Couldn't Shinzon just as easily eclipsed Picard by destroying Romulus? The Federation's greatest enemy, wouldn't that have made his life more consequential, in his eyes?
I can get the whole one upping Picard thing that Shinzon says he wants to do, but it just felt a bit too overdone, hackneyed, convoluted or something. It felt like they had to take extra steps that they really didn't need to, to make Shiznon hate the Federation. It made more sense to me that Shinzon would hate the Romulans and want to eradicate them.
If that had been the case, we could've had Picard and company willing to sacrifice all to save Romulus, a reversal of what Donatra did, and that could've been a major moment in Federation-Romulan relations, on par with the events in Star Trek 6. Instead we got another tired Earth is in peril story.
I also disagree with what Christopher said early on about Shinzon and Picard's strong relationship. I think Khan and Kirk worked far better as adversaries because of their history. Picard and Shinzon had no history, so we could never get a great moment like when Khan first appears on the Enterprise viewscreen in Star Trek 2.
The line between paying homage and ripping off would be to blatant if they ended the TNG saga the same way they ended the TOS saga.
The biggest difference between Shinzon and his clone Nero is that Shinzon's motives are the result of conditioning and desire. Sure wiping out Romulus would also make him a legend but for what? He doesn't believe in the Federation or it's values. Hell Picard, Sisko and Janeway throw the Fed's values out the window every so often. Having Shinzon become some sort of tool good guy would've been lame. As lame as Darth Vader becoming a good guy in the eleventh hour of ROTJ. Shinzon has all the potential to be a great man like Picard, and Picard tells him that. But Shinzon can't change the man he's become. The Romulans willingly and unwillingly created a Picard in their own image where unlimited expansion is his primary goal. The Dominion campaigns sharpened him in to a fierce warrior and life in the Reman mines hardened his soul.
Compare to Nero who had a shitty day when his planet was blown up. Despite it being pretty much telegraphed that Romulus was in danger Nero did nothing to save his loved ones. Then he went on an indiscriminate killing spree against people who couldn't defend themselves. Using technology from 125-150 years in the future is what i'm referring too. Thing about it is when Nero is talking to Pike he equates destroying the Federation worlds will secure Romulus' future. How? Destroying the sun or warning the Romulans of that era would've secured Romulus' future.
With Kirk and Khan, idk I feel the dynamic could've been stronger. A face to face confrontation would've been nice. Constant rewatches of TWOK have me equating their conversation and subsequent battles as "Epic Penis Showing Contests in Space via Skype Video Chat". The battle and conversations between Chang and Kirk in ST VI i feel is way better because they both got to meet and size eachother up under the pretense of peace. When we the audience knows at that point in the film neither one of them would object to a full scale war between the Federation and the Klingon Empire. But by the end of the movie that's changed. Kirk is fighting for peace and Chang is fighting for war. Two warriors, two ships one destiny.
I would have rather had NEM ripping of Undiscovered Country than ripping off TWOK, which is what they did to disappointing results. At least if they had ripped off Star Trek 6 we could've seen another major historical Trek moment on screen and it would've served as a far more fitting 'final' mission, by making peace with arguably TNG's second biggest adversaries (got to put the Borg first).
I think you did a good job of explaining how Shinzon was shaped, but it doesn't take away the fact that he had no beef with the Federation. So what he didn't share their values? The more emotional, visceral beef he had was with the people that had enslaved him. And though he wiped out the Senate and had some of the military supporting him, there was no way he could rest on his laurels. If the movie had been logical, there would have been some discussion at least about the fall out of his attack and the need for him to solidify his support on Romulus and within the Empire.
I'm not sure that expansion was or should've have been his goal. I liked the conversation that Shinzon had with Picard and how he talked about how everything he was doing was for the Reman people, to ensure their freedom. How exactly do you do that by attacking the Federation?
Shinzon was a poor attempt to make a Khan on the cheap while using the Romulans because of the fan interest. I wanted to like the character. I did like Tom Hardy's performance, but how he came to power and what he did with that power didn't make much sense for me.
Further, why would the Remans want to destroy the Federation? They really had no beef with them, and since the Federation was opposed to the Romulans, could possibly see them as allies. Granted there might be anger that the Federation never helped them but still, I don't think this anger would compare to the very people who had enslaved them for centuries.
Regarding Nero, I think you are being unfair to him. Granted his portrayal wasn't great-either in the acting or writing department-but still. He had more than a shitty day. He lost his homeworld, his wife, and his child. And I could see him more easily blaming this on Spock more so than Shinzon blaming his situation on Picard. And so Shinzon took away from Spock what he felt Spock took away from him. Where I think Nero drops the ball is not telling Romulus about the Hobus supernova once he goes back to the past. I know he was supposed to be in a Klingon prison-but that was not shown on screen-and even if it were, he couldn't have stopped over by Romulus or sent them a message before he attacked the Federation? So I agree with you that Nero's reasoning about securing Romulus's future by attacking the Federation made no sense, but I still think his vendetta against Spock was more logical than Shinzon wanting to wipe out Earth.
Regarding Kirk v. Khan, I'm fine with what we got, because both actors sold it. And when I got to see "Space Seed", which I did after watching TWOK, it added more perspective. Absent seeing that movie though, I think the way they did it in the film was fine. Another Kirk/Khan fight might have been nice, but I would rather them not come up with some improbable way for Kirk to win or escape, because I think Khan would've ripped him limb from limb. I also liked Kirk and Chang. I think Chang is often overlooked as a Trek villain. He was one of my favorites.