascinating shadings to the character, making him more vulnerable and damaged.
Check out the scene below, and then decide for yourself. Which Tom Hardy Star Trek performance do you like better — the screen test, or the feature film?